Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Christmas On Skis

There's nothing better than the Christmas atmosphere at ski resorts, with soft snow and magical mountains providing the perfect Christmas card backdrop for glittering decorations, pine-wafting trees, cosy candlelight and lazy log fires. Wintersports are the best antidote to all that over-indulgence, too - a brisk walk on crunchy snow, bundled up in Goretex, merino and down, to clear the holiday head. Although it's bound to be busy at resorts over the holidays, it is still well worth a ski trip, especially if you add on days pre-Christmas when there's always a shopping and cooking lull before Boxing Day crowds start to show up. 

Here are some seasonal activities and festive photos to get you into the skiing spirit of Christmas in the snow:

Ski with Santa Days Dec 23 and 24 at Lake Louise

Santa at Sunshine Village last season
Courtesy of SkiBig3/Luke Sudermann
Christmas in Canmore - where I will be from Friday - is a magical month full of festivities, uniting locals, tourists, Calgarians and everyone from the surrounding mountain communities. Kicking off with the Festival of Trees, fundraising and gift donating activities, the month also includes Christmas wreath-making, a performance of The Nutcracker, seasonal activities at artsPlace, and the unique Spirit in the Mountain festival - a three-night program of charismatic concerts in a candlelit cave deep inside Grotto Mountain, 100 ft underground, courtesy of Canmore Cave Tours! It ran Dec 15-17 this year and, with amazing acoustics and unique atmosphere, each night had a different musical theme and genre. "It's a slightly crazy concept, but we are incredibly proud to host spectacular local talent in a hidden, beautiful venue within the heart of the Rockies," says Max Koether, on the company founders. "Over the course of three nights, a different local music group - Canmore folk rock band Elk Run & Riot, and Canmore choirs the Valley Winds Choir and In the Pink - illuminated Rat's Nest Cave with a very special acoustic performance, transforming the cave into one of the most spectacular concert venues imaginable." Held in the cave's Grand Gallery space, performers and guests alike have to climb, crawl, and squeeze their way to get there. Well worth it for the inimitable pre-historic ambience, scintillating music, and hot chocolate and cookies afterwards.

Unique Christmas musical event 100 ft underground with Canmore Cave Tours
For those whose legs were tired from Friday's Sunshine Village skiing there was Canmore's Mountain Made Christmas Market at Elevation Place last Saturday. And, talking about skiing, if you're in the Banff area, remember Santa Shreds for Free at Mt Norquay on Christmas Day. To qualify for a free day ticket, wear a full costume of Santa, Mrs Claus, a reindeer or elf. I've done it before, it's a really fun day and, bonus, you get to pre-earn your Christmas feast.

Secrets for Santa at Whitewater, BC by Phil Best
Wait for me! Santa being out-ploughed 
at Whitewater, BC by Phil Best
Whitewater, BC:
Santa visited Dec 17 with candy canes, photo opps and his own insider advice on best shredding at wonderful, wintry Whitewater.  Lots to do in neighbouring Nelson, too, over the holidays including a Gingerbread House Exposition and contest to win a stay at the Prestige Lakeside Resort.  There's also a Breakfast with Santa at the resort's West Coast Grill where around 400 attendees raise about $4000 for the Nelson Food Cupboard.

CP Rail Holiday Train visits 171 communities in Canada and the USA
Fun Christmas characters in downtown Revy
The town of Revelstoke - where I am now - has been celebrating Christmas since Dec 2 with Miracle on MacKenzie: treelighting and a Santa breakfast visit. The CP Rail Holiday Train is a big annual draw, stopping at Revelstoke on Dec 14. This winter the free musical celebration denoted the end of a year of Canada's 150th Anniversary celebrations. The holiday train has been raising food and funds for food banks across North America since 1999, bringing holiday cheer to 171 communities along the CP line. "The Holiday Train program is all about local food banks and food shelves and the critical role they play in our communities," says Keith Creel, CP's President and Chief Executive Officer. "People come for the beautifully-lit train and stay for the incredible show – all in the name of community. The holiday season is the best time of the year, and we look forward to bringing together thousands of Canadians and Americans this season for this incredibly important cause and a great time." For the Canadian schedule go to: http://www.cpr.ca/holiday-train/canada and for the US itinerary: http://www.cpr.ca/holiday-train/united-states.

