The Ides of December Bring Snow to the Rockies

Big snows foretell great skiing over the holidays.

Nineteen inches of new snow at Winter Park make it the snowfall leader du jour.

Nineteen inches of new snow at Winter Park make it the snowfall leader du jour.

Here in Colorado, seven resorts welcomed more than a foot of new snow within 48 hours, with Winter Park leading the way with 19 inches of fresh powder. Monarch and Steamboat each measured 17 inches of new snow, Telluride reported 15 inches, Snowmass recorded fourteen inches, and Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort and Copper Mountain each received about a foot. Elsewhere in Ski Country, Aspen Mountain, Buttermilk and Ski Cooper each accumulated 11 inches of new snowfall, Aspen Highlands and Eldora welcomed 10 inches, Wolf Creek reported 9 inches, and Loveland received 8 inches. Arapahoe Basin and Ski Granby Ranch each reported 6 inches, while Crested Butte, Sunlight and Howelsen each measured 4 inches of new snow. The CSCUSA snow report is updated by the resorts themselves. Vail and Beaver Creek,  not CSCUSA members, also received 11 inches each. The Summit Country resorts of Breckenridge and Keystone were in the single digits, as did Loveland. Their snow reports can be accessed through Vail Resorts’ www.snow.com website.

In Utah, unsurprisingly, the Little Cottonwood Canyon resorts of Alta and Snowbird received the most snow out of the most recent storm, 5 inches in 24 hours and 12 inches in 48 hours. And in Montana, the small ski area of Lost Trail Powder Mountain, in the southwestern part of the state near the Idaho line, snagged 15 inches of new snow. Wyoming’s Jackson Hole and Grand Targhee hit the snow jackpot two or three days ago, with just a few additional inches in the last 24 hours.

New Mexico’s reported snowfall totals were literally all over the map. Impressive 14-hour snow totals were logged at northern ski areas (8 inches at Angel Fire, 10 inches at Ski Santa Fe and 14 inches at Taos, plus 15 inches at the Enchanted Forest Cross-Country Center).  That, barring a warm spell, should set it up splendidly for the holidays.

Shuttle Between Bozeman Airport & Yellowstone

Shuttle service eases a winter stay at America’s first national park.

Park entrance sign in winter. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA.Yellowstone National Park is a magical but challenging place in winter, so anything that makes it easier to visit is a very good thing. One is Yellowstone National Park Lodges‘ convenient airport shuttle service from Bozeman.

Now in its second season, it runs when the only two winter lodges in the park are open.  The Old Faithful Snow Lodge opens on December 20 and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel the following day. Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel closes for the season on March 2, 2015, and Old Faithful Snow Lodge closes a day earlier. The historic Old Faithful Inn is among the park lodges that do not operate in winter.

In addition to the challenges of winter driving for some people who do not live in snow country, a rental car is really superfluous. Except for the road between Gardiner and Cooke City, Montana in the northern part of the vast national park, winter travel on park road is limited to snowmobiles and enclosed heated snowcoaches that offer daily transport between a variety of locations.

Xanterra Parks & Resorts also offers half- and full-day snowcoach, ski and snowshoe tours and ski and snowshoe rentals and instruction. Visitors to Yellowstone can catch the shuttle from the Holiday Inn near the airport at 1 p.m. It returns to the airport to pick up arrivals for a 1:45 p.m. departure to the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. The shuttle leaves Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel daily at 8:30 a.m. and arrives at the airport at 10:30 a.m. and can drop people staying in at the Holiday Inn. The fare is $53.50, plus taxes and fees, each way. Guests who have booked a winter package receive a special rate on the airport shuttle of $39 plus taxes and fees, each way. FoMoInfo: 307-344-7311 or 866-GEYSERLAND (866-439-7375).

Guide to US Airport WiFi

Cheaptflights.com’s roundup of 25 airports.

