Ski Canada: Mont-Sainte-Anne is a special place for downhill fun

A skier enjoys one of the many gladed trails at Mont-Sainte-Anne in Quebec. (Photo courtesy Mont-Sainte-Anne)

A skier enjoys one of the many gladed trails at Mont-Sainte-Anne, a resort in the Canadian province of Quebec. (Photos courtesy Mont-Sainte-Anne)

By Richard Irwin

Like the rest of us, Mont-Sainte-Anne is getting older. The historic ski resort 25 miles northeast of Quebec City turned 50 years old this year.

And during those five decades, the unique getaway has recorded many firsts. Among them, hosting the inaugural Canadian Winter Games in 1967 and the first Snowboard World Cup Stage to take place in Canada in 1993. In fact, the very next year it became the first mountain in the region to welcome snowboarders.

In 1971, the cross-country ski center opened with 90 kilometers of trails. Today, it’s the second-largest cross-country area in North America with more than 200 kilometers of trails.

The St. Lawrence River shimmers in the valley below as skiers gather for another exciting run at Mont-Sainte-Anne.

The St. Lawrence River shimmers in the valley below as skiers gather for another exciting run at Mont-Sainte-Anne.

The little ski area began with only 10 trails and four lifts, including the first gondola in eastern Canada. Today, the beautiful resort boasts 71 trails, offering fun runs for beginning skiers as well as the most advanced. These are served by nine lifts, including a high-speed eight-person gondola as well as a new high-speed quad that opened in 2014.

Western skiers may balk when they discover the summit peaks out at 2,625 feet in the picturesque Laurentian Mountains. But in a strange twist, visitors arrive at the summit and it’s ALL downhill from there, falling 2,000 sweet feet to the valley below.

And while Mont-Sainte-Anne averages 187 inches of natural snow annually, it has put in a snow-making system that covers 80 percent of the skiable terrain allowing the resort to boast one of Quebec’s longest ski seasons, closing on April 24 this year.

While eastern skiing can be icy and wet, the snow was a light powder when we recently visited. Granted, it’s not the champagne powder of its sister resort Kicking Horse or Fernie, but the conditions were better than the Sierra concrete often found at our local mountain resorts.

Since being bought by Resorts of the Canadian Rockies in 1999, a lot of money has gone into new gladed trails as well as improving the snow-making system. This is a great place for skiing or boarding through snowy glades.

Children use one of the longest magic carpet rides in Canada during a lesson at Mont-Sainte-Anne's ski school.

Children use one of the longest magic carpet rides in Canada during a lesson at Mont-Sainte-Anne’s ski school.

The first glade for kids, La Foret Enchantee, opened on the north side in 1997, along with a glade for experts on the south side. There’s nothing quite like sliding through a stand of snowy pines on a clear winter day.

The mountain offers three faces, each with a personality all its own. One overlooks the majestic St. Lawrence River. The view from the cable car can’t be beat. The trail La Crete provides a stunning view of the river and Quebec City.

On our first day, we took it easy, enjoying the well-groomed runs. The longest, Le Chemin du Roy, is 3 and a half miles long.

Mont-Sainte-Anne has a nice beginner’s area, with one of the longest magic carpets in Quebec. It offers an excellent ski school for the little ones, as well as the rest of us. Most of the easy trails are located east of the gondola.

The ski runs on the south face have the most slope, while north side has the easiest runs. The west face offers only natural snow and is serviced by a T-bar. So check to see if the area is open before going there.

Expert skiers will be challenged by the black diamond and double diamond runs. The resort has marked 20 percent as more difficult and another 10 percent as extreme.

The mountain also offers four terrain parks and a bordercross. A helmet is required in all snowparks. One park, La Cachette, is set in a forest and is lighted at night.

And you can’t beat the price considering the favorable exchange rate, which gave us $1.35 Canadian for every dollar we turned in.

