Skiing: the West's outstanding early-season conditions
A look at what's new in California, Colorado, Utah, Idaho and Washington. Some resorts have spent millions on improvements.
A snowboarder makes a sunlit run in November at Mountain High, near Wrightwood. The Southern California ski resort has a new 1.6-mile terrain park. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Copper Mountain's $6 million in capital improvements include expanded free parking in the Corn Lot, a 25% increase in snowmaking capacity and new equipment (a "Zaug") to cut an Olympic-sized 22-foot super-pipe.
Crested Butte, marking its 50th anniversary, has added terrain with the new Columbine trail, from the top of Painter Boy/Gold Link to the base area. The expansion includes more than 15 acres of intermediate terrain on the main mountain.
Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort has new terrain on its front side. The Ambassadors Glade tree-skiing area is named for resort owners Chuck and Sue Cobb, who served as U.S. ambassadors to Iceland and Jamaica, respectively.
Silverton Mountain is increasing its lift capacity 50%, by adding 30 chairs to its one and only lift, a double. Scoff if you will, but wild and steep Silverton — "All thrills, no frills," as its website boasts — is a temple for purists: only advanced and expert skiers and riders, no groomed terrain, no clear-cut runs, lots of avalanche chutes and 400-plus inches of snow annually.
Steamboat's new Burgess Creek Terrace and Umbrella Bar is on the Bear River Bar & Grill Deck, slope-side in the base area adjacent to the gondola entrance. The resort's four progressively more difficult terrain parks feature 30 new or refurbished rails.
The biggest news in Utah, where 11 of the state's 13 ski resorts are within an hour of Salt Lake City International Airport, is the long-awaited plan to develop a base village, hotels and housing at Snowbasin.
Development will occur on the 11,800 acres the resort owns straddling two counties, Morgan (8,000) and Weber (3,800). The 50-year plan includes single-family homes, condos and townhomes; hotels; new lifts; a dedicated fire station; wastewater treatment plant; golf courses; ice skating rink; grocery store; restaurants; and trails for horseback riding, mountain biking and hiking. Snowbasin will add a second entrance on its Morgan County side to help minimize traffic congestion. New this season: a 22-foot super-pipe.
The Canyons introduces North America's first heated chairlift, with an orange bubble shield. The lift, which increases uphill capacity from the base area by 47%, is outside the Grand Summit Hotel.
Deer Valley Resort's new ski-in/ski-out Montage Deer Valley features a 35,000-square-foot spa, an après-ski terrace, two dining venues, a 17,000-square-foot meeting space and a recreation area. Deer Valley also has invested $4.5 million in equipment to increase snow-making and to groom its steepest slopes, and to spruce up the interiors of its day lodges.
Powder Mountain, one of North America's largest ski areas at 7,000-plus acres, has expanded its guided Snowcat Powder Safari to include an additional 1,000 acres of expert chutes and bowls. The addition, called La Plata, joins the existing 2,000 acres appropriate for intermediate powder skiers and snowboarders. Those seeking steep chutes and wide-open bowls can also consider the new guided backcountry tours of Wolf Creek Canyon.
Snowbird's signature Cliff Lodge has renovated the salon, retail store, men's and women's locker rooms, solarium, steam room and treatment rooms at its Cliff Spa.
Sun Valley, which opened for skiing in 1936, is the oldest U.S. destination ski resort. To mark its 75th season, anniversary events are planned throughout the winter, culminating with Ski Heritage Week. Beginning March 26, the week includes the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame class of 2010 induction ceremonies and a tribute to the "Founders of Freestyle." Hall of Fame inductees will include former U.S. World Cup and Olympic racer Daron Rahlves of Truckee, Nev.; the late extreme skier Shane McConkey of Squaw Valley, Calif., and freestyle legend Glen Plake of Heavenly, Calif. On snow, 24 new rails and jibs have been added to Dollar Mountain's three terrain parks (Old Bowl, Half Dollar and Poverty Flats).
Crystal Mountain, Washington state's only destination winter resort (just under a two-hour drive from Seattle and 90 minutes from Tacoma), unveils its eight-passenger Mt. Rainier gondola. The lift climbs more than 2,500 vertical feet from the base area to the Summit House (at 6,872 feet), which offers spectacular views of Mt. Rainier (14,410 feet).