ORDA Seeks Improvements That Also Address Climate Concerns

New York’s Governor, Andrew Cuomo (d) has proposed $28 Million in improvements at the three state ski areas, Whiteface, Gore and Belleayre that are operated by the New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA).

The proposal also includes a pledge for the three areas to be powered by 100 percent renewal energy by 2030. Teaming with “The Climate Reality Project I AM PRO SNOW 100% Committed” campaign the initiative corresponds with the State’s, clean energy standard that requires that half of all electricity used in New York come from renewable sources by 2030. It encourages ski resorts, towns, businesses and other mountain communities around the world to commit to being powered by 100-percent renewable energy by that time.

ORDA’s managed ski resorts have taken steps towards becoming even more environmentally friendly and efficient in recent years by modernizing snowmaking systems, lifts, building systems and lighting.

Cuomo initially proposed $20 million for Gore and Whiteface.  There were rumblings, “what about Belleayre?” The Town of Shandaken Board even passed a resolution that called on the state to provide funding this year for the planned expansion of the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center.

ORDA took over the operation of Belleayre a few years ago.  An additional $8 million was added for Belleayre.

According to press releases from the Governor’s Office the improvements will “expand economic growth and investment opportunities in the surrounding communities, leveraging up to $80 million in private investment and attract more visitors and make upstate New York’s winter resorts competitive with other world resorts”.

These proposals include some of the most significant improvements to ORDA facilities in 30 years.

The requests come in the form of what is called 30 day amendments.  That’s budget speak but in short it goes like this.

In early January the governor proposes an executive budget. That budget included $10 million for ORDA improvements.  Within 30 days he can add additional proposals.  During this time there is usually a series of press releases announcing new proposals.

Now before everyone starts waxing their skis and boards and sharpening their edges, these are proposals or budget requests.  The funds have not been appropriated yet and are still subject to budget negotiations. There are several competing priorities for New York State tax dollars.  With record increases in state aid for schools, uncertainty with the Affordable Care Act these proposals could easily be significantly reduced or fall by the wayside completely.

As a skier who has skied all three of these areas and probably skis Whiteface and Gore more than any other area, I welcome improvements.  But let’s pick these apart.

Whiteface Mountain
Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington. New York

The upgrades at Whiteface include:

  • Expanding the Bear Den Lodge and adding a state-of-the-art learning center, bar and restaurant;
  • Expanding and renovating the Adirondack Base Lodge and parking lot;
  • Installing a line connecting the Bear Den Learning Center area to the Mid Station;
  • Building one of the longest zip lines in North America; and
  • Building the longest mountain coaster in the United States.
Gore Mountain
Gore Mountain in North Creek, New York

For Gore Mountain the following are proposed:

  • Expanding seating capacity and modernizing the Saddle Lodge’s facilities and infrastructure;
  • Adding a third story to the Base Lodge – building corporate meeting room space, additional seating and customer amenities, and expanding the rental shop in the Northwoods Lodge; and
  • Restoring the original 1967 gondola unloading station into a Gore summit warming facility and overlook.
Belleayre Mountain
The Overlook Lodge at Belleayre Mountain

Proposed improvements at Belleayre include:

  • New High-Speed Gondola
  • Nordic and Cross Country skiing at the expansive summit of the mountain;
  • Improvements to the Discovery and Overlook Lodge

These improvements, if they go through, are substantial.

ORDA ski areas face some challenges when it comes to competing with other large areas in the northeast.  Unlike destination resorts like Killington, Stratton and Okemo, to name a few, Belleayre, Gore and Whiteface do not, and probably will not have significant real estate development in close proximity.  And perhaps they shouldn’t.  Of the three, only Whiteface, with being close to Lake Placid and all of the Olympic history that goes with it, could be termed a destination resort.  Gore and Whiteface, that are in the perpetually protected Adirondack Park face challenges to nearby development.

The proposed Belleayre Resort on 739 acres of privately held land adjacent to the ski center holds some promise.  It has been going through the development process for a number of years with some recent movement.  However, litigation is likely to continue by the Catskill Heritage Alliance that is opposed to certain aspects of the plan.

The move to have ski resorts become year round facilities is a step in the right direction.  Having significant infrastructure in place for less than six months of the year can be difficult to justify.

