Killington Resort, VT: Skiers enjoy the view from the top

IMG_2912Story and Photo by Marlene Greer

The anticipated late winter storm which was expected to drop several inches of snow today at Killington, Vermont, instead veered further east, with the edges only skirting the state. The resort received maybe an inch of snow in the early morning.

This, of course, is on top of two feet of snowfall in the last two weeks and a foot the two weeks before that. Snowmaking at Killington stopped more than a month ago, said Michael Joseph, communications manager for the resort.

Though the snow came late to Killington, it’s now “full on winter – wall to wall,” Joseph said, indicating all runs and lifts at the resort are open.

It seems skiers on the east coast are accustomed to skiing on man-made snow and are finding the real snow a treat. Dave, a 69-year-old self-described Vermont farm boy and lifelong skier, called conditions at Killington this year, “the best it gets.” At least on the east coast, anyway, he added.

With the storm bypassing Killington and the state of Vermont, it turned out to be a second glorious day of skiing, with some clouds and sun, temperatures in the 20s and – most importantly – beautiful packed powder.

Killington is quite large, covering four mountains with 212 trails spread across 1,977 acres. Today we journeyed to the resort’s highest peak – Killington Peak – at 4,241 feet. I know it doesn’t sound like much to us west coast skiers accustomed to 10,000- and 11,000-foot peaks, but here it’s spectacular. Standing at the edge of the mountain, you can see 360 degrees. Skiers can take in the panoramic view of the Green, White and Adirondack mountains. A friendly skier and Vermont native pointed out Mount Washington, New Hampshire, in the distance and the nearby ski resorts of Okemo, Stratton and Pico.

And you don’t have to be an expert skier to reach the top. All levels of ski terrain come off the peak. Now that’s a treat.


Killington Resort, VT: Best ski conditions of the season


Story and Photo by Marlene Greer

When I woke up this morning at Killington Grand Hotel in Vermont, outside it was 1 degree below zero. The unseasonably cold weather gripping the nation for most of this winter has not yet released its grip on the northeast. Another storm is headed this way on Tuesday with a chance of yet more snow.

Fortunately by the time I hit the slopes at Killington Resort in the afternoon,  it warmed up nicely and was beautiful and sunny if a bit windy at times.

And the ski conditions were not at all what I expected.

This is the first time I’ve skied anywhere in the East Coast, and I couldn’t have picked a better place. Killington was at its peak.

“Today is the best skiing of the season,” said Mike, a Killington mountain host stationed at the top of a chairlift where we stopped to get some advice on the best way to ski back to where we started earlier in the day.

Other skiers agreed.

“This is our fourth trip this year, and this is the best skiing we’ve had,” said Evelyn, a teacher from Massachusetts skiing Killington with her husband.

Sometimes we West Coast skiers can be a bit of a ski snob when it comes to East Coast skiing. “It’s always icy.” “It’s hard snow.” “All you do is chatter down the hill.” “They’re all small hills.” I’ve heard it all.

But Killington has surprised me. It’s none of the above – at least for today.


Deer Valley Ski Resort plans major mountain addition in Park City, Utah


Skiing in the clouds at Deer Valley Ski Resort in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

Skiing in the clouds at Deer Valley Ski Resort in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

By Marlene Greer, Correspondent

Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah, is growing. President and General Manager Bob Wheaton announced recently the resort’s plan to add 1,000 acres of ski terrain with five or six new lifts.

The new ski area will be located on the resort’s east side below the Sultan Express and Mayflower lift on Bald Mountain. With this addition, Deer Valley will offer more than 3,000 acres of skiable terrain. A new lodge, dining area and possibly lodging will be built in the new base area.

Deer Valley has wanted to expand for some time, Wheaton said. On peak days the resort’s dining areas struggle to handle all the skiers. The expansion, he said, will alleviate much of the dining congestion and offer skiers another access point to the resort.

The anticipated start date for the project is 2017. The project is expected to be complete in five years and cost an estimated $50 million.

Also on the horizon is a new gondola from historic downtown Park City to Deer Valley. Another major ski resort, Park City resort already operates the Town Lift from one end of Main Street. Deer Valley wants its own gondola.

The gondola will run from Main Street to Deer Valley’s mid-mountain Silver Lake Lodge area at 8,100 feet. The ride should take 15 minutes.

A decision has not yet been made whether the gondola will be free or if there will be a small fee. The gondola project will begin within two years and cost $10 to $12 million, Wheaton said.

All of this is great news for skiers and visitors to Park City. With a town gondola to Deer Valley Resort and a town lift to Park City Resort, skiers can skip the public buses and go direct from downtown to two of the area’s ski resorts.

Big and easy, that’s Deer Valley Ski Resort in Park City, Utah

Inside the beautiful lodge at Deer Valley Ski Resort in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Marlene Greer)
Inside the beautiful lodge at Deer Valley Ski Resort in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

By Marlene Greer, Correspondent

It’s easy to get to Deer Valley. It’s a 45-minute ride from the Salt Lake City Airport, and many transportation companies offer service from the airport to Deer Valley for a reasonable price.

