Mr. Luxury Ski
There is a familiar story you hear from the locals in every ski town you visit: "I came to work for the winter, stayed for the summer, then I stayed for the winter, repeat, and here I am 10 years later."
The draw of the mountains and legendary powder turns hook you, then they thaw and transform the landscape to the ultimate summer playground. Trails turn from black diamond carving to mountain-bike byways and lifts elevate hikers to new perspectives. With the infrastructure in place, the summer potential is as unlimited as the breathtaking views, and it's no wonder resort operators are investing heavily in summer programming and capital improvements.
Here are 10 winter wonderlands that keep us coming back for summer fun.
Signature summer activities: Aspen—Look forward to community astronomy night August 10 led by the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies atop Aspen Mountain. Snowmass—Mountain-top farm-to-table dinners every Tuesday (now through Aug 23) and an expanded mountain bike trail system.
What's new for the coming ski season: Over the past five years, Aspen Ski Company has invested more than $70 million in capital improvements. New for the 2016/17 season, visitors can expect a remodel of the famed Gwyn's restaurant at Snowmass, Aspen Mountain hosting the Audi FIS Ski World Cup Finals in March 2017, and a new "kids ski free" program. Lastly, in March 2017, the Little Nell is welcoming back professional big mountain skier Chris Davenport for the second annual "Click-in with Chris Ski Camp" designed to improve the performance of even the best skier, with accommodations and gourmet meals included.
Signature summer activities: The Park Hyatt Beaver Creek is offering a unique partnership with Swedish outfitter Fjallraven, providing guests the opportunity to test a selection of the brand's legendary products with a "Backpack Concierge." Programming includes themed hikes in the Vail Valley (above) for all ability levels from a 14er to morning outings and a "hike for wine" to the famous Beano's Cabin.
Where to stay: Park Hyatt
What's new for coming ski season: The White Glove Winter Vacation promises to be the ski industry's most luxurious holiday package. Valued at $50,000, it includes first class airfare to Vail Eagle Airport, a private helicopter ride to the base of Beaver Creek Mountain, a chauffeured car to the Trappers Cabin, a private chef, ski instructor, four Epic Passes, a new wardrobe from Helly Hansen, and (of course) first tracks every day of your stay. Book at BeaverCreek.com.
Canadian Mountain Holidays
Signature summer activities: The 50+ year-old Banff-based operator is one of the best in the business with 11 lodges throughout the Canadian Rockies, two of which are open this summer for the ultimate in backcountry luxury. CMH Bugaboos and CMH Bobbie Burns (both located two hours west of Banff, flying into Calgary) are accessible only via helicopter, meaning guests are truly off the grid. Legendary for winter skiing adventures that suit every taste and ability, CMH in the summer is a far different experience, offering three or six day heli-hiking trips, guided excursions through scenery few ever get to explore. New at the Bugaboos this summer is the recently completed Crystal Trail Via Ferrata climbing route and zip line. With the safety of a helmet and harness, guests scale a towering quartz wall, mountain climbing like the experts.
Where to stay: CMH Bugaboos
What's new for coming ski season: Of all of the luxe CMH experiences, nothing beats the appeal of a private lodge and helicopter. This season, two new elite opportunities await those ambitious enough:CMH McBride, located in the Cariboos Mountain Range 100 miles west of Jasper National Park, features the company's largest range of skiing opportunities (it accommodates up to 10 guests for four- and seven-day trips); and CMH Bobbie Burns offers guests their own private Bell 407 helicopter for scenic runs spanning the Purcell and Selkirk Mountain ranges located on the British Columbia/Alberta border.
Signature summer activities: The iconic Aerial Tram is in full gear, elevating trailblazers to the summit of Rendezvous Mountain for hiking and the famous waffles at Corbet's Cabin. Purchase the new Tram Tri-Pass for daytime and evening access to the Aerial Tram, Teewinot chairlift, and Bridger Gondola, and a season's worth of hiking, dining, and sightseeing at the edge of Grand Teton National Park. The Four Seasons Jackson Hole also offers an in-house fly fishing program that takes visitors on a private Snake River float trip.
Where to stay: The Four Seasons Jackson Hole
What's new for coming ski season: The new Sweetwater Gondola will open in mid-December and offer a third base-accessible lift—between Bridger Gondola and the Teewinot Quad with access to the Solitude mid-station area that will feature a new ski school facility—and continue to the Casper Restaurant, for a total of1,276 vertical feet.
