Three More Ski Resorts Join The Mountain Collective

The Mountain Collective offers great savings for skiersWay back in August of last year we told you about the Mountain Collective, a group of independent ski resorts in North America that had joined forces to offer skiers and snowboarders access to each of their mountains at an amazing price. The collaboration between these iconic ski destinations was unprecedented at the time and yesterday it got even better.

The resorts that were on board at the launch of the Mountain Collective included Alta in Utah, Aspen/Snowmass in Colorado, Jackson Hole in Wyoming and Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows in California. On Tuesday it was announced that three more great resorts would join their ranks as Snowbird, Mammoth Mountain and Whistler Blackcomb were all added to the Collective.

The inclusion of these new resorts makes an already amazing ski deal even better. The Mountain Collective Pass costs just $349 and provides two free days of skiing at each resort with an additional 50% off an unlimited number of lift tickets thereafter. Furthermore, the pass grants discounts on lodging and other amenities too, making it a fantastic option for those who simply can’t get enough time on the slopes.

After announcing the addition of the new resorts, a limited number of passes for the 2013/2014 season went on sale at both the Mountain Collective website and Liftopia.com. These passes are being offered at the same price as the 2012/2013 tickets, but once they are sold out, that price will be gone. If you want to be able to take advantage of this amazing deal, you’ll want to grab a ticket while they last.

I know that the 2013/2014 ski season sounds like a long way off, particularly since we’re still wrapping up the current season. But this is just too good of deal to pass up. The price is likely to increase in the fall, so get your hands on one of these passes while you can.

[Photo Credit: Alta]

Aspen/Snowmass Hosts Inaugural ‘Après Ski Cocktail Classic,’ March 14-17

cocktail shakerWhat’s more fun than drinking an après ski beer at altitude? Attending a post-slopes cocktail festival at altitude. The first-annual Après Ski Cocktail Classic debuts in Aspen/Snowmass March 14-17, and will feature superstar mixologists and boozy experts such as Tony Abou-Ganim and Steve “Wine Geek” Olson, as well as chefs, sommeliers, spirit aficionados and “professional tipplers.”

Events at the Westin and Wildwood Resorts include a Grand Tasting “Village”; a private reserve room of top-shelf spirits; craft cocktails; seminars; snow parties; pop-up bars; demos; “fireside chats”; special on-mountain events; and “The Great Irish Whisky Pub Crawl.”

Pace yourselves. And get your tickets here.

[Photo credit: Flickr user RLHyde]

Spring Breakers: Mammoth Mountain Has 16 Feet Of Snow On The Ground

Mammoth Mountain has a base of up to 16-feet of snowSpring break is nearly upon us and while many travelers are looking forward to a relaxing escape in warmer climes, some of us prefer to hit the slopes for some late season skiing or snowboarding instead. It has been a banner year for many resorts across the western U.S., where heavy snows have fallen for much of the season, but if you’re looking for the absolute deepest powder in the country there is only one place to go – Mammoth Mountain.

Mammoth has had an absolutely terrific winter so far with a tremendous amount of snow falling across the region. As a result, the resort currently has a base of between 7 and 16 feet depending on where you are at on the mountain. On top of that, the Sierra Nevada range was hit with new snow storms just this week adding an additional 2 feet of fresh powder over the past couple of days alone. All of this precipitation has earned Mammoth the distinction of having the most snow of any resort in all of North America this year.

If you’re still looking for a great ski destination for the upcoming spring break, it really is tough to top Mammoth. The resort features 118 trails spread out across 3500 skiable acres, which means even on a busy day there is still plenty of room to move. Sixty-five percent of that terrain is aimed specifically at the beginner or intermediate skier, which makes the resort a great place for those who are still looking to build their skills. Add in some great lodges, restaurants and bars, and you’ll have everything you need for a memorable time both on and off the slopes.

