Airlines’ Extra Fees Soar Ever Higher

Extra revenues are passengers’ burdens.

smarter-travel-logoSmarterTravel.com posted “Airlines with the Most Extra Fees,” citing a new study by industry consulting firm IdeaWorks. which “found that the airlines’ ancillary fees had increased by almost 1,200 percent between 2007 and 2013, from $2.45 billion to $31.5 billion,” adding that “lthough the overall trend is clear, and inescapable, not all airlines are equally oppressive when it comes to tagging every imaginable atomic particle of air travel with a surcharge. There are more and less egregious gougers. According to the report, on a per-person basis, the airlines imposing the highest fees are as follows:”

  • $55.61. Jet2.com (a UK company that bundles travel components and thereby  manages to hide extra fees)
  • $51.22.  Spirit (a US nickel-and-dime champ that I flew this past spring — and never again)
  • $45.67. Qantas
  • $44.87. Allegiant (from what I understand, a Spirit-like carrier)
  • $44.43. AirAsia
  • $40.97. United (no surprise)
  • $38.93. Korean Air
  • $34.41. Wizz Air
  • $33.92. Virgin Atlantic
  • $32.61. Alaska Air Group

Most dispiriting of all are the add-ons by low-fare domestic carriers, because the extra fees are a hefty percentage of the fare. When a robust add-on is charged for long and pricy trans-Pacific or even trans-Atlantic flights, the percentage isn’t quite so bad. I’d rather pay an extra $35-$45 to, say, Qantas or Korean Air than to Spirit.

Colorado’s First Summer Tubing Hill

Snow Mountain Ranch debuts summer joy ride — I mean, joyful summer ride.

SNW-SnowMtRanch-logoSnow tubing is an increasingly popular adjunct to skiing and snowboarding at ski resorts across the country. Now Colorado’s Snow Mountain Ranch, a huge YMCA-run facility in Colorado’s Grand County, has inaugurated the state’s first summer tubing hill — and the third in the country after Sunrise, Arizona, and Red River, New Mexico. The hill mimics a snow surface using SnowFlex technology and has been an 11-month build-out.  A tow ferries tubes and riders up the hill.

Colorado's first summer tubing hill at Snow Mountain Ranch/YMCA of the Rockies.

Colorado’s first summer tubing hill at Snow Mountain Ranch/YMCA of the Rockies.

Guests staying at Snow Mountain Ranch can slide down the hill at no cost, while members of YMCA of the Rockies or any other YMCA (with proof of membership) buying day pass can use the tubing hill for $15 per person. Fees for other day visitors are $35 for age 13 and older; $25 for ages 6 to 12, and $15 for ages  3 to 5. It includes access to the mini-golf course, tennis courts, indoor pool and sauna, hiking and biking trails, free family programs and much more. The facility is just off US 40 between the Winter Park Resort and Granby at 1101 County Road 53,  Granby, CO 80446;  970-887-2152.

Rockets Land on German Cruise Ship

No damage but big scare for passengers.

"AIDAdiva" with her colorful hull.

“AIDAdiva” with her colorful hull.

As if norovirus, pirates off the Horn of Africa and the occasional grandstanding captain weren’t enough, cruise ships being in the wrong place at the wrong could be recipients of unwelcome rocket fire in the eastern Mediterranean That reportedly happened to the “AIDAdiva,” a cruise ship carrying German passengers [that] was under rocket fire attack when leaving Ashod, Israel’s largest port.

According to a report in ETN Travel News, “It is unclear if the rockets were those from the Israel Defense Force or from Hamas, the radical Palestinian organization currently firing dozens of rockets at cities in Israel. When the cruise ship left Ashod, sirens were sounding in Ashod and other Israeli cities warning of attacks by the radical Palestinian Hamas organization…Rocket parts landed on the cruise ship. Fortunately the rockets exploded  before hitting the vessel deck. No casualties or significant damages to the cruise ship have been reported.

“The ship is currently on its way to the next port of Crete in Greece. It should reach Crete on Wednesday morning.. A Statement released by “AIDAdiva” voices its regret. The cruise liner said no travel alert was issued by German authorities prior to them sailing to Israel. After the incident, German authorities issued an alert.”

Certainly makes for a memorable vacation, and not in a good way.

Vicarious Visit to France Via the Tour de France

TV coverage is about cycling — and scenery.

TourDeFrance-logoThe 2014 Tour de France is beginning in a few days with three opening stages in England followed by the remainder in France. This will be an unusual route — no Alpe d’Huez, no Mont Ventoux, just nip into the Pyrenees but lots of Yorkshire. Longtime commentators Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen know the roads and landmarks of France very well, but both are born Brits, which should make for interesting words. I really admire the French TV feed of the landscape, villages and cities on the Tour route. Every time I watch, I want to go to Europe. Right away!

