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Catching Air

As you’re gearing up for thrills on the hills this winter season, why not push your boundaries and try something new? Whether that means snowboarding for the first time or taking courageous heli-skiing or cat-skiing excursions into the backcountry, this is the year to find your edge while enjoying the best of ski-country luxury. From new mountain adventures and stylishly revamped hotels to new top-notch restaurants and out-of-this-world nightlife, some of the best winter resorts across the United States and Canada are answering the call of the wild.

SNOW BALL
Take snowboarding to new heights in North Lake Tahoe.

CA/NV
With nine premier ski resorts situated around picturesque Lake Tahoe, opportunities for prime skiing and snowboarding abound. In addition to near-perfect snow, two of our favorite resorts—Northstar California Resort, located in North Lake Tahoe on the California side of the lake, and Heavenly Mountain Resort, located in South Lake Tahoe on the California-Nevada line—also beckon with guycentric offerings.

Lake Tahoe
MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE Get ready for some serious thrills at Northstar’s Adventure, Guiding and Learning Center—where you and your buddies can explore gate-accessed, complex terrain (like the legendary Sawtooth Ridge) with your own expert guide. Book a private or semi-private session, and you’ll receive a high-performance equipment fitting and a customized consultation session with an equipment expert, plus coaching from some of the country’s top instructors—all while gaining elite access to pristine slopes, glades and adrenaline-pumping terrain. Afterward, your guide will lead you to top-notch dining and après-ski spots, such as The Backyard Bar & BBQ—a new resto located on the slopeside terrace of The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe. Northstar backcountry full-day private session from $765 per person, half-day private session from $550 per person

STAY & PLAY If you need help planning the guys’ getaway of a lifetime, be sure to check out the new Mancation to Heavenly itineraries. Choose from several vacation packages—such as the Skyway to Heavenly package, which includes three nights of lodging at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, two days of skiing, VIP access to all of South Shore’s hottest clubs and a private mountain guide who will escort your crew to the front of every lift line. Another option is to make arrangements through Heavenly’s concierge for a completely customized experience. Mancation package options from $650 per person, based on double occupancy

ALLURING APRÈS Heavenly’s famous Unbuckle at Tamarack après-ski party (ranked No. 1 by Forbes) now offers even more when it comes to unwinding in style. A new outdoor bar, dance stage and additional Adirondack seating, plus more Heavenly Angels (go-go dancers), make this the go-to spot on Fridays and Saturdays from 3:30 to 5:30pm for half-price drinks, dancing, giveaways and a live DJ. Other highlights this year include a midday beach party at East Peak Lodge, upbeat music in the lift lines and the return of the mobile DJ cat that takes the party to the hill.

RUN OF YOUR LIFE At Heavenly, try Ski Ways Glades on the California side of the resort (where you’ll find tree skiing at its finest), and take Nevada Woods in the Burn area on the Nevada side (where you’ll find nice powder stashes even days after a storm).

Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows
ALLURING APRÈS Alpine Meadows’ recently renovated mid-mountain lodge, the Chalet, transforms into a Bavarian beer garden, dubbed the Sierra Beer Garden, during the winter season. Kick back with an array of local California beers, the signature raclette (a Swiss dish of melted cheese), pressed sandwiches and sausage plates. Be sure to order a Bierstiefel (a liter of beer served in a to-go plastic boot)!

LOCAL LORE Jonny Moseley, Olympic gold-medalist skier and Squaw Valley’s chief mountain host, gives his favorite insider tips:
1. You can’t beat the 6,000 acres of skiing and riding (thanks to the recent merger with Alpine Meadows).
2. For beginners, you can learn to ski at the top of the mountain with stunning lake views.
3. I love the mountaintop hot tub that opens for spring skiing.
4. Le Chamois & the Loft Bar offers the ultimate California après-ski scene.
5. The new Wanderlust Yoga Studio in The Village is great for some pre- or post-skiing yoga.

