Competition is turning out to be a boon for globetrotting skiers and snowboarders. As the Alterra Mountain Company’s nine-month-old Ikon Pass challenges Vail Resorts’ 10-year-old Epic Pass for multiresort-access supremacy, the two corporations behind the rivalry are investing more than $250-million in upgrades this season at many of the 31 resorts (and counting) they collectively own.
Smaller conglomerates and the remaining independent operations are also jumping into the fray. British Columbia’s Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, for instance, is home to the largest North American terrain expansion of the 2018-19 season, with some 245 expert hectares being added in Rudi’s Bowl. Even there, however, the pass wars may well be playing a role, what with the Epic Pass now including seven combined days at Kicking Horse and the six other Resorts of the Canadian Rockies operations in B.C., Alberta and Quebec.
For more on the infrastructural fallout from the pass wars, read on.
Whistler Blackcomb: After a few relatively uneventful years, the 2018 additions and upgrades at North America’s largest ski resort are genuinely historic. When an as-yet-unnamed 10-seat gondola replaces the Wizard and Solar chairlifts on Blackcomb Mountain, it will combine with the Peak2Peak and Whistler Village lifts to produce the world’s first three-gondola connection. Blackcomb’s Catskinner chair is also being replaced by a high-speed quadruple lift, while a similarly speedy six-pack is ousting the Emerald Chair on Whistler Mountain.
Down in Whistler Village, the new Pangea Pod Hotel is being billed as “Canada’s first pod hotel.” Its 88 private sleeping pods are spread across eight suites, each of which includes washrooms, showers, sinks and change rooms.
Another new money-saver this season: the Epic SchoolKids Whistler Blackcomb Pack, which provides five days of free skiing for Canadian students from kindergarten to Grade 5.
SilverStar Mountain Resort: This Okanagan resort’s new eight-passenger gondola will carry visitors from village to summit, where the new Lookout Café will serve up snacks, hot drinks and panoramic views of the Monashee Mountains.
Sun Peaks: Starting in the East Village area, a new quad chair will improve skier access to both the main village and the predominantly intermediate trails on Mount Tod’s eastern flank. The Sun Peaks Grand Hotel and Conference Centre, meanwhile, is slated to complete a $7-million renovation of its 221 guest rooms in December.
Red Mountain Resort: Two new lodging options are slated to open before the holidays at this West Kootenay gem. The slopeside Josie Hotel features 107 boutique-style rooms along with the Velvet Restaurant & Lounge and an in-house spa. A two-minute walk further afield, the stylish Nowhere Special hostel offers private rooms and a variety of dorm-style options.
Le Massif: Eastern Canada’s vertical-drop leader is slated to open more than 50 ski-in condo units at its summit and base in December. The Quebec resort has also developed a 15-kilometre network of alpine touring trails that can be accessed using a $25 single-ride lift ticket.
Elsewhere: Mont Tremblant is replacing its Lowell Thomas chair with a high-speed quad and adding 20 hectares of gladed runs; and Bromont is unveiling a hybrid lift, known as a chondola, with six chairs and eight gondola cabins.
Blue Mountain: Ontario’s largest ski hill is bringing LED lighting to all 36 of its nocturnal trails. A new snowshoe trail will also run through and around the year-old Woodview Mountaintop Skating circuit.
Snowmass: The first phase of a US$600-million long-term construction project will wrap up with the opening of the Limelight Hotel, ski-in residences, a public events plaza and a community building.
Elsewhere: Arapahoe Basin’s Beavers and Steep Gullies areas will grow by a combined 189 hectares this season, with a new quad lift accessing much of the new intermediate and expert terrain; Winter Park Resort is replacing the Zephyr Express quad chair with an eight-person gondola.
Big Sky Resort: The first eight-seat chairlift in North America is slated to open this winter on Andesite Mountain, along with a high-speed quad to replace the Shedhorn double chair.
Vermont and New Hampshire
Killington Resort: A new six-person high-speed bubble chairlift, the Snowdon Six Express, will climb to the peak of Snowdon Mountain, while a new quad chair is replacing the South Ridge Triple chair.
Elsewhere: Mount Snow is opening its US$22-million Carinthia Base Lodge – at 42,000 square feet, it’s five times larger than its predecessor – Stratton Mountain Resort is unveiling a high-speed Snow Bowl quad, and New Hampshire’s first eight-passenger gondola is coming to Bretton Woods.
La Rosière-Espace San Bernardo: This border-straddling resort between France and Italy is adding five new expert runs on Mont Valaisan, all of which will be served by two new six-seater chairlifts.
Saalbach: One of Austria’s largest resorts is replacing its Kohlmais gondola with a 10-person upgrade, while a new eight-seat chairlift with heated seats will take the place of the Asitzmuldenbahn six-pack.
Elsewhere: Dozens more new tramways and gondolas will climb the Alps this winter, with some of the most notable examples including a 70-person tramway in Disentis, Switzerland; the Wimbachexpress gondola in Kaltenbach, Austria; 10-passenger cabins climbing more than four kilometres of mountainside at Italy’s St. Valentin-Schöneben area; and two 10-person gondolas opening at Ochsenkopf in Bavaria.