Signature summer activity: Vail's newEpic Discovery summer mountain experience unlocks the White River National Forest's ecosystem for adventure, exploration, and education. Accessible from the Eagle Bahn Gondola in Lionshead, visitors are whisked to an altitude of over 10,000 feet with new high-alpine thrills including a zip line tour, mountain coaster, climbing wall, and rope courses. Additionally, the Arrabelle at Vail Square is offering private in-room liquor tastings from local Colorado breweries and distilleries complete with a cocktail concierge to guide you through the process.
Where to stay: The Arrabelle at Vail Square
What's new for coming ski season: A long overdue improvement for anyone who has ever skied the legendary back bowls: the notoriously slow Sun Up Lift #17 triple chair will be replaced and renamed as Sun Up Express #9, a high-speed four-passenger lift that will dramatically cut in half transport time from eight to four minutes and increase capacity by 65 percent.
Sun Valley, Idaho
Signature summer activities: The can't-miss figure skating at the Sun Valley Lodge kicked off with US Olympic Gold Medalist Johnny Weir (see the schedule here). Music is vital to the summer in Sun Valley, and the Summer Symphony will feature Kristin Chenoweth in a fundraiser concert August 7. Finally, Bald Mountain's lifts are open for exceptional mountain biking on expanded trails.
Where to stay: The Sun Valley Lodge
What's new for coming ski season: The first new hotel in "many, many" years, The Limelight (of Aspen provenance) opens its doors in the heart of downtown Ketchum. The 99-room hotel is now accepting reservations for February 2017 onward.
Lake Louise Ski Resort, Alberta
Signature summer activities: For one of the best chances to see Grizzly Bears in their native environment (from the safety of the Grizzly Express chairlift), head to Lake Louise Ski Area. Dine at the new mid-mountain Whitehorn Bistro with epic views of both the Lake and the Rockies. For the adventurous, experience old-world luxury at the Skoki Backcountry Lodge (Prince William and Kate Middleton honeymooned here). Skoki is only by hike and features Canada's highest-altitude kitchen. Finally, take out a canoe on Lake Louise at the iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
Where to stay: The Post Hotel
What's new for coming ski season: The Kokanee Kabin (a skier favorite) is being transformed into an outdoor après ski smokehouse providing meats and cold beers on one of the best outdoor spaces in the West. Capital improvements to grooming and snowmaking operations will improve accessibility and conditions throughout the mountain and a new interpretive snowshoe program will tour the natural history of the area by day and provide a stargazer's fantasy by night.
Signature summer activities: Telluride is home to two world-class summer festivals: the Bluegrass Festival, which just passed (June 16-19), and the Telluride Film Festival, which runs from September 2-5 and is known by Hollywood insiders for being a first-look at Academy Award contenders. The film festival draws countless celebrities and film executives to the small mountain town in advance of festival season.
Where to stay: The Madeline Telluride
What's new for coming ski season: In advance of ski season, Neil Young just announced back-to-back concerts September 30 and October 1 to kick off the Festival of Cars and Colors. On the ski front, it's the 20th anniversary of the Mountain Village Gondola, which completely transformed the landscape of Telluride. The occasion will be celebrated in December with events, giveaways, and much more.
Signature summer activities: The resort's three lifts offer impeccable access to an extensive modernized mountain biking and hiking trail network at an elevation of over 8,100 feet. Outdoor music under the stars at the Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater is in full swing with the Steve Miller Band headlining August 19. See the full schedule here, and don't forget to order a gourmet picnic basket in advance.
Where to stay: Montage Deer Valley
What's new for coming ski season: $7.5 million in improvements to infrastructure and snowmaking, and updating the resort's entire Cadillac vehicle fleet.
Signature summer activities: There is something for everyone in Whitefish, located near the western entrance to Montana's Glacier National Park on the shores of idyllic Whitefish Lake. Literally an A-Z of summer fun, there's everything from an alpine slide to zip-line tours. Learn to downhill mountain bike for only $99, which includes bike rental, lift ticket, helmet, and body pads.
Where to stay: The Firebrand Hotel
What's new for coming ski season: Remodels of the Summit House kitchen and food court as well as other key infrastructure upgrades.