However, with essentially no growth in the number of skier and rider days nationally, it is unclear if the investment will pay off in the long run.

For more information, visit www.climaterealityproject.org or follow Climate Reality on Twitter at @ClimateReality

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New Hampshire’s Largest Ski Resort – Grandest Hotel

Bretton Woods, New Hampshire is the setting of New Hampshire’s largest ski and snowboard resort.  It is also home of the Omni Mount Washington Hotel.  Together they offer arguably one of the best ski and stay experiences in the East.

If you are looking for a stay in a grand hotel that is over century old, steeped in history, yet well-maintained and cruising wide trails during the day and night the Omni Mount Washington Resort (OMWR) is the place for you.

The Mount Washington Hotel

Even though Bretton Woods is the largest ski area in New Hampshire, it has a modest vertical drop of 1,500 feet. The trail and lift layout is such that one can easily traverse peaks to access almost all areas without much poling or skating.

The mountain operations staff really knows how to lay down the snow and groom it with natural snow for an enjoyable experience. We found some stellar early morning corduroy on the “groomers” like Range View and Big Ben, Bigger Ben and Coos Caper.  The many wide trails with gentle slopes make for a great on mountain experience.  My favorite trails are Granny’s Grit and Herb’s Secret just below the top of the Zephyr Quad.

If you don’t get enough runs in during the day, Bretton Woods offers night skiing off of the Bethlehem Quad.

The OMWH is one of those grand hotels of a bygone era where many of the rich and famous of the late 1800s would spend their summers.  There is so much history that goes along with the Hotel, that you could easily spend an awe filled day just walking around.  The Historic Hotel Tour, which is offered daily, provides insight into the visionaries who built this first of its kind hotel and buildings, and the later rehabilitation, should not be missed.  There are rumors that a ghost rooms the grounds too.

Even though the Hotel is over a century old it offers many modern amenities including several very nice restaurants, a spa, heated indoor and outdoor pools and workout facilities.

Located about two and half hours from Boston and about six and half hours from New York City on interstate highways the OMWR is a spectacular getaway experience.  No five star resort in the East that is coupled with a snow sports venue can compare.

The Hotel itself is worth the trip.  It boasts impressive views of Mount Washington, the highest peak east of the Mississippi, and rest of New Hampshire’s Presidential Range.  Walking into the lobby of the hotel is an awe-inspiring experience.  High ceilings, ornate furnishings and architecture, and Tiffany glass give the feeling of stepping back in time.  In a sense you are.

Courteous staff are available to meet your every need from parking your car, carrying your bags, to checking your skis and board or shuttling you between the Hotel and the base lodge, or local restaurants.

After the shuttle drops you off in front of the Bretton Woods base lodge it is an easy walk to inside for booting up and getting ready to hit the slopes.

Immediately outside the base lodge three lifts are easily accessible.  The Bethlehem Express Quad will take you almost to the summit Mt. Rosebrook.  On a clear day the vista from any of the ski area’s peaks back over the valley floor and past the Mount Washington Hotel with the Presidential Range beyond is breathtaking.  It has to be one of the prettiest views in the East!

A short run down to the Rosebrook Summit Express Quad will bring you to the summit where green and blue trails provide easy access to the back to the base, West Mountain and the rest of the 460 acres of ski terrain.

Bretton Woods Ski Area

If Nordic skiing is on your agenda there is easy access to one of the largest cross country ski regions on the East Coast with over 100 kilometers of trails on the OMWR grounds and the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire. The trail network crosses open fields, meanders through woods of spruce and fir, passes beaver ponds and mountain streams, and traverses open hardwood stands.

Nordic skiers can even ride the Bethlehem Express detachable quad lift to the Mountain Road, a five-mile Nordic trail located at the Bretton Woods alpine ski area, and enjoy T-bar rides and high elevation groomed Nordic trails at the Mount Stickney Cabin.

Whatever your taste for outdoor adventure at the end of the day one can always return to the Hotel and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate or coffee in in the lobby, visit, read or play cards or just enjoy the ambiance of this grand old lady which is the Mount Washington Hotel.

