The Best Of The West: Classic Ski Lodges

tamarack lodgeDespite deceptively balmy temperatures in parts of the U.S., there’s still plenty of ski season left. Why not spend it staying at a classic ski lodge or chalet out West? These regal or groovy remnants from the early-to-mid-20th century are a dying breed, although some have been refurbished to good effect, while still retaining their original style. They also tend to offer friendly, personalized service, so you feel like a welcome guest, not just a number.

Classic places are often more affordable, and just as stylish and comfortable than their boutique or generic high-end chain counterparts. Even when they’re pricey, they’re a bit of living history that can give your ski trip a fun retro feel. Think racy Piz Buin and Lange boots ads, fondue, tight, color-blocked sweaters, Bicentennial Ray-Bans, and all things Bavarian.

Below, some favorite vintage ski accommodations across the West. Don’t forget your Glockenspiel.

Tyrolean Lodge, Aspen, CO
It may come as a shock that Aspen has a classic ski lodge that’s remained little-changed in atmosphere or ski-town spirit since its opening in 1970, but the Tyrolean is just that place. Located several minutes’ walk from the slopes, this no-frills, family-owned chalet is one of the best deals in town, with rooms starting at $155/night; some with kitchenettes. The rooms have been upgraded to be more modern, but the decor and vibe is still vintage Tyrol ski culture. Love.

Tamarack Lodge
, Mammoth Mountain, CA
This small, mid-century property overlooking Twin Lakes is on the California Register of Historic Places, and caters to the cross-country crowd. It has both European guesthouse style rooms, historic, refurbished cabins (see photo above), and from December through April, ski-in/out access. If the town of Mammoth is too hectic and soulless for you, consider this a peaceful alternative to the mainstream.
strawberry lodgeStrawberry Lodge, Kyburz, CA
Highway 50 Tahoe road-trip regulars will be familiar with this former Pony Express stop (right). Located off the side of the road in the nano-community of Kyburz, Strawberry is 20 minutes from South Shore. It’s seriously old-school, in that musty, funky way, with bad taxidermy, historical oddities, and is a much-loved Lake Tahoe institution.

With 31 rooms starting at just $49 a night (some are European style, with a shared bath), it’s hard to pass up, especially when you consider the proximity to all manner of vices, ranging from drinking (please don’t attempt to drive back) and gambling, to outdoor recreation. I love it because it’s one of the last remnants of old Tahoe, in a pastoral mountain setting. Strawberry also offers cross-country skiing, and the restaurant and bar can get hopping, sometimes with live music.
sun valley lodge
Sun Valley Lodge, Idaho
Built in 1936 at America’s first destination ski resort (with the world’s first chairlifts), the SVL was considered cutting-edge. It offered “every amenity a skier could possibly imagine.” Today, the 148-room property has been completely refurbished into a luxury hotel, complete with glass-encased swimming pool, yet it retains its majestic timber-and-stone facade and stately atmosphere.
P.S. Hemingway slept here.

Timberline Lodge, Mt. Hood, OR
Celebrating its 76th year, this National Historic Landmark (lobby, right) was built at a time when American heritage and the spirit of adventure crashed head-on with the Great Depression. FDR heralded the lodge as a “testament to the workers on the rolls of the Works Progress Administration,” which funded most of the property’s construction. The lodge shut down twice, once during WWII, and again in 1955, as it had fallen into disrepair. Under a new lessee, it was restored to grandeur and reopened later that year.

Located less than 90 minutes from Portland, Mt. Hood is a favorite local’s ski area. Timberline is built in the classic Pacific Northwestern lodge style, constructed primarily by hand of native timber and rock. The bright rooms are upscale rustic, with wood paneling, thick comforters, and stone fireplaces: all the trappings for a cozy getaway.

Alta Peruvian Lodge
, UT
Located at one of Utah’s premier ski resorts, this three-story wooden lodge had an unlikely start as a pair of barracks buildings in Brigham. They were relocated to Alta in eight pieces, and reconstructed into a 50-room lodge that opened in 1948. In 1979, an architect was hired to gussy up the property, although by today’s standards, it retains a retro Alpine charm (the kelly-green shutters decorated with Edelweiss, for example).