A day lift ticket costs $76, good from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. A day/night ticket is $69 and good from 12:30 to 9 p.m.

Night skiing at Mont-Sainte-Anne began in 1986. It has the highest vertical drop for night skiing in Canada.

So give Mont-Sainte-Anne a try whenever you’re in Quebec. You’ll be glad you did.

Rich Irwin is a freelance travel writer and a member of the North American Snowsport Journalists’ Association.

Information: mont-sainte-anne.com

Park City Adventure: History lines the ski runs on Park City Mountain

By Staff Writer Richard Irwin

We often stopped to read the signs about the historic mining buildings lining some of the ski runs at Park City Mountain resort.

Visitors can take a free guided historic mountain tour and learn the history behind Park City. Tour guides provide a wealth of knowledge, as well as fun stories of how the runs got their names and behind-the-scenes vignettes from the 2002 Olympics.

Here are some fun facts you’ll learn:

• $450 million in silver was mined at Park City Mountain from 1,200 miles of tunnels.

• Park City’s silver mines produced 25 millionaires.

The tour is offered 10 a.m. daily at the Eagle Statue in the plaza or at the Summit Demo Center at 1:30 p.m.

A light snow started in the morning and would continue off and on for the rest of the day. Not a heavy Sierra snow, but the fine, dry snow that Utah is famous for. Its flakes were just big enough to sting your face if you took off your face mask.

Shooting by a terrain park we saw several boarders trying their luck on the jumps. Park City has three parks, including Eagle superpipe and Merrill minipipe.

Late in the day, we caught some high winds at the summit, but it was fine once you skied down into the valleys. It turned out to be another great day in our Park City adventure.

Park City Adventure: Park City Mountain offers 3,300 acres of skiing

By Staff Writer Richard Irwin

Park City Mountain offers 3,300 acres of skiing. There are also nine, count them nine, bowls with 750 acres. That’s a lot of territory to cover, and coverage was excellent when we arrived in February.

We decided to warm up on Homerun, which turns out to be the longest trail, measuring 3 1/2 miles. Quite the warm-up.

Park City actually has 114 trails, with more than half listed as intermediate, while 31 percent are advanced.

The snow was a fine powder as we schussed under cloudy skies. At times, a pale white sun would barely pierce the cloudy veil, lending a cold, bleak light. But the skiing was hot.

As in our visits to other Park City ski resorts that week, there were hardly any lift lines. Park City has a total of 16 lifts, including four high speed six-packs and three high speed quads.

The mountain boasts a total uphill capacity of 31,000 skiers an hour, which would be tested on President’s Day that weekend with every hotel room booked solid.

But we beat the rush and could ski as much as we wanted. We were often alone on our own section of the mountain.

Park City Adventure: Park City Mountain celebrating 50 years

By Staff Writer Richard Irwin 

It’s not often that a chairlift will drop you off in the middle of town. But then, Park City, Utah, is a special place, where skiers take their sport very seriously.

So we laughed as we watched skiers and snowboarders jump on the town lift to take them up the hill to the huge Park City Mountain Resort. Must be nice to catch a few runs after school, which more than a few students looked like they were doing. Skiers originally traveled underground through a mine shaft to a hoist, where they were lifted 1,400 feet to the mountain. Now you can just jump on the city chairlift.

We had a little bit of everything at the ski resort, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Wind, snow, fog — but we still had a great time exploring this Utah ski resort nestled up against the city with the same name.

We met up with our group at the Eagle Statue in the lovely resort plaza at the base of the mountain. It looks great with shops, restaurants and services on the first floor and lodging on several floors above.

Park City adventure: Deer Valley offers elegant ski experience

By Richard Irwin

Deer Valley ski resort is elegance personified. You get that message when you find a new Cadillac sitting outside the lodge.

As if the beautiful log lodge wasn’t enough. And old chairlifts served as porch swings on the verandah.

