In the early days, Northstar-at-Tahoe was little more than a sleepy day resort for the park-and-pipe set. That was so 2006. Last winter, a 150,000-square-foot overhaul completed the Village at Northstar, and now comes the biggest upgrade of all: In December, the 170-room Ritz Carlton Highlands, Lake Tahoe, will open mid-mountain, with a connection to the Village via a new gondola (doubles from $249; ritzcarlton.com/laketahoe). Aside from its 17,000-square-foot on-site spa, the hotel’s premium attraction promises to be Manzanita restaurant, which will add dishes like pancetta pizza and duck meatballs to the resort’s burgers-and-fries-heavy menu. Just don’t expect the skiing to go soft. The same combination of woody steeps and deep Sierra snows that made Northstar a hit with the hard core remains, including those underestimated tree stashes beneath the Martis Camp Express, which dip through and around massive, lichen-covered ponderosa pines. Thankfully, some things never change (northstarattahoe.com).
Mama always said you get what you pay for. Unless, of course, you pay for a full day of skiing but wind up in the lodge by noon soaked with rain. This winter, Mount Bachelor gives skiers and boarders a break on those less than stellar days with the most revolutionary offer of the year: The resort will reduce the price of daily lift tickets to match snow conditions, visibility, and the amount of available terrain, and charge $49, $59, or $69 depending. It’s not just the low-snow days that could land you a deal. Too much fluff will also do the trick if avalanche safety crews are forced to delay openings or close certain areas. Translation: Play the weather right and you could nab some of Oregon’s finest skiing—think rolling volcanic terrain, above-tree-line bowls, deep maritime powder—for 50 bucks (mtbachelor.com).
Contrary to popular belief, Whistler Blackcomb will stay open—and skiable—when the Olympics hit this February. Only 10 percent of the mountain will close to the public, leaving, oh, 7,500 acres for non-elite athletes. “Most of the major chain hotels are already near capacity,” says Breton Murphy of Tourism Whistler. “Look for condos and town houses, or lesser known chalets. Everything in Whistler Village is within walking distance of the lifts.” A good thing, given all that’s in store: Downtown events will range from ceremonial (performances at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Center) to crazy (concerts every day). And if you’ve ever wanted to party with the Jamaica Bobsleigh Team, they’ve named the Savage Beagle their official headquarters for the Games (whistlerblackcomb.com).
Want in on the newest Olympic sport? Ski cross—the exhilarating, high-crash-quotient race event that hurtles four skiers through banked turns and jumps—will make its Whistler debut this year. And Sugar Bowl is hosting the ultimate pregame show. February 1–17, watch gold-medal hopefuls take their final practice runs on the resort’s new course before giving it a whirl yourself: After the athletes depart, Sugar Bowl will open its ski cross terrain to the public. Of course, there’s also the rest of the mountain, which has everything from groomers to high-alpine steeps. And 461 inches of snow a year (sugarbowl.com).