Santa having way too much fun at Revelstoke - Courtesy of Revelstoke Mountain Resort
Masses of family fun at the Revelstoke hill, too, including Christmas present hunt Dec 24, a crazy Boxing Day Box Derby Dec 26 and a cookie decorating night for kids, Rail Jam Dec 27, tubing and Gingerbread House building Dec 29, and cookie night Dec 30. Revelstoke Mountain Resort celebrates its 10th Anniversary Dec 22 with a mega party at the Mid Mountain Lodge, followed by ROC kids' activity day on the 23rd and skiing with Santa - if you can keep up! - on Dec 25. 
Christmas drinks and cakes at Golden Farmers Market
Christmas event

Golden, BC
With live music, hot food and entertainment, Golden locals and visitors flocked to the annual Farmers' Market Christmas Market Dec 16 to buy Christmas gifts and delicacies from 55 varied vendors. "It has grown considerably over the past five years and continues to cap the Christmas fair season by being the final one before Christmas," says organizer Kay Nagao. "Most of the market is comprised of our regular market vendors but we also have a good number who join us only at Christmas, many of whom are from outside Golden. Essentially, being a winter event, it is more of an artisan market but we do have two or three of our farmers participating as well." At nearby Kicking Horse, there was skiing with Santa the same weekend. Christmas at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort officially starts Dec 22 with an array of night time activities including tubing, skiing, skating and firepits. There's a Christmas Eve Service and Feast at the summit restaurant at Eagle's Eye. And Dec 28 kids will love the gingerbread decorating, movies, arts and crafts sessions. On Dec 29 yoga and meditation with a mountain backdrop will get the adults grounded ready for the NYE festivities. 

Big White, BC 
Step into the snow globe at Big White this Christmas, staying in the village on the slopes, festooned with dazzling decorations and twinkling lights. Santa hangs out here for the whole month of December, honing his ski skills. Seasonal celebrations launched Dec 16 with Santa's workshop tours, photos, and breakfast culminating in a church service, Christmas Eve parade and skiing with Santa Dec 25.

Big White Christmas Craft Market featured local artisans earlier this month
Santa having time off at Northstar - Courtesy of Vail Resorts
Northstar, Lake Tahoe
Noel Nights started Dec 8 at Northstar with the Village transformed into a winter wonderland featuring horse-drawn sleigh rides, outdoor ice skating, pictures with Santa and s’mores and hot cocoa by the fire pits, all to the hum of holiday music. On Dec 15, Northstar celebrated the season with the Shop Local Wine Walk to enjoy sipping and shopping around the holiday themed Village. On Dec 22, Northstar hosts a show-stopping performance by the Sacramento Skating Group on the 9,000 sq ft skating rink. Breakfast with Santa is coming up on Dec 24, including photo opps and the chance to hear Santa reading traditional holiday stories.

Santa loves snowboarding at Solitude Mountain, Utah
Solitude, Utah
After delivering presents to children around the world, Santa winds down by hitting the slopes at Solitude on Christmas Day. Kids and the young-at-heart get to ride with him as he hands out candy on the mountain . Recently chatted with Santa from Solitude (aka Nick Sieckowski - I want to make a pun about the Nick and the 'ski' part of his name but 
I'll leave that to you!) "There are few things I enjoy more than skiing and boarding at Solitude Mountain Resort on Christmas Day, especially when the sky is blue and snow is deep," says Nick. "After a long night delivering presents around the world, a day at from Solitude is a gift to myself." Apparently he learnt to ski in the North Pole by having the reindeer drop him off at the top of a nearby hill so he could ski down. "I learned snowboarding the same way. From time to time, I'll attach a rope to the reindeer and ski or snowboard behind them. Once they learned to stay close to the ground, it became a lot of fun!" The best part of his job at from Solitude is actually meeting the children he brings gifts to on Christmas Eve in Solitude Village and on Christmas Day on the slopes. "It is a lot of fun talking with the families and seeing all of the holiday cheer," says Nick. "It reminds me that all this work I do is completely worth it!" His funniest recollection over the years was when he was skiing in the midst of a major storm with very low visibility. "A little boy came up to me and asked why Rudolph wasn't skiing with me, guiding me through the untracked snow," he remembers. "I thought it was a great idea to sneak Rudolph onto the ski hill each time it is snowing heavy."

