Avalanche destroys ski lift with passengers aboard

A massive avalanche hit a ski resort on the St. Francois-Longchamps mountain in France this past weekend, destroying several pylons that held the ski lift in place even while passengers were still riding it. The entire event was captured on video by bystanders who stood at the bottom of the hill as the wall of snow slowly moved down the slope crushing everything in its path. That video can be seen below.

At the time of the avalanche there were 70 people on the lift and miraculously none of them were harmed. Helicopters were soon brought in to evacuate them from the debris, which took about two and a half hours to complete.

Watching the video I can only imagine how helpless and frightened the people aboard the lift must have felt. The avalanche almost seems like it is moving in slow motion as it slides down the face of the mountain and easily crushes the metal pylons for the lift as if they aren’t even there. It is a wild scene to say the least.

First heated ski lift in the U.S. opens in Utah

Skiers and snowboarders headed to the Canyons Ski Resort, located in Park City, Utah, will find a very pleasant surprise when they hit the slopes this weekend. The resort, which is the largest in the state, opened the first heated ski lift in all of North America yesterday, providing a more comfortable experience for visitors.

The new lift features heated seats and an enclosing bubble to help keep the elements at bay while making the nine-minute trip from the Grand Summit Hotel to the top of Lookout Peak. The protective bubble is orange in hue and designed to evoke a feeling of being inside a pair of ski goggles, which will be greatly appreciated when the snow starts flying. The lift should allow for more time on the slopes as well, as rather than heading to the lodge for a little warmth, you can get a respite from the cold weather while heading back up the mountain.

The “Orange Bubble Express” isn’t the only improvement that the Canyons has introduced for the new ski season. They’ve also opened a new base area, dubbed “Ski Beach,” where guests can sit around fire pits on sun lounges while enjoying a variety of tasty food from nearby kiosks. The resort has also built a new 1.1-mile long terrain park, with over 50 features, that snowboarders are going to love, and added a quad-lift and direct access gondola, amongst various other improvements.

With 182 trails, spread out over 4000 skiable acres, the Canyons is one of the top ski destinations in all of North America. It also features five fantastic lodges to stay in, including the newly opened Waldorf Astoria, and has plenty of amazing places to dine as well. If you’re looking for a great destination where you can play in the snow this winter, then the Canyons should be at the top of your list.

[Photo credit: The Canyons]

9 tips for saving money on a ski vacation

Ski vacations can be expensive. Once you add up airline tickets, vehicle rental, lodging, lift tickets, food, lessons, equipment rental, baggage fees, apres-ski, and tips for instructors, you might just think you’ve made a down payment on a house or a new car. Despite all these costs, however, savvy skiers and snowboarders can save money on their next ski trip.

As a ski industry insider, people often ask me how they can save money on their next ski vacation. These are the most frequent cost-effective tips I share.

Take your ski vacation during the off-peak season.

This one may be obvious, but… ski resorts know they’ll be packed during holidays and school breaks, so they really roll out the deals during off-peak times to lure in vacationers. This is a great time to find deals on lodging, airline tickets, and lessons.

If you have kids, you may need to make adjustments to their schooling to attend during off-peak times, of course. If you’re kid-free, the beauty here is that skiing during off-peak times means the lines — both on the slopes and in the restaurants — will be much shorter.

Plan ahead.
Ski vacationers miss out on many deals by not planning months in advance. Many ski resorts offer pre-season ski pass sales months prior to opening for the ski season. These can offer significant savings over daily lift tickets. Discounted season passes are often available the last two weeks of the previous ski season — and then offered again in early fall before the season starts. Don’t wait until the lifts start spinning.Bonus: Season passes usually offer discounts on lessons, food, and lift tickets for family and friends, so season pass discounts may be deeper than initially perceived.

Dont pay the window lift ticket rate.
The window rate is the penalty for not planning ahead (see above). Discount coupons can often be found in the Entertainment Book, or online at Liftopia, Skicoupons, Skifreedeals, and in the Gold C Book. Market specific coupons may be available too; you’ll need to check Craigslist and eBay to find them.

Pro tip: Snowboarders often find coupons in the printed edition of Transworld Snowboarding.

