Vail Resorts offer Epic Pass discounts this Labor Day

Labor Day weekend in Colorado marks the official start of school and the unofficial start of ski season. Vail Resorts is celebrating this milestone with the last chance to purchase a 2014-15 season pass – including the Epic Local Pass – before prices go up on September 2, 2014.

“With unlimited, unrestricted access to Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin, three of Colorado’s most iconic mountains, and with 10 holiday-restricted days at Vail and Beaver Creek, there is no better value in Colorado skiing or snowboarding,” said Kirsten Lynch, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Vail Resorts.

  • The Epic Local Pass™: Enjoy unlimited, unrestricted skiing or riding at Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado, Afton Alps in Minnesota, and Mt. Brighton in Michigan. Access also includes Canyons in Park City, Utah; Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood at Lake Tahoe, with limited restrictions. The Epic Local Pass also includes ten days at Vail and Beaver Creek, with holiday restrictions. At $549 for adults and $279 for children, the Epic Local Pass pays for itself in just under four days.
  • The Summit Value Pass™Unlimited skiing or riding at Keystone and Arapahoe Basin all winter for $469 for adults. This pass also includes limited restrictions at Breckenridge. The Summit Value Pass pays for itself in just under four days.
  • Keystone A-Basin Pass™: Unlimited skiing at Keystone and A-basin with limited holiday restrictions. This is the best deal for unlimited skiing in Colorado and, at just $289 for adults, pays for itself in just under three days.
  • The Epic Pass™: Unlimited skiing all winter for $729. Enjoy unlimited skiing or riding at 11 resorts including Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado; Canyons in Park City, Utah; Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood at Lake Tahoe; Afton Alps in Minnesota and Mt. Brighton in Michigan.  No blackout days or restrictions apply.  Pass holders can also enjoy up to five consecutive free days each at Les 3 Vallées, France (Courchevel, La Tania, Méribel, Brides-les-Bains, Les Menuires, Saint Martin de Belleville, Val Thorens and Orelle) and Verbier, Switzerland when booking in-resort lodging. New for winter 2014-15, Epic Pass purchasers will have access to five complimentary consecutive days at Niseko, Japan–known as one of the snowiest and most celebrated powder skiing resorts in the world.  The Epic Pass pays for itself in just over five days.

Argentina’s Los Lenas the most challenging ski resort in South America

love2fly.iberia.com has some great summary of skiing in Argentina. Here’s another resort there:  

Las Leñas, Argentina

A thousand kilometres north of Bariloche, in the western reaches of Mendoza province, the also large Las Leñas, dating from 1983, can at times be the most challenging ski resort in South America.

But that depends on the weather and whether a particular lift is open or closed. Provided there’s stable snow and not too much wind to open the avalanche-prone Marte chair, then expert skiers and snowboarders are in for a real treat.

The lift provides the only mechanised access to some extraordinary off-piste, with plunging powder bowls and narrow couloirs.  The area is dotted with cliffs and, again, exposed to the possibility of avalanches, so it’s the kind of place where a local guide is absolutely essential.

When the Marte chair is closed, Las Leñas amounts to an enjoyable but perhaps slightly bland Andean resort – a treeless wilderness a 90-minute flight from Buenos Aires to Malargue, followed by an hourlong bus ride; there are no cities or towns in the area but some robust nightlife nonetheless.

All the accommodation here is in hotels and lodges within a short distance of a lift. The Hotel Virgo & Spa is the most comfortable place to stay, with an in-house cinema and a kids club.

Skiing in Argentina can be a sweet experience in San Carlos de Bariloche

Hey, you don’t have to wait until fall to go skiing. Just jump on a jet and head to the southern hemisphere, where winter is just beginning and the ski resorts are opening for their season.

Here’s some good information from love2fly.iberia.com:

The South America skiing season in Argentina and Chile runs from June through October, with skiing for all levels, modern lifts, some great off-piste skiing, quirky resorts and eclectic hotels. Stir in a day or two of wine-tasting at one of the outstanding wineries close to Santiago, or an evening beef-eating and tango in Buenos Aries, and you have the perfecto South America ski holiday!

L2F Jun Argentina skiing Bariloche WikipediaBariloche, Argentina

Argentina has more than a dozen snow resorts scattered around the Andes, with resorts near Mendoza, the Lake District and Patagonia in the south, and Ushuaia further south. But Bariloche (top and right) is the biggest and best known in the country, and indeed, the most prominent on the continent.

Down in Patagonia, some 17 to 20 hours by road and a 2-hour flight from Buenos Aires, San Carlos de Bariloche is a pretty, Teutonic-flavoured city not far from the Chilean border. The main ski station here, Cerro Catedral, has a modern system of 39 lifts, mainly intermediate slopes, lots of off-piste, and a vertical drop of 1,070 m (3,512 ft.).

Bariloche also happens to be Argentina’s chocolate capital (because of all its German and Austrian immigrants) and I’d highly recommend a visit to the Fenoglio Museum of Chocolate and a sweet browse along the chocolate shops of Calle Mitre, the main drag. You can stay at the Knapp Hotel, which is right by the lifts and has an in-house chocolate shop. 