Stoneham Mountain Resort
Smores at Mont-Sainte-Anne 
Santa Claus visits Stoneham Mountain Resort on Dec 23, with a window for photos from 11:30am to 2:30pm before he races back off to the North Pole (or possibly another ski hill!) to prepare for his long night of present distribution. Between Christmas Eve and January 8, there will be inflatable games and animation every day, with music, camp fires, and hot chocolate. "We don’t forget the adults with live bands at the Quatre-Foyers bar," says Geneviève Clavet, Communications Manager.
Santa relocates his workshop at Mont-Sainte-Anne from Dec 23 - Jan 6. The family-friendly holiday fun is launched with a giant sugarcane display at the mountain base on Dec 23. There's singing with Les Petits Chanteurs de Beauport, a youth choir, on Dec 26. Dec 31 the resort celebrates the approach of 2018, followed by the Snow and Mimosas celebration Jan 1. 

Heavenly Holidays 
From December 18-31, 2017, Heavenly Holidays transforms Heavenly Village into a holiday winter wonderland with lights, decorations, music, ice sculpting and more.

Heavenly Holiday entertainment - Courtesy of Heavenly Mountain Resort
Heavenly's unique two-week holiday festival runs Dec 18-31. Over Xmas, there's a 16-ft interactive snow globe where kids can get photos with Santa. 

Winter Wonderland Festival at Sun Valley, Idaho

Right in the midst of Sun Valley's Winter Wonderland holiday schedule is its 81st birthday - today (Dec 21)! Celebrate with High Tea and Champers or go to the Annual Classic Christmas Concert at the Sun Valley Opera House. Winter Wonderland started Dec 8 with the Magic in the Mountains Scavenger Hunt which goes on until Dec 31. Other festive activities so far included themed parties, gingerbread and cookie decorating, face-painting, photos with Santa, live music, seasonal food, storytelling, local artist demos, tree lighting, holiday market, and free gift wrapping. 

Some of the highlights coming up:

Dec 22 - Holiday Vintage Sweater Contest & Party 
Dec 23 - Brunch with Santa 
Christmas Eve & Christmas Day: Skating in a Winter Wonderland Ice Show, Dollar Torchlight Parade & Fireworks. The ice show will highlight modern renditions of classic holiday music and solo skating performances by Erin Reed and other professional skaters. 
Dec 24 - The Roundhouse: Six-course Prix Fixe Chef Tasting Menu 
Dec 25 - Trail Creek Cabin Sleigh Ride & Dinner: Four-course Prix Fixe Menu
Dec 27 Clicquot in the Snow Party at the River Run Lodge. Wintery celebration of Clicquot, live music, photo booth fun and #clicquotinthesnow treats!