For more history or to book your reservation please visit:
https://www.omnihotels.com/hotels/bretton-woods-mount-washington

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End of Year Storm Brings Crowds to Bromley

A late December Northeaster that dumped almost a foot of snow throughout Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine added to the natural and machine-made base at many areas. The snow coupled with the holiday crush brought out the skiers and riders. Better than last year conditions continues to bring people to the mountains.

On the final Friday of 2016, the eve of New Year’s Eve, one day after the storm passed, the pent up demand from last season manifested itself in hundreds of snow seekers getting out and on the slopes.

All over the Northeast resorts were reporting the best single day in years.Alm

Almost resorts were geared up with most all lifts and much of the terrain open. Skiers and riders exercised patience in managing holiday week lift lines.

At Bromley Mountain in Peru, Vermont ines at the ticket windows busy with patrons exchanging pre-paid tickets for day passes. Many were picking up their seasons passes.

While waiting in line Assistant General Manager, Michael Van Eck approached a cashier and said that the Ski School phone was ringing off the hook and asked for more help. This is a great sign.

One skier from Long Beach, New York remarked, “What a difference a year makes?” He continued on saying that last year on this day it was raining and they gave up after a run or two and took off for other pursuits. This year he was hanging on the mountain while his under ten kids traversed the mountain with their instructor.

Despite a two-hour wind hold on the Sun Mountain Express Quad, visitors dispersed throughout the mountain. Lift operators worked to ensure that lines were moving and were orderly.

There was almost a foot of un-groomed natural powder on some of the eastern trails, including Corkscrew, were getting bumped up after a few hours.

Although it was a bit breezy temperatures were in the twenties and those who were prepared were able to stay out on the mountain and enjoy the end of 2016.

Once the Sun Mountain Express Quad came off of wind hold the crowds began to disperse throughout the mountain and lift lines decreased. Still, it was crowded but manageable and skiers and riders were having an enjoyable time.

Mountains across the Northeast are hoping that interest continues as they look forward to and prepare for Martin Luther King Jr. weekend and the rest of the season.

 

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Mount Snow Ready for the Holidays

Skiers and riders heading out to Mount Snow in Southern Vermont this Christmas week will not see anything like they did last year.

There is snow and plenty of it!

In addition to the almost two feet of natural snow in the past few weeks, the snow making crew has been hard at work covering the trails. Fan guns and ground-mounted guns were belching the white stuff all over the mountain leading up to the holiday break.

One skier remarked on the lift that right before Christmas Eve last year there was a small path of snow about two feet wide from Cascade to Canyon. Not so this year; full coverage.

Plenty of exceptional corduroy was prepared for those lucky enough to get out early. Long John from top to bottom was all “corded up” and held up all day.

Over in Carinthia, the coverage was also good with many features and jumps in place. “The Farm” seemed to bloom over night and was packed with its barnyard best features.

Guns had been blazing over on the North Face with over a foot of man-made powder on Challenger which made for some great bumps late in the day.

More work was needed Sunbrook Area but it was coming along. There was full coverage on Cloud Nine and Thanks Walt.

Let us all hope that the weather we have had so far continues. There is still significant pent up demand after last season.

Great out and enjoy the skiing and riding where ever you can!

 

 

Killington Opens the 2016-17 Skiing and Riding Season in the East

With help from Mother Nature in terms of five inches of natural snow and cold temperatures and the work of an outstanding team of snowmakers, The Beast of the East, Killington Mountain Resort, kicked off the 2016-2017 on October 25th.  For several years Killington has had the longest season in the east.

The heros of opening day
The heroes of opening day

Killington had hoped to open at 9:00 AM but Mother Nature was not completely cooperative. The opening was pushed back to noon with the first gondola loading at 11:58 AM according to one skier who could just wait to get out. Many skiers and riders were queuing up at before the 9:00 scheduled opening. Those who closely monitored Killington’s Facebook page caught up to the minute details of the schedule.

Opening day was the annual Season Pass and Express Card holder appreciation day. Killington provided lunch for those who got out as well as free hot chocolate all day. Killington planned to open to the public on October 26th at 9:00 a.m. The Killington Parks season was scheduled to open on Wednesday as well, opening the early season Reason Terrain Park with six features.

