You won’t find much new around the Northwest ski scene this season, but the blame shouldn’t be placed solely at the feet of the struggling economy.
“I think it’s just bad luck,” said Scott Kaden of the Pacific Northwest Ski Area Association.
Last December’s snowstorms that kept kids home from school and parents home from work also made it difficult to get to the ski areas during the holidays – the most profitable stretches of the season.
“The storms crippled the urban areas, and people couldn’t get out of their driveways,” Kaden said. “It’s hard to recover from that loss of business.”
While you won’t find big splashes like the new water park at Idaho’s Silver Mountain or the groundbreaking mountain-to-mountain gondola at Whistler Blackcomb, there are upgrades worth checking out.
Here are 10 of the highlights.
1. NEW RUNS AND A RECORD-BREAKING TOILET
Washington’s fastest-growing ski area, 49 Degrees North, installed a new toilet in late September. The toilet is 5,774 feet above sea level, making it the highest toilet in the northeast corner of the state.
A cool addition, for sure, but only No. 2 this season compared to seven new runs on Angel Peak. Getting to the runs will require a short hike from the top of Chair 4.
The resort located north of Spokane plans to add a lift for the terrain next season. A new parking lot and an expanded deck for the lodge are also new this season.
2. PARKING AT THE SUMMIT
The Summit at Snoqualmie, the most visited ski area in Washington, has added 550 parking spots near the base of the Silver Fir Lift at Summit Central. This could prove to be the best way to access the ski area on busy weekends when parking is scarce. The Silver Fir Lift was upgraded last season and is no longer the slow ride it once was.
3. CAPTAIN JACK’S TREES
British Columbia’s Red Mountain Resort will open a run this season in honor of Jack Carey. The run, Captain Jack’s Trees, is a gladed run that honors the man who directed the resort’s free skiing competition for many years. Carey was killed in a cycling accident earlier this year, Red Mountain spokesman Mika Hakkola said.
4. SCHWEITZER LODGING
The Selkirk Lodge’s deluxe units at Idaho’s Schweitzer Mountain are finally large enough to accommodate families. The 12 two-person units have been refurbished with bunk beds and can sleep five. Schweitzer also is opening a new neighborhood, Mountainside at Schweitzer, with environmentally friendly homes.
5. REVELSTOKE’S NEW LODGE
The Northwest’s fastest-growing ski area opened its new Nelson Lodge in March. The lodge is located in the village, which opened in 2008. The hotel is designed so every room has views of the Columbia and Monashee mountains. The resort has pet-friendly rooms. Rooms also have fireplaces, iPod docking stations and a kitchen.
6. NEW ALASKA TERRAIN
Alyeska near Anchorage is introducing five expert tree skiing runs and the state’s first in-ground Super Pipe. The ski area also bought a Zaugg Pipe Monster to cut the 18-foot pipe. Eaglecrest Ski Area near Juneau installed its new $1.5 million Black Bear chairlift to service its East Bowl.
7. WHISTLER OFF THE GRID
Whistler Blackcomb is launching its long-talked-about Fitzsummons Creek Renewable Energy Project this winter. The project will produce 33 gigawatt-hours per year. That’s enough energy to power the resort’s summer and winter operations.
A pipeline will carry water from the creek more than two miles to a powerhouse.
“It has been a long and challenging road, and we’ve made great gains,” Arthur DeJong, the resort’s planning director, said in a prepared statement. “But this project is still only one of many steps that we need to make to become truly sustainable.”
8. NEW NORTH CASCADE HELI-LIFT
North Cascade Heli-Skiing in Mazama will fly skiers in a Eurocopter AStar B3. The new chopper is reportedly faster and more powerful than the previous helicopter and, theoretically, will enable its customers to make more runs.
9. MOUNT SPOKANE TUBE PARK
Mount Spokane will unveil a new tubing hill this season, said spokeswoman Kristin Whitaker. The tubing hill will have lights for night operations and will be open Friday nights through Sunday afternoons. Three-hour tubing sessions are $10 for those 42 inches or taller. Tubers shorter than 42 inches are free.
10. NEW PRICES AT BACHELOR
Mount Bachelor is launching a new pricing structure this season, said marketing director Alex Kaufman.
Kaufman says Bachelor will charge $49, $59 or $69 for daily lift tickets this season. The price will be determined each day based on weather and how many lifts will be open. True, skiers and boarders have long griped about having to pay full price on days when lifts are closed.
Craig Hill: 253-597-8497