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Skiing

Friday, March 05, 2010

The Perfect Weekend to Hit the Slopes and Trails

March is my favorite time to ski. The days are longer and brighter, the snow softer, and with spring just around the corner, it’s time to get my last runs in before the season quickly comes to end. With a deluge of snowfall across America this past week, from two feet in Vermont to three feet in the Tahoe area, we have even more reason to hit the slopes. Hardcore athletes looking to work up a definite sweat this weekend should head to Pittsfield, Vermont, on Saturday. Called the Winter Brutality Weekend, the town will feature a marathon, half-marathon, and 6.5-miler race, all on snowshoes. For the truly insane, there’s a 100-mile Snowshoe Marathon! One of the leaders of this endurance test is Noel Hanna, who in December achieved his goal of climbing to the summit of the highest mountain on each of the seven continents and then running down. The last was Mt. Vinson in Antarctica. So whether you’re a bunny slope skier or serious athlete, you have no excuse not to get out there this weekend and go play.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/05/10 at 02:00 PM
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Friday, March 12, 2010

US Open Snowboarding Championships at Stratton, Vermont Next Week

Don’t worry if you couldn’t snag those coveted halfpipe and snowboard cross tickets at Whistler. 2010 Olympic medalists Shaun White and Hannah Teter (the only athlete to have a flavor, Maple Blonde, named in her honor by Ben & Jerry’s) are headed back east for the 28th U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships March 15-22. The competition is held once again at Stratton Mountain Resort, the place that put snowboarding on the map. This is where Jake Burton first tried the sport and where a young Lindsey Jacobellis took up boarding after her family’s vacation house caught fire, burning all of the ski equipment.

Cheer them on dude, but don’t just be a spectator. There’s a reason why Ski Magazine has voted Stratton the best terrain parks in the east for the past decade. Little rippers can test their freestyle skills on Burton’s Parkway, a kid-friendly area built with the novice in mind. One step larger than Parkway is Tyrolienne, featuring neophyte table-tops to catch air, and wider, lower rails to start grinding. Once you’ve mastered Tyrolienne, it’s on to Old Smoothie for some phat table tops and rails, much higher off the ground. Easy style it (check out the jumps first) or you’ll be doing some serious face plants.

Shaun White will be performing his signature 1080s (three full rotations) on the new Olympic-sized (22-foot walls) superpipe and advanced terrain park, moved this year to the Sunriser Supertrail on Sun Bowl. You better have confidence bubbling over to try the many humps on that gnarly rollercoaster rail and the mojo to land flips onto the diving board box. Or follow Jacobellis’ cue and sweep along the banked turns and rollers on Lower East Meadow’s boarder cross course. Sick!
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/12/10 at 02:00 PM
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Friday, September 24, 2010

Ski the Alps

I had lunch yesterday with 12 ski resorts from the Swiss, French, Italian, German, and Austrian Alps. Travel to the Alps from America was up a whopping 50 percent this past summer and 30 percent last winter. Americans, especially from the East Coast, are finally realizing that you don’t have to be a Rockefeller to ski the region. On average, lift tickets are $50-$60 per day, far less than Stowe or Vail. Yes, you can splurge on some grand hotel at St. Moritz, but there are also many affordable pensions around town. And not all the ski areas are as challenging as Chamonix. Remember, you’re not skiing down the Matterhorn. You’re looking up at the Matterhorn as you ski the base area in Zermatt, a far less threatening proposition with a vast amount of intermediate and novice terrain. The trails are long, relaxed, and thankfully in the past decade, groomed with snowmaking capabilities. Best of all, you’re in Europe, dining on exceptional food and savoring the culture. One day you can be in Kitzbühel, downing large mugs of beer, the next day enjoying a glass of Bordeaux and exceptional French food in Megève. Cortina, in the Italian Dolomites, is only a two-hour drive from Venice, so you can combine Carnevale in February with several nights of skiing. Overseas flights are also much more reasonable in the winter months. So grab those skies and fondue forks and hit the Alps this winter.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/24/10 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Park City Preview

