Soak up the magic of the Matterhorn as Zermatt in Switzerland becomes the first European destination partner on theIkon Pass. Now Ikon Pass holders have access to snow at 41 global destinations across five continents.
The Matterhorn towers over more than 3,500 acres (1,416 hectares) of terrain that spans both Switzerland and Italy, offering Swiss hospitality coupled with Italian lifestyle, in the highest skiable terrain offered in the picturesque Alps. Connected lift service offers Ikon Pass holders access to Rothorn, Gornergrat and the Schwarzsee-Matterhorn glacier paradise within the Zermatt ski area, plus Cervinia-Valtournenche ski areas in Italy, collectively known as Matterhorn ski paradise.
Ikon Pass holders will have seven-day access to Zermatt and the Matterhorn ski paradise network on the Ikon Pass with no blackout dates, and five-day access on the Ikon Base Pass, also with no blackout dates.
The Ikon Pass unlocks adventure with access to 41 iconic winter destinations across the Americas, Switzerland, Japan, Australia and New Zealand and is a collaboration of industry leaders – Alterra Mountain Company, Aspen Skiing Company, Boyne Resorts, POWDR, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, Alta Ski Area, Snowbird, SkiBig3, Revelstoke Mountain Resort, Taos Ski Valley, Sugarbush Resort, Zermatt, Thredbo, Mt Buller, Niseko United, Valle Nevado, and NZ Ski.
“That was so easy!", I remarked to my son Ted as we slipped onto the chairlift just after noon.
We had left our home in Phoenix just that morning, with a vague notion that we might be able to fit in a half day of skiing.
And we did!
The skiing options out of Salt Lake City are so numerous it is difficult to choose a final destination. With only a weekend ahead we decided to try out Alta and Snowbird, two resorts that came wildly recommended by our snow loving friends.
And of course , the dynamic combo has been ranked the No. 1 resort in the country by SKIING Magazine for four years running.
On Our Way
After an easy flight on Southwest, we collected our bags and had only to walk ten paces to make our final arrangements to head up the canyon. We had secured reservations with Canyon Transportation before our departure and were quickly loaded in a van and were on our way. The chatty driver was well armed with the lowdown on Utah skiing and restaurant suggestions that came in handy later in the day.
We were able to check in early at our home for the weekend, Snowbird’s flagship Cliff Lodge and Spa, before taking the handy shuttle a mile up the road to the base of Alta.
The friendly crew at the Alta Ski Shop and Demo Center were quick to help us gather the right gear so we could head quickly out the door. I’m not sure I’ve ever observed better use of every square inch within a retail operation. Had we forgotten a hat, socks or sunscreen we were covered. And I was even able to sip a latte from their espresso bar while filling out the rental forms.
After a fabulous blue bird afternoon, we were joined by my son Alex who took a break from his collegiate studies at USC to spend time with me and his brother on the slopes. We made plans to check out the other side of the mountain!
The next day was spent exploring the slopes of Snowbird and we weren’t disappointed. During our hot tub review session, we determined that Snowbird definitely feels like the more sophisticated cousin to it’s traditional relative, Alta. And depending on your mood or company you may prefer one over the other. Within our trio, we found lots to like about both venues over our holiday weekend.
And thanks to a combined ticket to both mountains you don’t have to choose. With the dual mountain pass, skiers have access to nearly 5,000 acres of the famous Utah powder.
They say Alta has “soul” and when you arrive, somehow you instantly know what they mean. It is peaceful and quiet. For skier’s only, you won’t hear the scraping of boarders moving down the hill behind you.
Located 33 miles from the airport, and covering 2200 acres with 54 runs, the resort truly has something for everyone. The variety of terrain, breathtaking alpine scenery and superb snow conditions combine to create a unique setting for an unforgettable outdoor experiences for skiers of every age and ability.
We were able to ride lifts that provided runs with through-the-trees excitement for the boys as well as more intermediate terrain for me, yet still meet at the bottom.
While riding the lift we were told about the Ski With A Ranger program. You’ll learn about the natural world and mountain culture of the Wasatch-Cache National Forest during an enjoyable complimentary 45-minute guided program down friendly terrain Saturdays, Sundays and holidays at 1:30 p.m. Ask about the meeting spot.
