What’s new for this year’s ski season

Oct 6, 2019

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With ski season rapidly approaching, many travelers are thinking about deep powder, whiteout conditions and the steepest terrain they can safely navigate on skis and snowboards.

And many others may be eagerly awaiting a more relaxing ski vacation, complete with hot chocolate, spa treatments and après ski cocktails around a wood-burning fire.

Fortunately, there’s plenty to look forward to for both types of travelers at North America’s top ski resorts this season.

Planning your ski trip with points and miles

Passes and ticketing

Vail purchases Peak Resorts …

In July, Vail announced it would be purchasing Peak Resorts, which comprises 17 ski areas, many of which are located in the northeastern U.S. This purchase will make all 17 resorts available on Vail Resort’s Epic Pass for the 2019/2020 ski season. The resorts, which are located near major metropolitan areas such as Boston, New York City, Cleveland and Washington, D.C., will encourage East Coasters to purchase the Epic Pass, potentially driving more traffic to the western resorts.

(Photo by SEASTOCK/Getty Images)
Vail Mountain. (Photo by SEASTOCK/Getty Images)

A few popular joining the Epic Pass are Jack Frost Big Boulder in Pennsylvania; Hunter Mountain in New York; Mount Snow in Vermont and Attitash Mountain in New Hampshire. The unlimited Epic Pass will be available for $969 until Oct. 13, after which the price will increase.

… and partners with Helly Hansen

Priced at $1,052 — the elevation of Vail Mountain’s summit in meters — Helly Hansen and Vail will be offering a limited edition Lifaloft jacket with the purchase of a 2019/2020 Epic Pass. The package (which can only be purchased at Paragon Sports in New York City on Oct. 26; Sporting Life on Yonge Street in Toronto on Nov. 2; Peter Glenn in Fort Lauderdale on Nov. 9 and at Epic Mountain Gear in Park Meadows, Colorado on Nov 23.) also includes a guided tour of Vail’s back bowls; first tracks with Helly Hansen; a complimentary lunch at The 10th at Vail Mountain; and all the standard Epic Pass benefits.

Sun Valley and Snowbasin join the Epic Pass

In addition to the 17 new East Coast resorts that will be added to the Epic Pass for the upcoming season, Idaho’s Sun Valley and Utah’s Snowbasin will also be joining the roster. For travelers hoping to ski Japan’s famous deep powder, Rusutsu-Japan will also included for the 2019/2020 season.

Ikon and Mountain Collective passes 

Arapahoe Basin (or A-Basin, as the locals call it), will be included on the Ikon and Mountain Collective passes this season. The Ikon Pass, which starts at $1,049 for adults, includes unlimited access to 14 resorts in the U.S. and Canada, and a maximum of seven days at 24 other international resorts. The Mountain Collective Pass is priced at $509 for adults, and includes two days each at 18 domestic and international ski areas.

And if you just can’t wait for winter to come, know that it usually comes early to A-Basin as October openings are commonplace at that Colorado mountain.

Indy Pass

For the first time, 44 independently-owned resorts — Montana’s Red Mountain Lodge, Michigan’s Big Powderhorn Mountain Resort and Vermont’s Bolton Valley, to name a few — are partnering to offer the Indy Pass. The Indy Pass, which is priced at $199 and offers two days each at all participating ski areas, will appeal to the beginner and occasional skier who may be unwilling to shell out over $1,000 for unlimited access to the mega resorts. Many of the resorts included are smaller, and none are already included on any multiresort season passes.

More affordable single-day Epic tickets

Those who don’t ski enough to make a season pass a good option, can benefit from more new, (more) affordable build-your-own day Epic passes that include as little as a single day of skiing. Single day rates currently vary from $92 – $129 for adults ($48 – $67 for kids), depending on how many days you load and whether you want to ski or board on a peak holiday. That’s much better than walk-up lift ticket rates than can top $200 at places like Vail.

Related: Best credit cards for lift tickets and ski vacations

Hotels, restaurants and amenities

W Hotels comes to Aspen

For the first time in 25 years, Aspen will have a new luxury hotel available for the upcoming ski season. The just-opened W Aspen and Sky Residences at W Aspen by Marriott is their first mountain escape in North America and second globally. This ski-in/ski-out luxury hotel features 88 guest rooms and 11 W-branded residences in addition to five suites. The hotel will also be home to a year-round public rooftop, a ski and snowboard shop and (in true W form) a DJ nest in the lobby.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

W Aspen will also be offering a Sky High Experience package to guests. This package includes a rooftop breakfast, personal adventure concierge for the day, a private helicopter skiing session in Silverton, Colorado and après ski at the W Living Room. Standard rates are 85,000 Marriott points per night, but peak season redemptions (think: ski season weekends and holidays) cost 100,000 points per night, or close to $1,000 if you’re paying in cash.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

The Collective opens at Aspen Snowmass

As part of an ongoing $600 million development of the Snowmass Base Village, The Collective — a new community center with additional retail and dining options — is scheduled to open this December. Referred to as, “the epicenter of Snowmass’ newest neighborhood,” The Collective will also host a variety of events including weekly concerts, art workshops and an educational series.