WiFi-symbolWith the 2014 holiday travel season upon us, and many of us going nowhere without a mobile device of some sort, it’s useful to know where we can connect — especially if we are delayed and want to kill some time. Cheapflights.com has published “Get Connected: Your Guide to Wi-Fi at 25 US Airports.” It includes info on how and where to get connected simple in some terminals and more complicated in others), and whether there is a charge (typically through Boingo at $4.95 and up) or service is free. It also includes locations of workstations or charging stations.

Mt. Norquay Launches 89th Season

Smallest and oldest of the Banff area’s Ski Big 3 group.

Norquay_LogoColorado’s Winter Park Resort is celebrating its 75th anniversary this season, but up north in Alberta, Mt. Norquay was a teenager when Winter Park was born. The ski area within Banff National Park is closer to its centennial than to its diamond jubilee as it launches its 89th season today. Earlier this month, the ground was bare, and Norquay actually pushed back its opening date. But that was then and this is now, and the season start is starting with an abundance of powder. The area reports that “snow has been falling continuously for the past 48 hours resulting in more than 45cm of accumulation.” That’s a foot and a half of snow.

What a way to start the season. Mt. Norquay's 89th kicks off with abundant new snow.

What a way to start the season. Mt. Norquay’s 89th kicks off with abundant new snow.

Norquay is part of the Ski Big 3 consortium that promotes skiing in the Banff/Lake Louise area, markets a joint three-area lift ticket and operates free bus service between Banff and all three. Of the trio, Norquay is the smallest, oldest and closest to town. Many visitors focus on the enormous Lake Louise Resort and high-elevation Sunshine Village. This has given Norquay a reputation as a  local’s favorite known for its flexibility and family-friendly services. And there are the eye-popping views — when it stops snowing, that is.

New this year are expansions of the beginner area within the extensive terrain park and the on-site tubing park.  Located at the top of the North American Chair, the recently renovated historic Cliffhouse Bistro will open to skiers and sightseers alike on weekends and holidays throughout the season. Chef Morne Burger (isn’t that the best name for a chef?) will be serving up fresh flavors, craft brews and a unique wine list.

Cartier Jewels Dazzle at the Denver Art Museum

Exclusive exhibition of treasures from Parisian jeweler.

DenverArtMuseum-logoI don’t generally wear much jewelry: my wedding ring, my late mother’s wedding ring, my birthstone in a simple setting on a thin gold chain around my neck and cheap earrings that I bought somewhere on my travels. My few good pieces reside in the safe deposit box, taken out only for the rare dressy occasional in ultra-casual Boulder. But I love to look at bling. At the Tower of London, I ride the moving walkway along the Crown Jewels several times. On tours of stately homes, palaces and museums, I am also entranced by the precious jewels. So “Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century” at the Denver Art Museum through March 15 has my name all over it.

Here I am. Does the drool show? I love seeing grandiose bling.

Here I am near the entrance to “Brilliant.” Does the drool show? I love seeing grandiose bling.

Some 250 items, mostly from the Cartier Collection in Paris, are on dazzling display at the museum. The earliest pieces before World War I belonged largely to European royalty and nobility — and to the occasional American heiress who married a titled European. Later, even as the world plunged from Jazz Age prosperity and imped through the Depression and World War II, Cartier kept designing jewelry, decorative accessories and fashion accessories. The exhibition, which snakes its way through several gallery pods, includes “Aristocracy and Aspiration,” “Art Deco: New Outlook,” “Art Deco: Foreign Fascination,” “Masculine View,” “Age of Glamour” and “Icons of Style” (this last being Cartier jewels that belonged to Daisy Fellowes, the Duchess of Windsor, Princess Grace of Monaco, Elizabeth Taylor and Mexican film star Maria Félix. Be awestruck:

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One room contains such man-pleasing objects as aircraft and space commemorative items.

One room contains such man-pleasing objects as aircraft and space commemorative items.

After the opening of King Tut's tomb in 1922, Egyptian design themes were all the rage.

After the opening of King Tut’s tomb in 1922, Egyptian design themes were all the rage.

Even stars and other celebs kept scrapbooks.

Even stars and other celebs kept scrapbooks.

