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Sky High 15

SKI RESORTS WITH EPIC SLOPES

BARS, BEDS & BACKCOUNTRY

Whitefish Mountain Resort in northwestern Montana

WINTRY WALKS IN U.S. PARKS


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ROCKY MOUNTAIN STATES

CONTENTS

25 COLORADO Steamboat and Winter Park resorts pick up steam this season

Winter Park Resort CARL FREY

alberta

REGIONS montana

idaho

utah

wyoming

colorado

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UTAH Torchlight parades illuminate Park City Mountain and Deer Valley resorts

WYOMING Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is better than ever at 50

IDAHO Skiers race at Sun Valley Resort and pond skim at Brundage Mountain Resort

MONTANA Enjoy skiing under the moonlight at Whitefish Mountain Resort

ALBERTA Warm up to ice fishing at Canada’s Spray Lakes Reservoir

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This is a product of

EDITORIAL DIRECTOR

Jeanette Barrett-Stokes jbstokes@usatoday.com CREATIVE DIRECTOR

Jerald Council jcouncil@usatoday.com

Young skiers test their skills on the slopes.

MANAGING EDITOR

DAVE CAMARA/CAMARA PHOTOGRAPHY

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UP FRONT CABIN COMFORTS 8 Make your long flight more cozy

your camping trip a success

TOP SPOTS 12 Check out resorts that rank the best of the best in the West

ISSUE EDITOR

NATIONAL PARKS

Tracy Scott Forson

ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK New superintendent Darla Sidles prepares for the future

Patricia Kime Sara Schwartz Barbranda Lumpkins Walls Debbie Williams

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ZION NATIONAL PARK Find peace and picturesque views despite the crowds

Miranda Pellicano

ISSUE DESIGNER

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YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK Ski Old Faithful and other geysers for a wintry blast

DUDE RANCHES 14 Escape to simpler times, only with all of today’s comforts Zion National Park CHRISTOPHER GEZON/U.S. NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

GLACIER NATIONAL PARK 52 Once boasting more than 100 glaciers, fewer than 30 remain

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DRIVING ON DRIFTS Who needs skis when you can ride the terrain on a snowmobile?

EDITORS

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with trendy travel accessories

SNOW SUPPLIES 10 Take along these items to make

Michelle Washington mjwashington@usatoday.com

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SKI SCHOOL 18 Expert instructors offer tips to

DESIGNERS

Amira Martin Lisa M. Zilka Gina Toole Saunders CONTRIBUTING WRITERS

Matt Alderton, Brian Barth, Lisa Davis, Valerie Finholm, Lisa Marie Hart, Adrienne Jordan, Quinn Kelley, Flash Parker ADVERTISING VP, ADVERTISING

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get you out on the snow

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Julie Marco

ISSN#0734-7456 A USA TODAY publication, Gannett Co. Inc.

WINTRY WALKS 20 Strap on those snowshoes and

USA TODAY, its logo and associated graphics are the trademarks of Gannett Co. Inc. or its affiliates. All rights reserved. Copyright 2017, USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc. Editorial and publication headquarters are at 7950 Jones Branch Dr., McLean, VA 22108, and at 703-854-3400.

take a hike at scenic resorts

MOVIES & MOUNTAINS 22 Film festivals offer a variety

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ON THE COVER A skier descends a slope at Whitefish Mountain Resort | Brian Schott

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Irresistibly adventurous. Download our free app, now with virtual reality. Be transported to unusual destinations, must-see landmarks, and the hidden gems for your inner world-traveler.

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UPFRONT 8

TRAVEL Gadgets and gear to make the most of your camping trip

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RESORTS Locales that represent the best in the West

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RECREATION Activities and tips for maximum fun in the snow

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EVENTS Film festivals for mountain-loving moviegoers

CHILL THRILLS There are plenty of snow-themed activities at Aspen Snowmass resort in Colorado and throughout the Rocky Mountain states. Whether you want to ride a snowcat or horse, enjoy downhill or cross-country skiing or spend some time on the ice, it’s all here for you.

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UP FRONT | TRAVEL

CABIN COMFORT

Add relaxation to your ride By Tracy Scott Forson

Hours-long flights can be a pain — literally and figuratively. Make the trip more pleasurable with these items:

Available in three colors, the Airhook allows you to affix beverages or devices to the tray table in front of you. Watch a movie on your smart phone and enjoy a drink while saving valuable leg room. $27.95, theairhook.com

Glide through security check with this Carry On Cocktail Kit, which has the exact ingredients you’ll need to mix your favorite drink. Moscow mule, bloody mary, margarita and other concoctions available, alcohol not included. $20-$24, wandpdesign.com

After the flight attendant’s safety instructions, listen to your favorite podcast or music and drown out other sounds with the Bose QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones. $349.95, bose.com

Cool cabin air can frost your feet. Keep your toes warm and toasty with the Thermacell original heated insoles. A wireless remote controls the temperature. $134.99, heat.thermacell.com

When soaring above the clouds, protect your peepers and doze off in darkness with the Travelrest Eclipse tranquility sleep mask kit, which includes earplugs and a satin travel pouch. $9.95, travelrest.net

Support your neck during naps with the Travelrest All-In-One Ultimate travel pillow. It crosses the body like a messenger bag to offer cozy comfort. $44.95, travelrest.net

Reading in dark plane cabins can strain your eyes. The Kindle Paperwhite e-reader has a high-resolution display with built-in adjustable light. $119.99, amazon.com PROVIDED BY THE COMPANIES

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UP FRONT | TRAVEL

OWN THE OUTDOORS Make the most out of your camping trip with these gadgets By Tracy Scott Forson

While enjoying your wintry overnight stay under the stars at ski resorts and national parks, you’ll need a few things to help make the experience more enjoyable. Consider these useful items:

Goal Zero’s Yeti 400 portable lithium power station kit provides power for your base camp. $599.95, goalzero. com.

Makers of the Oztent RV-3 Original 30-Second tent claim it only takes 30 seconds to set up and comfortably shelters four. $899, hayneedle.com

Share your GPS location — even without cellular service — with the goTenna device, which uses your smartphone to send and receive messages. $124 for two, gotenna.com

Stay connected and illuminated with Mr Beams UltraBright LED camping lantern with a USB charger for your phone. $29.99, homedepot.com

Glide through elements with the lightweight, yet durable, Atlas Aspect 24 backcountry terrain snowshoe. $289.95, backcountry.com Keep an eye on friends and the scenery around you with the Barska Blackhawk 10x25mm water-proof compact binoculars. $39.99, target.com

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PROVIDED BY THE COMPANIES

Explore your options with the American Trails double sleeping bag, which can be used as one sleeping bag or separated into two. $40.99, target.com

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UP FRONT | RESORTS Deer Valley Resort

BEST BETS

Hotel Jerome

USA TODAY ranks top U.S. places for skiing fun

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ACH WINTER, SKIERS AND snowboarders from around the world hit the slopes of North America to enjoy some epic snow. To help you plan the perfect winter getaway, USA TODAY asked ski and snowboarding experts to nominate their favorites in the following categories: best ski resort, best aprèsski bar, best ski hotel and best ski town. For the best family-friendly category, USA TODAY turned to ZRankings.

Crested Butte Mountain Resort

Cloud 9 Alpine Bistro

PARK CITY TRAVEL; HOTELJEROME.AUBERGERESORTS.COM; NATHAN BILOW; TOMAS ZUCCARENO; GETTY IMAGES

BEST IN THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN STATES: BEST SKI RESORTS ▶ Big Sky Resort - Big Sky, Mont. ▶ Alta Ski Area - Alta, Utah ▶ Crested Butte Mountain Resort - Crested Butte, Colo. ▶ Deer Valley Resort - Park City, Utah ▶ Steamboat Resort - Steamboat Springs, Colo.

BEST APRÈS-SKI BARS ▶ Mangy Moose Restaurant & Saloon - Jackson Hole, Wyo. ▶ The Dogwood - Crested Butte, Colo. ▶ Aspen Brewing Company - Aspen, Colo. ▶ Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro - Aspen, Colo. ▶ No Name Saloon & Grill - Park City, Utah

BEST SKI HOTELS ▶ Hidden Moose Lodge - Whitefish, Mont. ▶ Hotel Jerome - Aspen, Colo. ▶ Good Medicine Lodge - Whitefish, Mont. ▶ Alta’s Rustler Lodge - Alta, Utah ▶ The Sebastian - Vail, Colo.

BEST FAMILY-FRIENDLY SKI RESORTS ▶ Keystone Resort - Keystone, Colo. ▶ Beaver Creek Resort - Avon, Colo. ▶ Park City Mountain Resort - Park City, Utah ▶ Winter Park Resort– Winter Park, Colo. ▶ Telluride Ski Resort – Telluride, Colo.

WHITEFISH

BEST SKI TOWNS ▶ Whitefish, Mont. ▶ Crested Butte, Colo. ▶ Jackson Hole, Wyo. ▶ Steamboat Springs, Colo. ▶ Breckenridge, Colo.