For the little ones
The Alta Children's Center provides a unique atmosphere, blending warm, personal attention with creative educational activities. The children play and learn in various environments designed to make fun and education come together. A special area is dedicated to meet the needs of infants.
Under private ownership of Redwood Preschool, Inc., the Center is a state- licensed facility for children from ages three months- twelve years old. The Center is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Reservations are encouraged.
The Alf Engen Ski School has programs that allow every child to have the best possible learning experience in a spectacular mountain playground. The ski school offers Ski Adventures to children from ages four- through early teen, of all skill levels. Alta's goal is to give children the skills for a lifelong enjoyment of skiing. Participants can choose a two-hour adventure, an all day mini adventure that combines skiing, lunch and childcare, or an all-day adventure that includes lunch. The all day Mountain Explorers offers five hours of skiing and lunch to children from ages seven- early teens that are competent skiers.
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In addition to four lodges and 10 restaurants, Snowbird offers the Snowbird Mountain School, night skiing and snowboarding, a world-renowned children's program, snowmobile tours, snowshoe tours, tubing, ice skating, swimming pools, live music, movies, shopping, conference facilities and more.
Snowbird's luxurious Cliff Spa offers a full complement of pampering treatments as well as yoga and fitness classes. I can assure you that my massage at the end of the day was worth every penny.
You won’t find anything like the Snowbird Terrain Park, on the Alta side of the mountain. Accessed by the Baby Thunder lift, kids of all ages will enjoy this area dedicated to tabletops, hits, spines, jumps and rails of every shape and size. Snowbird’s Superpipe is located on the Big Emma run and is accessed by the Mid Gad or Gadzoom lifts. An intermediate park near the Big Emma Superpipe offers features and rails for skiers and riders looking to improve their terrain park skills.
Averaging 500 inches of near perfect powder a year, Snowbird boasts an aerial tram, that transports 125 people 2,900 vertical feet in approximately six minutes.
Other options include 10 chairlifts, including three high-speed detachable quads and seven doubles, plus two rope tows. While the resort is noted for its expert terrain, and there is plenty of it, I was impressed with the friendly and expansive beginner areas and Mineral Basin, all of which provide plenty of options for those not headed to the Olympic trials.
Snowbird’s original Peruvian lift was replaced with a new high-speed quad. At the top of the lift, a 600 foot tunnel with a magic carpet provides easy access to the popular Mineral Basin making it easier still for skiers and snowboarders to access this intermediate terrain.
Still, I found Snowbird more challenging than Alta and was quick to send my sons off to take advantage of the testing terrain. I enjoyed the sunny day on intermediate cruisers and made the most of a significant amount of powder still present from a recent storm. When we met at the end of the day they were exhausted yet elated from the full out effort required for the expert runs they chose. After hearing the first few accounts of their air-borne adventures I was glad we had parted ways earlier in the day.
Before catching our ride down the mountain with Canyon Transportaton, we were able to take advantage of the locker room and showers available to guests of the Cliff Lodge on check out day.
As we headed toward Salt Lake’s airport, I was happy to have had the time away with the boys. And, I could have used one more massage.
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Get in on the snow action this winter. Here are five ways you and your family can enjoy the ski season.
1. Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Once a rugged, Western outpost popular with extreme skiers, the resort now offers plenty of beginner and family-friendly terrain. Expect new lifts and on-mountain dining experiences as well as lodging options that offer a range of packages full of pre- and post-ski amenities. Avid skiers and boarders can explore new territory with the Golden Ticket. Bring your season pass from any other resort for discounts.
Contact: 1-888-333-7766; jacksonhole.com; www.FourSeasons.com.
2. The Mountain Collective.
Why settle for spending all your time on one mountain when you can access 11 of the world’s top winter destinations with a value pass? Ski two days at Alta/Snowbird, Aspen/Snowmass, Jackson Hole, Mammoth Mountain, Ski Banff-Lake Louise/Sunshine, Stowe, Sun Valley, Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows, Taos, Thredbo and Whistler Blackcomb, with discounts available for additional days. The pass is $399 for adults and $99 for children 12 and younger. Supplies are limited.
3. Vail, Colo.
The Sebastian is a Rocky Mountain winter wonderland. Its amenties-on-demand program delivers ski and snow essentials to your room along with an energy-boosting breakfast. Order an extra pair of toasty socks, hand warmers for the kids or another round of sunscreen. Guests can arrange to have a steaming bubble bath drawn prior to a return from the slopes.