Rooms are straightforward and more motel than mountain lodge, but a fantastic deal, starting at $129 for a dorm bed. Prices include all meals, served family style in the lodge dining room, and free shuttle service to Alta Mountain and Snowbird. There are also twin and queen rooms with a shared or private bath, as well as bedroom suites. As for why the property is called the Peruvian? No one knows, although possibly it’s for a nearby landmark, Peruvian Creek.
Nordic Inn
Nordic Inn, Crested Butte, CO
Reopened on December 15, 2012, under new ownership, this beloved, 28-room Alpine lodge (right) opened over 50 years ago. Located just 500 yards from the slopes, the Nordic has refurbished half of its spacious rooms, which are now kitted out with hardwood floors, down comforters and pillows, and gorgeous Colorado beetle kill pine woodwork. The remaining rooms (which are a colorful ode to the ’80s, and a screaming deal for ski-in lodging) will be redone by June 1.

P.S. Ski lodges aren’t just for winter! Many are open year-round, and summer is also peak season for outdoor recreation.

[Photo credits: Tamarack, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area; Strawberry, 50Cabins.COM; Sun Valley, Sun Valley Resorts; Nordic Inn, Ken Stone]

Allegiant Air Offers Two-For-One Deal To Telluride Ski Resort

penniesBay Area- and Arizona-based snow lovers, rejoice! Allegiant Air, in collaboration with the Telluride Montrose Regional Air Organization, Telluride Ski Resort and Crested Butte Mountain Resort, is offering non-stop, two-for-one airline tickets. Travelers can fly to Montrose Regional Airport (70 miles from Telluride; Colorado Mountain Express is the local shuttle), via either Oakland International or Phoenix-Mesa airports.

Deals of this type are unheard of when it comes to premier ski destinations; as a former Telluride resident, I can attest to that. Even better, Allegiant is offering one-way fare from Phoenix starting as low as $46.99 one way ($93.98 round trip; flight times vary). Flights from Oakland start at $49.99 one way ($99.98 round trip, ditto), all winter long.

The Montrose flights began December 15, and conclude April 3, and are based upon availability. Tickets must be purchased by February 28, 2013, for the two-for-one offer, for use by April 3, 2013. For a complete flight schedule, click here.

But wait: there’s more! Telluride Ski Resort and Crested Butte Mountain Resort have launched an Ultimate 6 Pass, a 6-day pass good for three days of skiing and riding at each resort. That means you can use the centrally located Montrose airport for travel arrangements, and hit two of the Rockies’ most epic mountains in one vacation.

[Photo credit: Flickr user r-z]

Snowstorms Bring Plenty Of Powder For The Holidays

Snow storms bring plenty of powder to the western U.S. Skiers and snowboarders who have been watching the weather, just hoping for an opportunity to hit their favorite ski resort this holiday season, are likely to be pretty excited at the moment. Snowstorms across the western United States have started dumping plenty of fresh powder on the region and it now looks like we could be on course for a much better ski season compared to last year.

A late autumn storm brought plenty of fresh accumulation to most of Colorado this past weekend, with Wolf Creek picking up an impressive 30″ and Purgatory getting more than 20″ as well. Monarch Mountain wasn’t far behind with 17″ of new snow, while Steamboat was hit with 13″. Most other major resorts across the state also received anywhere from five to ten inches of new accumulation, which means nearly any hill will be ready for the holiday rush beginning this weekend.

Taking a quick look at current base levels for snow at some of the more iconic ski destinations across the west shows that there is plenty of powder currently on the ground. For instance, Snowbird has a base of 60″ at the moment and has already received more than 118″ so far this season. Jackson Hole is doing quite well for themselves too, having racked up an impressive 164″ of snow before winter has even officially begun. If you’re headed to the Lake Tahoe region, Heavenly is boasting a base of between 30-50″ with total accumulations in excess of 120″ on some parts of the mountain. Nearby, Squaw Valley has received as much as 6″ of fresh powder in the past day or so, bringing its base up to nearly 70″ as well.Not to be outdone by its competitors, California’s Mammoth Mountain is measuring their base between 5.5 and 6.5 feet, with total accumulations in excess of 134″ already this season. The forecast calls for more snow over the next few days as well, bringing those totals up even more. All of this fresh powder comes just as the first flights of the season take off for the resort. Regular air travel to Mammoth begins tomorrow, just in time for the holiday season ahead.

Weather forecasts indicate that another large storm front will hit the western U.S. later this week, bringing more snow to many areas. If you’re planning on spending some time on the slopes this holiday season, it seems you’ll have plenty of fresh powder to shred.