A gondola heads for the top on opening day
A gondola heads for the top on opening day

Snowmaking continued throughout the day  on Tuesday with temperatures and humidity right at the margins. It was 34 degrees in the parking lot and there were snow flurries in the valleys.

Skiing and riding was limited to Upper and Lower Rime and Reason and the North Ridge Triple was the only upper mountain lift operating. Limited terrain for sure, but, heck, it’s October!

Those exiting the gondola after downloading showed their enthusiasm for the sport. One skier said it was “wet but good, one and done”. Another said it good to get out and they were glad they did it.

A wet and happy skier wraps up opening day at Killngton
A wet and happy skier wraps up opening day at Killington

Who can blame them after last season? The pent up demand after last season’s drought was just too much.

Staff in the ticket office was busy selling passes for those who had not gotten them before the opening day.

All of this will be good practice because in a little over five weeks Killington will host the Audi FIS Ski World Cup. The World Cup event will include the women’s giant slalom and slalom races and is expected to bring U.S. Ski Team superstars Julia Mancuso, Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn to compete against the best women’s technical alpine skiers in the world.

Conditions are bound to get better in the coming weeks and months as the Beast of the East looks to set another record for the longest season in the East.

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Winter’s Last Day Certainly Wasn’t

This winter has been anything but in the northeast.  No surprise there.

What is a surprise is when you can find good conditions despite the lack of snow and the yoyo temperatures we have experienced all season long.  The abundance of human made snow seems to had held up better than mother nature’s.

Good conditions are exactly what we all found at Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont on the last day of this winter, or shall I say the winter that wasn’t.

We found wide open trails with few skiers and riders on the last day of Winter
We found wide open trails with few skiers and riders on the last day of Winter

Cold weather returned on winter’s last day.  Temperatures were in the forties on morning the day before and dropped throughout the day bottoming out in the low twenties at night.

The low temperatures gave the groomers at Okemo something to work with.  And work with it they did.

In this writer’s opinion no resort grooms better than Okemo.

The forecast for the last day of winter was for sunshine and high temperatures in the low thirties all day. With the colder temperatures we had to add a few extra layers to what we had been wearing the past several times out. We had to get the mittens back out as well; hand warmers too.

It was a demo day at Okemo and skiers and riders were taking advantage of the opportunity to test out the equipment that would be available in the fall.  This added to the buzz and enthusiasm that abounded around the base area at Jackson Gore.

Crisp temperatures and blue skies always make for a great ski day and this day was no exception. The sun was apparent on our faces and my black ski pants were warmed by the sun’s radiance.

With fresh corduroy all over the place the pace was fast, the runs a joy.  Even though only about half the trails were open there was still plenty of cruising to be had.

Starting out at Jackson Gore to took a few runs on the Quantum Four lift.  Despite the cool temperatures the bubble was not needed.  We ripped down Sunset Strip, Blue Moon and Lower Limelight a few times and then headed south down Mountain Road to the Main base area.

There were still plenty of skiers and riders at Okemo
Skiers and riders were still queuing up for the Sunburst Six at Okemo

Up the Sunburst Six we went.  We were early enough to beat the crush that would come.  A couple of runs on the South Face Express found some bare spots but the patrollers had been out to mark them.  By late morning the almost equinox sun had turned to corduroy into frozen granular but not too heavy.  No mashed potatoes were served.

Some video from the last day of winter at Okemo

We trekked North and East to over to Solitude and took several great runs on Coleman Brook, Sidewinder, Heaven’s Gate and Boomerang.  These trails are just far enough north that the sun, which had reached its highest point in the sky in the past six months, had not done its damage.  With few skiers and riders on the trails and non existent list lines we were able to make several laps adding to our vertical for the day.

Deciding to call it a day we headed back to Jackson Gore where we started.  The demos were winding down but skiers and riders were basking and enjoying the last of the winter’s sun.

Okemo is scheduled to be open to April 3rd, but as always it is best to call or check before you go so you can be prepared for

 

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Spring Skiing at Stratton Mountain Resort

We headed over to Stratton Mountain in Vermont on March 9, 2016 to take in some spring skiing.  It was a great day.

Despite temperatures into the lower 60s the snow held up and the conditions were good. Too many skiers and riders stayed away and missed out. The lack of activity made for a surface that was not too churned up making it gripable and not too heavy.