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ID JACKSON HOLE

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS UT BRECKENRIDGE CRESTED TED BUTTE CO

— Christopher Steiner contributed

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UP FRONT | RECREATION

HOME ON THE RANGE

Experience the American West on a dude ranch

SEVEN DEVILS GUEST RANCH

SEVEN DEVILS GUEST RANCH Whether you’re an expert who loves rough terrain or a novice who prefers things nice and smooth, Seven Devils Guest Ranch in Council, Idaho, can accommodate. The ranch offers a clinic to prepare guests for peak snowmobiling. Following an active day in the wintry weather, warm up in the hot tub or around the fire pit. The facility easily accommodates 12 guests and can sleep up to 20. ▶ 4043 Council Cuprum Rd.; 208-253-3014; sevendevilslodge.com

By Tracy Scott Forson

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F THE HUSTLE AND bustle of large ski resorts overwhelms, one of the many dude ranches sprawled across the Rocky Mountain states might be a better option for some wintertime fun. Harkening back to the era when frontiersmen explored the landscape during the day and warmed up by a fire at night, these destinations transcend time, offering guests a look back while still enjoying the modern luxuries of today.

DEVIL’S THUMB RANCH Winter activities, from ice skating to tubing, abound at Devil’s Thumb Ranch in Tabernash, Colo. Youngsters, ages 5 to 12, can ride on horseback at Cowpoke camp. After a day on the snow, choose from several on-site dining options, including Heck’s Tavern. ▶ 3530 County Rd. 83; 970726-5632; devilsthumbranch. com DEVIL’S THUMB RANCH

SELKIRK RIDGE PHOTOGRAPHY

Western Pleasure Guest Ranch WESTERN PLEASURE GUEST RANCH

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WESTERN PLEASURE GUEST RANCH This Sandpoint, Idaho, ranch offers several winter packages for snowmobilers, downhill and cross-country skiers and other winter sports enthusiasts. After a hearty breakfast and a day on the slopes or riding in a private horse-drawn sleigh, guests can retire to their cozy lodges or log cabins and unthaw in front of a crackling fire. ▶ 1413 Upper Gold Creek; 208-263-9066; westernpleasureranch.com

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C LAZY U RANCH Pond hockey, tubing, ice skating, dog sledding, trap shooting and luge are just a few of the activities available to winter guests at C Lazy U Ranch in Granby, Colo. There is plenty for children and teens to do and when parents want a break, there’s a twilight snowcat tour, complete with wine, cheese and hot cocoa, to help remember the romance. The ranch’s holiday celebration offers a Christmas tree in every guest room, a visit from Santa and nightly entertainment. ▶ 3640 Colorado Hwy 125; 970-887-3344; clazyu.com

TRIANGLE X RANCH RANCH

TRIANGLE X RANCH Located inside Grand Teton National Park, this Moose, Wyo., destination was founded in 1926. There are 20 cabins with spectacular views of the nearby range, multiple bedrooms and modern bathrooms, but no Wi-Fi, TVs or telephones. If snowshoeing or skiing is too vigorous for your vacation, just lay back and take in the scenery during a feed-wagon tour. After that, enjoy a gourmet dinner and relax in front of the large wood burning fireplace in the resort’s main house. ▶ 2 Triangle X Ranch Rd.; 307-733-2183; trianglex.com C LAZY U RANCH

THE BAR W GUEST RANCH This entire lodge can be rented as a vacation home during the winter season at Bar W Guest Ranch in Whitefish, Mont., or opt for a bed-and-breakfast stay. Enjoy sleigh rides on-site and snowmobiling, snowshoeing, ice skating, skiing, ice fishing, dog sledding and more nearby. ▶ 2875 Hwy 93 W.; 406-8639099; thebarw.com BRIAN SCHOTT

SHANNON CARR

SORREL RIVER RANCH Sorrel River Ranch Resort and Spa in Moab, Utah, isn’t as much “dude ranch” as it is “dapper retreat.” While it offers a rugged, woodsy feel, this is accompanied by plush terrycloth bathrobes, Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs and laundry service for guests. There’s also a spa on-site. The ranch offers backcountry horseback rides and is in close proximity to snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, sledding and more winter outdoor activities. ▶ Mile 17, UT-128; 435-259-4642; sorrelriver.com

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LONE MOUNTAIN RANCH

LONE MOUNTAIN RANCH With more than 20 cabins that range from tiny-house quaint to luxurious lodge, Lone Mountain Ranch, in Big Sky, Mont., has something for everyone. After enjoying a day of snowshoeing, dog sledding and skiing, relax with a massage at the original, on-site B-K Lodge. For the holidays, ski with Santa, enjoy a feast and build a gingerbread house. ▶ 750 Lone Mountain Ranch Rd.; 406-995-4644; lonemountainranch.com

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UP FRONT | RECREATION

POUNDING THE POWDER Snowmobiles help adventurers access winter fun

A snowmobile tour group rests in the Camp Hale area of Red Hill, Colo., a popular destination for snowmobiles and backcountry skiers.

SOLAY HOWELL/USA TODAY

By Amy Grisak

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ASHING THROUGH THE SNOW doesn’t have to involve horses or even a sleigh when you have a powerful snowmobile carrying you to a frozen playground. Snowmobiles allow you to fly up the trail and climb mountains on treacherous roads. For those looking for an exhilarating winter sport, this is it. Jon Seaman, member of the Great Falls Snowmobile Club in Montana, has been a snowmobiler since 1990 and enjoys riding throughout the state. And it’s a big reason he is happy when snow arrives. “It’s something you have to experience, and once you do, it’s pretty hard to break the habit,” he says. Snowmobilers dress for harsh conditions, so even though they’re traveling at a brisk pace in low temperatures, they remain warm. And with heated seats and grips available, even the cold-blooded sort can be comfortable on the sled. When the snow blankets the ground, and the dedicated groomers are finished smoothing out miles of trails, it’s time to experience one of the best activities in Montana.

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STATE-BY-STATE Find out about snowmobiling rules, trails and more: COLORADO cpw.state.co.us/thingstodo/ pages/snowmobiles.aspx IDAHO visitidaho.org/things-to-do/ snowmobiling/ MONTANA snowmobilemt.org WYOMING wyotrails.state.wy.us/snow/ UTAH utah.com/snowmobile

“We’ve always had such good snow here,” says Seaman, noting that members of the Kings Hill Grooming Association, which is operated by the Great Falls Snowmobile Club and the Meagher County Little Belters in Montana, are on the groomer four nights a week to keep the trails smooth and accessible to a variety of machines, crosscountry skiers and snowshoe enthusiasts. From tearing down a trail to climbing into the high country where you feel as though you are on top of the glittering world adorned in its finest whites, there is a lot to like about snowmobiling. Seaman enjoys the solitude and bright blue skies — even more brilliant against the white landscape — just as much as hitting the slopes with friends. “You go out and maybe have a campfire and make hot dogs,” says Seaman, who notes that snowmobiling is a sport for all ages. “Anybody can do it,” he says. “We ride with people who are 80 years old.” Kids are just as enthusiastic about the hobby, and Seaman, who’s seen more children riding with their parents, believes the sport will continue to increase in popularity. “It’s a sport for everybody,” he says, and those who love it are more than willing to share their enthusiasm with others.

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UP FRONT | RECREATION

FRESH START

Experts offer tips for beginning and returning skiers By Tracy Scott Forson

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OUR FRIENDS HAVE PERSUADED you to hit the slopes, and you’re afraid you’ll do just that, falling face first, poles flying and skis in the air after you tried and failed to master the mountains with their help.

Jonathan Ballou, director of operations at the Skiing and Snowboard Schools of Aspen Snowmass in Colorado, says relying on friends’ training is one quick way to a ruin a run. “It’s always good to have an expert show you how it works,” he says. “That doesn’t mean go take lessons from a friend or buddy. Take lessons from

Deer Valley Resort Ski School ERIC SCHRAMM

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USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION


SKI TIPS

If you’re a newbie skier or are returning to the slopes after a long hiatus, experts advise you follow these tips before tackling wintry terrain:

someone who’s not that close to you. Pros and instructors are trained to teach as well as anyone in the world.” Most resorts offer lessons for newcomers or returning skiers in need of a refresher. Beginning classes can vary from a few hours to a few days. “Within a full day, we can get people turning and working on the (beginner’s) run. Within three days, we can get people enjoying the mountain and really becoming skiers,” says Ballou, who has been giving lessons for nearly 30 years. “People who take a three-day lesson tend to come back and become lifelong skiers or snowboarders.” If that commitment takes too much time away from vacationing with your more-experienced friends, Kevin Willy, a ski school instructor at Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah, says many of his first-timers develop the skills to properly maneuver their skis within an hour. By that time, “most can stop and control their speed safely,” he says. “At the end of three hours, they’re making basic turns down an easy slope.” Ballou says determining a student’s skill level is part of his responsibilities as an instructor. “When you’re comfortable, we add new challenges,” he says. “We measure and monitor growth.” After a lesson, Willy advises his students on which mountains to try. “The biggest mistake is pushing terrain too quickly,” he says. “People’s biggest misconception is that it’s not dangerous.” Some enthusiastic learners have success on a beginner’s slope and then skip a few steps, tackling a more difficult run before they’re ready. That’s when bad falls occur, and people become terrified of the slopes, he adds. When that happens, the experts encourage overcoming any fears by trying again. “There’s a reason why so many people love skiing. It is ridiculously fun if we can get past the initial hardship,” says Ballou.