Breck becomes Santa Central at the annual Race of the Santas - Courtesy of Breckenridge Ski Resort/Go Breck

Earlier this month was Breck's mega Race of the Santas, annually attracting over 500 Santa and Mrs Claus look-alikes, anxious to compete in the seasonal sprint. The Race, which follows a Holiday Dog Parade, raises money for Boy Scouts Troop 187. Afterwards there's an Unsilent Night procession with holiday music followed by the Lighting of Breckenridge which turns the picturesque town into a sparkling wonderland courtesy of 140,000 LEDs. With so many Santas in town in December, it's highly likely that you'll spot at least one on the slopes over the holidays.
A-Basin's Santa uphilling
Courtesy of Adrienne Saia Isaac/Arapahoe Basin Ski Area

Arapahoe Basin
Santa skis Arapahoe Basin this year on Christmas Eve, arriving at Mountain Goat Plaza at 11 am with his trusty elf. Handing out candy to kids in the A-Frame Lodge and Plaza, he then tours the base area on his telemark skis, heralded by the Summit County Choral Society, before heading up the Black Mountain Express to visit skiers at the summit. 

I actually got an interview with this Telemarking Santa! "Skiing at A Basin is one of my very great joys and it is the easiest of all ski areas to get to," he told me with huge enthusiasm. "You see when we were pioneering early present delivery systems, we tried an underground network and our first attempt came out at A Basin's North Pole area. Hence the name North Pole." This Santa - aka Tim Stroh - loves to telemark and says it's the way all presents were originally delivered. "You see, we needed some innovations so we could deliver to more and more boys and girls each year. We tried the underground delivery system, but then Rudolph ate something strange one day in the paddock and was able to leap higher than ever before. With careful study from our North Pole nutritionist, we were able to get the reindeer on highly magical vitamin mixture that gave them the ability to fly! I actually lost one of telemark skis on the inaugural flight that year. It just popped out of a glacier a few years ago," he says. See the article here:http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/archaeologists-uncover-1300-year-old-ski-norway-002233

He says than bending the knee on telemarks is no trouble despite his girth and he recommends eating as the best defense from the cold. "I do ski quite a bit of skiing at the North Pole in the run up to Christmas. There is a lot of moving between work shops and staging areas where the presents are wrapped and sorted. Skis are the most important logistic tool we have at the North Pole, that and a clipboard," Santa explains. "I love to meet the children before the holidays, so I book as many appearances as I can, malls, bookstores, ski areas etc. This helps me keep in touch with the people. Once Christmas begins, we check the joy and world peace meter at the North Pole and of course Santa's big telescope."

PSIA-certified Santa (Tim Stroh) telemarking on Pallavicini - Courtesy of Greg Dumas/Arapahoe Basin Ski Area
Park City Mountain is making the Holidays even more special for guests by hosting unforgettable signature events this Christmas, New Year’s and Spring Break. The Holiday Season kicked off on Dec. 16, with Park City Mountain’s annual Snowfest Celebration, a 16-day festival including morning and après musical acts, village entertainers, the annual torchlight parade, fireworks and a special visit from Santa on the Town Lift. 

Skiing Santa at Loveland Ski Area - Courtesy of Colorado Ski Country USA

Reindeer and Elves at Aspen Snowmass
Jeremy Swanson/Aspen Skiing Company
Aspen Snowmass
On Dec 10, a festive, family-friendly treelighting event was held in the courtyard at The Little Nell with complimentary cookies and hot cocoa, carolers and photo ops with Santa Claus. The Aspen Animal Shelter was onsite with “reindeer” pups. Guests donated new and gently worn winter clothing for the Aspen Homeless Shelter. From Dec  21-24, The North Pole will come to the Snowmass Mall and Base Village, where Santa himself will be available to hear last-minute requests from girls and boys. Complimentary photos with Santa will be offered from 2 - 4 pm daily. Carolers will stroll through the Snowmass Mall and Base Village Dec 23-24.

On Sunday, Dec 24, Christmas Eve at Copper will bring a visit from Santa himself, as well as a children’s glowstick pageant and a torchlight parade. Guests will be able to close out the night with a Christmas Eve fireworks display.  