TDF2014-map

 

Alta’s Summer Side Eats

Iconic ski resort a quiet and idyllic summer place with food service.

alta-logoI’ve always thought that there is nothing happening in summer at Alta, Utah’s classic deep-snow mecca for skiers. It seems that while I wasn’t paying attention, this vest-pocket resort at the head of Little Cottonwood Canyon has slowly discovered summer. Sure, once the summer road up to Albion Basin opens for the season, there’s

Case in point: The Albion Café on the main level of the Albion Day Lodge is open for the first time in summer serving light lunches, snacks, sandwiches and great views of Albion Basin and Devil’s Castle.  Indoor seating, outdoor seating and to-go food for a hike or a bike ride up this charmed valley — or  refreshment stop afterwards.  Summer hours are 11 a.m.  to 6 p.m. Mondau through Friday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends and holidays. FoMoinfo: 801-832-1710.

Yosemite Celebrates Its 150th

National Park designation for Yosemite came in 1890, but 150 years ago today, the foundation was laid for its protection.

Yosemite150th

Vail Adds Zipline for Kids

High adrenalin attractions added for children. 

AdventureRidge-logoAdventure Ridge, at more than 10,000 feet above sea level, is Vail’s premier summer and winter playground for activities other than skiing. The newest attraction is a single-line, 200-foot-long zipline for Vail’s younger guests. Kids aged five and older and weighing between 30 and 100 pounds can enjoy flying through the air on this new summer activity ($12). Children weighing 75 pounds or more may ride the four big ziplines, provided the provided harness fits properly. Later this summer, a ropes challenge course designed especially for kids is opening at Adventure Ridge at the top of the Eagle Bahn gondola.

AdventureRidge-map

Other Adventure Ridge activities include climbing walls, rebound trampoline, disc golf and tubing, or just taking in the views while eating BBQ on Talon’s Deck. The Friday Afternoon Club (FAC) is a family-friendly happy hour live music, lawn games and a great sunset view.  

Bravo! Vail Launches 2014 Season

Music fills the Vail Valley in summer.

BravoVail-logoCoincidentally, when an E-alert reminded me that the Vail Valley’s Bravo! Vail was about to start, I was wearing a vintage T-shirt from the early years of this fantastic summer music festival. The 27th annual Bravo! Vail festival, this year from June 27 through August 2, again welcomes the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra and my nostalgic favorite, the New York Philharmonic, in another dazzling summer of music. I last heard them a few years ago, stretched out on the lawn at the Gerald Ford Amphitheater, having happily picnicked and then listening to the music.

In addition to these big name orchestras, world-renowned chamber musicians join artistic director Anne-Marie McDermott for the Chamber Music Series, and such internationally acclaimed classical soloists as violinists Joshua Bell and Midori, and pianist Yefim Bronfman.

As always, there are free concerts, as well as pre-concert talks, children’s events, and other ducation and community engagement events at a variety of venues in the valley — as far west as Gypsum, in fact. Concert tickets are available online or through the box office at 877-812-5700.

Toulouse-Lautrec & Friends at Golden Museum

Turn-of-the-last century Paris art at Foothills Art Center.

030Aficionados of French art have been treated to an astonishing and wonderful progression of special exhibitions this year. The Denver Art Museum’s Passport to Paris was a three-pack of complementary exhibitions (Court to Cafe, Nature as Muse and Drawing Room) that traced French art and provided insights into the great social changes from the late 1600s to early 1900s. It was quickly followed by Modern Masters, featuring 20th century artworks  from the post-Impressionists onward (many French)  from Buffalo’s Albright-Knox Gallery. Now the smaller Foothills Art Center in Golden continues on the French theme with Toulouse-Lautrec and La Vie Moderne, 1880-1910.

Turn-of-the-last-century works by French artists include bucolic scenes in gilded frames...

Turn-of-the-last-century works by French artists include bucolic scenes in gilded frames…

...and actresses, dancers and ladies of the night. Curator Marianne Lorenz gives a great interpretive tour.

…and actresses, dancers and ladies of the night. Curator Marianne Lorenz gives a great interpretive tour.

This is the extremely rare chance to see these works, which were assembled from private collections in, surprisingly, Amsterdam.  The Foothills Art Center is an intimate venue. Toulouse-Lautrec is the marquis name, but lesser-known artists add to the mix that depicts an era when cutting-edge artists frequented Paris’s Pigalle to document the outrageous and exciting lives of the démi-monde.

Curator Marianne Lorenz has intelligently hung this exhibition, which is up through August 17. Because the space is small, I found myself crisscrossing galleries and doubling back from one work to another, even as I listened to her informative presentation. She is conducting a one-hour interpretive tour at 3 p.m. on July 13. Reservations are required, and I highly recommend joining her if you can. If that doesn’t work for you, 45-minute docent-led tours are offered every Friday at 1 p.m. (free with admission).