ERIC SCHRAMM

TAKE A LESSON Getting proper instruction can mean the difference between falling in love with the sport or loathing it. “Having a great first few hours on the snow on this foreign equipment to our bodies is absolutely key,” says Aspen Snowmass instructor Jonathan Ballou. Beginner lessons offer basic skills — like how to strap on skis and buckle boots — that are required to get down the mountain safely. MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS Deer Valley’s Kevin Willy says some beginners who’ve excelled in other sports assume skiing will come naturally. Ice skaters and hockey players pick it up easiest, he notes, but tennis skills don’t necessarily transfer to the

snow. Ballou says, “Like any other skill that’s worth learning, it takes a bit of time. In an hour, I can get someone moving around on flat terrain.” EQUIP YOURSELF You may work up a sweat on the slopes, but it’s still important to dress warmly and have the right accessories. “We are going to get snow on us, so we want to be waterproof,” says Ballou. Under that, “you want layers.” Bring proper eyewear, gloves and sunscreen, he adds, and always remember to wear a helmet. BE OPEN If you’ve had a bad ski experience, share that with instructors. “Be really open about why the last experience was negative,” says Ballou. If Willy’s

students are scared, cold or thirsty, he wants to know. “Speak up,” he says, especially if you’re in a group lesson. “If you’re not feeling well, you’re not going to be having fun and learning.” KNOW WHEN TO QUIT Willy says people tend to make more mistakes on the slopes when they’re tired. There are no set guidelines for how long one should spend skiing, but Willy recommends ignoring the urge to do one more run. “That’s when people get hurt on that last run,” he says. The previously groomed snow is rougher, and fatigue is setting in. “Call it a day.”

BUNDLE UP! Having the right ski gear is as important as having the right moves.

GETTY IMAGES

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UP FRONT | RECREATION

Big Sky Resort, Montana

WINTRY WALKS

MICHEL TALLICHET

Strap on your snowshoes and hit the trails

By Larry Bleiberg

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HILE MOST SNOW SPORTS require lessons and expensive equipment, snowshoeing is literally down to earth. “It’s more or less hiking in the snow, and it’s more healthy (than some other sports),” says Paul Wowk, of Snowshoe magazine. He says the sport is growing with the introduction of new equipment like molded plastic snowshoes. Here are Wowk’s top places to take a snowy walk:

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DEVIL’S THUMB RANCH

SUN VALLEY RESORT

BIG SKY RESORT

PARK CITY MOUNTAIN

COLORADO This recreation area and spa 80 miles from Denver offers a convenient and comfortable getaway for snowshoers. Visitors can get a workout on more than 12 miles of trails and try other activities like tubing and even biathlon, which includes air rifle shooting. “It’s a pretty view. It’s located next to the mountains on an open ranch,” Wowk says. ▶ devilsthumbranch.com

IDAHO This favorite celebrity getaway offers a star-studded workout at its Nordic & Snowshoe Center. Visitors tackling the White Cloud trail system are rewarded with 360-degree Rocky Mountain views, and one path passes a memorial to writer Ernest Hemingway, who once resided in the area. “It’s great scenery up there,” Wowk says. ▶ sunvalley.com

MONTANA This ski mountain has plenty of room for snowshoeing on its 5,800 acres. It offers tours on its Moose Tracks trail, and easy access to other snowshoe paths in the region. The ski area, which is close to Yellowstone National Park, is welcoming and laid-back, Wowk says. “It’s a different kind of energy up there, a relaxing small-town feel. There’s (just not) that many people.” ▶ bigskyresort.com

UTAH Just 45 minutes from Salt Lake City, this famous destination offers group outings to an alpine lake, with snowshoeing through aspen and evergreen forests. There’s also the option of private tours, and some visitors head to the town of Park City for additional trails. ▶ parkcitymountain.com

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UP FRONT | EVENTS

Abel Gance Open Air Cinema, Telluride, Colo.

SCENES ON THE SLOPES

Festivals bring movie magic to the mountains By Lisa Marie Hart

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HEN IT COMES TO independent movies, few film festivals are as widely recognized and respected as the annual Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, returning Jan. 18-28, 2018. It attracts high-

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Institute founder Robert Redford, director Quentin Tarantino and rap mogul Jay-Z, and helps create buzz for Oscar-worthy films. While Sundance may be the largest independent film fest in the U.S., it certainly isn’t the only one worth its ticket price. Nature’s rugged beauty envelops several anticipated annual events, creating a backdrop of

nic mountain town welcomes moviegoers with a unique style — from intimate screenings and in-depth conversations with filmmakers to star-studded parties and towns that draw foodies, outdoor types and art lovers — bent on mixing movies with other pleasures. These five fests are standout picks for your Rocky Mountain

MERRICK CHASE

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ULTIMATE SURPRISE PARTY

TELLURIDE, COLO. Would you purchase tickets to a movie without knowing which one? The 4,000 annual pass holders at the Telluride Film Festival savor that very experience. “Surprise me” is the unofficial theme of this small, mix-and-mingle festival known for keeping its titles under wraps until opening day. The secrecy of the Labor Day weekend lineup adds to the allure: Even members of the press happily pay their own way. Breakthrough works, rediscovered classics and tributes pay homage to the pure love of film in its many forms. Despite a low-key atmosphere and lack of red carpets and awards, eight of the last nine Academy Award Best Picture winners were shown at the prestigious festival. This mountain village event, which holds the historic Sheridan Opera House as its gem among venues, has found a winning recipe.

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DISCOVERING NEW TALENT

The Palace Theatre in Calgary PROVIDED BY CALGARY INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Alec Baldwin with film festival founders Kathy, left, and Robin Beeck

CALGARY More than 36,000 expected attendees will mark the 18th anniversary of the rapidly growing Calgary International Film Festival. Since becoming an Oscarqualifying festival for short films, its surging popularity has come to match that of the first-time directors, such as La La Land director Damien Chazelle, it has sniffed out. “We had our eye on him,” says festival executive director Steve Schroeder. “Our passionate and engaged audiences tell us they come to discover films they would not have heard of otherwise.” A trendy and diverse cityscape indulges foodies, intellects and hikers with its proximity to pristine backcountry wilderness. Up to 200 varied international films fill this urban extravaganza. Stretching over 12 days, the festival’s duration is on par with France’s popular Cannes Film Festival and Sundance. ▶ Sept. 20 to Oct. 1; calgaryfilm.com

RANDALL MALONE

4 Action image used to promote the 2018 Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival

JOHN PRICE

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EXTREME ENTERTAINMENT

ALBERTA, CANADA The adrenaline-fueled Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival celebrates the elevated elations of mountain culture. But this action-packed fest does not contain itself to Alberta, Canada; a world-tour version hits the road afterward bringing a slice of the excitement to a global audience. These small, independent productions, which showcase activities enjoyed in the great outdoors, attracts 20,000 enthusiasts of film and sport with works rarely seen elsewhere. They delve into raw personal journeys and wild expeditions through the extreme, and often remote, outdoors. However, the most exciting part is the energy of the fans, says festival programming director Joanna Croston. “Friends, old and new, all who enjoy outdoor pursuits, come together for nine days. It’s a real gathering of the tribe.” The obsessive thrills of climbing, skiing, BASE jumping and peak bagging tend to leave moviegoers inspired to achieve their own spectacular feat on ice, rock or trail. Banff is just the place to do it. ▶ Oct. 28 to Nov. 5; banffcentre.ca

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Filmmaker Andrea Kalin

BIGGER AND BOULDER

BOULDER, COLO. Fourteen years ago, two sisters founded “a filmmakers’ festival” in an environmentally conscious ski town. Now, 25,000 attendees converge on the Boulder International Film Festival (BIFF), run by Kathy and Robin Beeck. “We know what filmmakers like: They want to meet fellow filmmakers and celebrities and have a lot of parties and networking events with industry people,” says Kathy. The festival takes place amidst a vibrant community filled with filmmakers, voting members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, Oscar nominees and winners. The sisters pack a critically acclaimed program of 50-70 films from 25 countries into one four-day weekend replete with galas, speakers and workshops. “At BIFF, filmmakers can feel the audience’s reactions to their work and really connect with them,” says Paula DuPré Pesmen, associate producer on Mrs. Doubtfire, Rent and the first three Harry Potter films. “The theaters are full, and the audiences come from all ages and interests, but at BIFF, they make a meaningful connection at the intersection of film,” adds Pesmen. Innovative, influential and unafraid to present call-to-action films, the festival takes advantage of its youth to be a bit rebellious. “We’re kind of young still, and we like that. We don’t always have to follow the traditional fest traditions; we can do things a little differently.” ▶ Feb. 22-25, 2018; biff1.com

