Published: November 2008The Big Trip: The Ski Report
Map: Snow mountains

Ready, Set, Ski

North American resorts are gearing up for another all-star season—and we’ve got the beta. From British Columbia to Maine, here’s the best of what’s new for winter ’09.

Text by Pieter van Noordennen
Photograph Courtesy of Aaron Hobson/Orda Photo

Last year, nearly every snowy region in the country got hit. Hard. The glut of powder stood in stark contrast to the bare slopes of years past and served as a welcome reminder: There’s plenty of first-class skiing close to home. While we can’t guarantee the same snow-cast for the coming season—though with Colorado’s August dusting, it’s shaping up to be a good one—we’re happy to report that ski resorts across the continent are holding up their end of the bargain, with more terrain, accommodations, events, and, of course, après energy.

1. Whistler, BC
The Road to 2010

Before the International Olympic Committee crowned Whistler Blackcomb host of the 2010 Winter Games, it was already the greatest ski hill on the continent. The twin-mountain resort has the most inbounds terrain of any North American destination (8,171 acres) and a coastal snowpack that’s more predictable than a Jeff Foxworthy sitcom—not to mention 90-plus restaurants, including the award-winning Sushi Village and Bearfoot Bistro. Question is, can Whistler Blackcomb get any better?

Actually, yes. And it will, in December, when the resort unveils the Peak 2 Peak gondola. A marvel of modern engineering, the $52 million ride will connect the summits of Whistler and Blackcomb, crossing 2.73 miles and a 1,430-foot-deep chasm in 11 minutes. Translation: Getting from one mountain to the other will no longer require trekking through Whistler Village with your skis grinding into your shoulder. Visitors this winter can also expect an open invitation to the resort’s one-year countdown party, which kicks off in February with a week of live music and Olympic venue tours. Do yourself a favor and take it all in now, before the 2010 hordes descend—this is as good as Whistler will get (whistlerblackcomb.com).

Stay: Nita Lake Lodge opens this year with floor-to-ceiling fireplaces and a 24-hour concierge (doubles from $149; nitalakelodge.com).

Outdoor Ed> Forget any traumatic ski school memories you may have—Alpine Meadows’ new steep camps in North Lake Tahoe will actually push your skills to the next level. Geared toward intermediate and advanced skiers, the weekend sessions cover everything from steep chutes to peak-to-base speed runs to the art of schussing on crud (three days, $658; skialpine.com).

All-Access> It used to be that in order to reach California’s Mammoth Mountain—and its stash of 150 powder-packed runs—you had to drive (A) six hours north from SoCal or (B) three hours south from Reno-Tahoe International Airport. Starting in December, Horizon Air will offer option C: daily one-hour flights from L.A. to Mammoth Lakes, a little-used airport 13 miles from the resort ($208 round-trip; alaskaair.com).

Flying High> The Alta of British Columbia, Revelstoke gets 40 to 60 feet of snow per season, and skiers can access it however they like—via lift, cat, or chopper. Since opening last year, Eagle Pass Heliskiing has used maybe 10 percent of its permit area, leaving a small country’s worth of steeps and lodgepole forests up for discovery. Thrill seekers can sign up for an exploratory ski week this spring to help guides scout new lines while catching deep, untracked powder (March through April; seven days, $8,714; eaglepassheliskiing.com).

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