CO
With incredible skiing all across the state, Colorado is a powder hound’s paradise. From the posh surrounds of Aspen/Snowmass and the 30-year history of snowboarding at Breck to the intense terrain of Telluride and the thumping nightlife in Vail, this is one state where you can have it all.

Aspen/Snowmass
STAY & PLAY The St. Regis Aspen Resort, which recently renovated its 2,000-square-foot presidential suite, is offering a new heli-skiing package this season in partnership with Telluride Helitrax. It includes a four-night stay at The St. Regis Aspen Resort, two lift tickets for two days of skiing Aspen’s four mountains and one day of heli-skiing. (You’ll take a 40-minute flight from Aspen to Telluride, followed by professionally guided heli-skiing along six runs, plus lunch and snacks.) Presidential suite from $4,000 per night, heli-skiing package from $5,000 for double occupancy

In time for the 2014-15 ski season, the Limelight Hotel is lightening up room decor to deliver even more comfort to guests. All 126 guest rooms will be outfitted with new carpets, drapery and furniture. Expect warm colors and textures combined with patterns inspired by nature. Lounge-style seating with sumptuous chairs and work-height coffee tables will offer a place to unwind, dine casually or pull out the laptop and share the day’s photos with friends online. Guest rooms from $365 per night

Breckenridge
MOUNTAIN MAKEOVER The biggest news in the ski industry last year was the opening of nearly 540 acres of new terrain at Breckenridge Ski Resort’s Peak 6, featuring high-alpine, intermediate bowl skiing. This year, the resort is upgrading its Colorado Super Chair to a six-passenger express lift—meaning a 30 percent increase in capacity and a faster route from Peaks 6 and 7 to Peak 9. Once arriving at Peak 9, you’ll find the entirely remodeled Peak 9 Restaurant sitting at 11,274 feet in elevation.

ALLURING APRÈS A newly opened hot spot located on Main Street, Après Handcrafted Libations, offers craft beer and small-batch whiskey, plus local spirits and wine. Here, you’ll find 30 rotating craft taps and a curated selection of craft beers.

RUN OF YOUR LIFE Todd Richards, Olympian, NBC snowboarding analyst and host of GoPro Presents World of Adventure with NBC Sports, suggests taking Cashier over to Country Boy off the Mercury lift (all at Peak 9). “Once the park opens on Peak 8, it really clears out the people on Peak 9, and you can just slow it down and make deep turns because the snow is so good,” he says.

Steamboat
MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE Just because the sun goes down, that doesn’t mean you need to leave the hill. Steamboat Ski Resort first started offering night skiing and riding last season, and, because it was so popular, the resort has expanded this option to five nights per week (Thursdays through Mondays) from Dec. 18 through March 30. During this time, you can ski or ride from the top of Christie Peak to the base area (covering nearly 1,100 vertical feet in the process) on five trails: Sitz, See Me/See Ya, Vogue, Stampede and Lil’ Rodeo. Also, the resort offers a line of Snowsports School lessons after dark for all ability levels—from first-timers to the pros.

One of the most popular group activities for guys in Steamboat is cat skiing and snowboarding in the backcountry of the Yampa Valley. Steamboat Powdercats is offering a private cat package this season with which guests can rent the entire cat for the cost of 10 people (rather than 12). Another offering is cat skiing-snowboarding for five days with the sixth day free. From $475 per guest and $4,750 for private cats

ALLURING APRÈS Elevate your boys’ weekend to even higher levels of naughtiness with a host of new restaurants and bars that are ripe for some serious après-ski fun. Topping the list are Butcherknife Brewing Company and Storm Peak Brewing Company. Both of these new brew houses offer the latest in craft beer from the Yampa Valley. At Butcherknife, try the Amputator (an IPA with a thick, creamy head), and be on the lookout for the new coffee porter. And at Storm Peak, order the intriguing Black Ale while catching a live band or watching the game on one of the big-screen TVs. Meanwhile, three of the most popular new places for après-ski, happy hour and dinner are Aurum Food & Wine, E3 Chophouse and Sake2U. Other new and notable restaurants include Back Door Grill, serving late-night fare, and Low Country Kitchen, serving Southern cuisine.