SHANNON DERBIQUE

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CHICK FLICKS AND SENSITIVE BROS

COLORADO SPRINGS As the longest-running women’s film festival in North America, the Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival has battled its share of misconceptions during its 30 years. “We show films that are by or about women,” says executive director Linda Broker. “If a film is made by a man, it needs to highlight a woman. If a woman is involved in the creative process, the subject can include just about anything.” Broker discerns a tight-knit, welcoming vibe among the 1,500 attendees who appreciate the high-quality program, richly diverse in topic and heavy on documentary filmmaking. “We have a broad appeal,” she says. “More and more men attend every year.” The festival lasts three days and occupies three main venues within one block, creating a communal experience. ▶ Nov. 10-12; rmwfilmfest.org

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COLORADO

Steamboat

BEYOND ASPEN

LARRY PIERCE/STEAMBOAT RESORT

Major ski acquisition brings Winter Park, Steamboat to the fore By Matt Alderton

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SPEN, COLO., IS THE quintessential winter travel destination, and the state’s best-known ski resort, the fourmountain Aspen Snowmass, is one reason. Whether your preferred take on cold-weather cavorting involves scenic skiing, succulent suppers, sumptuous spas or five-star shopping, its opulent slopes are a place to partake in it all. However, Aspen Snowmass isn’t

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

Colorado’s only destination for winter fun. In fact, the state has 26 ski areas and resorts, each with distinctive attributes that set it apart. Two of those, Winter Park Resort in Winter Park, Colo., and Steamboat Resort in Steamboat Springs, Colo., have offerings so special that Henry Crown & Co. — owner of Aspen Snowmass operator Aspen Skiing Co. — recently invested in them. In July, the company joined forces with private equity firm KSL Capital Partners to acquire Winter Park and Steamboat’s parent company,

Intrawest Resorts Holdings. Although Aspen Snowmass will remain independent of Intrawest’s holdings, the $1.5 billion transaction is expected to infuse Winter Park and Steamboat with capital they can use for improvements. “(KSL) has been pretty vocal … about the new ownership’s intent to invest in our assets at a faster cadence than we might have historically,” says Lis de Roziere, vice president of corporate finance and investor CO N T I N U E D

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relations at Intrawest. “There will be some exciting changes.” Although it’s too early to know what exactly might change, de Roziere vows that at least one thing won’t: Winter Park and Steamboat will retain those special assets and amenities for which they’re known.

STEAMBOAT

Ride Hills and Horses Steamboat’s natural “Champagne Powder” snow, which is so unique that it has its own trademark, is a popular draw for tourists. “Our snow averages 6 percent water content compared with an average of

15 percent at other locations,” says Loryn Kasten, Steamboat spokeswoman. “Powder skis and snowboards float atop the snow, giving skiers and riders the feeling of weightlessness.” It’s not just the snow that sets Steamboat apart, however. It’s also its culture. “We started as a ranching community, and we are still a ranching community,” says Kasten. “We’re not a contrived cowboy town. We really do have people who make their living as cowboys in our community, and that creates a very genuine Western aura that people like.” Of course, where there are cowboys, there are horses. At Steamboat in winter,

the equines lead sleigh ride dinners that depart from the Haymaker lodge. Guests can enjoy specialty drinks and pre-ride appetizers before embarking on a 25-minute excursion that concludes with a three-course dinner. Off the resort, Kasten recommends Saddleback Ranch, an 8,000-acre, fourth-generation, family-owned working cattle ranch where guests are treated to 30-minute sleigh rides followed by dinner, a roping lesson and dancing. Saddleback charges $90 for adults, $60 for children 6 to 12, and $30 for children under 5. Steamboat’s 2017-2018 prices

GETTING THERE STEAMBOAT: Fly into Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden, Colo. After you pick up your luggage, visit Black Tie Ski Rentals, which has a booth in the baggage claim area during ski season. Black Tie will hook you up with a personal ski concierge who will custom-fit and hand-deliver to your hotel all the ski gear and equipment you need for your time on the slopes.

CO N T I N U E D

Steamboat LARRY PIERCE/STEAMBOAT RESORT

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Meet me at THE BLOCK Silverton, Colorado’s newest brewery on the historic “GOLDEN BLOCK.” Serving wholesome wood-fired pizza, paninis & salads.

970-387-5962 | goldenblockbrewery.com 1227 Greene St., Silverton, CO 81433

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COLORADO

GETTING THERE WINTER PARK: Fly into Denver International Airport. While you’re there, relieve some of the stress from your journey by seeking out the airport’s Canine Airport Therapy Squad (CATS), which consists of volunteer pet owners who roam the airport with trained and insured dogs dressed in special “Pet Me” vests. Available for hugs, petting and pictures, the dogs promise to make you smile even when winter storms delay your flight and your arrival at the slopes. Winter Park CARL FREY/WINTER PARK RESORT; PROVIDED BY DENVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

are expected to be announced later this year.

WINTER PARK

Board America’s Only City-to-Slope Train One of Winter Park’s greatest assets is its proximity to Denver. While the city of Aspen is three hours and 160 miles from Denver, Winter Park is just 80 minutes and 66 miles. That can make a huge difference during peak season when traffic in and out of the park can add hours to a trip. That’s if you drive. As of January 2017, you no longer have to because Winter Park reinstated the Winter Park Express, a ski train that brought skiers to the resort from Denver for nearly 100 years until its thirdparty operator ceased service in 2009.

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“We started as a ranching community, and we are still a ranching community.”

— Loryn Kasten, Steamboat Resort

“Winter Park was created because of its proximity to the railroad track. So, the train has always been part of our DNA,” says Steve Hurlbert, resort spokesman. Winter Park was able to revive the beloved rail service upon finding a new, trusted operator — Amtrak. The trip takes two hours one-way and leaves Denver in pre-dawn darkness, arriving at Winter Park just as the lifts are opening. “It’s the only service in the country that

takes people directly from a train station to the slopes; you can be on your skis and on the lift a minute after the train pulls in,” says Marc Magliari, Amtrak spokesman. “It enables people to avoid what can be a pretty awful slog up to the resort on I-70 and U.S. 40, particularly on a weekend morning when there can be hours and hours of going not very far, not very fast.” In February, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper told USA TODAY, “This ski

train is the only place in America, the only place in the world, where you can get out of your hotel bed, walk over to the train station, get on a train, and the train lets you off at the ski lift. ... It’s as good as it gets anywhere in the world.” Denver recently launched a new light-rail public-transit service, the A Line, to Denver International Airport. It gives visitors access to the slopes not only from the rail, but also from the runway. “You can fly into Denver, stay a night downtown, then come up to the ski resort — without having to worry about renting a car,” Hurlbert says. USA TODAY reporter Trevor Hughes contributed to this story.

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COLORADO

LEARNING THE LANDSCAPE New Rocky Mountain National Park superintendent ready to meet the challenge

come up here and it’s completely crowded, that’s probably not a quality experience, and it’s not good for the resources. So how do we find that proper visitor capacity balance to ensure the resources are protected and provide an outstanding experience? That’s our long-term goal. What are your goals for preserving the park’s resources and resiliency to climate change? We had a lot of research and worked with a lot of scientists ... to do research on climate change in the park. We do air quality monitoring, and we’re looking at stream and alpine lake research. We’re trying to figure out what are the impacts of climate change, and what do they look like for this park? You can just look around and see how dense the forests are. With decades of forest fire prevention, it’s created these dense forests that, if (a fire does) start, it’s extremely difficult to handle.