There are many lodging opportunities at Deer Valley — all are on the expensive side. My stepdaughter and I stayed in a one-bedroom unit at The Lodges, a luxurious complex with a heated outdoor pool and hot tub, near Snow Park Lodge, Deer Valley’s main base lodge.

A free shuttle runs all day from The Lodges to Deer Valley and takes less than five minutes. Another plus at The Lodges is the free, on-call car service to anywhere we wanted to go in the town of Park City.

Skiers can also stay in Park City and take the free local public buses to Deer Valley that run all day and pick up at several locations.

On our second day of skiing at Deer Valley, the snowfall was heavy and wet, the kind of ski day that leaves your jacket and gloves soaked.

But that didn’t keep us from discovering and enjoying more of the resort’s beautiful blues and blue-greens, Deer Valley’s in-between groomers that challenge beginners and give intermediate skiers an easy final run at the end of the day.

Beautiful and easy. That’s Deer Valley.

A Killington ski adventure


By Marlene Greer

Sometimes we west coasters can be ski snobs. We have so many great SoCal and Western US ski resorts to choose from we don’t bother with what’s on the other side of the country. Well, we’ve put aside our bias and are trying – for the first time – skiing in Vermont. Join us in our adventure on the right coast as we explore historic Killington and Pico ski resorts.

Families and friends make Deer Valley a tradition

Skiers crowd liftlines at Deer Valley Ski Resort in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

Skiers crowd liftlines at Deer Valley Ski Resort in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

By Marlene Greer, Correspondent

Deer Valley is a skiers-only resort — one of the few left in the country. And Deer Valley plans to keep it that way.

“We survey our guests and (no snowboarders) is among the top reasons why people come to Deer Valley,” said Bob Wheaton, president and general manager. He says the resort is doing well financially with only skiers, and he doesn’t see the policy changing.

No snowboarders made our skiing experience more relaxed. And quiet. Deer Valley is excellent casual skiing at its best.

Jill, skiing at Deer Valley with a friend and her friend’s daughter Lauren, described it a little differently. “It’s lazy skiing,” said Jill, a vivacious 50-something lifelong skier. “Nice runs, not crowded, no snowboarders, not too difficult. I’m old. I’ve got bad knees. I want nice, easy skiing.”

This was the trio’s third trip to Deer Valley in three years. The two friends from Texas, whose husbands don’t ski, have been skiing together for many years. Lauren joined them three years ago for their annual ladies-only ski trip, and Deer Valley is their go-to destination.

“It started with six of us friends,” Jill said. “Now only the two of us are going, with Lauren. We’ve been to Deer Valley many times. It’s our favorite mountain.”
It’s also the favorite of Amy and Bill from Austin, Texas. The couple returned to Deer Valley for the second year with their two young children, 7-year-old Ben and Caroline, 9.

The parents felt the resort was ideal for their family. Ben’s favorite trail is Ontario, a long green groomer running from the top of Flagstaff Mountain.
“We’ve been doing that all day,” Amy said with a sigh.

The parents also like the kids ski school program.
“They have fun with other kids, and Bill and I can go ski,” Amy said. “They could probably ski with us now, but we like the ski school. It’s expensive, but if you are spending this much to ski here, what’s a few hundred more?”

Deer Valley lift tickets are on the high side — $108 a day for adults, $68 for
children. The resort offers a nice discount for seniors 65 and older at $77 a day.

Making a mother-daughter trip to Deer Valley Ski Resort in Park City, Utah

Bear House adds whimsy to ski trails at Deer Valley Ski Resort. (Photo by Marlene Greer)
Bear House adds whimsy to ski trails at Deer Valley Ski Resort. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

By Marlene Greer, Correspondent

It was snowing for the first time in three weeks when my stepdaughter and I arrived at Deer Valley Resort in early February: Six inches of soft powder over groomed hardpack and just under freezing. Ideal conditions.

We were standing midmountain looking at the trail map trying to decide where to head to for some easy intermediate terrain. We had tried Bald Mountain earlier and found it too chopped up. It also has a 9,400-foot summit, so we were looking for something a bit easier on our first day on skis this season.
A mountain host gave us some great advice.

“Head to Flagstaff Mountain. There are some beauuuutiful blues off the back side,” the friendly Aussie said with the enthusiasm of a skier on a powder day. Everything was an exclamation!

“Take Hawkeye first. It’s excellent! Groomed with a nice pitch,” he advised. “Then try Sidewinder; it’s a bit steeper, but still nice. They are all just beautiful runs!”

This was our first trip to Deer Valley, and we found many “beautiful blues” in the next two days of skiing. We particularly liked Little Baldy Peak. The runs were groomed, nearly deserted (even on a Saturday) and there were no lift lines. We felt like we had the place to ourselves.

