Snow season in the West

Heading down a groomed run at Squaw Valley, Calif. (Jeff Engerbretson)

Northstar's 40th birthday celebration Dec. 22 will feature U.S. Olympic gold medal snowboarder Shaun White, who will again use Northstar as one of his prime training hills this season. On the birthday morning, he'll lead a clinic at the Burton Snowboard Academy. In the afternoon, he will be in the resort village for après ski. Late night, White will lead partyers at the mid-mountain Big Springs Day Lodge.

As soon as conditions permit, Northstar will build a 22-foot super-pipe on the Cat's Face trail off the Vista Express lift. For the first time, snowcats will offer rides on Sawtooth Ridge, providing better access to "sidecountry" slopes. Guided backcountry tours will bring skiers and riders to new terrain beyond the gated-access Sawtooth Ridge resort boundary.

On the South Shore, Heavenly's Peak Performance Academy offers new clinics, helping boarders handle the resurrected 18-foot half-pipe. Last winter's après-ski "Unbuckle" parties at the mid-mountain Tamarack Lodge were so popular that they'll be held seven evenings a week this season. Heavenly will play host to the U.S. Freestyle Championships March 29-31 on the steep Gunbarrel run.

Kirkwood's $5 million in improvements, courtesy of new owner Vail Resorts, targeted restaurants, bars and restrooms. A new snowcat road will improve access to expert terrain for the Expedition Kirkwood program, which offers classroom and on-mountain courses in avalanche certification, beacon training and backcountry awareness.


Vail celebrates its 50th anniversary with a new 10-person, Wi-Fi-enabled gondola that replaces the Vista Bahn Express lift in Vail Village.

Beaver Creek opens 17 acres of new terrain and adds snowmaking coverage to 30 more acres.

Aspen Mountain's Little Nell Hotel has a new $2.5-million restaurant, Element 47 (the periodic table number for silver, which was mined extensively in the area). Nearby Snowmass opens the $13-million Restaurant at Elk Camp and adds 230 skiable acres on Burnt Mountain, bringing total skiable terrain to 3,362 acres.

Copper Mountain's 300-foot zipline, which was added during the summer, will continue operating through the ski season. The zipline allows two people to travel side-by-side 30 feet above the resort's West Lake ice skating rink at speeds up to 30 mph.

Arapahoe Basin has added a conveyor lift in its Pika Place Learning Arena for beginners and Aces' Kids Park, a beginner-level terrain park adjacent to the new lift.

Winter Park's new tubing park features four lanes, conveyor lift access and a warming structure serving hot chocolate.


Alta celebrates its 75th season with its own anniversary beer, produced by Wasatch Brewery. The Jan. 15 anniversary will be marked with fireworks and a torchlight parade by skiers down the mountain.

Canyons Resort introduces the Ultimate Mountain Experience, with six Olympians and six other athletes coaching guests for three-day sessions under the direction of former U.S. Ski Team men's alpine coach Phil McNichol.

Deer Valley replaced its fixed-grip Deer Crest chair with a high-speed detachable quad as part of $8 million in improvements.

Park City Mountain Resort offers a new terrain park, Neff Land, and a three-day freestyle camp for children.

Snowbird replaced its Little Cloud double chair with a high-speed quad. The new lift reduces ride time to the top of Snowbird from eight to 3 1/2 minutes.

Robert Redford's Sundance adds a fixed-grip quad chair, its first new lift since 1995. It loads at an upper parking lot and provides access to a terrain park and the resort's backside.