I found it hard to hit the slopes, when I checked out the plush interior with its club setting. The leather chairs and stone fireplaces reminded me more of a plush country club, than a typical ski resort.

But that’s just the impression that Deer Valley is trying to make. It caters to the well-heeled such as an Orange County couple who were married here 17 years ago, and had returned for Valentine’s Day.

Even the “cafeteria” looked amazing, with a live carving station and natural food bar.

The resort had just hosted the FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup in January. U.S. aerial and moguls teams answered questions, while Columbia l unveiled the 2014 Olympic uniforms for the U.S., Canadian and Russian freestyle ski teams.

The rest is history, with the U.S. freestyle winning gold, silver and bronze medals in the Sochi Olympics.

While I’m not Olympic material, I thought it would be interesting to ride the same mountain that our champions had practiced on . So I forced myself back outside to catch my first run of the day.

Choices, choices: Deer Valley can lift more than 50,000 skiers an hour with its gondola and a dozen high-speed quads. Add in the other chairlifts and you get a total of 21 lifts. Heck, I wouldn’t even be able to get to every lift in one day.

With a base elevation of 6,500 feet and a summit height of 9,500, this gives skiers 3,000 vertical feet to play with. I say “skiers” because snowboarders aren’t welcome at Deer Valley.

We worked our way around the mountain, enjoying the well-groomed runs. Beautiful homes lined many of the trails, forcing us to stop every once in a while to oogle celebrities’ homes.

Bald, Flagstaff and Empire mountains all top off above 9,000 feet, so good luck if you’re coming from sea level like I was. Give yourself a day to acclimate and you should be alright.

Deer Valley averages 300 inches of the “Greatest Snow on Earth” blanketing its six mountains – Little Baldy Peak, Bald Eagle, Bald, Flagstaff, Empire and Lady Morgan.

Skiers of all abilities will enjoy a wide range of trails. We stayed on the blue trails and away from the black ones because we didn’t want to land up black and blue at the end of the day.

Mother Nature cooperated with temps in the 30s under partly cloudy skies. On  many runs, we were the only skiers in sight and we never had to wait in line at the lifts.

A friend from La Verne decided to take a ski lesson. She was impressed by the quality of instruction and shared many of the instructor’s tips with me in the afternoon.

At the end of the day, we were sad to leave, but glad we had come. Headed home, we congratulated the Orange County couple and wished them another memorable Valentine’s Day.

Park City adventure: Park City ski resort offers little bit of everything

By  Staff Writer Richard Irwin 

At Park City ski resort, we had a little bit of everything — wind, snow, fog — but we still had a great time exploring this getaway nestled up against the city with the same name.

You can actually catch a chairlift from town, which must inspire a lot of residents to call in sick on a powder day. Actually, the bosses probably plan on it.

We joined in the fun at the lovely ski plaza at the base of the mountain. It looks very new with shops, restaurants and services on the first floor and lodging on several floors above. We gathered at the golden eagle statue for a group shop before heading up.

Park City Mountain offers 3,300 acres of skiing. There’s also nine — count ’em, nine — bowls with 750 acres. That’s a lot of territory to cover with the fine, dry Utah snow, but coverage was excellent when we arrived.

We decided to warm up on Homerun, which turns out to be the longest trail measuring 3 and a half miles. Quite the warm up.

Park City actually has 114 trails, with more than half listed as intermediate, while 31 percent are advanced.

The snow was fine as we schussed under cloudy skies. At times, a pale white sun would barely pierce the cloudy veil, lending a cold, bleak light.

Once again, it was ski down, jump on another empty chairlift and shoot back up to the top. Park City has 16 lifts, including four high-speed 6-packs and three high-speed quads.

The total uphill capacity is 31,000 skiers an hour, which should be tested this Presidents Day weekend with every hotel room booked solid.

But we beat the rush and could ski as much as we wanted. We were often alone on our section of the mountain.