VALERIE MOSLEY

DARLA SIDLES, THE FIRST female Rocky Mountain National Park superintendent, didn’t grow up outdoorsy. Her family moved a lot when she was a kid, and her parents were more likely to take her to an estate sale than a hiking trail. The national park she’s led for nearly two years is the only one she ever visited in her youth. “We only came here once,” she recalls, sitting on the steps of the historic William Allen White cabin in Moraine Park. “I don’t remember a lot about that trip other than throwing snowballs and seeing the mountains for the first time, which was a big deal. We saw Buffalo Bill’s grave (outside Denver). The highlight, really, was having a summer vacation with my family.” Today, Sidles’ childhood vacation spot is America’s third-most visited national park, with 4.5 million visits in 2016. The pressures of mounting visitation, a federal hiring freeze and $63 million in unaddressed maintenance make Sidles’ job more than a walk in the park, even for a 25-year U.S. National Park Service (NPS) veteran. Here’s what she envisions for the park’s future and how she plans to get there:

Q:

What makes Rocky Mountain National Park so special? SIDLES: I think the Rocky Mountains and the Western landscape, with the proximity of Estes Park and Denver — it’s just a perfect intersection of wilderness and culture. My favorite spot in the park changes all the time, because there’s just so much (to see). Every

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time I go somewhere new in the park, that’s my new favorite. Being closer to Denver had an appeal, but still being out here in the beauty of the wilderness and the mountains, it’s pretty ideal. What kind of challenges does the swell of visitation present for the park? We love that this park is relevant

and that people are coming here, but it does present challenges. One is resource protection. When you’ve got so many people and they’re creating trails where there were none, it’s essentially more people than the infrastructure can handle. ... The NPS mission is to protect the resources for future generations and provide outstanding visitor experiences. So if you

The NPS puts a lot of emphasis on making parks relevant for everyone. Why do you think that’s important? If you go to most national parks, it’s primarily people that look like me, older Caucasians. We really want to get the stories of the national parks out there, and I think we’ve been doing a great job of that the last few years to bring new units into our parks that are more relevant to other populations. The civil rights parks that talk about the journey we’ve had toward civil rights, and the new one is Stonewall (National Monument in New York City’s Greenwich Village). If we can tell the story of American history and be relevant to all kinds of people, then more people will support parks in the future. Not everybody appreciates us, and that’s OK, but hopefully there’s something in our group of parks that does resonate with everybody in some way. — Jacy Marmaduke

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UTAH

Park City Mountain Resort

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS

SCOTT CRAMER/GETTY IMAGES

A holiday tradition brightens Park City at night By Lisa Davis

I

T DOESN’T TAKE THE supernatural efforts of a red-nosed reindeer to find a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony during the holiday season. The festive events, much like New York City’s annual affair at Rockefeller Center, are as abundant and easy to locate as fruitcakes

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and poinsettias that time of year. But go to Park City, Utah, and you’ll find that Christmas is commemorated a bit differently, with a distinct tradition that includes synchronized skiers, brightly lit torches, a dark night sky and, of course, Santa Claus. CO N T I N U E D

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UTAH The tradition started in 1964, a year after Treasure Mountain, Park City Mountain Resort’s predecessor, opened. Every Christmas Eve, Santa and hundreds of ski and snowboard instructors slide down Payday run, holding lit torches during the resort’s annual Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade (parkcitymountain.com). “For 54 years, Park City Mountain has celebrated Christmas Eve with a torchlight parade that has become one of the town’s longest-running traditions,” says Margo Van Ness, Park City’s senior manager of communications. “You won’t have many other opportunities to see Santa skiing down a mountain surrounded by a line of glowing ski instructors on Christmas Eve.” The parade starts glowing about 6 p.m., but arrive earlier for live music and complimentary hot chocolate at the Legacy Lodge at the Park City base

area. New this year is a hot chocolate bar, where guests can customize the warm beverage with whipped cream, marshmallows and toppings. Then for the best viewing, claim a spot outside near the front, by the Payday ski lift. If you’re unable to attend the Park City parade Dec. 24, don’t turn into a Grinch; there’s more holiday spirit to go around. You’ll have a second chance to see glowing torches mountainside at Deer Valley Resort’s Torchlight Parade (deervalley.com) held annually on Dec. 30 at dusk on the Big Stick ski run. The event, also in Park City, includes 20 ski instructors bearing lit torches while performing synchronized moves such as the “cheese grater,” where skiers start in two lines and cross in front of one another, skiing in figure eight patterns. After the parades, continue the holiday celebrations by viewing the gingerbread house displays at the

Montage Deer Valley hotel (9100 Marsac Ave.; 435-604-1300; montagehotels. com/deervalley) and Stein Eriksen Lodge (7700 Stein Way; 435-649-3700; steinlodge.com). Then, stay overnight at the Grand Summit Hotel, Canyons Village (4000 Canyons Resort Dr.; 435-615-8040; parkcitymountain. com), which recently underwent a $15 million renovation, or in downtown Park City at the 12-room Washington School House (543 Park Ave.; 435-6493800; washingtonschoolhouse.com), a historic landmark and boutique hotel where you can indulge in Christmas Eve treats such as candied apple beignets with cherry mascarpone, blackberry gingersnap tortes with rosemary pepita brittle or Mexican chocolate pot de crème with toasted pink peppercorn shortbread and cinnamon crème anglaise. Neither Santa nor you will be disappointed by these Christmas “cookies.”

GETTING THERE Salt Lake City International Airport is 37 minutes from Park City. Opened 50 years ago, the airport is currently undergoing a major $2.9 billion rebuild to handle the 23 million visitors it now receives as a major Western hub. The revamped airport is expected to open in 2020 and will include a new terminal, parking garage and concourses. For now, travelers must deal with construction and detours, but the facility continues to operate with a strong on-time performance record. ▶ slcairport.com

Used to cold climates, Santa Claus is right at home on skis while participating in Park City Mountain Resort’s annual holiday parade. ANDREW BRADEN

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UTAH

Some parts of Zion National Park offer peaceful scenery and fewer visitors.

FOREST WOODWARD/GETTY IMAGES

A ROAD LESS TRAVELED Despite growing crowds, you can still find solitude at Zion National Park

By Brian Passey

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ISITOR NUMBERS AT ZION National Park are skyrocketing, which often means long lines to enter the park, to board shuttles and even to access certain trails. In 2016, the park set a record with nearly 4.3 million visitors, 17 percent more than the previous record set in 2015. Jana Schleif of Marktoberdorf, Germany, spent a week this April exploring Zion with two friends. They happened to hit the park at the same time that many U.S. students were also visiting for spring break, resulting in massive crowds. The three Europeans managed to get the last spot at the campground and also faced overcrowding on the popular Angels Landing Trail, which follows a narrow ridge with steep drops on both sides to the top of a 1,488-foot-high sandstone cliff. Schleif says

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Today, most of the crowding is in the Zion she loved the view, but there were too many Canyon section, where hikers flock to people to fully enjoy the experience. popular trails like Angels “We started early, but Landing, Emerald Pools there were still a lot of and the Riverside Walk. people,” she says. “When In 2016, Zion Visitors generally stay we hiked down it was away from hikes longer very, very crowded.” National Park set a than 3 miles, he says. Joe Braun, a To avoid crowds, Braun photographer from Ann record with nearly suggests hiking longer, Arbor, Mich., has been 4.3 million visitors, less popular trails in Zion visiting Zion regularly Canyon like Sandbench since 1975 when he was a 17 percent more Loop or Hidden Canyon. child. He knows the park than the previous Outside of Zion Canyon, so well he has created there is hiking along a website dedicated to record of 3.6 trails such as Hop Valley hiking in it, offering more million set in 2015. and Northgate Peaks in than 70 detailed route the park’s Kolob Terrace descriptions. section. Braun says any Braun acknowledges hike in the Southwest that crowds have grown Desert section is likely to be free of people. tremendously since his first trips. In 1975, Schleif and her friends discovered that a little more than 1 million people visited.

in April as they backpacked through the Southwest Desert and camped out under the stars. “We enjoyed the silence and the nature,” she says. “We really enjoyed the mountains that had stripes of different colors. They were so beautiful.” While increased visitation to national parks is generally considered positive, Braun still worries about damage from those who appear to have less experience with the outdoors and concepts such as “leave no trace.” Visitors have left litter, stacks of rocks and even etched graffiti on canyon walls, he says. That makes the easily accessible areas of Zion feel more like a city. “As the park gets more and more crowded, I hope more resources can be spent to teach people about ‘leave no trace’ principles and basic respect for what is acceptable behavior on national park lands,” he says.

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WYOMING

BETTER THAN EVER

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort turned 50 last season and celebrated in a big way.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort celebrates half a century

By Larry Olmsted

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YOMING’S JACKSON HOLE MOUNTAIN Resort (JHMR), one of the world’s top independent, family-owned ski resorts, celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2016, commemorating half a century that included recent reinvestment and improvement at the resort, in the town of Jackson, Wyo., and throughout the surrounding area. Jackson Hole’s nickname, “The Big One,” refers to both the immensity of terrain and the highest vertical drop of any ski resort in the United States, more than 4,100 feet. While there is plenty of skiing for every ability — and in fact, it is a surprisingly good place for first-timers to learn — the breadth, height, rugged exposed vertical cliff bands and many extreme movies filmed here have always given Jackson a rarefied air as a daunting expert mountain. One infamously steep chute, the double black diamond Corbet’s Couloir, is probably the best-known expert trail in skiing, a pilgrimage for daredevils. Early on, the resort’s founder built a loyal but limited following by carving out a reputation for authenticity and challenge. But 25 years in, the operation had yet to turn the corner, and the original owner sold out. Wyoming’s Kemmerer family bought JHMR in 1992 and quickly kicked off decades of investment. The rest of the region followed suit, and all around the valley, new hotels, restaurants and businesses sprang up. Infrastructure has been upgraded, and both Jackson and Jackson Hole have evolved into world-class winter destinations — yet there is still a distinctly mom-and-pop feel to the resort. In the 20 years since, the owners have spent more than $150 million, added six new chairlifts and two gondolas and completely replaced “The Red Sled,” the iconic aerial CO N T I N U E D PROVIDED BY JACKSON HOLE MOUNTAIN RESORT

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WYOMING

Visitors study the steep entry to double black diamond Corbet’s Couloir at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Jackson, Wyo.