On Dec 9, Crested Butte Mountain Resort sponsored the 5th annual "Santa Ski and Crawl" in hopes of breaking the World Record for the largest number of skiers in full Santa costumes. Participants had to be decked out in full Santa regalia to participate in the group Santa Ski. This Sunday, Crested Butte will begin the holiday festivities as Santa comes down the mountain in a sleigh pulled by a snowcat to hand out candy canes to children. Guests will be able to stay to watch the Crested Butte Ski and Ride School perform their famous torchlight parade down the front side of the mountain at 5:30 p.m. Photos with Santa will be available immediately following the torchlight parade inside the Spellbound Pizza area next to Butte 66.

Eldora Ugly Sweater Contest - Courtesy of Colorado Ski Country USA
On Sunday, Eldora will host guests in their ugliest holiday sweaters as they host a festive holiday celebration. There will be lots of holiday cheer as Santa leads a group of skiers and riders down the mountain to the deck for hot chocolate, candy canes and fun festivities for the whole family to enjoy. Guests will be able to participate in both the ugly sweater contest and a holiday dance contest. 

From December 22-24, skiers and riders will be able to celebrate the holiday season with music, holiday treats, Santa, Christmas cookies, card decorating and more.

Every Christmas Santa takes time out of his busy schedule to ski at Loveland Ski Area. This year is no different as Santa will make his appearance at Loveland on Dec 23, 24, and 25. Not only will he be cruising the slopes, but he’ll also visit the Ski & Ride School and Children’s Center to hand out candy to young ones and pose for photos. 

The ubiquitous Santa will be skiing Monarch Mountain on Christmas Eve. Guests who stick around Monarch for the whole holiday will also be treated to the New Year’s Eve fireworks and torchlight parade. 

Purgatory Resort offers a variety of holiday activities to celebrate this season. On Saturday, Dec 23, guests will be able to attend a free wreath-making class and spend time with Santa and Mrs. Claus, who will visit via horse-drawn sleigh ride, delivering candy canes and taking last minute gift requests. On Dec 24, skiers and riders will be able to spend time off the slopes with a Build Your Own Gingerbread House event and a free Holiday S’mores Party on the Beach, while the Slopeside Restaurant will host a Christmas Eve dinner complete with a buffet-style holiday feast, a hot cocoa bar, Christmas Cookie station, and dessert buffet. From Dec 26-29, Purgatory will be home to Snow Sculptures in the Plaza with world-renowned artist Keith Martin. More about Purgatory in Feb as I'm going there for the first time in late Jan!

Santa unleashing his inner cowboy at Steamboat -  Larry Pierce/Steamboat Ski Resort
On Dec 17 Steamboat welcomed guests to Gondola Square to celebrate the holiday season Steamboat style. Santa rode down the slopes on horseback to meet guests at his workshop along with some of his favorite reindeer friends. There was a stocking scramble and free holiday treats at surrounding stores and restaurants. Additional festivities included cookie decorating and a special holiday concert featuring the Face Vocal Band. The party continued after dark with a torchlight parade and fireworks followed by gnarly nocturnal night skiing.

From Dec 16-17, there were free rides on all the best 2017 skis and snowboards during Sunlight's annual Free Demo Days. Kids could enjoy free photos with Santa on Sunlight's West Deck and then enjoy a few runs with the man in red. 

From Dec 16, Telluride’s Mountain Village was transformed once again into the North Pole for this year’s Holiday Prelude celebration. Guests enjoyed a whole day of holiday movies, train rides, Santa and his workshop, live reindeer, ice skating and children’s holiday surprises around every corner. On Sunday, Dec 24, visitors will be able to watch as Telluride Ski Resort employees meander down the mountain with torches to light up the landscape.
Torchlight Parade and Fireworks at Winter Park Resort - Courtesy of Colorado Ski Country USA
Winter Park Resort
Winter Park’s Christmas Eve celebrations will begin on Sunday, December 24 at 1 p.m. with a visit from Santa in the gazebo, followed by Christmas carolers at 3:15 p.m. At 5:30 p.m., a procession of torch-bearing skiers and riders will begin their way down Lower Hughes trail, followed by Santa Claus and his merry helpers. A spectacular fireworks display and snowcats adorned with Christmas colors will light up the slopes in a Christmas tree formation to conclude the festivities. Immediately following the show at 6 p.m., visitors are welcome to attend a Christmas Eve non-denominational service located in West Portal. Afterwards, guests can enjoy a holiday buffet at Sunspot Lodge.
From Dec 24-25, Santa will make pit stops at Wolf Creek while out and about delivering presents. Santa will explore Wolf Creek greeting guests, spreading holiday cheer and handing out candy canes. The Wolf Creek Lodge will serve a Christmas dinner of Cornish game hen and the traditional sides for skiers and boarders celebrating the holiday. 