Google Maps Adds Data For 38 Ski Resorts

38 ski resort maps are now integrated into Google MapsFor my money, Google Maps is one of the greatest technological advances of all times. Whether I’m at home or traveling to some new destination, it helps me to find restaurants, museums, shops and other points of interest, then routes me to those locations by car, foot or mass transit. Over the past few years, Maps has continued to evolve and add new features, making the system even more useful as time goes by. Earlier this week, Google announced yet another upgrade to Maps, this time adding data for 38 ski resorts across the U.S. and Canada.

This new addition to the Maps database is already live both on the web and in the Android and iPhone apps. When viewing popular ski resorts such as Big Sky, Mammoth or Park City, skiers and snowboarders will be able to quickly and easily see all of the runs and lifts that are available, with their skill levels clearly marked. Blue, green and black runs are displayed on the map as solid lines while chair lifts are designated by dotted red lines. Parking is also clearly marked and when zoomed in close enough, restaurants, lodges and bars are also visible. There are even Street View options for a few of the resorts, letting you scout out the terrain before you ever visit.

The complete list of mountains that are currently available in Google Maps can be found in the blog post announcing their addition to the system. Google promises more locations will be coming soon, so check back often to see if your favorite ski destination has been added. The maps may just help you discover some new runs and make your day on the slopes a bit more enjoyable.

[Photo Credit: Google]

Adventure Guide 2013: Aspen

If you’ve ever yearned to visit Aspen, this is the time. Aspen is hot right now, fresh off the X Games, because it’s just opened its first sidecountry terrain (see below). The revamped Limelight Hotel is also making headlines for having the coolest après ski spot in town. If you crave adventure and think Aspen is out of your budget, time to reconsider: the hardcore outdoor opps are boundless, regardless of season.

Aspen’s got some of the best downhill skiing, lift-accessed extreme terrain, and parks-and-pipes in the country, even if lift prices are stiff. The key is to cash in on the incredible hotel/ski packages on offer at places like the Limelight or The Little Nell, or bunk at some of the surprising budget options in the area.

New this year is sidecountry terrain at Snowmass. The Burnt Mountain Expansion has added on 230 acres, bringing total skiable acreage to 3,362 – making it the second largest ski area in the state. The Roaring Fork Valley, which includes all four mountains of Aspen/Snowmass (Aspen, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass – the latter has a whopping 21 lifts), has some of Colorado’s best scenery, as well as a free, 60-mile Nordic trail system. You can also cross-country ski 18 miles down-valley, from Aspen to Basalt on the Rio Grande Trail (take the bus back if you’re tired).

If adventure is your thing, however, you’re going to want to head into the backcountry. Get your adrenaline pumping by mountaineering, ice-climbing (beginners can try this sport out at a waterfall just 10 minutes from downtown Aspen), or skiing/riding in the Maroon Bells Wilderness. For an overnight trip, cross-country ski to one of the historic 10th Mountain Division Huts (some are even accessible via chairlift, although they’re still in what’s considered backcountry).

If you’re in need of a not-too-tame recovery day, try taking a Snowcat Dinner Ride, or take a horse-drawn sleigh out to Pine Creek Cookhouse.

Hotels

Limelight Hotel: Formerly known as Limelight Lodge, Aspen’s sweetest, sleekest remodel, completed in 2010, this boutique property is just yards from the slopes. Sunny, spacious rooms are tasteful and subdued to better let the mountain take center stage.
The lobby, however, is the newest hot spot in town. Guests can avail themselves of the all-inclusive breakfast (think smoked salmon, waffles, and housemade granola), but après-ski locals, guests, and tourists alike descend for Aspen’s longest happy hour (3-7 p.m.), which includes free cookies and other snacks, $10 pizzas, drink specials and live music. Pet-friendly, wheelchair accessible, and kitchenette rooms available. From $285.
limelighthotel.com 335 S. Monarch Street