I just returned from my annual dim sum lunch in Boston with Craig McCarthy, Communications Manager at the Park City Chamber of Commerce. Park City has always been one of my favorite mountain locales in the West, be it winter or summer. Its history as a former mining town lends to its authenticity. It’s not your run-of-the-mill prefabricated ski town. But that’s not to say things don’t change. The Park City area is in the midst of a building spree. The Waldorf Astoria Park City was built at the base of the Canyons Resort last winter and this year, the Montage Resort, known for its spectacular property in Laguna Beach, plans to open at Deer Valley. The Canyons is also unveiling an orange-bubbled heated high-speed quad, the first of its kind in the States. Park City Mountain Resort is expanding their night skiing. But the big news is off the town lift in downtown Park City, where the High West Distillery opened its doors last year. Distilling small batch whiskeys and vodkas, it’s the first distillery to open in Utah since Prohibition. Throw back a glass of that rye whiskey and you have that extra edge you might need to try that double diamond.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/29/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ski The Ditch, Milwaukee

It has a vertical drop of 245 feet and is situated about 20 minutes from downtown Milwaukee in Franklin, Wisconsin. But since it was built atop a garbage dump in the mid-80s, skiers and boarders have been making their way to the Ditch, otherwise known as Crystal Ridge. There are two lifts for the intermediate and expert terrain and a tow rope for the bunny hill, totaling 7 runs altogether. But hey, you can’t beat the price, $25 for adults, $22 for children on weekends, $20 for all on weekday nights. And how many times do you get to ski atop a former garbage dump?
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/12/10 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ski Jay, Vermont

When it’s balmy in Boston in winter, you can still expect a blizzard at Vermont’s northernmost ski resort, Jay Peak. Bordering Quebec, Jay gets more snow than any other ski area in New England (about 350 inches of powder). Being this far north, Jay also accommodates far more Quebecois than New Yorkers. The ski area is cherished for its glade skiing. Black diamond lovers will enjoy the steeper tree runs off the tram while novices will find the trails in Bonaventure Basin to their liking. New this year is 57 luxury suites in the Tram Haus Lodge, opened last December. Also making its debut this past May is the 700-seat Ice Haus Arena, featuring an NHL-sized rink that offers skating lessons, hockey games, and curling tournaments. Phase two of the $120 million revitalization includes the unveiling of 170-room Hotel Jay and an indoor water park, expected some time in 2012.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/13/10 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ski Lake Louise, Alberta

It was 1892 when a young employee for the Canadian Pacific Railroad came upon a gem of a lake in the Canadian Rockies that sat beneath a towering glacier. He would write in his journal: “As God is my judge, I never in all my explorations saw such a matchless scene.” Taking his recommendation, Canadian Pacific would build a one-story log cabin that would serve as a hotel for guests who savored the outdoors. By 1912, word spread about this majestic spot in the mountains, enticing more than 50,000 people to reach the shores of Lake Louise. It was time for Canadian Pacific to build a grand chateau with blue roofs and turrets, and furnished with the finest craftsmanship of the Edwardian era.  A place that royalty, heads of state, and celebrities could hobnob in comfort. Today, the 513-room Chateau Lake Louise is run by Fairmont Hotels and is still considered the premiere address in the Canadian Rockies. In winter, the chateau stays open so you can take a horse-drawn sleigh ride over the lake, cross-country ski in shaded forest below the peaks, or downhill ski at one of Canada’s largest ski areas at Lake Louise. Then return to the grand lobby where the fireplace is always roaring to warm you up.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/14/10 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, October 15, 2010

Ski Badger Pass, California

Don’t make the mistake of overlooking America’s National Parks in the winter. Exquisitely beautiful year-round, Yosemite is home to one of the oldest downhill ski areas in California. Badger Pass was built in the late 20s in a bid to get the 1930 Winter Olympics. The bid failed but the resort, with a vertical drop of only 800 feet, is now one of the best places in the West to learn how to ski. The bargains at Badger include two-hour ski lessons for only $35 a child. But, alas, this is Yosemite, so take advantage of your surroundings. A short snowshoe trek into Mariposa Grove and you’ll be making snow angels at the roots of 200-foot sequoia trees. Cross-country skiers will cherish the ten miles of groomed track that leads to 7,000-foot high Glacier Point. Ice skaters can swirl around the Curry Village rink dwarfed by the majestic cliff walls of Half Dome. 