A light snow started and would continue off and on for the rest of the day. Not a heavy Sierra snow, but the light, dry snow that Utah is famous for. Its flakes were just big enough to sting your face if you took off your facemask.

Shooting by a terrain park we saw several boarders trying their luck on the jumps. Park City has three parks, including Eagle superpipe and Merrill minipipe.

Caught some high winds at the summit, but it was fine once you got into the valleys. It turned out to be another great day in our Park City adventure.

Next stop: Deer Valley ski resort

Park City adventure: Sun and fun at Canyons ski resort

By Staff Writer Richard Irwin

Canyons is a huge ski resort on the edge of Park City, Utah. The resort made the top 10 ranking in Ski magazine’s reader resort awards for 2014.

And SnoWonder would have to agree after a great day of skiing on our first stop of our Park City adventure. We couldn’t wait for the lifts to open at 9 a.m. on a slightly overcast morning.

Jumping on the Red Pine Gondola, we were soon halfway up the mountain. After that, it was all down hill, as we shred the groomed runs. The highest peak is the Ninety-Nine 90, which is appropriately 9,990 feet above sea level.

We had a fun day working our way up and down the mountain with the sun finally breaking through for a gorgeous day. The trails were well groomed, letting carve long curves in the snowy surface.

Canyons offers everything from high speed 6-packs to simple double chairlifts. We never found a line at the lifts, allowing us to jump on as soon as we hit bottom.

The slopes were also wide open this week before Presidents Day. Often we were the only skiers in sight.

The resort even breaks down the runs more than most ski resorts. Canyons designates double greens for advanced beginners, as well as double greens for advanced intermediate. This helps take the guesswork out of picking a trail.

We especially liked The Aspens with its nice mix of intermediate and advanced ski runs. We steered clear of Condor Woods with more than a dozen double black diamond trails. Yes, these are for experts only.

We were pretty beat by 3 p.m. on the first day of our Park City adventure. That was fine because the lifts close at 4 p.m.

It was a great start to our tour of the ski resorts in this section of Utah. We’ll have a feature story with more details when we get back to Los Angeles.

Join us tomorrow when we explore Park City ski resort.

SnoWonder visits Park City, Utah, for a week of skiing and snowboarding

Join SnoWonder reporter Rich Irwin as he explores the wonderful ski resorts at Park City, Utah. Rich will visit a different ski resort every day and give us the latest news on these great ski destinations.

Park City is less than an hour away from Salt Lake City Airport, which has many nonstop flights from LAX. Skiers can be in Utah in an little over an hour, then on the slopes an hour after that.

You don’t even need to rent a car since Park City has a massive public transit system that will get around town in a hurry. So leave the car at home, jump on an airport shuttle to Park City and use the free buses.

The resorts got a good dump of snow shortly before we arrived, so we expect some great skiing. More snow is on the way, so we’ll let you know about conditions as they develop.

We’ll even check out some apre ski sites as well as the many restaurants that fill this old mining town.

Skiing in Telluride a ‘heavenly’ experience

Skiing into Revelation Bowl at Telluride. Photo by Brett Schreckengost

By Richard Irwin, Savvy Skier
“To hell you ride!” At least, that’s one popular explanation of how the town of Telluride got its name. But a skier or snowboarder riding the snowy slopes this winter will find them heavenly. (Apologies to our California resort.)
We returned to the Colorado ski resort last month for a winter vacation. And we discovered why it ranks among the best snowboarding destinations in the country.
Telluride averages more than 300 inches of snow every year, as well as 300 days of glorious sunshine. An important element for Los Angelinos who are used to seeing the golden rays every day.
And so it was on our February adventure. The mountain had received nearly two feet of new snow the weekend before, and we enjoyed sunny skies for the next four days.
The only weather bump we had was on our last morning, when high winds roared up the box canyon, nearly blowing us off the top of the mountain. So we stayed on the lower slopes, buffered by the towering peaks above.
Telluride is huge, it has more than 2,000 acres of skiable terrain. Galloping Goose, the longest run is more than 4 miles long, though there were a few flat spots that requires some poling.
We found the 125 perfectly groomed every morning, which is quite an accomplishment for a resort this big. This runs ranged from refined groomed runs to some challenging moguls.