GETTING THERE American, Delta and United airlines all serve Jackson Hole Airport with non-stops from major cities on both coasts and the Midwest, as well as frequent service via Denver and Salt Lake City. Salt Lake is less than five hours by car. The town of Jackson is just 8 miles from Jackson Hole Airport, and Teton Village is 12 miles farther, with numerous shuttles, taxis and rental cars available. Low-cost public bus service connects Jackson with Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Teton Village, while many hotels operate ski resort shuttles for guests. ▶ jacksonholechamber.com; jacksonholeairport.com

PROVIDED BY JACKSON HOLE MOUNTAIN RESORT

tram that soars from base to peak. But activity has accelerated recently, with annual on-mountain improvements averaging more than $11 million — and climbing. In 2012, JHMR redeveloped Casper Bowl into a new intermediate experience, a major project that included regrading slopes, removing trees and adding another high-speed detachable quad chair, all to woo less-advanced visitors with groomed corduroy cruisers. Last winter saw a new chairlift and an on-mountain restaurant, Piste Mountain Bistro. One of the newest additions is the $10 million Sweetwater Gondola. Set between the Bridger Gondola and Teewinot chair lift, Sweetwater is the first phase of a dramatic expansion of the ski school. Teton Village is the ski resort’s base area, where

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those seeking ski-in/ski-out lodging and easy access to the slopes choose to stay. While it has far less to offer in terms of lodging, dining and shopping than the town of Jackson, choices have grown significantly in recent years, and it has evolved into more of a true village. Jackson itself is 12 miles from the ski resort and Teton Village, and the biggest choice faced by winter visitors is where to stay: The Village gives easy access to lifts and trails, but the town has more of everything tourists seek, especially charm. The layout radiates from the central town square, featuring a welcoming arch-entrance made of shed elk antlers. It’s not a difficult commute, thanks to a user-friendly bus system, and many hotels also operate their own complimentary shuttles. Jackson has Old West flair

and history, and is chock-full of art galleries, unique retail shops, tour operators and plenty of hotels and restaurants. “I moved to Jackson in 1996 and have seen the area grow tremendously since I first arrived,” says Gavin Fine, a chef who now owns several popular restaurants in Jackson Hole and Teton Village, including the hot new tapas and wine bar, Bin 22. “Besides the significant upgrades Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has invested in, which have improved on-mountain dining options and increased intermediate terrain, the entire valley’s offerings have grown. ... While we’ve grown, a great deal of time and attention has been spent maintaining Jackson’s authenticity, which I believe is clear to anyone who comes here.”

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WYOMING

FROSTY FAITHFUL

Ski or walk steaming geyser trails at Yellowstone National Park

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By Valerie Finholm

ORESTS DRAPED IN WHITE. Geysers erupting in columns of steam. In the winter, Yellowstone National Park is a special place for cross-country skiers looking for something magical. Yellowstone is the sixth most popular park run by the U.S. National Park Service, but most people visit in the summer, crowding the geysers. By the time the snow falls, the crowds have dispersed, and Yellowstone — the world’s first national park — becomes a peaceful and spectacular locale for skiers. “It’s my very favorite time,’’ says Annie Carlson, a former Yellowstone ranger who is now the park’s research permit coordinator. “There’s a feeling of solitude,” she says, referring to the area around Old Faithful, the legendary tourist attraction named in 1870. “The steam and the bison and the geyser basin … (take) you back in time.’’ More than 40 miles of cross-country ski trails crisscross the Old Faithful area of the park, skirting geysers, frozen lakes and waterfalls. While there are plenty of challenging trails, most are well-groomed and fairly flat, making them perfect for beginners and adventurous families that include skiers of various skill levels. “You get to enjoy geyser eruptions all to yourself — or with a few other people,” says Zack Park, program manager for Yellowstone Forever, the official nonprofit partner of Yellowstone National Park. “You can hear bubbling and splashing,” he adds. Skiing through geyser basins has its challenges. Heat from thermal features below ground can melt snow, leaving trails bare in places, so be prepared to pop off your skis and walk a bit. It’s important, too, not to venture off marked ski trails in thermal areas. The famous Old Faithful Geyser is located steps from the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center. The Lone Star Geyser trail is a favorite easy trail to take from Old Faithful. The well-groomed trail is flat most of the way

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and follows the Firehole River for 2.5 miles les to Lone Star Geyser. Be sure to check thee visitor center, the NPS Yellowstone geyser er app or @GeyserNPS on Twitter for estimated eruption times. You can also hop on the Upper Geyser Basin trail at Old Faithful to see several geysers and hot springs on your way to Biscuit Basin, 2.5 miles away. When temperatures drop below freezing, fog from the geysers freezes into rime ice on tree branches, draping them in white ice crystals. “It’s this otherworldly like crystalline forest,’’ Park says.

TREK TO THE TRAILS The roads to Old Faithful are closed Dec. 15 to April 20, so visitors arrive by snowmobile or snowcoach, a bus with huge low-pressure tires or tracked wheels to navigate the road and any drifts. The snowcoach leaves from the Mammoth Hot Springs area of the park twice a day and takes about four hours to reach Old Faithful.. You can take the snowcoach in the morning and return to Mammoth that afternoon, or spend the night at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, the only lodge open at Old Faithful in the winter. (Reserve early if you’re planning to visit during winter holidays or President’s Day weekend.) Skis and gear can be rented at the Bear Den Ski Shop inside the lodge, which runs shuttles to various trailheads in the area. Its employeess are aware of skiing conditions. Guided skiing tours can be arranged with h local companies. Yellowstone Forever offers a three-day, four-night guided program for cross-country y skiers ages 12 and older at Old Faithful called Winter in Wonderland. The program includes lodging, ski instruction and ski rental options. Park says the program’s guides are knowledgeable in geology, wildlife biology, ecology and natural history. y. Participants can take an airport shuttle from m Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport in Montana to Mammoth Hot Springs.

JACOB W W. FRANK/U FRANK/U.S. S NATIONAL PARK SERVICE SERVICE; NEAL HERBERT/U HERBERT/U.S. S NATIONAL PARK SERVICE (2)

There are nearly 500 geysers at Yellowstone, including Grand, top, and Grotto geysers in the Upper Geyser Basin, the home of Old Faithful, along the Firehole River, bottom.

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Download our free app, now with virtual reality. Travel like a local, eat like a chef, and vacation like a boss.

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IDAHO

KEEPING THE PACE

NASTAR racing challenges amateurs to go up against the pros By Tracy Scott Forson

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HILE SKIING FOR THE fun of it has its own benefits, there’s something to be said for embracing the spirit of competition and skiing to compare your performance to others. That’s where NASTAR (National Standard Race) comes in to help skiers test their skills and

rank themselves. Now in its 50th season, NASTAR started in 1968 as a way to provide and standardize a scoring mechanism for alpine racing, says director Bill Madsen. Each year, members of the U.S. Ski Team head to Colorado’s Copper Mountain to compete and determine the NASTAR handicap. The winner of that race is the pacesetter, and the winning time is considered the fastest

Ted Ligety, NASTAR 20172018 season pacesetter

JUSTIN SAMUELS

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At NASTAR events, families can compete as teams against other groups.

