Updated on November 13, 2012: Snowflakes have already started to fall in parts of the country, and many ski resorts, including Colorado’s Copper Mountain (Nov. 2) and Mammoth Mountain in California (Nov. 8), have already celebrated opening day. The hum of anticipation from the skiing and snowboarding community is almost palpable.
And there’s good reason for that excitement: According to the 2013 Old Farmer’s Almanac, this season should bring with it higher-than-average snowfall to several resort areas, including the Utah mountains, the Great Smokies in the southeastern United States, and British Columbia. Along with that much-hoped-for gift from nature, there are some pretty cool man-made happenings at several major resorts, too. Here, a few noteworthy tidbits to get you geared up for the 2012/2013 ski season.
Big capital improvements and big changes are on the horizon for the season at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows (opening day Nov. 21) in Lake Tahoe, which joined forces last fall and are aiming to position themselves as a major international skiing and snowboarding destination. The most significant addition is two new lifts – Big Blue Express and Mountain Meadow – that will change the way the High Camp beginner area is skied and offer expanded intermediate terrain that was, up to now, difficult to access via the old lifts.
Plus, the resorts are jumping aboard the increasingly popular terrain train, offering for the first time 10 terrain parks, including Tahoe’s only mile-long terrain park at Alpine Meadows. All are scheduled to open by Christmas. They've also amped up their snow-making abilities and made upgrades to bars and gear shops, including the launch of a Burton “Learn-to-Ride” center targeted to boarding newbies.
At Mammoth Mountain, the focus is on families for the 2012-2013 season. The resort will unveil its Unbound Playground, an entry-level terrain park with low features and instructional signs that allows young skiers and riders to gradually progress at learning tricks and catching air. Also new this winter: High-end, urban-inspired features to two of the top-rated terrain parks in the country, Mammoth’s Main Park and South Park.
Plus, the resort is promoting a pretty cool offer with its snow guarantee, helping offset the anxiety from booking a room and wondering if the snow will fall. For skiers and snowboarders who book a room at Mammoth Lakes before opening day or November 8 (whichever comes first), Mammoth guarantees a base depth of at least 10 inches of snow on opening day. If the base is less than 10 inches, as reported on the official Mammoth Mountain Ski Area Snow Report, guests can either keep their original reservation dates and qualify for a free $100 gift card or change their reservation with no fees or penalties.
As the season progresses, the amount of snow Mammoth guarantees periodically increases six times, and the gift card or reservation change is still good if the amount of snow has not met the pre-specified minimum depth. Lastly, a season-long perk for parents: Lift tickets for kids ages 7-12 will cost just $30 every day.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming, has always been a top destination for highly skilled skiers, but this year Jackson Hole Mountain Resort will unveil one facet of its objective to draw more intermediate-level skiers, with a new high-speed, four-passenger lift. The 1,050 vertical-foot Casper Quad allows access to a network of blue-level terrain to a previously underutilized part of the mountain, which has been expanded over the summer, will reduce the ride time from 10 to 3.5 minutes, while nearly doubling the lift’s uphill capacity.
In addition, it will be easier than ever to reach Jackson Hole for a weekend getaway, with new nonstop service from Delta, United, and American to nine cities: Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Newark, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco.