A great ski trip is all about choosing the right mountain, and fortunately Four Seasons options include three of the best ski destinations in North America: Jackson Hole, Vail and Whistler.
All showcase world-class skiing, but they’re also tops for off-slope activities and remain popular come summertime when the snow melts and other adventures take centre stage.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, a resort with 116 named trails, is reaching its 50th birthday in the 2015-16 season. To celebrate, the mountain is making a multitude of improvements with the additions of new chair lifts and trails. Despite being known for its extreme terrain, Jackson Hole is expanding its beginner and intermediate offerings so that there’s something for all ski levels to try.
The new Teton Lift, a high-speed quad chair, serves three brand new blue trails that are perfect for less aggressive skiers, and opens up to stunning views of Grand Teton National Park. Expert skiers will welcome the addition of the new lift for another reason: It serves the Crags, an extreme area previously accessible only on foot.
Jackson is the gateway to both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. In the winter, explore these on “snowcoaches” (winterized buses), by snowmobile, or on guided cross-country ski excursions. The hotel’s Base Camp concierge also offers unique naturalist-led experiences including wildlife safaris in the National Parks and helicopter flightseeing trips.
Off the slopes, both experts and novices will love The Handle Bar at Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole, Wyoming’s only Forbes Five-Star resort. The indoor/outdoor slope-side gastropub by celebrity chef Michael Mina features creative burgers, sausages and appetisers. Here, draught beer served in cowboy boot glasses and all-day Happy Hour specials make for a lively après-ski scene, and on weekends, the outside area has live music.
Vail is the largest single-mountain resort in Colorado, with 5,289 skiable acres (2,140 hectares). The signature Back Bowls, seven powder-filled and mostly above treeline bowls, some so large they could swallow other ski areas whole, are arguably the most impressive feature of Vail.
To make navigating this giant easy, Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail has a Ski Concierge facility next to the state-of-the-art Gondola One, the world’s fastest 10-passenger gondola, which also boasts heated seats and Wi-Fi. Gearing up is a snap, with spacious private lockers and heated boot and glove dryers. There’s also a full-service rental shop.
The Avanti Express, an older quad and mid-mountain lift, has been replaced for this upcoming season, one of four new lifts added in the past three seasons (the first of which was Gondola One). The replacement is a high-speed 6-passenger chair that connects Vail Village and the Lionhead base areas, as well as serves the upper part of the front side of the mountain, where there are primarily blue and black trails. This also takes skiers to Waffle Way, Vail’s newest on-mountain eatery, and the first ski-in/ski-out restaurant anywhere.
After a few hours on the slopes, walk the short distance to the shops, bars and restaurants in the heart of Vail Village. Last winter Vail got its first craft distillery, 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirit Company, where travellers can enjoy its tasting room and a gift shop near the Four Seasons Ski Concierge.
For dinner, venture back to the Hotel to have a hearty meal at Flame. This steakhouse dry-ages its beef in-house and makes its own charcuterie. To further the “from scratch” philosophy, the restaurant has both herb and mushroom gardens that supply the kitchen.
Whistler, British Columbia
Host of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, the interconnected massive twin mountains of Whistler and Blackcomb offer the largest ski resort experience in North America. Perennially ranked number one by Ski Magazine, the mountains’ vast skiable terrain is staggering, with every type of slope and something suited to all abilities.
Whistler is one of the few resorts that also offer on-site heli-skiing, sno-cat skiing and guided backcountry touring. Skiers who want to ski the slopes early in the morning should consider Fresh Tracks, a special lift ticket that allows access to the Whistler Village Gondola an hour before normal operating hours. The purchase of the ticket also includes a mountaintop breakfast at the Roundhouse Lodge. Also worth checking out are the Nordic ski and sliding centres built for Olympic competition, with public bobsled rides, cross country trails – and one of the only places on earth to try biathlon or skeleton.
To make packing easier, the Ski Concierge at Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler offers the Ski Lite programme, providing everything from rental boots and skis to clothing by Prada and Spyder. The Concierge can also arrange activities including backcountry skiing, guided dogsledding and ice climbing.
As incredible as the skiing is, what really sets Whistler apart is its pedestrian village, skiing’s best – a self-contained, easily navigated and blissfully car-free town with the finest array of dining and nightlife of any mountain resort. With three golf courses by Jack Nicklaus, Robert Trent Jones Jr. and Arnold Palmer (and a fourth by Robert Cupp nearby), the village is equally compelling in warm weather, and has a year-round glacier offering rare summer skiing.
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