Deer Valley, one of the three major ski resorts in Park City, Utah, covers five mountain peaks and 2,026 acres. All levels of terrain can be accessed on all peaks with the exception of the resort’s highest — Empire Peak at 9,500 feet — which offers intermediate and expert terrain only.

Most of the lifts have high-speed quads, giving skiers more time on the slopes. The resort is surrounded by private property, so you’ll see large homes on the side of many runs.

Look for the Raccoon House and the Bear House off Last Chance Trail. Both have whimsical critters of all sizes hanging from the roof, sitting on the deck, peeking in windows and hiding in trees.

High winds and high adventure while spring skiing at Mammoth Mountain

Skiing in the sunshine at Mammoth Mountain. (Photo courtesy of Mammoth Ski Resort)

By Marlene Greer

This week in Mammoth Mountain was the first time I’ve actually had to pole downhill. Yes, that’s right – use my ski poles to propel myself down the mountain.

On Tuesday, bone-chilling winds at the summit hit 75 mph, according to mountain staff, and mid-mountain was not much better with strong 30-40 mph winds. The temperature at the top was a chilly 20 degrees.

The gondola to the summit was closed for three days and opened again on Thursday, though Chair 23, the other lift to the top, remained open despite the high winds. Whether that was a wise choice is debatable.

Those who ventured to the summit Tuesday and Wednesday described winds nearly blowing them over and being pelted unmercifully with ice. Skiing off the summit, they told me, was a scary experience.

Caitlin, a 20-something skier from Utah, was skiing Mammoth on Tuesday with her four friends and got caught off guard at the summit by a powerful gust of wind.

“It was so bad we all huddled together for about five minutes,” she explained. “We didn’t know what to do, which way to go. I felt like I was going to get blown off the mountain.”

Inga, spending spring break at Mammoth with her boyfriend and friends, called her one and only ride to the summit and ski down “an unfortunate adventure.”

Shredding some snow at Mammoth Mountain. (Photo courtesy of Mammoth Ski Resort)

“The wind was blowing ice so hard that the ice hitting my helmet sounded like hail,” her boyfriend added. The San Diego couple did not plan on making a second attempt to the summit that day.

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Kirkwood is a favorite with skiers in Lake Tahoe

Kirkwood receives the most annual snowfall in the Sierras. (Photo courtesy of Kirkwood Ski Resort)

By Marlene Greer

Improving your skiing is all about taking a new skill and being able to use it on a smooth groomed run or a steep pitch. Especially if you’re zigzagging through trees or bounding through a gully.

And Lake Tahoe’s Kirkwood Mountain Resort has what it takes to get skiers and snowboarders moving across the mountain.

“What is brilliant about Kirkwood is the natural terrain of the mountain allows that natural progression to take place,” said Nick Brittain, a college student from New Zealand who was spending his summer break teaching at Kirkwood’s Learning Center.

The beginners’ terrain is a mix of wide groomed slopes of varying pitch, a set of funny bunny rollers, and little gullies with treacherous names like Ditch of Doom and Ditch of Gloom.

“We start at the magic carpet,” Brittain explained. “Our first aim is to move from the carpet to the chair lift, then from less gradient to higher gradient to off-piste. We build their confidence. What we love is involving different terrains and seeing skill level improve. Kids absolutely love those terrain variations.”

So do his adult students.

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Skiing in Tahoe is Heavenly


Story and photos by Marlene Greer

Heavenly is huge.

The ski area, sitting at the southern edge of Lake Tahoe, straddles two states, spreads over an impressive 4,800 acres, and rises 3,500 feet from its multiple base areas to the top of its highest peak.

It’s so large that it is divided into two parts – the Nevada side and the California side – and is scattered with so many runs going in so many directions with traverses in between, that it can appear a bit overwhelming to first time visitors.

That’s the way my daughter and I felt when we stepped off the gondola and landed at Adventure Peak, the heart of Heavenly at 9,136 feet.

Adventure Peak has a bar, restaurant, sledding and tubing hill and provides access to both sides of the resort. And because it’s at the center of the ski area, it’s packed with people.

Once you exit the gondola, a large billboard displays what lifts are open and points left for the Nevada side and right for the California side. We couldn’t see a lift off to the right, just a trail that you can either pole through on skis or walk carrying your skis, so we headed to the Tamarack lift and the resort’s Nevada side – and never left. We spent the entire day skiing half of the resort. That’s how big this place is.

And that’s how much variety it offers.


My daughter and I are intermediate skiers who generally hit the slopes only once a year on our annual mother-daughter ski weekend. We don’t come to a mountain to blast off rock edges into deep bowls or snake our way through a mile of dense trees.

Heavenly has that type of expert skiing, and lots of it, but we prefer mostly groomed runs with a side trail among the trees or maybe a dip into a few moguls.

That’s what we loved about Heavenly. It has so many intermediate groomers.
On nearly every run, you can choose to veer off on a comfortably wide tree trail, into a couple dips and jumps, or just cruise through some off-piste terrain.

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