Telluride
STAY & PLAY The newly finished 4,000-square-foot, ski-in/ski-out Cabin on the Ridge is the most prime real estate in all of Telluride, providing privacy and a stay like none other. Located halfway between the town of Telluride and Mountain Village—and perched atop the ridge near the San Sophia Gondola station—the cabin boasts top-notch amenities and furnishings, plus stunning views from the expansive windows located throughout. The property also features four oxygenated bedrooms (so you can rest peacefully without feeling the altitude), a large outdoor deck with fireplace, a chef’s kitchen, a hot tub and a surround-sound Bang & Olufsen media room—plus access to state-of-the-art fitness facilities and an indoor pool at the private Ridge Club. From $1,399 per night

Vail
STAY & PLAY The Lodge at Vail, A RockResort is one of the most popular places to stay in Vail. This year, the property is receiving a major face-lift (set to debut this winter season) with renovations to 56 guest rooms and public spaces. And don’t miss the new bar area at the hotel’s popular après-ski spot, Cucina. You’re also in luck when it comes to enjoying prime cuts of steak, with Elway’s located right on the property. Luxury suites from $598 per night

ALLURING APRÈS A must-try this winter season is Vail’s new distillery, 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirit Company, which features a tasting room at the top of Bridge Street. The distillery is producing Olathe corn moonshine; rye whiskey; bourbon; potato vodka; and a Palisade peach-vanilla cordial.

BE THERE Vail becomes celebration station during the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, taking place Feb. 2-15. While the majority of races will take place at Beaver Creek Resort, Vail is the official hub of the ceremonies and nightly festival events. During the event, Vail Mountain Resort will offer lessons where you can observe the pros, refine your skills and even get a behind-the-scenes peek at the competition.

And, from March 2-7, Vail will once again be hosting the Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships. Dubbed The World’s Greatest Snowboard Event, it features the best riders from around the globe—all vying for top honors in halfpipe and slopestyle events—plus free concerts, parties and more. This year’s slopestyle course will have new creative features, challenging the athletes to display proficiency in a variety of riding styles.  

For the highest nightlife experience in the ski world, be sure to catch Dècimo—taking place at 10,250 feet on Vail Mountain, on six exclusive nights throughout the ski season (Dec. 31, Jan. 24, Jan. 30, Feb. 13, March 6 and April 2). This uberchic mountaintop dance party (complete with VIP tables and bottle service) blends exceptional service with iconic headlining entertainment from some of the world’s hottest DJs. Last year, Dècimo featured three-time Grammy nominee, DJ, producer and artist Paul Oakenfold.

Beaver Creek
ALLURING APRÈS Talons Restaurant, an on-mountain eatery that opened last December, has been named one of “America’s Best Ski Resort Restaurants” by Travel + Leisure in 2014. The 17,000-square-foot, European-inspired resto offers 500 indoor seats and 250 outdoor seats in and around the Birds of Prey, Grouse Mountain and Larkspur Bowl areas. Grab a seat on the expansive deck at The Brink area, and order a satisfying burger paired with a signature cocktail.

ID
With 18 ski resorts spread throughout the state, Idaho has no shortage of snowy terrain. Two of our favorite resorts, Brundage Mountain and Sun Valley, both offer an incredible day on the hill. At Brundage, you’ll find a summit elevation of 7,640 feet, an average of 320 inches of annual snowfall, 1,500 acres of in-bounds terrain and 17,000 acres of guided backcountry terrain—so you’re sure to get your kicks (and earn your turns). And at Sun Valley, you’ll find Bald Mountain (featuring nothing but downhill terrain and nearly nonexistent lift lines) and Dollar Mountain (home to the world’s first chairlift, now boasting 76 rails and a 22-foot superpipe, five lifts and 628 feet of vertical terrain).

Brundage Mountain
STAY & PLAY Situated on Payette Lake in McCall, Idaho (two hours north of Boise), the historic Shore Lodge offers upscale dining, 77 newly revamped rooms and a full-service spa. And with free shuttle service to nearby Brundage Mountain, a stay at this AAA Four-Diamond resort is a luxe escape. Enjoy the snowy steeps, tree-lined glades and powdery bowls accessed via snow cat. Queen lakefront suites from $249 per night

Sun Valley
STAY & PLAY Sun Valley is beginning a yearlong renovation to one of the most vaunted lodges in skiing at Sun Valley Lodge. The massive overhaul, which includes posh upgrades (such as redesigned and expanded guest rooms, re-envisioned food and beverage options, and the addition of a new outdoor swimming pool and 20,000-square-foot luxury day spa), won’t be completed until June 2015—but it’s something to anticipate! In the meantime, young bucks can take advantage of the new College Season Pass ($359).

ALLURING APRÈS Zinc Restaurant, located in Ketchum (in the Sun Valley area), is a new eatery that definitely deserves a visit. Head chef Taite Pearson, a James Beard Foundation Best Chef nominee, is serving up high-end, rustic Americana cuisine, paired with a superb wine list and a cool ambience.

Meanwhile, Knob Hill Inn—a boutique European inn also located in Ketchum—is debuting a new bar area and menu with locally inspired craft cocktails and creative nightly specials. Try the traditional Wiener schnitzel paired with a Knob Hill Old Fashioned!

RUN OF YOUR LIFE Often considered the best stretch of downhill in the country, Warm Springs on Bald Mountain is a 2-mile-long ski run with 3,200 vertical feet of drop. It charges straight through a natural gully with banked sidewalls before opening up to the width of a California freeway.

MT
An often-overlooked gem of the ski world, Montana offers 15 ski areas and resorts that are ripe for the taking. Our favorite, Big Sky Resort, is now the largest ski resort in the United States. By integrating Moonlight Basin and Spanish Peaks into its existing terrain last year, plus a recent tree-glading project, the resort now offers 5,800 acres of skiable terrain, 4,350 feet of vertical drop and over 300 named ski runs. With so much space to cover, it’s easy to feel like you have the mountain all to yourself.

Big Sky Resort
ALLURING APRÈS New this winter is the on-mountain Everett’s 8800 (formerly the Pinnacle restaurant), located at the top of Andesite Mountain at 8,800 feet. Enjoy beers and American Alps cuisine on the expansive deck (next to a massive outdoor fireplace) while taking in the incredible views of Lone Peak and Big Sky’s signature run, Big Couloir. It’s a must-visit during Sunset Saturdays (beginning in March), when the mountain stays open for an extra hour of skiing until 5pm.

LOCAL LORE Heather McPhie, Olympic freestyle mogul skier, tells us what makes Big Sky so special:
1. Lotus Pad is a delicious Thai restaurant right near town center in Big Sky.  
2. The Corral Bar is a classic that my family and I went to a lot when I was growing up.  
3. One of my favorite restaurants right near the base is the Cabin Bar & Grill.
4. Everyone should go into Big Sky Life, which has a great selection of organic, eco-friendly and sustainable products.  
5. The Hungry Moose is a cute little grocery store that also has a deli and a coffee shop in it.

RUN OF YOUR LIFE Earn your bragging rights by tackling Big Couloir from the top of Lone Peak (at 11,166 feet in elevation). As one of the most intense in-bound ski runs in America, this double black-diamond run has a 50-degree pitch with over 1,000 feet of vertical drop. It requires safety gear for avalanches; you must ski with a buddy, and you have to check out with ski patrol before you can ski it.