Next week, I’ll be traveling around New England, giving 3-hour workshops with my brother Jim called Beyond the Craft: How to Be Proactive and Take Charge of Your Creative Career. This will take up most of my time, so I’m going to take a week off from ActiveTravels. See you on the 25th!
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/15/10 at 01:00 PM
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Monday, December 13, 2010

Affordable Skiing in the Adirondacks

I grew up skiing little ole Maple Ski Ridge, just outside of Schenectady. Though I wouldn’t technically call it skiing. Every Saturday morning, my mother would drop me off with my ski class. I’d ski down once, straight to the lounge, where I’d order a hot chocolate and listen to Don McLean’s “American Pie” on the jukebox. Remember, this was long before Capilene and Gore-Tex products, when you froze your ass off in those plaid shirts and goofy overstuffed jackets. Maybe I’m feeling nostalgic or perhaps nostalgic for the ski lift prices of my youth, but upstate New York and the Adirondacks still offer some of the best deals in the country.

Big Tupper Resort in Tupper Lake re-opened in 2009 as a not-for-profit, no-frills, re-invigorated Adirondack ski resort run entirely by volunteers. With a 1,200-foot vertical drop and 17 trails of beginner-to-expert terrain, Big Tupper is the biggest bargain in the Adirondacks. Lift tickets cost only $15. Since the 1940s, Titus Mountain in Malone has been a hub for Adirondack skiing. Originally called Moon Valley, Titus has undergone some major changes in the past 70 years. Eight chairlifts, 27 trails, a ski school and a 1,200-foot vertical drop make Titus a great option for Canadians, as well as skiers and boarders from nearby Vermont. It’s also the third highest ski area in the entire Adirondacks, yet an all-day ski pass costs less than $40. Back at Maple Ski Ridge, a 4-hour ticket costs $32, with access to their new terrain park. Hot chocolate is extra.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/13/10 at 01:59 PM
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Monday, January 10, 2011

Ski Saddleback for Free Midweek When Staying at the Rangeley Inn

In May 2003, the Saddleback Ski Area in Maine was down to one employee, general manager Tom McAllister. Forced to lay off his entire staff, McAllister announced that the family-friendly ski area in Rangeley would close down unless a buyer was found. In stepped Bill Berry, an avid skier who taught skiing for 25 years at Titcomb Mountain in Farmington, Maine, and had skied and cherished Saddleback. Few realized that this former professor of geology at the University of Maine, Farmington, had family money to play with. Now there are more than 100 employees working on the mountain and more than a quarter of them are at Saddleback year-round. The Berry family has invested more than $12 million in improvements so far, including a new base lodge, three times the size of its predecessor, lifts, a terrain park and halfpipe, and the opening of a new glade, Casablanca, which at 44 acres is the largest glade in the Northeast.  The mountain’s 2000-foot vertical drop is not far behind the 2,360-foot drop at Stowe, so don’t mistake Saddleback for a small ski area. The Rangeley Inn, my favorite hotel in the region, has just announced a midweek special where if you spend a night at the lodging, they’ll throw in a free lift ticket at Saddleback. Check it out!
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/10/11 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, January 17, 2011

Three of My Favorite Places to Cross-Country Ski in New England

Since Boston just got walloped with another winter nor’easter, dropping more than 15 inches of snow, I thought I’d devote this week to winter adventure in New England. First up, three wonderful cross-country ski areas:

Grafton Ponds
Grafton Ponds is one of the few cross-country ski centers in New England that provides snowmaking (a 5 km loop). If there’s already decent snow coverage, head from the center’s main lodge up through the dense forest on 30 kilometers of groomed trails. Make it to Big Bear Shelter atop the ridge and your reward is a cup of piping hot chocolate and views of the village of Grafton below.

Blueberry Hill
Lost within the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area, 12 miles down the road from Middlebury, is the classic Vermont inn and cross-country ski center, Blueberry Hill, celebrating its 40th season in 2011. The 50 kilometers of groomed trails include the highest run in the state, at an elevation over 3,000 feet, and gentler routes through the pines.

