Time to dust off the skis and snowboards: the 2013-14 ski season is already underway, with several resorts already open and plenty more set to do so in coming weeks – which is a promising sign for the season to come. This year, some enticing deals and passes, as well as more direct flights to resort destinations, are a great excuse for a winter weekend getaway. Here are some of the best (and budget-friendly) offers.
Alta and Snowbird, Utah: Known for epic powder and deliciously long runs, these Utah resorts are also offering out-of-state visitors a killer deal this year: half off lift tickets within 24 hours of arrival at Salt Lake City International Airport. The offer is good throughout the 2013-14 ski season, Monday through Friday, and saves $39.50.
It’s a pretty simple process: After booking your flight to SLC, you’ll register here or here, bring your printed boarding passes (electronic boarding passes not accepted) and a photo ID to any ticket window at Alta or Snowbird within 24 hours of arriving at SLC. Then get ready to shred some of the best snow in the country.
Opening day is Nov. 22 for Alta and Nov. 20 at Snowbird, which will also debut its new Gad 2 chairlift – the only new one in Utah this season. It’s a welcome addition to the terrain because Gad 2 is also known as “The Freezer” – a frigid spot on the mountain that never receives sun – and the new lift will slash the time in the chair from eight minutes to just over four.
Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, California: The site of training for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard teams has a reputation for big mountain riding and a California-cool vibe. But this season, its lesser known sister, June Mountain, which is owned by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, makes a splash of its own, reopening after being closed last ski season because of a financial crunch. June’s 500 acres and 2,590 feet of vertical are a great spot to avoid the crowds at Mammoth – a 3-day adult pass at Mammoth is $263, compared to $194 at June Mountain – especially on holiday weekends, while offering beginner and intermediate skiers a no-pressure environment to hone their skills. Opening Dec. 13, the mountain is rebranding itself as a premier family-friendly ski destination, with kids 12 and under skiing and riding free all season, including holidays.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming: This year, the resort’s legendary steeps and chutes, as well as the town’s charming Old West vibe, are easier than ever to access. After San Francisco, Newark, and Minneapolis were added last season, this year Delta announced nonstop service from JFK, Seattle, and Los Angeles, though the cheapest way isn't necessarily the most direct: United offers JFK to JAC for $520 with 2 stops, while United's $439 is the cheapest we found from LAX to JAC for travel next month.
Jackson Hole's opening day is Nov. 28, and has recently expanded its blue terrain, thanks to the recent recent addition of the Casper Quad chair. The area is preferable for intermediate skiing, which accounts for 40 percent of the total inbound terrain, with nearly a dozen new intermediate trails.
Mountain Collective Passes: It's back and better than ever, and there's still time to snag one. For $379, you'll get a pass for 12 days of skiing at some of the best destinations in North America – Snowbird, Mammoth, and Whistler-Blackcomb all joined this spring. The pass, which represents hundreds of bucks in savings, also gets you 50 percent off full-price lift tickets at any member resorts for the entire season, with no blackout dates, plus great deals for lodging.