#Winter2014: Colorado skier visits surge to 12.6 million, a new record

During the past winter, Vail and other Colorado resorts welcomed more skiers and snowboarders than ever, thanks, in part, to disappointing snowfall at resorts in California. (Photo By Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

During the past winter, Vail and other Colorado resorts welcomed more skiers and snowboarders than ever, at least in part due to disappointing snowfall at resorts in California. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

By Jason Blevins
The Denver Post

Colorado ski resorts broke a visitation record in 2013-14, thanks to an early start, a late finish, a drought in California and, of course, steady snowfall all season.

The state’s 25 ski areas logged 12.6 million visits, up 10 percent from last year — the strongest year-over-year surge in recent history and an 8 percent increase over the five-year average. The 2013-14 season is now the benchmark, unseating the 12.56 million high set in 2006-07.

“It’s been eight years and a Great Recession since the last new visitation record, and that feels great,” said Melanie Mills, president of resort trade group Colorado Ski County USA, which announced the season’s visitation at its 51st annual meeting at Copper Mountain.

Visitation was up across all categories, with the number of out-of-state skiers growing alongside international visitors and pass-wielding locals.

While California skiers have long ranked as a top market for Colorado resorts, the snow-gobbling drought there fueled a double-digit percentage increase in Californians on Colorado ski slopes this season.

Colorado resort leaders never wish a decimating season on their peers from other states, but there’s hope the 2013-14 season might turn some California skiers on to Colorado.

“We think that all those visitors that came to Colorado had a great experience,” Mills said, “and we think that gives us an opportunity to get them back.”

Colorado Ski Country’s 21 member resorts saw 7.1 million visits in 2013-14. Vail Resorts’ Vail, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek and Keystone ski areas drew 5.5 million visits.

Vail, the nation’s largest resort operator, last month reported solid growth in the 2013-14 season, despite poor performance at its California resorts, with visitor spending reaching near-records on increases in lessons, lift tickets, dining and retail.

Colorado’s ski communities reported strong spending during the season as well, with many resorts — like Vail, Aspen, Breckenridge and Telluride — posting record sales-tax revenues for the ski season.

Mills said member ski resorts enjoyed similar boosts in spending.

“A number of member resorts had a record year (for revenues), and everybody had a strong year,” she said. “It was the perfect snowstorm this year, with a snow message that started early and it was authentic … we just had snow every month.”

Monarch ski area saw a record 190,000 visits, up from 168,000 the previous year, spokesman Greg Ralph said. The Chaffee County hill harvested record revenues too, Ralph said.

Aspen Skiing Co.’s four Roaring Fork Valley ski areas posted the highest visitation since 1997-98, company spokesman Jeff Hanle said. Lodges in both Aspen and Snowmass saw highest-ever occupancy in March, with the season falling just shy of the all-time occupancy record set in 2006-07, said Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, the reservation hub that books lodging across the valley.

“We had a really good start and an incredible finish,” Tomcich said.

Colorado’s skier visitation growth bested the 6.4 percent annual increase for the Rocky Mountain region, which includes resorts in Utah, Montana and New Mexico.

The snow was a blessing, and the international media’s sensationalized focus on Colorado when the state legalized recreational marijuana in January certainly helped.

Mills called legalized marijuana “the PR event of the year and the operational nonevent of the year,” meaning resorts barely noticed the new laws but welcomed the attention.

“From a PR perspective,” Mills said, “we did not view it as a negative that everyone was talking about Colorado as of January first.”

Jason Blevins: 303-954-1374, jblevins@denverpost.com or twitter.com/jasonblevins

#Winter2014: Skiing, snowboarding at Homewood Mountain Resort

Homewood Mountain Resort has 64 runs and spectacular views of the Lake Tahoe basin from each one of them. (Photo courtesy Homewood Mountain Resort)

Homewood Mountain Resort has 64 runs and spectacular views of the Lake Tahoe basin from each one of them. (Photo courtesy Homewood Mountain Resort)

Continuing our look back at the winter that was, it’s time to visit Homewood Mountain Resort near the west shore of Lake Tahoe.

Season start/finish: Dec. 11, 2013, through March 23, 2014. The opening date was typical of past seasons, and the closing date was two to three weeks than was planned.

Snowfall: Well short of the typical 450 inches per season, although figures were not provided. Snowmaking made up some of the difference.

Season highlight: A series of big winter storms arrived just before the President’s Day holiday weekend and the mid-winter break for many schools in Northern California. “The conditions were the best they had been all season during what is typically a very busy weekend/week for us,” said Paul Raymore, resort spokesman. “At that point, every skier and snowboarder in Northern California had been ‘jonesing’ for fresh powder for months, so it was fantastic to be able to finally offer some when many had time off work or school.”

Comment:The lack of our typical abundance of natural snow in Tahoe certainly made the 2013-14 ski season a challenging one; however, that’s not to say it wasn’t a fun year,” Raymore said. “Savvy Lake Tahoe skiers and snowboarders, who knew where to look to find the best conditions, were still able to find great snow at the smaller resorts such as Homewood, where the lack of crowds really helped to preserve the snow on the mountains.”

