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SKI 2008
Another Record-Breaking Season Awaits

With winter upon us, people are heading to the mountains in record numbers. SnowSports Industries America (SIA) officials reported record visitation last season in the Rockies and elsewhere, despite generally lower than normal snowfall in many regions. That’s because visitors don’t need record snowfalls to have a really good time on and off the slopes!

North American ski resorts are now better than ever, thanks to a wide array of activities and amenities (including the village concept many mountains have adopted), varied accommodations, lots of shopping and dining, and some serious snow (aided by modern snowmaking when Mother Nature doesn‘t cooperate).

Mountain resorts in North America have also evolved from simple ski areas to complete winter recreation destinations (even for those who have no plans to strap on skis or snowboards). There is now an outdoor winter pursuit for the entire family, as well as singles, couples, and practically anyone else in search of a winter wonderland of their own.

There’s never been a better time to book a winter vacation that’s all white. Along with snowboarding, tubing has given families yet another reason to head to the mountains. Both snowboarding and tubing are attracting younger crowds in record numbers, as new boarding and tubing parks are being built or expanded at many resorts (especially in the northeast and southeast U.S.). Both parents and children who have never skied or boarded before are now heading to the mountains.

In addition to snowboarding and tubing, winter resorts continue to add many other non-skiing options. The possibilities include: snowshoeing (industry leaders Tubbs and Atlas have popular programs at many resorts), snowmobiling, ice skating, large and luxurious spas and fitness centers, year-round pools, evening activities, children's programs, a wide range of restaurants and entertainment, backcountry cabins, and even winter golf or sleigh rides.

Colorado continues to be a very popular winter destination. “We’re coming off a second consecutive record year for skier visits,” says Rob Perlman, president and CEO of Colorado Ski Country, a trade association representing the state’s varied array of 26 ski and snowboard resorts. “To be a leader, you’ve got to continually raise the bar and that’s exactly what our member resorts are doing.”

Perlman says Colorado’s resorts have invested hundreds of millions of dollars toward improvements for the 2008 season. Some examples awaiting this season’s visitors include: the new Riverfront Express Gondola at Beaver Creek (which runs right from the newly-renovated Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort & Spa), an expanded spa at Keystone (warms spas are hot spots during cold winters), the opening of new territory at Telluride, new high-speed quad lifts at Vail and the continued expansion of the offerings at the highly successful Village of Winter Park (a great example of the pedestrian villages many resorts have developed). At Snowmass, a new $3 billion (that’s with a “b”) village is currently underway, with an emphasis on world-class accommodations, shopping, and dining.

Denver International Airport experienced its fourth record year in 2006 and winter visitors are a primary reason. DEN even has a $10 million baggage system complete with a separate ski and snowboard conveyor system! Add eight regional airports and you have a very easy-to-reach winter wonderland.

Heading west, Utah is still using their Olympics success to lure winter visitors in Olympic-like numbers. Ski Utah’s Jessica Kunzer reports that Utah experienced their fourth consecutive record season during 2006-2007 and that this season is shaping up to make it five in a row.

Known as “The Greatest Snow on Earth,” Utah’s natural stuff at 13 resorts is enhanced by continued improvements on and off the slopes. The possibilities include: a new high-speed quad for Deer Valley, dramatic new runs at Park City, backcountry guided tours at Snowbasin, Big Mountain Camps through Dean Cummings at Snowbird and a new website for Sundance--showing that all improvements aren’t just for snow or show.

Nevada isn’t a gamble at all when it comes to a great winter resort experience. With 15 downhill resorts, the Lake Tahoe region is better than ever. Best bets for the upcoming season include: a lift serving three new trails at Heavenly Mountain Resort, great prices and packages at cost-conscious Mt. Rose-Ski Tahoe (like two-for-Tuesday lift tickets and $19 Ladies Day Thursdays) and the new North Lake Tahoe Express shuttle service from Reno-Lake Tahoe Airport to Diamond Peak.

Of course, California continues to provide great winter options. Mammoth Mountain opened in early-November once again and continues innovative offerings, like the Mammoth Rewards Card (lots of great savings), a FrequenSki card for frequent visitors, and the new high-speed six-pack, Cloud Nine Express.

Mountain visitors shouldn’t forget other western possibilities, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, New Mexico and other mountainous states provide even more options (including lesser-known possibilities like Michigan and Wisconsin). It’s just a matter of booking the trip and packing some warm socks!

Back east, convenient options abound. Both the southeastern and the northeastern United States offer a wide range of options, with states like West Virginia and Vermont leading the way in winter pursuits east of the Mississippi. Eastern resorts have evolved in the past decade to become complete winter getaways that offer much more than simple ski runs.

Up in Vermont, centrally-located Stratton Mountain and Killington continue to provide new options on and off the slopes. In Maine, Sunday River is especially inviting on weekdays (always a good way to find bigger bargains and smaller crowds). Elsewhere, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York State, and New Hampshire also feature top regional resorts. For instance, New Jersey’s Mountain Creek provides an incredibly convenient destination for many in the region--including the brand-new Appalachian at Mountain Creek, the state’s first ski in-ski out luxury resort.

Down in the southeast, in West Virginia, Snowshoe Mountain is a long-time favorite for those south of the Mason-Dixon line--while the “state park“ at Canaan Valley continues to draw many fans. Western North Carolina also has an array of winter resorts popular with southerners in the know--and snow (Beech and Sugar are the biggest). In Virginia, Wintergreen continues to expand its offerings on and off the slopes and The Homestead continues to provide an old world winter wonderland. Last but not least, Wisp in Maryland is experiencing a multi-million-dollar expansion that’s drawing thousands of winter wanderers.

Renowned resorts and a wide variety of options make it easy to say, Oh, Canada!.

In the east, Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, is a favorite among those who like a little francais with their snow. Quite simply, Mont-Tremblant is one of the best winter villages in the country. To the west, in the Canadian Rockies, resort destinations like Banff Springs, Lake Louise, and Jasper, Alberta, all provide an ideal introduction to the country’s Rocky Mountain highs. Even further west, Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia--a venue for the 2010 Winter Games--is one of North America’s premier winter destinations.

Given these record numbers (like 55 million skier visits last season), additions, and improvements, it’s easier than ever to book the perfect winter vacation. North America’s mountain resorts await visitors for another record season!