1. Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons Resort, Utah:Making arguably the biggest news in ski country this season, Vail Resorts is sinking an impressive $50 million into its newly acquired Park City Mountain Resort as well as Canyons Resort, where VR took over management in 2013. The marquee project is the Interconnect gondola, linking the base of PCMR to the base of the Flatiron lift at Canyons, with a mid-station at Pine Cone Ridge. From there, skiers can access either resort. Also look for upgraded lifts at both resorts, a completely overhauled Snow Hut Restaurant at PCMR, and facelifts for both Canyons’ Red Pine Lodge and PCMR’s Summit House. And oh, did we mention that the two connected resorts now boast the most skiable acres in the United States? Keep it real, Vail.
2. Burke Mountain Resort, Vt.:The ropes will drop on the new Hotel Burke in December, where 116 studios and suites (up to three bedrooms) will provide the resort’s first luxury slopeside lodging. The Vermont-stone-and-timber building will also offer a restaurant, bar, conference space, and fitness center. Future plans add an aquatic facility and tennis courts. Nice to see cash infused into so worthy a region.
3. Jackson Hole, Wyo.:The Teton Express opens this season, dropping skiers about 100 feet from the entrance to Granite Canyon, a backcountry stash of cliffs and cornices previously accessible only after a 25-minute hike. The new lift makes it far easier to sample the extreme goods on tap in this outside-the-gates terrain, and local worries abound that the less experienced will get themselves into trouble. We’re all for getting after it, but be cautious with this one, folks.
4. Snowbird, Utah:A much-needed improvement, The Summit at Snowbird debuts this season atop Hidden Peak, greeting tram riders with a two-story glass structure that’s home to a 190-seat cafeteria as well as a coffee shop, a large deck with panoramic views, and a far more comfortable summit-top hub for ski patrol.
5. Solitude Mountain Resort, Utah:New owner Deer Valley makes its presence felt this season at laid-back Solitude by upgrading the nostalgic Summit chair to an express quad, creating a faster route into Honeycomb Canyon, Solitude’s expert playground. Also look for a new on-mountain dining option at the Moonbeam Lodge, which has been neglected over the past few seasons. Will it serve Deer Valley’s famous turkey chili? We can only hope.
6. Stratton, Vt.:This resort in the heart of Vermont is adding $8.5 million in upgrades to its base lodge, including an addition that will spell 350 more seats for hungry skiers during the lunch rush.
7.Sugarbush, Vt.:Change comes slowly to Vermont, but we’re glad to see capital improvements such as the upgrading of the slow Valley House double chair to a quad with a loading conveyor belt. The new quad will more than double uphill capacity.
8.Vail, Colo.:Not to leave its namesake mountain in the dust, Vail Resorts is swapping out the frontside Avanti Express, currently a quad, with a high-speed six-pack with a loading conveyor belt in the hopes of dispersing skiers more quickly from the Lionshead base. Can’t argue with that.
9.Purgatory, Colo.: This scenic southwestern-Colorado enclave formerly known as Durango Mountain Resort welcomes new owners, a new lift, three new trails, and a new (well, actually old) name this season. When James Coleman bought the place last spring, he quickly reverted to the resort’s former name, Purgatory, and made good on a promise to spiff things up, starting with a new high-speed quad and three new runs just west of the lift. Sounds like a fresh start for one of the state’s most beautiful destinations. (Side note: Coleman also owns New Mexico’s Sipapu ski area and installed a new lift there over the summer as well.)