Looking ahead: Homewood has major changes planned for the 2015-16 ski season, with a wholesale redevelopment of the resort scheduled to begin in summer 2015. Improvements will include a new high-speed gondola taking skiers to mid-mountain, a new 5-star hotel at the base of the mountain, new skier services buildings and amenities, as well as construction of a number of residences at both of the base areas. Information about the Homewood Master Plan is at www.SkiHomewood.com/MasterPlan

#Winter2014 recap: Skiing, snowboarding at Bear Mountain and Snow Summit

OK, we know that winter 2014 was a bummer of a snow season, but we’re going to take a look back anyway with dispatches from many of California’s ski and snowboard resorts – starting today with Bear Mountain and Snow Summit.

Season start/finish: Bear Mountain, Nov. 27-March 30; Snow Summit, Dec. 6-March 17.

Snowfall: 20-30 inches at each resort; the season average is 75 to 100 inches.

Comment: Despite a shorter season and lack of natural snowfall, we’re very proud of what we were able to accomplish for the 2013-14 season at Bear Mountain and Snow Summit,” said Chris Riddle, vice president of marketing for Big Bear Mountain Resorts. “Each year we strive to provide the very best conditions, and this year was no different. Thanks to our advanced snowmaking system and our dedicated park crew, we were able to offer some of the greatest skiing and snowboarding in California – especially earlier in the season. We were able to successfully keep open the vast majority of our runs, with some of the very best conditions in the state. It was a great achievement for us.”

Looking ahead: Big Bear Mountain Resorts will be reducing the price of all passes for the 2014-15 winter season, with savings up to $110 from last winter’s rates. Dual-mountain pass holders will have unlimited access to 26 lifts, 438 developed acres and more than 55 runs.

Media: Here are video highlights from the slopes at each resort. First, Bear Mountain. >>>

Now it’s Snow Summit’s turn. >>>

At Mammoth Mountain, a parting shot to the ski and snowboard season

OK, everyone, say "cheese!" This was the scene at Mammoth Mountain on Memorial Day, the day of skiing and snowboarding this season at the resort. (Mammoth Mountain photo)

OK, everyone, say “cheese!” … This was the scene at Mammoth Mountain on Memorial Day, the last day of skiing and snowboarding at the resort for the season. (Mammoth Mountain photo)

At Mammoth Mountain, skiers and snowboarders bid farewell to the 2013-14 snow season with a group shot on Memorial Day. … We’ll recap the season at Mammoth and many of the other California resorts shortly. Stay tuned.

On Mother’s Day, moms will get royal treatment at Alpine Meadows

Moms will get free lift tickets at Alpine Meadows on Sunday, which also happens to be the resort's last day of the winter season. (Alpine Meadows photo)

Moms will get free lift tickets at Alpine Meadows on Sunday, which also happens to be the resort’s last day of the winter season. (Alpine Meadows photo)

Alpine Meadows ski resort is celebrating Mother’s Day with free lift tickets for moms and $1 mimosas on Sunday, May 11.

Moms can ski or snowboard for free all day this Mother’s Day. To redeem the free lift tickets, mothers can bring one of their kids with them to the ticket office, or present their child’s birth certificate.

Also in celebration of moms, $1 mimosas will be available to those 21 and older on the sundeck of Alpine Meadows’ base lodge on Mother’s Day.

Alpine Meadows will be open for skiing and riding Friday through Sunday, with chairlifts spinning from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

All guests can ski or ride for free with the purchase of a 2014-15 season pass.

Sunday, May 11, marks the final day of the 2013-14 ski season at the resort.

Information: www.skialpine.com

#SnowAlert: Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Mammoth Mountain all report fresh pow!

Believe it or not, this is not a file photo from December. It was shot this morning — on April 25 —  at Squaw Valley. (Squaw Valley photo by Hank DeVre)

Believe it or not, this is not a file photo from December. It was shot this morning — on April 25 — at Squaw Valley. (Squaw Valley photo by Hank DeVre)

By Jerry Rice

If April showers bring May flowers, what do April snowstorms bring? Skiers and snowboarders, of course.

Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows and Mammoth Mountain — the only California resorts still open for the winter season — are all reporting fresh snow. And lots of it.

Since the white stuff starting falling early this morning, Squaw and Alpine have received at least 16 inches, while Mammoth is close behind with about 15 inches. The snow is expected to continue well into the evening, bringing a welcome late-season thick blanket of fresh powder to the slopes at all three resorts.

Alpine Meadows will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays into May. Info: www.skialpine.com

Squaw Valley will be open through Sunday. Info: http://squaw.com

Mammoth Mountain will be open through at least Memorial Day. Info: www.mammothmountain.com

Update: The last time Squaw Valley received this much snow in 24 hours in late April was in 2011. “As you can imagine, this amount of fresh snow is certainly a late-season treat for skiers and riders who are still thirsty for powder,” says Melissa Brouse, resort spokeswoman.