St. Moritz Lodge: Even if you’re not on a budget (but, let’s face it, all those toys cost a fortune, and you’re not planning to spend much time in your room, now are you?), this classic ski chalet is a cheerful slice of ’70s kitsch. With clean, bright rooms ranging from dorms to private rooms with or without shared bath or kitchenettes, the St. Moritz is the best deal in the Valley, and beloved for its friendly, homey atmosphere and plentiful free Continental breakfasts. And while you’ll definitely find the expected international backpackers and their ilk, the majority of the clientele is more aging ski bum and bohemian ski bunny. This is Aspen, after all. From $44.
stmoritzlodge.com 334 W. Hyman Avenue

Aspenalt Lodge, Basalt: If you have a car or don’t mind taking the shuttle, one of the Roaring Fork Valley’s best-kept secrets is this no-frills hotel located right on the Frying Pan River (there’s an outdoor hot tub, too). Basalt is a sweet little town, and one of the Valley’s most desirable (and tourist-free) places to live, thanks to the multitude of outdoorsy activities out the back door. The lodge is 20 minutes down-valley from Aspen; the RFTA transit stop is one block away and costs four dollars, one-way. From $99.
aspenalt.com 157 Basalt Center Circle, Basalt

Eat and Drink

Louis’ Swiss Bakery: Aspenites all know and love this old-school-style bakery, tucked within the ABC (Aspen Business Center) across from the airport. Swiss immigrant/skilled baker/rancher Felix Tornare turns out buttery pastry and the best meat pies (made with his grass-finished beef) on this side of the UK. The breakfast burritos are also the bomb, and provide all the fuel you need for a day on the slopes.
No website, closed Sundays; 400 Aspen Airport Business Center

The Meatball Shack: Since opening last June, this casual eatery and bar has been drawing crowds because it’s a hell of a bargain. Two heaping plates of delicious pasta (with meatballs, of course) and drinks will set you back just $50, and in Aspen, that’s not too shabby for a meal at a place with cloth napkins. Service is warm, the drinks are strong, and daily specials run the gamut from ribeye steak to sandwiches.
themeatballshack.com 312 S. Mill Street

Ajax Tavern: Located on the upper deck of The Little Nell Hotel, and steps from the Gondola, this is the spot to scope celebs if you care about that kind of thing. More important, it’s got a killer view, and the best après ski deal in town: a juicy burger served with Ajax’s famously addictive fries and a beer for just $15.
ajaxtavernaspen.com 685 E. Durant Avenue

Chefs Club: Aspen’s packed with great restaurants, but if you want to go big, this innovative, 8-month-old restaurant in the St. Regis Hotel is the place to do it. The menu changes seasonally, and is designed by a rotating cast of former Food & Wine Best New Chefs (Aspen is home to the famous FOOD & WINE Classic, held every June). Whether you order a la carte or spring for the tasting menu, be prepared to dine very well. If nothing else, have a drink; top mixologist Jim Meehan of New York’s PDT designs the seasonal cocktail menu, and you won’t be disappointed.
chefsclubaspen.com 315 E. Dean Street

Like most Colorado ski towns, you don’t need a car in Aspen. Most accommodations are walking distance to the slopes, or provide free shuttle service; the town transportation center at the base of the mountain makes getting out of Aspen-proper easy. RFTA transit runs the length of the entire Roaring Fork Valley, from Aspen to Glenwood Springs.
Aspen/Pitkin County Airport has daily non-stop flights from Los Angeles, Dallas, Denver and Chicago. From Denver International Airport, it’s approximately a 3.5-hour drive to Glenwood Springs on I-70; Colorado Mountain Express also provides round-trip transportation from DIA.

Adventure Tip

Best get up before the sun if you want to be the first to carve tracks in the backcountry; you’re going to have competition in this neck of the woods. Remember, safety first: never head out without telling someone where you’re headed (ideally, take a buddy with you), and carry an avalanche beacon, probe and shovel.


[Photo credit: Flickr user a4gpa]