The #1 thing I am stoked for this winter is snow. If last season was a natural snow blow out, then New England ski resorts got the memo to bring their snowmaking game up a notch so they can make more snow, with better energy efficiency. Already we have been blessed with cold temps and natural snow allowing Killington, Sunday River, Sugarloaf, Bretton Woods, Loon, Waterville Valley, Stowe, Okemo and Sugarbush to open.
I am stoked for Demo Days, a chance to try before you buy, and talk shop with reps about this year's gear best suited for your ski and ride style. On snow Demo Days will be held at Sunday River Nov 24-25, Okemo Dec 8, Sugarloaf Dec 8-9 and Mount Snow Dec 15. At the River and The Loaf there is a nominal fee, $10 and $5 respectively, applicable to any purchase.
Okemo's Take 60 is sweet. Skiers and riders can take an entire hour, 60 minutes after purchasing their lift ticket, to decide if they are completely satisfied with Okemo's on-mountain experience. This is a tweaked version of Okemo's first hour free. If you decide not to continue your ski day in 60 minutes (potentially six high speed runs), you can get a return ticket to Okemo for another day.
I like Attitash and Wildcat's Learn2 initiative to get more people skiing and riding. This year Attitash debuts a free magic carpet at Bear Peak. And at Wildcat, a new surface lift will aid ski instructors and those never-evers with their first ski or ride lesson, beginner terrain The Cat previously lacked.
I also applaud the return of January Learn to Ski and Ride month. Ski Vermont resorts will offer $29 lessons, equipment and rentals all month, go to SkiVermont.com for details. New Hampshire ski areas are hosting free Learn to Ski and Snowboard Week Jan 12 -18, go to SkiNH.com for the list.
Bretton Woods beefs up its backcountry offerings with 30-acres of glade skiing on Mount Stickney, reached by an old school 2,000-foot Dopplemayer T-bar, called the Telegraph (interesting story). Enjoy the new summit log cabin between glade runs.
I am stoked that Waterville Valley is bringing the ski week back. Select Sunday-Fridays this winter, a family of four can enjoy skiing, lodging, a welcome reception, après ski ice skating and pool parties, and more. Kids will love the keepsake photo ski pass and parents will like the inclusive price under $1,400 for a 5 night, 5 1/2 day ski vacation.
It's no secret I like on mountain dining, specifically summit ski lunches, sometimes it's my incentive - the more you ski the more you can eat and drink. So I am excited for Jay Peak's Sky Haus restaurant opening in the original 1967 Tram summit station. The Jay ski lunch has just been elevated, up there with Stowe's Cliff House and Bretton Woods Latitude 44.
The kid in me likes the Saddleback Snack Card, because as a mom I find hot cocoa at ski resorts to be pricey, but I know the power of cocoa when fingers get cold and energy slumps. For $50, kids 12 and under can get one hot chocolate and cookie each day all season at Saddleback. No more begging mom and dad for money, and kids get a special photo ID. Sweet.
I like big birthday parties on snow, any excuse for an alpine celebration. Gunstock, Cannon and Cranmore turn 75 this winter, Wachusett turns 50, and The Red Parka Pub in North Conway celebrates 40 years of après ski. Cheers, so much to be stoked for this ski season. See you on the slopes.
Photos by Greg Burke
Eric Wilbur is a lifelong recreational skier who spends most of his winter and spring in the mountains of New England. He does not ski in jeans. You can read more of Eric's work here.
Heather Burke is an award winning ski journalist with over a decade of ski news coverage. As a former ski instructor and a ski parent, she knows the ski biz from the inside out. She and her family visit New England ski resorts, as well as the West and Canada, to report on the latest trends and their best family finds. Her husband Greg takes all the accompanying photos, and their work can be seen at www.familyskitrips.com and www.luxuryskitrips.com.