Santa with rainbow power at Snow Valley Mountain Resort last Dec - makes a change from reindeer 
Mt. Rose, Tahoe
Santa Ski Day took place at Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe on Dec 9 this year attracting skiers and riders outfitted in Kris Kringle red and white and everything related to the holidays—elves, candy canes, shiny presents, Mrs. Claus and more - anything to get a discounted lift ticket! “Santa Ski Day has been a signature event at Mt. Rose for years, and is something our guests look forward to every season,” said Mike Pierce, marketing director at Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe. “It’s a fun kick-off to the Great Reno Santa Pub Crawl that night, and we think that pairing it with snow covered slopes is the perfect way to ring in the holiday season!” It started with a mass Santa Ski Down, followed by a “poker run” (a card-themed scavenger hunt), an egg nog station on the mountain, and a ski and snowboard raffle.
Santa Ski Day at Mt Rose
Ski Vermont 
The Main Base Area at Stratton Mountain Resort comes alive during the holidays with festive lights and decorations
Holiday Happenings in Vermont:
December 22 – Holiday Week at Burke Mountain
Holiday week at Burke is filled with visits from Santa, Burkie the Bear, holiday sledding, pizza parties, skiing and snowboarding, and much more. Fun is sure to be had as kids and parents alike will be kept busy during holiday week. 

Annual Pooch Parade - part of Holiday Week at Sugarbush Resort
December 22 – Visit with Santa at Okemo Mountain Resort
Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus make their Jackson Gore grand entrance at 4 pm for a pre-Christmas visit with children before the jolly old elf makes his way to the North Pole for final holiday preparations.

December 22 – Beer Pairing Dinner with Zero Gravity Brewing at Stratton Mountain Resort
The master Stratton culinary team will entertain your taste buds with a delectable four-course meal complemented by local beers from Zero Gravity Brewing in Burlington, VT. Only 50 tickets available, seating is at 6 pm and this is a 21+ event only. Price: $50 per person plus tax.

December 24 – Holiday Week at Sugarbush Resort
Head to Sugarbush to find your source of holiday cheer this season. From Christmas Eve to New Year's Day, there will be plenty of festivities to keep the whole family spirited during Holiday Week. Sugarbush will hold their traditional activities such as Kid's Pizza & Movie Night, S'more Cookouts, Torchlight Parade & Fireworks, Annual Dog Parade, live music and more.

Santa Sunday at Bolton Valley - photo by Josh Arneson
Cranmore Mountain by Rebecca Deschenes
Ski New Hampshire

A White Christmas is expected at New Hampshire resorts this year. Massive snowstorms in the run up to Christmas gave a foot of snow in some parts of the state and cold temps were expected to preserve it for the holidays. "New Hampshire's ski areas will have much more than skiing on the schedule for Christmas through the New Year," says Karolyn Castaldo. 

Bretton Woods/The Omni Mount Washington Resort
"Guests can enjoy a variety of other outdoor activities, such as snowshoeing, tubing, and fat biking, plus specially-planned activities to celebrate the holidays." Karolyn is Communications and Marketing Manager for SkiNH which includes 34 alpine and cross-country ski area members. For more information on ski areas, trail conditions, vacation planning, and updated winter events at Ski New Hampshire resorts, visit SkiNH.com. For statewide travel info, visit visitNH.gov.

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