 

Wow Fare on WOW Air

Ultra-cheap airline to offer $99 fare to Iceland

WOWAirThe latest à la carte airline offering super-cheap base fares is WOW Air, an Iceland-based carrier that I never herd of — even when I was in Iceland. It recently announced that this coming March, it will begin non-stop service from both Boston and Baltimore to Reykjavik for introductory fares as low as $99 one-way and one-stop flights onward to London and Copenhagen starting at $228 round-trip. The airline will begin offering the flights next March.

Like every other deep-discount carrier, a ticket on WOW Air will buy a seat, a mini-tray table and an 11-pound carry-on limit. Everything else will cost extra. A carry-on heavier than 11 pounds will be $29 additional when booked online or $48 at the airport. Checked luggage will be even more expensive,  each piece  adds an extra $48 online or $67 at check-in. And extra leg room, pre-assigned seats and food will add to the total cost of a the journey. Flying round-trip? Multiply by 2.

WOW Air says that it will be able to cross the Atlantic for so little thanks to some built-in efficiencies. Online sales and marketing enabletit to avoid paying booking engines or travel agents. This is similar to other low-fare carriers and even Southwest. It currently a mini-fleet of only four aircraft. In theory, by refueling in Iceland, WOW can fly smaller planes, which is fuel-saving. Another fuel benefit is that planes don’t need to carry sufficient fuel for the entire transatlantic flight.

In addition to intra-European and US, Norwegian Air started flying cheap London-New York flights over the summer, but flights were reportedly plagued with delays, which could be a real issue for small-fleet WOW. Once a small-fleet airline’s flights get off schedule, there’s little redundancy and therefore difficult to get back on track again.  Discount airlines currently control nearly 0ne-third of the Noth American market (that must include Southwest) and more than one-third of it in Europe, but only Norwegian on the transatlantic.

There’s room for growth but also for miscalculation.

 

It’s Sweet to Sleep in Steamboat Springs

Walkable downtown is great base for a visit to Ski Town USA.

Olympian-logoI’ve visited Steamboat Springs, Colorado, innumerable times over the years — usually to ski (with luck, at the same time as the Steamboat Winter Carnival) but occasionally for special events like the Steamboat Wine Festival, to hike, to dip in thermal waters or to otherwise enjoy this northern Colorado ranching town turned winter resort that tenaciously holds onto its down-to-earth Western roots despite its growing sophistication. Over many visits, I’ve stayed at the Sheraton at the base of the lifts when if was the only lodging property at the ski area, the Steamboat Grand when it was new, assorted motels and condos scattered below the ski area and at fabulous guest ranches up in the Elk River Valley, but until this weekend, when my husband and I joined a group of serious eaters chomping our way through Steamboat Springs, I had never actually stayed downtown.

We spent two nights in a spacious apartment — or “residence” in real estate parlance — in The Olympian at 5th and Yampa. We live a few blocks from downtown Boulder, and also as a once-upon-a-time New Yorker, I really value places that are within walking distance of restaurants, entertainment, stores, places to walk and so on. We had a view of the Yampa River, the rodeo grounds and the ski jumps and slalom hill at Howelsen Hill ski area. There were short windows between meals to hike, bike or shop just minutes from our door. I especially enjoyed a late-afternoon stroll along the Yampa River Core Trail with a return along eponymous Yampa Street, and am sharing some images from that walk:

Stand-up paddling on the Yampa -- in late October.

The Yampa River is tranquil in late October. In spring and summer, its roiling whitewater is prime for rafting and kayaking.

Late-season stand-up paddleboarders.

Late-season stand-up paddleboarders.

Silver seedheads in the foreground with golden foliage behind.

Silver seedheads in the foreground with golden foliage behind.

Squirrel with a treasure, probably scavenged from a kid's birthday party at the little skatepark.

Chipmunk nibbling on a treasure, probably scavenged from a kid’s birthday party at the town’s little bike and skatepark.

A bench with a view is unoccupied late on an autumn afternoon.

A bench with a view is unoccupied late on an autumn afternoon.