Team up with the adventure concierge to plan a moonlight snowshoe adventure or ice skating.
Contact: snow.com; thesebastianvail.com
4. Keystone, Colo.
The ground game can be one of the most challenging aspects of skiing with youngsters. But Keystone is committed to making your mountain vacation memorable for the entire family.
It offers a recently renovated reception center, parking reserved for families as well as hundreds of red wagons throughout the property to ease the transport of little ones plus gear.
The Kidtopia program offers a range of activities for children including snow forts, arts and crafts, and music. Stay two nights in resort lodging and kids 12 and younger ski and ride free. Ask about private lessons for family groups.
5. Mount Rose-Ski Tahoe, Nev.
Families will certainly appreciate the more than $1 million worth of enhancements that were finished on the mountain in the off-season. Climb aboard the newly christened Wizard Chairlift for access to beginner-friendly terrain and the Enchanted Forest Family Zone. Also, Nevada’s Heavenly Mountain Resort will celebrate its 60th anniversary this season with special packages, free concerts and pop-up mobile DJs on snowcats.
TIPS FROM THE NATIONAL SKI PATROL
Since 1938, the 501(c)3 non-profit, National Ski Patrol (NSP), has dedicated itself to providing service and safety to the outdoor community. As the preeminent authority for serving the outdoor recreation industry, NSP provides the highest quality Outdoor Emergency Care education and credentialing care to safety services providers. Ski and Snowboard Patrollers keep both you, and the mountain safe. Next time you see them on the mountain or ride with them on a chair lift, stop and talk with them. They're friendly people willing to share their knowledge of the resort with you. They can even give you some tips on great gear and where might be a good place for you to ski and ride based on your ability level. Check out these Safety Tips written to give you some snowsmarts and in collaboration with the NSP Safety Team. For more information, please visit nsp.org.
Since 1938, the National Ski Patrol has been advocating safe practices on the slopes so that skiers and snowboarders like you, can enjoy the most out of the mountain terrain. So, to share the message of how to have fun, while staying safe, NSP developed the slogan "Be Snowsmart! Play It Safe!"
What does "Be Snowsmart! Play It Safe" mean? Well, while it can mean a multitude of things depending on what situation you're in and what terrain you're on, the basis of it can be summed up in 3 key points.
1) Prepare for conditions.
Knowing what type of terrain you and your equipment can handle is extremely important when playing it safe. To be Snowsmart, know your ability level and where that appropriate terrain is on the mountain.
2) Reduce your risk of injury.
To reduce the risk of injury, always wear a helmet. Helmets can reduce your risk of head injury by 35-50%. You can avoid risk of injury in other ways too, including tuning your equipment, skiing with a friend, being aware of other skiers and riders on the slope and being aware of your surroundings and on mountain signage.
3) Prevent emergency situations.
Situations on the mountain can quickly turn into emergencies without warning. Unexpected weather changes, backcountry and side country skiing areas, and getting down the mountain with an injury are just a few factors that may turn into emergencies if you are not prepared. Preparing for situations such as these can help tremendously and can be as simple as being aware of weather forecasts, carrying a reliable communication device while on the mountain, snowboarding with a friend, and knowing how to contact Ski Patrol.
These safety tips are just part of being snowsmart! Before you even head out the door you need to have a few things lined up, like what you are going to wear and knowing how to dress for conditions outside.
Having the right equipment is important too. Borrowing is not the best idea, but renting is a great way to try different gear and see what you like before spending money on purchasing your own skis, board, boots, poles, and helmet. The National Ski Patrol highly recommends wearing a helmet while skiing or snowboarding, but encourages those participating in the sports to realize that helmets do have limitations and are not a complete answer for slope safety. Check out this helmet fact sheet from the National Ski Areas Associationto get more information on the benefits of wearing a helmet.
In addition to the proper use of helmets, the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) has developed Your Responsiblity Code to help snow sports enthusiasts avoid injury and make their experience as safe and enjoyable as possible.
If you're adventuring in the backcountry you must be knowledgeable in avalanche safety and the equipment used to help keep you safe; NSP provides information and classes on backcountry avalanche safety.
Find out more from the National Ski Patrol.