The first ski resort opening of the season – it was Colorado's Arapahoe Basin on Oct. 17 – sets off a flurry of alpine unveilings on mountains across Europe and North America.
It's not every year that an entirely new destination fires up its lifts, and Utah's Cherry Peak aims to do just that before the holidays. The autumn of 2014 is also rife with speculation about 2015, what with Intrawest recently acquiring the other half of Ontario's Blue Mountain for $58-million and Vail Resorts buying Park City in Utah for more than three times that amount.
This season, there are plenty of intriguing opportunities at home and abroad.
Sun Peaks Resort, B.C. By adding 202 hectares to two of its three peaks, Sun Peaks becomes the second-largest ski area in Canada. Look for two advanced runs on Mt. Morrisey and an advanced trail and two expansive glades near the top of Tod Mountain.
Red Mountain Resort, B.C. A year after unveiling Grey Mountain, Red is adding another 80 hectares of glades on the south side of Mt. Kirkup. You'll take a snowcat up to ski it ($10 a ride) and there are no plans to run a chairlift up the peak in the near future, says Erik Kalacis, Red's vice-president of business development.
Mont Tremblant, Que. A child-oriented "TAM-TAM Zone" winds through a series of small glades littered with banked turns and playful obstacles. More experienced skiers can check out 1.6 hectares of new glades just off the North Side's black-diamond Le Tunnel run.
Blue Mountain, Ont. Skiers can now clock their speed, distance, vertical and more with the Trace Snow app that helps you brag about your day. Also, there's more room for tricks in the terrain park and the Badlands Superpipe has been revamped.
Mount St. Louis Moonstone, Ont. Fiftieth anniversary celebrations include the launch of night skiing on the resort's 22 runs, two terrain parks and half pipe. And because lift tickets cost $4.50 in 1964, they'll be offered for the same price on Dec. 19.
Saas Fee, Switzerland Break out the DayGlo and grow your mullet: from Dec. 6 to 19, Saas Fee goes back to 1984 prices and fashions to celebrate several milestones, including the 30th anniversary of Wham!'s Last Christmas video, which was filmed here.
Val Thorens, France It has just won world's best ski resort for the second year in a row at the World Travel Awards and with the opening of Club Med Sensations on Dec. 14, skiers have a new reason to visit. The new Club Med is an all-inclusive, ski in/ski out experience: lessons, guides, top-quality rentals and meals, with access to Le Trois Vallées 600 kilometres of slopes included.
Ischgl, Austria Pardatschgrat's 28-person gondola cabins climb 1,251 vertical metres this year, setting a world record for tri-cable gondolas.
Silvretta Montafon, Austria and Switzerland Skiers will now be able to reach the Hochjoch Pass on the Swiss-Austrian border via the eight-person, 2,370-metre-long Panorama gondola.
Davos-Klosters, Switzerland The lower section of the 1,035-metre-long Jakobshorn cable car is being replaced by a new aerial tramway, which doubles capacity with 100-person cabins. Both the valley and mid-mountain lift stations are also being refurbished.
Sextner Dolomiten, Italy A pair of eight-passenger gondolas connecting the Helm and Rotwand ski areas will span nearly four kilometres and open up five kilometres of new runs.
Okemo Mountain Resort, Vt. The orange bubble lift arrives at Okemo. The two-kilometre-long Sunburst Six chair slashes travel time, warms backsides with heated seats and prevents windburn under its orange dome.
Taos Ski Valley, N.M. The loftiest municipality in the U.S. (finally!) has a chairlift to the summit of 3,804-metre Kachina Peak, boosting its vertical drop by 335 metres and its advanced terrain by 50 per cent.
Aspen Snowmass Colorado's four-mountain resort complex is unveiling a $10-million (U.S.) children's centre at the base of Buttermilk Mountain. Dubbed the Hideout, the 7,500-square-foot hub will include daycare and ski-school facilities. Over at Snowmass, children's lessons will include time on the resort's new lift-serviced tubing runs.
Cherry Peak Resort, Utah This family owned newcomer is far from the madding ski crowd, offers a respectable 386-metre vertical drop and three chairlifts, and sells adult lift tickets for just $42 a day.
With files from Catherine Dawson March