There's no shortage of old skis in Ski Town USA. These cut-offs contain a recycling bin.

There’s no shortage of old skis in Ski Town USA. These cut-offs contain a recycling bin.

Yampa Street is becoming increasingly gentrified with new condos and more good places to eat, but some properties , like this bike shop exterior, retain their mountain town funkiness. I'm hoping a balance remains.

Yampa Street is becoming increasingly gentrified with new condos and more good places to eat, but some properties, like this bike shop window with old license plates on wood, retain their mountain town funkiness. I’m hoping a balance remains and that Steamboat Springs never becomes TOO precious.

Sculpture made of old wheels.

Sculpture made of old wheels against a new stockade fence.

Morning view of Howelson Hill's jumps from our terrace. Time to leave, alas.

Morning view of Howelsen Hill’s jumps from our terrace. Time to leave, alas.

 

 

Free (& Other) Factory Tours in Colorado

From breweries to ski-makers, visitors see how stuff is make in Colorado.

ColoradoFlagThe Colorado Tourism Office released a list to remind Coloradans and visitors about the one-of-a-kind products made within the state. From the smaller stores and factories such as Honeyville Honey and SunCrest Orchards Alpacas, to  such household names as Celestial Seasonings and Coors Brewery, Colorado is full of interesting factory tours. Below are a some places to see firsthand what’s behind the brands. After a tour, and learn what is involved, you’ll never take local products for granted again:

  • Celestial Seasonings, Boulder. This was a pioneering and still remains one of the largest specialty tea manufacturers in North America. During free daily tours, visitors see where the teas are sourced and how the teas are made, packaged and distributed all over the world. A highlight: “The Mint Room.” In addition to the tour, guests can try free samples of teas, see original artwork for the boxes and purchase tea-related stuff from the gift shop.
  • Coors Brewery Tour, Golden. Board a van in the visitors’ parking lot, parking lot, take a short ride through Golden to the world’s largest brewery for a free tour that includes a brief history of the business, the brewery process and some free samples of beer for those of legal age.
  •  EnstromGrand Junction. This family-owned candy store and factory began in 1929 and  is famous for its almond toffee, made with the finest, freshest ingredients. Enstrom’s toffee, with their toffee popcorn, truffles and gourmet chocolate are now sold internationally, but the mother ship where visitors can they still hand-make their candy is at their store in Grand Junction.
  • Fiesty Spirits, Fort Collins. The city’s first distillery was opened in 2012 by a team that remains committed to developing  new and creative flavors using natural, organic ingredient. Take a free tour of the facility with one of the founders or the head distiller to get a truly behind-the-scenes look, sample something that is “in progress” during the tour and purchase a mixed cocktail in the tasting room to enjoy the finished product.
  •  Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy, Longmont. The Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy, Colorado’s first artisanal cheesery, offers a creamery tour showing how cheese is made. Spend an hour on the tour and cheese tasting. This one is not free but costs $10 per person.
  • Honeyville, Durango. What began just north of Durango in the 1920s when a man was transferring his honey to town in a pickup has grown into now a company with beehives all across the Rocky Mountains. Honeyville not only makes some of the best honey in the state, but also uses the honey to enhance jams, jellies and its famous Cinnamon Whipped Honey. Visit the Honeyville Factory Store and country kitchen to see their live glass beehive and watch how the honey. With increased pesticide use causing worldwide colony collapse, it is especially important to see what’s involved in the bee biz.
  • Infinite Monkey Thereom, Denver. This urban winery does not have a vineyard, but does have a great tour for visitors wanting to see how wine is made. The winery sources the majority of its grapes from the Western Slope and ships them to Denver to ferment, refine and bottle these award-winning Colorado wines. For $25, spend an hour with the tour guide learning about the winery and tasting plenty of quality wine, including their famous canned wine. Hang out in their Wine Lab after to continue tasting the wines.
  • Meier Skis, Glenwood Springs.  Meier Skis is the only ski manufacturer that utilizes 100% Colorado grown wood including High Alpine Aspen and Beetle Kill Pine (blue stain). Still completely handmade, Meier utilizes the highest quality materials and ski technology. This award- winning company has grown from the garage to their current factory in a mere five years. The factory tour includes a walk-through of the 3,000-square-foot factory with one of the crew who provides a detailed description of sourcing materials and ski-making.  For those captivated by the concept and the process, there is an opportunity to purchase to purchase hand-made skis or other Meier gear on location.
  •  Moots Cycles Factory TourSteamboat Springs. Moots Cycles  makes hand-crafted, high-performance titanium road, mountain and cyclocross bicycle frames. Free one-hour tours are offered every week so that guests can meet the crew and see how these high-quality bikes — or take a YouTube tour any time you wish.
  • SunCrest Orchard Alpacas and Fiber Works, Palisade. Alpaca fiber is softer than cashmere and warmer than wool. SunCrest Orchard offers tours to show how yarn from alpaca fiber is spun into yarn at their mini-mill. Stop in the farm store afterwards to shop a wide array of products made on-site.