DAVE CAMARA/CAMARA PHOTOGRAPHY

“It’s a way that kids, parents, grandparents and greatgrandparents can do the same sport together.” –– Bill Madsen, NASTAR director

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possible on the course. World and national champion Ted Ligety is the pacesetter for the 2017-2018 season. All other NASTAR participants are scored based on that speed, which evens the playing field for skiers and allows those of all ages and abilities to compete in the several categories based on gender and age. Participants can win platinum, gold, silver or bronze medals in skiing or snowboarding. Whether competing in Montana or Maryland, skiers can judge their performance against those nationwide. “We work with more than 100 ski resorts,” says Madsen, who’s been involved with NASTAR for 30 years. The top three racers from each resort,

within specific age and gender categories, in each division, are invited to compete for a national title Sun Valley is one of three resorts in Idaho, along with Schweitzer Mountain Resort in Sandpoint and Bogus Basin ski resort in Boise, that welcomes skiers who want to know how they size up. “Sun Valley is steeped in racing. We have a long history of fostering and developing some of the best ski racers in the world,” says Mike Wrobel, Sun Valley’s race department manager. The resort has offered NASTAR since the early 1970s and hosted its national championships in 1974 and 1985. This season’s National Championship

takes place at California’s Squaw Valley Ski Resort March 21-25, 2018, and there are regional competitions around the country leading up to the big event. U.S. Ski Team retirees also participate. “It’s great to be able to reach out to the recreational racers and have them participate as part of the national ski team,” says Madsen. An average 1,000 racers show up annually at Sun Valley to test their skills, but you don’t have to be particularly skilled to compete. “It’s more about honing and testing ski technique for the participants. Sun Valley Snowsports ski school uses NASTAR courses as a training tool for CO N T I N U E D

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IDAHO

GETTING THERE Sun Valley is served by Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey, Idaho, located 14 miles from the resort. Built in 1931, the quaint 219-acre facility offers basic travel necessities, like ground transportation – including Uber – and free Wi-Fi, and it is free of some of the more cumbersome aspects of larger airports, such as retail kiosks every few feet. Delta, Alaska and United airlines offer non-stop flights from several cities, including Seattle and Denver. If the hustle and bustle of larger airports is your preference, Boise and Salt Lake City International airports are major hubs within driving distance. It takes about two hours to drive to Sun Valley from Boise and about five hours to drive from Salt Lake City.

medals NASTAR DAVE CAMARA/CAMARA PHOTOGRAPHY; PROVIDED BY NASTAR

students,” says Wrobel. According to Madsen, the courses can be challenging, requiring skiers to follow a certain course they might not have otherwise: “The beautiful thing about ski racing (a NASTAR course) is that it forces you to turn where it wants you to, so it helps you improve your skills. … We present skiing in a non-intimidating way, so that someone who’s new to the sport will go out and give a try. It’s a good way to introduce and have people improve.” Madsen says it’s also about enjoying the sport with fellow enthusiasts, friends and relatives. Families can even create

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teams and compete against other groups. “More than anything, it’s a family outing. It’s a way that kids, parents, grandparents and great-grandparents can do the same sport together,” he says, noting that the average speed of amateur skiers is about 30 mph. Wrobel says he knows of NASTAR racers as young as 2 and as old as 106. “We see it quite frequently in skiing.” Since its creation, Madsen says NASTAR participation has fluctuated, hitting a peak in the ’90s before snowboarding and free skiing pulled people in different directions. “We don’t

see a massive amount of growth, but we see steady growth,” he says. He credits part of that to NASTAR’s online community. “We’re trying to develop this social network.” The NASTAR website (nastar.com) includes volumes of information on racers, says Madsen. “We can give everyone their own page. We started posting results online in 1997. You can see how people have progressed.” That helps unite and encourage the NASTAR community, bonded by their love of the sport and their competitive drive.

Sun Valley Racers interested in competing at Sun Valley need to register at the Warm Springs Day Lodge race desk on the Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturday mornings that races are held. The race fee is $6 for two runs. sunvalley.com

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IDAHO

ALL THE CRAZE

Costumes are optional but add to the fun of the annual pondskimming event at Brundage Mountain Resort.

Skiers take the plunge at Brundage Mountain Resort

By Tracy Scott Forson

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ROM THE TOP OF a mountain, skiers and snowboarders, some clad in elaborate costumes with wigs or masks, push off down the incline, picking up as much speed as possible. As they reach the bottom, they bend at the knee, tucking in tight before reaching the icy water that sprays toward them and on the spectators anticipating a cold shower. While it’s known as pond skimming, for many participants in Brundage Mountain Resort’s quirky competition, it’s more like a pond plunge. Most contestants, with the possible exception of the winner, eventually end up in the water, not skiing across it. “Some years, the pond skimming does really feel like a polar plunge,” says April Whitney, Brundage Mountain Resort communications director. The event is one of many on the schedule during Brundage’s annual Crazy Daze, held in April. The one-day celebration occurs as the ski season comes to an end, taking place during the resort’s last weekend of full-time operations. “The natives got a little restless,” says Whitney, explaining why Brundage first created Crazy Daze for its active visitors 11 years ago. “It was our way of upping the fun factor at the end of the season.” Though it takes place in the spring (April 7 in 2018), Whitney says the pond is about 33 degrees when brave skiers and snowboarders practically flop right into it at top speeds. To ensure there’s enough slush for the craze to commence, Brundage fills the pond the previous night. “We’ve had times when it looked like someone emptied a Slurpee machine on top of the pond,” Whitney says. Pond skimming made its first appearance on the Crazy Daze schedule in 2006. Since then, participation has continued to grow, Whitney says. The resort has had to limit the competition to 100 contestants who sign up the morning of the event. Other activities on

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PROVIDED BY BRUNDAGE MOUNTAIN RESORT

the roster include a treasure hunt, beer relay (which may involve more drinking than skiing), a poker run and a costume and dance contest, judged by spectators. “We’ve had a decades-long tradition of Crazy Daze being this fun time,” says Whitney. “We added pond skimming to the mix, and that’s taken the event to the next level.” With each round, skiers must start their descent farther down the hill, closer to the pond, making it more difficult to pick up the required speed to avoid submersion. Matt Hurlbutt, who owns Salmon River Brewery in McCall, says he’s been a Crazy Daze regular for 15 years, only missing a handful. Hurlbutt has advanced to the final round more than once but hasn’t yet won the pond skimming event. However, he plans to continue attending — maybe into his 70s like his dad. “Two or three years ago, my son, dad and I all did it together. It was three generations of Hurlbutts,” he says. “My son was 7. My dad, 70, and I was like 41.” With the exception of a mask or wig, Hurlbutt forgoes the costumes, which many participants opt to wear. Whitney says she’s seen everything from a skiing SpongeBob SquarePants to bikini-clad women.

Hurlbutt says some of that style makes its way onto the pond, as skiers and snowboarders try to outdo each other for the grand prize: a season pass to the resort. “I do think the costume and style might come into play (with the judging), but it’s ultimately who can get across the pond farthest,” he says. “If there were a tie, they’d probably give it to the best costume or style at that point.” Hurlbutt keeps it simple, but he has had years to perfect his technique, as his advancement to the final rounds validates. “When you hit the water, you lean back for a second, then you lean forward and carry your speed through,” he explains. “Some people will lean too far forward, and they rag doll into the water. The tips of their skis submerge.” Watching people clumsily fall into the icy waters or get drenched by snowboarders who intentionally skid and spray the crowd is all part of the fun and allure. Many attend just to stand around, get soaked and enjoy the slopes one last time before the season ends. However, Hurlbutt isn’t just there for the fun of it. He hopes to walk away a winner in the near future. “I’m always just a little bit short,” he says. “It’s definitely a goal of mine.”

Brundage Mountain Resort 3890 Goose Lake Rd., McCall; 208-634-4151; brundage.com

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MONTANA

EVENING RUSH

There’s plenty to do at Whitefish Resort after the sun sets By Adrienne Jordan

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HITEFISH, MONT., HAS HUMBLE origins. Starting as a timber and railroad town, it became a tourist destination after Glacier National Park opened in 1910. The Whitefish Lake Golf Course followed in the 1920s, and the establishment of the Hellroaring Ski Club in the 1930s solidified the locale as a vacation destination. Then came Whitefish Mountain Resort. Today, the 70-year-old resort, which set

a record with 346,000 skier visits during its 2016-2017 season, reaps the benefit of $2.6 million in improvements implemented this year. Chair 5 has been relocated from Ptarmigan Bowl to the East Rim to improve skier access to terrain; Ed & Mully’s slopeside restaurant has been remodeled, and the village area upgraded. Perched 6,817 feet above the town of Whitefish and in view of the peaks of Glacier National Park, the resort is a skier’s sanctuary. It shares its perimeter with the mountain goats, elk, bighorn sheep and mountain lions that call Glacier home.

When guests arrive, they can witness some of the average 300 inches of snowfall that occurs annually on the resort’s 3,000 acres of mountains, bowls, chutes and glades. And that snowfall is even more memorable against the backdrop of a dark evening sky, which guests can enjoy during the resort’s Moonlight Dine & Ski events, scheduled for Feb. 2 and March 2, 2018. The stunning excursions begin with a panoramic chair-lift ride up to the summit of Big Mountain, followed by a savory dining experience, and a lift ride or ski down with an experienced instructor. The Moonlight

BRIAN SCHOTT

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GETTING THERE Located 18 miles from Whitefish, the Glacier Park International Airport makes a quick drive possible, but why exert the energy when you can relax and be chauffeured around town? Make a reservation with Wild Horse Limousine, and your party can start partying as soon as you leave baggage claim. Wild Horse clients also can customize their itineraries, whether the group wants to stop along scenic routes to snap photos or detour to a winery before arriving at the resort. ▶ 406-756-2290; wildhorselimo.com

Skis and snowboards are essential if Dine & Ski patrons want to ski down after dinner, and cameras are strongly suggested for capturing unparalleled moonlight views.