Upper and Lower Standard were in good shape
Upper and Lower Standard were in good shape

Even though this season had been warmer that normal there have still been some cold days so I was looking forward to higher temperatures. Gone were the layers of clothing that kept me warm throughout the season. It was a pleasure to be able to move without my bulky parka and mittens.  A light shell and a thin pair of gloves worked best.  I was able to open to the vents on my helmet for the first time.

Great carving snow
Great carving snow

We started out in the Sunbowl which lived up to its name.  After a few runs we headed over to the “main mountain”.  A couple a runs on the Ursa Express banging on the bear, runs, Polar, Grizzly, Black and down.

It was cold in Vermont as recently as three days before and the base was still firm. Only the top two inches had softened up and which made for good skiing and riding.

By the end of the day a few “brown spots” began to emerge but patrollers were out marking them.  Upper Standard was in good shape with its top to bottom run.  The bumps were gone from Upper and Lower Liftline which allowed for good coverage and fun sliding along.

Rain is forecast for the end of the week so it unknown so it is best to check conditions before heading out.  Check out www.stratton.com for the latest conditions.

Skiing in Southern Colorado, Part 2-Skiing the Powder at Crested Butte

From Part 1 – Mike, Phil and I traveled to southern Colorado to ski Crested Butte and Purgatory


It snowed all night.  I didn’t sleep well.  I never do before a ski day.  Knowing it was going to be a powder day at Crested Butte only made my tossing and turning it worse.  My room was too dry; I needed to drink more water.

Snowplows circled the condo all night moving the mounds of powdery snow from one place to another, their backup alarms droning as they got ready for the crowds that were bound to come.

Since I couldn’t sleep I got up, dressed, made some coffee and waited for the others. Looking out the window it was apparent that it was still dumping.

The others rose. After some coffee we dressed and headed to the lodge carrying our ski boots. The altitude was apparent as I huffed and puffed up a flight of stairs.  I was breathing heavily but I felt OK.  The mega hydration that I have taken part in probably helped.

The clouds were still puking snow.  There was over 14 inches on the ground.

The night before we were told that the Bakery/Brown Labrador Pub had a best breakfast deal on the mountain base. We trudged up the stairs and grabbed some cinnamon roles from owner Steve Mikeska and carbed up for the day ahead.

Steve, a native a native Texan, has been serving up the goods at Crested Butte for over 20 years

We finished our cinnamon rolls and grabbed our skies and poles from the valet.  It was around 8:45 and we could see the march to the lift beginning as those staying in the condos throughout the area headed to the lifts.

We donned our skis and headed to the Red Lady quad lift where we met Erica Mueller who was kind enough to take us around for the day. Getting on the lift it was easy to see that there was untracked snow everywhere. Exiting the lift I cranked down my boots and took stock of the “fat” skis I had attached to my boots.

Being from the east I had never been in snow so deep and so fluffy.  It took some getting used to.  It was hard to get started and we continually had to find trails or parts of the trails with enough pitch to keep our speed up.

As we headed down the first run a dog bounded across the trail in front of us.  My original thought is that is was an avalanche dog but it did look like the retrievers that I had seen before.  It’s snout was too pointed; its tail too bushy.  Erica yelled to us that is was a coyote as it jumped into the trees never to be seen again.

After a couple of runs on the Red Lady we headed over to the Paradise lift and up into the Paradise Bowl for some wide open skiing.  It was tough going for me as the snow was deeper.  It was still dumping and the visibility was not the best but the snow was soft and the pitch was greater so we began to get the hang of it, getting a rhythm of back and forth.

Over to the right I could see a line for the North Face lift.  The T-bar was not open yet.  We could hear the random reports of explosions as the patrollers made the north face bowls safe skiers and riders even though the snow had come pretty much straight down all evening and there were minimal winds.

It pretty much snowed on and off all day with visibility sometimes going to zero.

We skied over to the Umbrella Bar, which is between the tops of the Prospect and Gold Link lifts for some water. Western resorts are very good about having water available to keep guest hydrated.  I continually remind myself to drink water in an effort to stave off the effects of drier air and the higher altitude.