UT
Utah beckons with 14 ski resorts that average 500 annual inches of snowfall; known as the Greatest Snow on Earth, this is some of the lightest and driest powder to be found on the planet. One of our favorite posh resorts, Deer Valley Resort, offers a plethora of lodging, dining and après-ski options. However, the latest news for the area comes out of Montage Deer Valley.

Deer Valley
ALLURING APRÈS The revamped Vista Lounge & Terrace at Montage Deer Valley serves as the ultimate hub for on-mountain après-ski this winter season. Featuring billiard tables, a board-game concierge, a fondue and shared-plate menu (with popular shellfish platters), hot cauldrons of mulled wine or spiced cider, and live music every night of the week (including free performances from A-list bands during the Sundance Film Festival), this is one place to party like you mean it. Meanwhile, the newest dining venue in Park City, Burgers & Bourbon (also located at Montage Deer Valley), features the state’s largest selection of bourbon and whiskey from around the world. That means you can take your pick from more than 100 large- and small-batch varieties, served in flights or with a variety of ice options. Be sure to try a hand-spun spiked shake and wagyu burger. Also new this year is the resort’s partnership with Atomic, providing guests with demo skis for the 2014-15 season.

VT
Thanks to its 19 alpine ski areas, 300 inches of annual snowfall, tight trees, untracked backcountry and adrenaline-rushing fall lines, Vermont offers the best terrain (as well as the most luxurious accommodations) in the Northeast. Our favorite, Stowe Mountain Resort, boasts a high percentage of intermediate trails, a new high-speed quad lift on Mount Mansfield, an inter-mountain transfer gondola connecting Mount Mansfield and Spruce Peak, 485 skiable acres and the highest
elevation in Vermont (at almost 4,400 feet).

Stowe
STAY & PLAY An ideal place for a luxe guys’ getaway is Stowe Mountain Lodge. In addition to offering guided and catered outdoor activities to suit varied tastes (such as dog sledding, ice climbing, ice fishing, snowmobiling and rustic furniture-making classes), the property also offers guy-specific spa offerings and a healing lodge (a hot- and cold-therapy treatment that involves soaking pools, steam room, sauna and rain showers). This season, Stowe Mountain Lodge is offering a winter version of its Outside, Outside, Outside package that will include snowshoeing, Nordic skiing and winter yoga. Outside, Outside, Outside package from $210 per person (minimum two people), rooms from $329 per night

CANADA
Hop the border for some serious snow—and for some incredible stories to bring home to your skiing and snowboarding counterparts once you’re back home in the United States. Alberta boasts the Ski Big 3: Ski Banff-Lake Louise-Sunshine—a collection of three must-ski resorts consisting of Lake Louise Ski Resort, Mount Norquay and Sunshine Village. Together, these three destinations offer 8,000 acres of skiable terrain on one tri-area lift ticket. Meanwhile, British Columbia is home to Whistler Blackcomb—one resort that offers 8,171 acres of terrain.

Alberta
STAY & PLAY Located in the heart of Banff National Park, and known as Canada’s “castle in the Rockies,” The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel recently completed renovations on the second- and third-floor guest rooms, the Rundle Lounge and Waldhaus Restaurant, and the on-site outdoor heated pool. The hotel has also rebranded some of its dining venues: Rundle Patio is now known as Lookout Patio and serves a new barbecue menu, and The Banffshire Club is being revamped with a new chophouse theme and a new name, 1888.

ALLURING APRÈS Lake Louise Ski Resort, the Canadian Rockies’ biggest ski resort (with 4,200 skiable acres of varied terrain), recently revamped its mid‐mountain Whitehorn Lodge Restaurant. Located at 6,700 feet, the resto offers a new alpine-themed menu coupled with spectacular views.

BE THERE Try to time your stay during the FIS Snowboard Cross World Cup, taking place Dec. 19-20, to catch some serious high-speed snowboarding action.