[Photo Credit: Mammoth Mountain]

The New Reno: Yes, Virginia, There Is Gentrification

renoI’m going to go out on a limb here, and say that Reno has historically not been one of my favorite places to visit. But I spend a fair amount of time passing through, because my brother and his family live nearby, in the ski town of Truckee. Flying into Reno is convenient for anyone wanting to visit Lake Tahoe.

For years, my brother, Mark, has been telling me that Reno is undergoing a renaissance of sorts, what with the implementation of Wingfield Park – the city’s kayaking park that runs through downtown – and the Truckee River Walk with its galleries, cafes, and brewery. But don’t worry: Reno is still The Biggest Little City in the World, rife with the requisite prostitutes, crack houses, tattoo parlors, pawn shops and all the unsavory characters one would expect to find.

Yet, I discovered a younger, gentler, hipper Reno over Thanksgiving when I was in Truckee. Reno is trying to dial down its hard-core gambling, all-you-can-eat, come-all-ye-societal-fringe-dwellers rep. The most noticeable change is the gentrification underway along the South Virginia Street Corridor, the major north-south business artery. The street is paralleled to the east by a mix of decrepit and charmingly restored Victorian and Craftsman homes. Housing, Mark says, is ridiculously affordable.

I did a book signing over the holiday off South Virginia at a bustling new cheese shop, Wedge. A lovely addition to the area, Wedge has an excellent selection of domestic and imported cheese, as well as house-made sandwiches, specialty foods and primo charcuterie. Want a good, affordable bottle of wine, some soppressata, and a hunk of award-winning, Alpine-style cow’s milk cheese from Wisconsin? Wedge has it.

When Mark and I arrived at the shop, he commented on how much the area was changing, citing the soon-to-be-open wine bar, Picasso and Wine, next door. The employees cheerfully agreed that there were lots of exciting developments underway, but that “there’s a crack house just two doors down.” They weren’t joking, either. We were parked in front of it.renoClose to Wedge is Midtown Eats, an adorable, farmhouse-modern cafe, and Crème, a sweet breakfast spot specializing in crepes. Get lunch at popular soup-and-sandwich spot Süp, imbibe (and eat) at Brasserie St. James brewery, Craft Beer & Wine, and mixology geek faves Reno Public House, and Chapel Tavern (over 100 whiskeys on shelf!). Making dinner in your rental ski cabin or condo? Visit the Tahoe area’s only Whole Foods.

If you’re in need of some sweet street-style, hit Lulu’s Chic Boutique or Junkee Clothing Exchange. If it’s your home that’s in need of an inexpensive upgrade, Recycled Furniture is the place. As for those tats and street drugs? You’re on your own.

Future plans for the South Virginia Corridor include greater emphasis on facilitating more pedestrian-friendly walkways, public spaces featuring art installations, fountains, and benches, and street-scaping. Gentrification may not always be welcome, but for Reno, it’s the start of a whole new Big Little City.

[Photo credits: Reno, Flickr user coolmikeol; bike path, VisitmeinReno.com]

Video: Life In The Ruby Mountains

Heli-Skiing in Ruby Mountains, NevadaNestled in the mountains of northeastern Nevada is a fantastic little ski resort that delivers an unbeatable experience for skiers and snowboarders looking for something completely different. As you would expect, Ruby Mountains provides visitors with a comfortable and inviting lodge, featuring some of the finest cooking around. But when guests leave the lodge behind, the true adventure begins. That’s because Ruby uses helicopters to provide access to more than 200,000 acres of backcountry skiing, giving visitors the opportunity to shred miles of pristine and untouched powder. Better yet, they won’t have to share all of that terrain with anyone other than Ruby Mountains guests, which makes the entire experience an intimate and memorable affair.

The video below is a beautiful one, particularly for a promo. It gives us a great sense of what a stay at Ruby is all about, both in the lodge and out in the powder. The first half of the video will have you licking your lips over the delicious looking food and comfortable atmosphere, while the last portion will get your adrenaline pumping for some outdoor adventure. The snow conditions look absolutely spectacular.

If you’re a skier or snowboarder who has been just about everywhere else in North America, you’ll definitely want to put Ruby Mountains on you radar.

[Photo Credit: Ruby Mountains]


Life in the Ruby Mountains from Joseph Royer on Vimeo.