BRIAN SCHOTT

Dine & Ski culminates at a dazzling 7,000 feet above sea level, while overlooking the snow-covered peaks of Glacier National Park and the skyline of Flathead Valley — all by moonlight. “We want the guests to be transported from the chilly chair-lift ride under the stars to (our) warm atmosphere,” says Ben Neese, executive chef at Summit House, the restaurant where skiers dine during their moonlit outing. The buffet offerings vary depending on the night’s theme. Dinner guests revel in the candlelight and a backdrop of the full moon peeking in through large windows. “After settling down with a glass of wine or a cocktail, guests will enjoy the themed buffet at their leisure and relax in the

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atypically serene atmosphere of the Summit House at night,” Neese says. If guests are unable to make the two Moonlight Dine & Ski dates, the adventurous still have the option to go night skiing — on Fridays and Saturdays, Jan. 5 to March 3, 2018, and over the holidays: Dec. 26-29, and Feb. 19, 2018. “Night skiing is a magical experience. The glowing snow-covered trees and the glimmer of the lights in the valley transfigure familiar runs of the day into an enchanting lighted forest at night,” says Christina Brown, a Whitefish guest. Nearby residents are also big fans of night skiing, which “enables locals to start the weekend early, and gain a few thousand feet of vertical on Friday night,” says Bill Cubbage,

director of Whitefish Mountain Resort’s ski school. “It is especially gratifying when the snow starts falling Friday afternoon, or they haven’t been able to come up all week because of work or school.” In addition to snow sports, Whitefish offers an abundance of cultural offerings. After a day of skiing, guests can tour the galleries along Central Avenue — a strip where dozens of artists exhibit their work. The nonprofit community-supported Stumptown Art Studio welcomes the public to paint, craft and pursue other creative endeavors; no reservations needed. Also, consider sampling craft beers at Bonsai Brewing Project. Try ranger-led snowshoe tours in Glacier National Park, or go cross-country skiing at the Glacier Nordic Center in Whitefish.

Moonlight Dine & Ski skiwhitefish. com/moonlightdine-ski Night Skiing skiwhitefish. com/nightskiing

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MONTANA

BREAKING BAD

JACOB W. FRANK/U.S. NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

7,000-year-old ice fields disappearing at Glacier National Park By Sean Rossman

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ONTANA’S GLACIER NATIONAL PARK is quickly losing an important part of its natural beauty: its glaciers. U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) data released in May shows the park’s 37 glaciers, along with two others on U.S. Forest Service land, have shrunk an average of about 40 percent since 1966. Several masses have deteriorated so much, they’re no longer large enough to be considered glaciers, which must be at least 25 acres. Some have lost up to 85 percent of their mass. Long-term studies predict that the famous ice fields that inspired the park’s name will likely be gone by 2030. In order for the glaciers to survive, the area would need to experience

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geologist Andrew G. Fountain, the “significant cooling,” says Daniel Fagre, melting of ice fields in Montana “is in a research ecologist with the USGS’ line with trends that have Northern Rocky Mountain been happening on a Science Center. global scale.” But it’s likely too late. For example, in July, “Their fate is sealed,” STUDIES one of the largest icebergs forecasts Fagre, who PREDICT ever recorded broke has studied the glaciers THAT BY off from an ice shelf in since 1991. The trend, Antarctica. he argues, could have an However, being in good impact on the park and company is little comfort animal life. for locals.“The shrinkage “The parkwide loss of in Montana is more severe ice can have ecological THE ICE FIELDS than some other places in effects on aquatic species WILL LIKELY BE the U.S.,” Fountain says. by changing stream Fagre blames climate water volume, water GONE change for the melting at temperature and runoff the national park. Glaciers, timing in the higher he says, are steady elevations of the park,” barometers of long-term Earth changes Fagre says. and don’t react to year-to-year weather According to Portland State University

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patterns. “You know there’s a long-term trend when the glaciers are all simultaneously melting or growing,” he says. The history of Glacier National Park supports Fagre’s theory. The park’s glaciers are estimated at 7,000 years old and “peaked” in the mid-1800s during the “Little Ice Age,” according to the USGS. In 1850, the park had an estimated 150 glaciers. Now, there are fewer than 30 glaciers that meet the 25-acre standard. Despite the grim outlook, Fagre isn’t pessimistic about the ongoing beauty of the park, which attracted a record 2.9 million visitors in 2016. “People certainly come here to see glaciers and like glaciers in the park,” he says. “It will still be a beautiful park to visit afterwards.”

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CANADA

COLD CATCH Try the rugged, yet surprisingly comfortable, Canadian tradition of ice fishing

GETTY IMAGES

By Brian Barth

“K

APOW!” THAT’S HOW FISHING guide Jim Dykstra describes the moment a big trout snags your lure 100 feet below an ice-covered lake high in the Canadian Rockies. “Then you ‘kapow!’ them back with a quick jerk on the rod to set the hook.” Then the battle is on. Ice fishing is different than fly-fishing along a lazy river in the summer sun. The

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fish are usually found in much deeper waters because that’s where the oxygen is in a lake covered with 3 feet of ice. It takes time, and considerably more elbow grease, to reel them up, especially when you’ve got a 10-pound, 30-inch bull trout thrashing on the other end of the line. The weather is another factor that makes ice fishing intense. Dykstra, a Banff fishing guide well-known locally, takes clients out in weather that can dip to minus 40 degrees (the temperature that happens to be the same on

both Fahrenheit and Celsius thermometers). In other words, prepare for mind-numbing cold. But ice-fishing enthusiasts are not winter sadists. In fact, they go to elaborate lengths to make it a merry, and reasonably comfortable, adventure. Banff guides, who stay with guests for the duration of their trips, provide extra layers of warm clothes, insulated ice-fishing boots and, believe it or not, heaters. Icefishing shacks — Dykstra refers to his as a “lodge” — are a beloved tradition in the Great White North, where they dot the frozen lakes

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GETTING THERE

Fishermen turn their highbacked chairs against the wind to shield them from frigid gusts.

throughout the winter months. Most are built of plywood and two-by-fours and outfitted with propane heaters, benches and a camp stove. Holes in the floor provide easy access to the frozen body of water underneath. Some shacks are even outfitted with electricity and satellite TV. Most local guides fish at Spray Lakes Reservoir (also known as Spray Lake), which offers world-class trout fishing, according to Dykstra. Online reservations and permits, also available online, are required. Rates, which can range from about $400 ($500 Canadian dollars) for one person to $950 for a party of four, typically include all gear and transport from Banff or Canmore, the hip town just outside the gates of the park. Although Spray Lake is just a 40-minute drive from Canmore, “it’s way off the pavement in a mountain pass, and there is no cell reception,” says Dykstra. “It’s a true Canadian wilderness experience.” In this pristine location, it’s forbidden to use trucks or snowmobiles to haul your fishing shack onto the ice — as is common elsewhere. Dykstra hauls his onto a sled, hammers it together on-site, and then leaves it up for the season, which runs from mid-December to mid-April. “There aren’t snowmobiles whizzing around, so it’s really quiet out there,” he says. Although the conditions are rustic, Doug Massig, owner of Bow River Fly Fishing Adventures in Alberta, says the fishing is high-tech. For each person, he uses a gas-powered auger to drill several 10-inch holes in the ice and places an underwater camera in one to observe the fish. “The water is amazingly clear up there. You can see about 50 feet,” says Massig. Sonar is also employed to track fish movements throughout the lake. Massig’s strategy involves moving in and out of the warmth of the ice shack to try fishing from different holes throughout the day, using pop-up ice-fishing tents or special fishing chairs with high backs that block strong wind gusts. “That way you can get out and enjoy the scenery,” he says. The mountains surrounding Spray Lake are breathtaking, but eventually the cold drives you back to the ice shack where, on his trips, lunch awaits, says Dykstra. Assuming someone in your party was successful, lunch means fresh trout (Dykstra didn’t have one day on the ice in winter 2017 without a good catch). “I like to sizzle it up with garlic butter and my secret fish crisp coating,” says the camp cook extraordinaire. After a good meal, “you’re sure to be roasty toasty,” he adds — and ready to get back out on the ice.

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Located 75 miles from Banff National Park, Calgary International is the largest airport in the region, with daily flights from major cities around the globe. One of the busiest airports in Canada, this facility boasts an on-site hotel, spa and SpacePort — a free educational and entertainment destination geared toward kids — featuring hands-on and interactive exhibits focused on the high-tech world of space exploration and aeronautics. The drive from Calgary International to Banff is filled with postcardperfect beauty, but drive carefully as you get into the mountains. The curves are tight, and it’s not uncommon to come across elk, bear, moose and other wildlife. Some ice-fishing outfitters offer chauffeur services from the airport. PROVIDED BY BANFF FLY FISHING GUIDES

PROVIDED BY BANFF FLY FISHING GUIDES

Withstanding the below-freezing temperatures on frozen lakes can reap rewards for hungry ice-fishing parties.

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GO ESCAPE ROCKIES  
GO ESCAPE ROCKIES