Jackson Ski Touring Foundation
With over 150 kilometers of trails, Jackson Ski Touring Foundation is the largest cross-country skiing network in the northeast.  Novices can opt for the easy Ellis River Trail, which borders a babbling brook as it heads into the forest, while more experienced skiers should sample the challenging Wildcat Valley Trail, a classic 1930s throwback that slides steeply down the backside of the Wildcat ski area to the town of Jackson. Or take the Groomed Trail Challenge on February 12th, where avid x-c skiers try to do as much of the network as possible in an eleven-hour day.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/17/11 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ski Tahoe

Lake Tahoe resorts are currently boasting the deepest season-to-date snowpack levels since they began keeping records more than a half century ago. Thanks to the snowiest early season on record, skiers and snowboarders have been enjoying powder conditions on almost a daily basis with over 25 feet of snow already blanketing the slopes of the Sierras. This winter’s bountiful snowfall has been attributed to a powerful La Nina weather pattern off the Pacific Coast, with Lake Tahoe’s ideal location channeling powerful winter storms into deep powder. While you’re in the area, check out the latest developments at Northstar-at-Tahoe. The same Ritz-Carlton team that helped transform Colorado’s Beaver Creek from Vail’s forgotten little sister into one of the finest family-friendly mountains in the country has descended on Northstar. A Ritz made its debut December 2009 mid-mountain, surrounded by a greatly expanded teaching area and a new Burton Snowboard Academy. If they have the same success as their Colorado cousin, expect Northstar to rise out of the shadows and challenge Squaw Creek and Heavenly as one of Tahoe’s premier ski areas.

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/26/11 at 02:00 PM
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast

When I was researching my first book, “Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England,” in 1995, I assembled quite a collection of books on the region. Two books in particular, “Maine: An Explorer's Guide” by Christina Tree and “Classic Backcountry Skiing” by David Goodman stood out among the rest. Both authors went far beyond the norm to delve into their subject, introducing me to areas of New England I would have never found. Now Goodman has revised his book and come out with a new edition titled “Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast: 50 Classic Ski Tours in New England and New York,” published by AMC Books. Included in the book are a detailed account of the  CCC Trails on the backside of Mount Mansfield, including Bruce, Teardrop, and Skytop, hand-cut serpentine trails that Goodman considers the “gold standard of backcountry skiing.” Goodman finally gets to cross Lake Champlain and taste the terrain of the Adirondacks, like the 35-mile wonder, the Jackrabbit Trail, that connects Saranac Lake with Lake Placid. He also delves into the carriage path trails at Acadia National Park in winter, one of my favorite spots to backcountry ski, and the emerging AMC sporting camps network in the 100-Mile Wilderness section of Maine’s North Woods. The book is a must for any skier who likes to carve their turns away from the crowds, where the only spectators lining your trails are tall pines and birches.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/27/11 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Snowboard Among Champs

If you just saw Shaun White nail his signature Double McTwist to snag gold once again at the Winter X Games and want to see the Flying Tomato do it live, head to Vermont for the 27th U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships. Held March 7-13, the competition takes place at Stratton Mountain Resort, the spot that put snowboarding on the map. This is where Jake Burton first tried the sport and where a young Lindsey Jacobellis took up boarding after her family’s vacation house caught fire, burning all of the ski equipment. Cheer them on, but don’t just be a spectator. There’s a reason why Ski Magazine has voted Stratton the best terrain parks in the east for the past decade. Little rippers can test their freestyle skills on Burton’s Parkway, a kid-friendly area built with the novice in mind. One step larger than Parkway is Tyrolienne, featuring neophyte table-tops to catch air, and wider, lower rails to start grinding. Once you’ve mastered Tyrolienne, it’s on to Old Smoothie for challenging table tops and rails, much higher off the ground. Check out the jumps first or you’ll be doing some serious face plants.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/01/11 at 02:00 PM
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Friday, February 04, 2011

Cross-Country Ski at Notchview Reservation in the Berkshires, Massachusetts

Last Friday, my wife and I headed to the Berkshires in the western part of Massachusetts to check out the incredibly detailed 500 year-old prints of Albrecht Durer at the Clark Art Museum and the wildly inventive bird and flower sculptures of Petah Coyne at Mass MoCA. The highlight of our trip, however, was cross-country skiing on the grounds of the exquisite Notchview in Windsor. Run by the Trustees of Reservations, Notchview’s trails were groomed with a fresh layer of powder when we arrived. We went counter-clockwise on the Circuit Trail, passing meadows and skiing under a tunnel of snowed-under pines. The web of white branches kept us snug within the forest, protecting us from any wind. After passing a small shelter, we turned onto the Whitestone Trail and entered a winter wonderland of uprooted trees and branches arching over the serpentine path. A downhill run brought us back to the main lodge, invigorated by the fresh smell of pine and the exercise. To top it off, we went to the Old Creamery in Cummington, a favorite local haunt that features homemade soups, grilled panini sandwiches, salads, and pies. The perfect ending to a perfect outing.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/04/11 at 01:59 PM
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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New Ski Vermont Insider App