For lunch we dined at Uley’s Cabin which is located at the base of the Twister Lift. Uley’s takes its name from Uley Scheer who was a local historical figure and bootlegger. Uley’s reputation as a provider of food and moonshine are the inspiration for the dining and entertainment. I had the Rocky Mountain Elk Bourguignon, with Yukon potato puree and baby carrots.  The Elk was fork tender and not at all gamey. It was a great lunch.

It continued to snow all day.  Several more runs on the lower mountain rounded out the day as the altitude and deep snow took its toll on us.  The day was complete with a little under 10,000 feet of vertical.

Day two was almost a repeat of day one as the snow continued.  The groomers had toiled through the night and worked their magic.  However, another eight inches of powder had accumulated on top of what was groomed which made working our way easier.  We were still getting used to the powder.  The center of the Paradise Bowl had been groomed but the sides were bumped up with soft moguls.

The snow continued all day with the visibility was constantly changing.  At one point Phil and Mike reported suffering from ski sickness or Häusler’s disease which is a form of motion sickness which is suffered by some skiers when weather conditions, especially visibility, are bad.  They found that this was especially pronounced in the wide open trails which had few reference points.  Phil reported that the effect diminished on narrower trails and skiing closer to trees, which acted as a reference point, helped.

After a light lunch at the Bar I headed over to the Silver Queen Express.  This quad lift goes almost all the way to the top and services the entire front of the mountain.

The locals had come out, as the powder was deep.  They banged through the trees and the steeps. At times they seemingly popped out of nowhere covered with the white stuff, smiles of their faces, pumping their fists in the air.

Day two was completed with a little over 16,000 feet of vertical and 15 miles of distance. The deep powder continued to hold back on the vertical and distance.  This was OK though.

We received tip to check out Slogar Bar & Restaurant down in Crested Butte for dinner.  After making a reservation (highly recommended) we headed down the hill. The snow continued and the streets were not well plowed.  We found a parking stop right in front.    The menu at Slogar consists of two items, skillet fried chicken and grilled steak.  Both are servered family style.  We ordered the chicken and chowed down on the relishes and biscuits while we waited for the main course.  The fried chicken was good.  The creamed corn and mashed potatoes rounded out the main course.  A scoop of vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce for desert and we were done and stuffed.  We even had chicken to take with us.

We drove back to the condo and crashed.  It was still snowing.

On day three the clouds began to lift.  We hear that our friend Bernie Weichel was in town.  Bernie is a bit of a legend in the ski industry.  He owns a condo at the foot of the mountain.

More trails were groomed overnight and the skiing was great.  We met up with Bernie and he took us around, as he knew his way around better than we did.

We had some great runs on East River Express.  The snow was great on Treasury and Black Eagle. There was still untracked snow of the edges of the trails.

Skiers and riders were dropping in from skier’s right on Black Eagle.  Bernie explained that most of these were coming down off of the double black Spellbound, Phoenix, Third bowls.  It is a long way back up to these bowls from the based of the East River Express since the had to take this lift to the top and then ski to the Paradise Lift and ski down to the North Face (t-bar) lift.

After a quick lunch at the Umbrella Bar Bernie and I took a few runs on the Silver Queen and took some great bump runs on Monument and International.  We even took The High Lift T-bar up over 11,000 feet to ski down Eflin’s Way.

The day ended with over 19,000 feet of vertical and brilliant sun.  The view of the Peak of Crested Butte, which had eluded us for the past few days was clearly visible.

Tired from pounding the powder for three days took the shuttle into Crested Butte and dined at the Elk Prime Steak House.  We did not have reservations and although it is a bit pricey it offers a good selection of locally wet and dry aged beef and seafood.  Not being anywhere near and ocean we ordered steaks, that came in large portions, enough so that we could order three entrees for four hungry skiers.

We hopped the shuttle back up the hill and retired for the evening.  It had been a snow packed three days.

In hindsight we never made it up into the double black bowls.  We didn’t need too! Crested Butte, once known for it’s extreme skiing and riding, has more than enough beginner and intermediate trails to satisfy the average person and family.  Sure, the extreme terrain is available for those who want to tackle it. Keep in mind however, that one needs to be in top physical condition and know what they are doing in order to ensure their safety and the safety of others.

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