Breckenridge opens Gravity Haus

Also expected to debut in December, the Gravity Haus is a boutique ski-in/ski-out property in Breckenridge — better known as Breck. In addition to 60 rooms, the Gravity Haus will also be offering a variety of experiences, from outdoor excursions to social programming. This season, Breck will also be welcoming LOGE — a 38-room and 20-bed hostel with a meeting space, bar and cafe, demonstration center and outdoor stage.

And while it originally debuted during the 2017/2018 ski season, Breck will continue offering a variety of lessons and guided experiences, like their Elevate, Explore and Go Beyond experiences. Go Beyond, which is perfect for advanced skiers, is a private guided tour of some of Breck’s steepest terrain and deepest powder, as well as a basic lesson on backcountry skills and avalanche control.

Copper Mountain welcomes a new hotel

Slated to open in 2020, Center Village at Colorado’s Copper Mountain will be opening a four story, 127-room hotel. This hotel is part of a $100 million multiyear expansion. The property, which will afford visitors panoramic views of the eponymous mountain and surrounding peaks, will also have an outdoor patio.

(Photo by chapin31/Getty Images)
Copper Mountain Resort. (Photo by chapin31/Getty Images)

Wilson Hotel comes to Big Sky

In June 2019, The Wilson Hotel — a new Residence Inn by Marriott — opened in Big Sky, Montana. The property offers 129 suites and has an onsite restaurant and bar, fitness center, outdoor heated pool and a complimentary guest shuttle to the resort. Rooms start at 20,000 points per night.

Increased airlift

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines has added a number of new flights between major hubs in California and the Pacific Northwest, as well as Idaho and Montana. One of the biggest changes relevant to the ski industry is the addition of service to Bend, Oregon via Redmond Municipal (RDM) from San Francisco (SFO), Los Angeles (LAX) and San Diego (SAN). Redmond is less than 30 minutes from the Mount Bachelor Ski Area. Alaska’s one daily flight from Los Angeles begins on Jan. 9.

Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines will be adding a number of relevant flights in 2019 and 2020, including twice-daily flights between Portland, Oregon (PDX) and McCarran International in Las Vegas (LAS), scheduled to start April 1, 2020. Portland is a major hub for many of Oregon’s major ski resorts including Mount Hood, which is located just an hour and a half from the city.

New terrain access

POWDR launches Woodward progression parks

POWDR, an adventure lifestyle company that owns a number of ski resorts across the U.S., will be introducing Woodward Mountain Parks this year, including Killington in Vermont; Boreal in California; Mount Bachelor in Oregon; and others. These progression parks will include terrain suitable for first-timers, pros and everyone in between. POWDR will also be opening Woodward Park City in Utah — the nation’s first all-in-one action sports and ski resort in the nation. This year-round destination will feature skateparks, lift-accessed skiing, mountain biking, snowboarding and tubing.

New Hampshire gets its first 8-passenger gondola

Bretton Woods, which is located in the shadows of Mount Washington in New Hampshire, will be debuting the state’s first eight-passenger gondola this season. The gondola will travel at 1,200 feet per minute, likely shortening lift lines during busier weeks. Slated to open during summer of 2020, Bretton Woods will also welcome a 16,000-square-foot on-mountain dining and event venue.

Squaw offers new winter activities 

In addition to a new chairlift, bar and restaurant, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows in California will be offering new winter activities through Alpenglow Expeditions. The local mountain guide service will be running half-day snowshoeing trips and guided chairlift-accessible out-of-bounds “sidecountry” tours.

(Photo by stockphoto52/Getty Images)
Squaw Valley Resort. (Photo by stockphoto52/Getty Images)

Other ski news

Ski season in the U.S. has never been longer

For the first time, Keystone Resort in Colorado anticipates beginning their season as early as October, and nearby Breckenridge plans on operating again through Memorial Day. Keystone’s longer season is due in large part to significant snowmaking upgrades that were completed over the summer. Combined, both resorts promise to deliver a significant value to Colorado-based Epic Pass holders. (Here’s the best all-around ski points deal for Keystone vacations, especially if you have kids.)

Keystone Kidtopia Ice Fort (Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Keystone Kidtopia Ice Fort (Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Viceroy Snowmass launches a private jet package

In honor of their 10th anniversary, Viceroy Snowmass — a luxury hotel in Aspen — will be partnering with evoJets to offer a luxury package that includes roundtrip transportation on a private jet; a personal concierge for the duration of the trip; a morning hot air balloon ride; dog sledding; luxury lodging and more. The package starts at $45,000, and includes pricing with jet transportation from Los Angeles (LAX).

Featured photo by joris berthelot/Unsplash.

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