Ski Vermont has teamed up with Insider Network to develop a new app that offers skiers and boarders exclusive deals and discounts based on where they like to ski in the state. So far, Killington, Mad River Glen, Mount Snow, Okemo, Smugglers’ Notch, Stowe, Stratton, Sugarbush, and Suicide Six are participating in the Ski Vermont Insider. The latest snowfall and trail openings, lodging and après-ski deals, two-for-one lift tickets, ski rental discounts, even a chance to win a free ski pass for next season are currently being offered. The app launched in January.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/15/11 at 01:59 PM
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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rekindling My Love for Cross-Country Skiing

The Northeast has received more than its fair share of snow this winter. In fact, Boston is set to receive another 2-4 inches this evening. I’ve taken this opportunity to x-c ski at three of my favorite spots in New England. In January, I celebrated my wife’s birthday by skiing in the Berkshires at a Trustees of Reservations property called Notchview. While researching my first book, Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England, I skied at Notchview and remembered it being one of the premier spots for the sport. Upon my return trip, it was even more magical, with a healthy dumping of fresh snow creating a winter wonderland of bent pine branches. This past weekend, my family stayed at the historic Mount Washington Hotel in New Hampshire. On Sunday, under clear blue skies, I took my daughter and nephew for a morning jaunt on the web of trails found at the Bretton Woods Nordic Center. Mount Washington and its broad-shouldered slopes and snowcapped peak could be seen in its entirety, not wrapped in any clouds, which is a rarity in these parts. It was another glorious outing smelling the pines while cruising along a stream. This coming weekend, we’re off to Stowe, Vermont, to cross-country ski at Trapp Family Lodge during the height of the maple sugar season (see the best trips of the month section to the right of this entry). I look forward to tackling the Parizo Trail once again and having my bowl of soup in the cozy cabin. For dessert, I’ll try the homemade maple taffy.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/24/11 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Time to Ski New England

With six feet of snow on the ground in Boston, you can only imagine what the skiing’s like in nearby New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. In fact, a friend in Vermont just told me yesterday that this is the best snow he’s seen in 20 years. New Hampshire and Maine are also reporting exceptional skiing conditions. So if you have no plans yet for February school break, head to the mountains. Temps are expected to plummet this Friday and Saturday, so you might want to visit Okemo and ride on their new heated 6-passenger bubble chairlift. Or visit Jay Peak, where you can take several runs before bringing the kids indoors to their vast water park. If you need inspiration, here’s “Why I Ski the East.” 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/11/15 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Skiing Quebec on a Budget

If you’re looking for a Northeastern ski area with a dose of affordable French flavor, then a visit to Quebec’s Eastern Townships is in order. With a lift ticket at Stowe reaching $115 this winter, you can head another hour north and be skiing at a quarter of the price. This is especially true with the current rate of exchange at US$1 to CAN$1.35. On the shores of Lake Memphremagog, Owl’s Head offers the best of Vermont skiing, but at absurdly low prices. For a measly US$54, you get one night lodging, breakfast, and a lift ticket! And this being Quebec, that breakfast will include freshly baked croissants, patisserie, and café au lait. Not a bad way to celebrate Owl’s Head’s 50th anniversary this ski season. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/10/15 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, January 15, 2016

MLK Ski Resort Deals at Liftopia

With most regions in the country getting snow this week, MLK Weekend is turning out to be a great time to carve those perfect turns. Don’t be foolish and wait until the last minute to purchase your lift tickets. Check out Liftopia, the largest online marketplace for discounted lift tickets. Some of the many deals on the site this week include a three-day lift ticket at Jay Peak starting at $125, a 42% savings compared to walk-up window rates. In upstate New York, three-day lift tickets at Gore Mountain start at $128, a 45% savings. Out West, at Colorado’s Copper Mountain, three-day lift tickets start at $194. Taos is also offered, with a three-day lift ticket that start at $182 (26% savings). Check it out and have a great weekend! I’ll be back on Tuesday. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/15/16 at 06:00 AM
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Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk.

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