Nightly grooming offers perfect corduroy slopes in the morning. Photo by Gus Gusciora

I liked it because many of the trails were wide open boulevards that left plenty of room for everyone. No crowding and squeezing here like you might find at Bear Mountain or Mountain High.
In fact, during the second week of February, we often found ourselves skiing by ourselves. There were literally no other snowboarders within sight or sound.
Telluride has a lift capacity of more than 22,000 per hour. That includes two high-speed gondolas, seven high-speed quads, one fixed quad, two triples, two doubles, two surface lifts and a couple magic carpets.
We never stood in line for more than a few minutes. Most of the time we jumped right on the next available chair.
The popular resort has a nice variety of terrain. The breakdown is approximately a quarter beginner, a third intermediate and 40 percent advanced.
After warming up on the easy stuff, we advanced to the the bright blue runs. There’s so many trails that Telluride even breaks the runs down into double green for advanced beginners and double blue for the harder intermediate trails.
Of course, there were also the diamond runs for the advanced skier and the double diamond trails for the cliffs, chutes and cornices for experts only.
The ski resort has even installed a bridge and steel staircase between Gold Hill Chute 8 and 9 to provide better access to Palmyra Basin. Experts can test themselves on the Gold Hill Stairs, climbing to the tip top of the mountain and the extreme terrain in the Gold Hill Chutes.
The mountain sports a vertical drop of 4,425 feet, with a lift served vertical drop of 3,845 feet.
Snowboarders will find a great range of freestyle terrain parks on the mountain. Beginners will like Ute Park, which features a mini snow-cross, small jumps and ride-on boxes.

Skier hikes Gold Hill Stairs at Telluride. Photo by Ben Eng

Misty Maiden Park was designed for intermediate to high intermediate riders. It has medium jumps, rails and boxes. Advanced riders will like Hoot Brown Park with its large jumps, as well as a wide variety of rails and boxes.
Skiers come from around the world to ski at Telluride. One gentleman from Mexico brought his many children and grandchildren.
Der Sitzmark Ski Club from Pittsburgh was certainly having a grand time. The club has more than 300 members, who enjoy weeklong ski trips throughout the country including an upcoming one to Crested Butte.
“Telluride is one of our favorites, we always have some great skiing here,” said the club president and one of its founders.
So if you’re looking for a “helluva” good place to ski this winter give Telluride a look. “To hell you ride!”
richard.irwin@sgvn.com<QA0>
626-544-0847

Fly like a zephyr while snowmobiling at Lake Tahoe

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Photos courtesy of Zephyr Cove Resort

By Richard Irwin
Savvy Skier

Powering through the snow, we entered a washed out world of grays and off-whites. We felt as if we were riding in the clouds, which we were, cruising at 9,000 feet in the crisp, cold air of the High Sierras.

Some riders were disappointed that we wouldn’t be able to see the crystal blue waters of Lake Tahoe below us, but the surreal scenery made me glad that we had taken a day off skiing to try this snowmobile tour with Zephyr Cove Resorts.

The gray mist even muffled the sounds of the powerful snow machines. We glided silently through the High Sierra glades.

The towering pines looked like pieces of art, decoratively layered with crisp, white snow. It seemed more a dream than reality.

After a week of skiing and snowboarding in the many resorts around Tahoe, we were ready to try something different. Maybe even a little less strenuous to give our sore muscles a chance to rest.

Everyone agreed on snowmobiling, so we checked out the tours available from South Lake Tahoe and picked Zephyr Cove Resort. The tours leave from the resort, which is only four miles into Nevada from the state line.

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