Heli-Skiing Pioneer Debuts Day Trips

New CMH day trip out of Revelstoke during the holiday season.

CMH-logoThe late Hans Gmoser, founder of Canadian Mountain Holidays, wrote the book heli-skiing in the Canadian Rockies nearly half a century ago. A week of skiing (and then snowboarding too) in the snow-blessed mountains of British Columbia. Lodging, meals and socializing in on-mountain lodges reached by helicopter. Days of plowing through powder with a well-trained guide. A  pricey adventure, but heaven on earth for those who could afford it.

I’ve read so many glowing articles about CMH that I feel as if I really have spent a week in the Monashees or the Bugaboos or other ranges. In truth, I have actually never done that, but I have heli-hiked with CMH, cat-skied in various places and day heli-skied for a day with an operator out of Canmore, Alberta, whose name I can’t recall. Now, for the first time, a day of heli-skiing is on CMH’s schedule.

The new three- and five-run packages will enable powder enthusiasts to experience deep snow with big, open alpine runs, glacier terrain and stellar tree skiing in the Monashees and Selkirks from December 27 through January 3, a wonderful opportunity for holiday vacationers — both first-time heli skiers and riders and veterans of previous heli-trip to experience expansive terrain removed from a resort setting.

Prices: 3 run package, CDN $799; 5 run package, CDN $959 and additional runs $89 each, all plus applicable taxes — and a tip for the guide, who earns every cent. The package includes helicopter safety briefing, backcountry safety training; use of avalanche transceivers, shovel, probe and radio; powder skis and poles, or snowboard (bring your own ski or snowboard boots); transportation from and return to Revelstoke’s Regent Hotel to and from the heli-pad; professionally certified and experienced ACMG and/or IFMGA Guide, and gourmet mountain lunch and après ski snacks. FoMoInfo or to book: 800-661-0252.

Chihuly After Dark: Magic in the Gardens

Denver Botanic Gardens’ blockbuster dazzles at night.

010Glass artist Dale Chihuly first entered by consciousness during a visit to Tacoma, Washington, were the Museum of Glass had recently opened. I can’t recall the year, but my fascination with art glass in general and with Dale Chihuly in particular stems from that visit. I was awestruck fantastic forest of brilliant blown glass stalagmites by Chihuly in one large, dazzling gallery. Since then, I’ve seen his works in museums, lobbies of hotels and performing arts venues and at Pismo Glass, the Colorado galleries that carry his work. I went to the opening of the “Chihuly in the Gardens” exhibition at the Denver Botanic Gardens last June. It was, of course, wonderful, as I wrote here. Now that days are shorter and nights are longer, “Chihuly Nights” is on view beginning at 5:30 p.m. we were there until nearly 8:30 p.m., and no one was yet hustling us out.

Hard to believe, but the glass is even more stunning and magical during the day. In summer daylight, the glass is counterpointed with the floral. After dark, nothing really competes. This exhibition continues through November 30. Don’t miss it. Click here for tickets, but hurry. They are selling fast. Here are a few after-dark dazzlers (captions not needed):

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