Don’t pay fullprice for lastminute ski vacations.
Sometimes ski resorts realize that they have a sudden drop in bookings and put almost everything on sale. To see if this is the case, check regularly with the Central Reservations of the ski resort for any specials. Also, check on the website of the local Chamber of Commerce. Finally, be sure to keep an eye on Liftopia.com for notices.

Dont pay fullprice for ski or snowboard lessons.
Understand this: Discounts always exist for lessons. First check the resort’s website for any specials. Then check for lesson, rental, and lift specials on SkiCoupons.com.

Don’t be afraid to ask an instructor at the resort for a referral card, which offers immediate discounts on most lesson products.

If all else fails, stop an instructor at the resort and ask for a referral card. Referral cards offer immediate discounts on most lesson products.

Skip the rental car.
Most often, rental vehicles are just needed to transport you and your gear to the ski resort. Once at the resort, most ski resorts have a free bus system. Eliminate the car rental expense and high rental taxes by taking a resort bus or shuttle instead. If you book as a group or reserve in advance, you’ll often get a discount. Look for coupons on their website, too.

An even cheaper option may be to take a Greyhound bus to the ski resort. The ultimate cheap option is to look for rideshares on Craigslist or some other ski carpool websites.

Use discount dining habits.
It’s possible to eat gourmet meals at budget prices even in ritzy Aspen, Colorado. The trick? Eat at the bar instead of in the dining room. You’ll get significant savings.

Some restaurants and bars have free hors d’oeuvres during apres-ski while others may have free pizza hours on off-peak days. Check the online schedule of events at restaurants and bars at the ski town you plan to visit. Many use Twitter and Facebook to announce specials.

Generously tip your ski or snowboard instructor after the lesson.
This may be the best tip of all! You’ll learn the locations of the best budget dining, apres-ski, and all the specials in town. The instructor likely works a second job at one of these establishments. Even if your instructor doesn’t work at a local restaurant, he or she will know where all the best deals are.

Are you eligible for military discounts?
If you or your spouse are active duty military members, there are significant lift, lodging, and rental discounts available just for you. Check your favorite ski resorts website for information. If you don’t see any information, send an email inquiry using the ski resort’s contact email address. Most resorts offer military discounts to active duty military. A few resorts in Colorado offer discounts to retired military.

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Ski for free at Stowe when you stay at Topnotch Resort

Ski season is in full swing at resorts throughout the US, and now through April 10, you can “ski for free” at Topnotch Resort in Stowe, Vermont. The resort sits at the base of Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak, which reaches nearly 5,000 feet. It offers luxury accommodations on 120 acres, 40 minutes from Burlington Airport. .

This season, included in accommodations rates, you’ll also receive two adult lifts tickets to Stowe Mountain delivered by the resort’s “Ski Concierge”, shuttle service to and from the mountain, and overnight ski storage. Rentals are available from the resort’s Nordic Barn. In addition to skiing, the resort offers tennis, a spa, and horseback trail rides.

Rates start at $250 (plus tax) for weekdays and $350 for weekends. Blackout dates include January 28-30, February 7-20, February 25-27, and March 21-23. Rate outside of the promotion start at $300 per night, and lift tickets at Stowe can cost $84 per day per person, so this deal would save you around $200 per day for two skiers….which means more money for apres ski fun and hot toddies by the fire.

1 dead, 3 hurt in Swiss ski lift accident

I’m scared of heights, and not afraid to admit it. To be fair, it’s not all heights that worry me; planes, for instance, do me no harm. But even the thought of particular situations make me a bit queasy. Hot air balloons, for instance, are the worst. A thin piece of fabric, a wicker basket, flames? No thanks. Another worrisome device that makes me nervous is the ski lift. Case in point:

Recently, near the Alpine Ski Resort in Grindelwald, Switzerland, one person was killed, and three injured when something terrible happened on a ski lift. The report is light on details, but you can let your mind wander with the horrors that come with someone dying on a ski lift. “Mountain rescue officials said other passengers on the chairlift had to be evacuated from the ground as high winds made the use of helicopters too dangerous.”

I’m sure more and more details will surface over the next few days. Until then, here are three tips for ski lift safety, from yours truly:

  1. Don’t get on a ski lift.
  2. Never go skiing. Ever.
  3. Why are you even leaving the house? It’s much safer inside…