RUN OF YOUR LIFE Heidi Widmer, a member of the Canadian National Ski Team who made her cross-country ski racing Olympic debut at Sochi, shares a few of her favorite runs at Ski Banff-Lake Louise-Sunshine. At Lake Louise Ski Resort, she suggests hitting the back bowls off of Summit Platter early in the morning for fresh tracks on the steeps of the Whitehorn gullies and Brown Shirt. At Mount Norquay, discover an alpine skier’s dream come true that begins at the top of the Giv’er Grandi run (off of Mystic Chair) with a race to the bottom. Or, try the Lone Pine run (a steep double black that’s a longtime locals’ favorite on powder days) and the North American run (expert territory that’s full of the white stuff). And at Sunshine Village, Widmer suggests pretending that you’re in a Red Bull movie by hitting Peytos Gully or Luxton’s, in the Wild West free-ride zone. Or, to truly test your mettle, try Rocket Pocket—an off-the-map narrow chute found in Delirium Dive—that acts as an adrenaline junkie’s paradise when the conditions are just right.

British Columbia
MOUNTAIN MAKEOVER Whistler Blackcomb, boasting the Peak 2 Peak Gondola (be sure to wait for one of two glass-bottomed gondolas for impeccable views of the valley bottom), is increasing lift capacity on its Whistler Village Gondola. The new eight-person, diamond-level cabins allow for ski and snowboard storage on the exterior of the cabin, resulting in a much more comfortable ride from Whistler Village to the top of Whistler Mountain.  

STAY & PLAY This year, Four Seasons Mountain Collection—consisting of the three properties in Vail, Jackson Hole and Whistler—is offering an unparalleled experience that’s perfect for the guys. The Ultimate Winter Jet Set Experience includes 24-hour private jet service through Independent Jets, which will whisk you away to all three resorts (with a two-night stay at each property). Make a toast to your good fortune with in-flight cocktails and Champagne, and revel in the luxury of your posh, three-bedroom private residence. A custom welcome amenity is also part of the package, as well as lift tickets, custom gear from Spyder and Kühl, top-notch demo equipment, a local celebrity ski athlete (who will act as your personal mountain guide during backcountry expeditions), daily breakfast and private culinary experiences. $65,000 per package, plus the cost of the private jet service (varies depending on type of craft and departure city); call 800.914.5110 to book.

Also, a recent $7 million renovation to the Delta Whistler Village Suites brings 225 updated guest rooms to the heart of Whistler Village. The hotel also will now be home to The Brickworks Public House—a 75-person barbecue restaurant and neighborhood pub.

ALLURING APRÈS Nita Lake Lodge, a lakeside boutique hotel located just five minutes from the heart of Whistler, has welcomed new Executive Chef Paul Moran. His focus is on ingredient-driven, vegetable-forward menu items that showcase local produce from Pemberton Valley. He also recently started a foraging class, including dinner using the ingredients found.

Or, for a more casual option, try Whistler’s new La Cantina Urban Taco Bar, offering everything from classic Mexican tacos to vegan tacos, vegetarian tacos and innovative fusions. Meanwhile, Stonesedge Kitchen offers creative and elegant fare for breakfast, lunch, après-ski, dinner and late-night bites. And, just north of Whistler Village is Table Nineteen at Niklaus North Golf Course, serving up globally inspired cuisine paired with views of Green Lake. If you’re more in the mood for food (now!) after a long day on the slopes, hit up the renovated patio at the Garibaldi Lift Co. Bar & Grill right at the base of the mountain (and be sure try the Caesar-cocktail tasting menu).
 
RUN OF YOUR LIFE On a stormy powder day, take the Crystal Ridge Express high-speed quad to the Crystal Zone (an area that’s naturally gladed by old forest fires) on Blackcomb. From there, head for the trees while finding hidden powder stashes and other fun features.