1. Killington Peak Lodge coming soon
Killington's much-anticipated Peak Lodge, perched on lofty, 4,100-foot Killington Peak, is scheduled to open next month. The $7 million facility, flooded with natural light and mountain views, will sit on top of the highest lift-service peak in Vermont. The 15,000-square-foot space will feature a large eatery with seating for 300 people, full bar, and plenty of lounge areas with couches and tables. We also love that the new venue is part of Killington's Cow Power Program, converting cow manure into energy.
2. The distaff side of the mountain
In the 1960s Vermont's Sugarbush was so popular with women it was nicknamed "Mascara Mountain." Half a century later, female skiers and riders have made their mark as elite athletes, and resorts have taken notice with women-only programs, often coached by former Olympic and US ski team skiers and boarders. Sugarbush runs a pair of three-day Women's Ski Discovery Camps as well as the Essential Elements for Women season-long Saturday lessons. Neighboring Killington is offering two two-day camps - for advanced skiers in January and all levels in February. In Maine, Sunday River's two-day Snow Diva snowboard workshop meets in January. One of the best bargains is the Women First Ski series of Saturday group lessons from January into March at Bretton Woods in New Hampshire. Vermont's Stratton packs the season with three three-day ski camps, two three-day snowboard camps, a five-week series of Saturday lessons, an 11-week series of Sunday lessons, and the Wednesday Green Mountain Women skiing program with such add-ons as yoga workshops and extra clinics.
3. Whistler's 'Ski With an Olympian'
Get ski or snowboard tips from some of Canada's top Olympic athletes while exploring Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia through the resort's new Ski With an Olympian program. Enjoy a full day on the slopes with people like freestyle snowboarder Tara Teigen, downhill skier and ski coach Rob Boyd, ski cross Olympic gold medalist Ashleigh McIvor. Or team up with local ski cross favorite Julia Murray, whose late dad, Dave Murray, was one of the original Crazy Canucks and dominated downhill skiing in the 1970s and '80s, and whose mother was a three-time world champion freestyle skier and created Whistler's first women's-only program. Ski with Julia Murray on the 1.96-mile Dave Murray Downhill run, site of the alpine ski events for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Keep your trail map in your pocket: Besides telling fun stories and offering valuable tips, your Olympian will guide you around the immense resort, which has 8,171 acres of terrain, more than 200 marked runs, 16 alpine bowls, and three glaciers. Ask your guide to show you the resort's two new lifts this year, including Whistler's high-speed, detachable, six-pack chairlift in the Harmony Zone, and Blackcomb's high-speed quad chairlift in the Crystal Zone.
Bonus: You get to skip the lift lines for priority boarding. $899 for full-day group lesson/tour with five people max; $4,000 to ski with Ashleigh McIvor. The program runs from early December until late May, since Whistler Blackcomb has one of North America's longest ski seasons.
4. Winter offerings from the AMC
The AMC has teamed up with ski areas in New Hampshire to offer packages that include lodging, lift tickets, dinner, and breakfast.
Stay at the Highland Lodge in Crawford Notch or the Joe Dodge Lodge in Pinkham Notch and ski at nearby Bretton Woods, Wildcat, Attitash, and the expansive network of Nordic trails at Jackson XC or Great Glen Trails.
Also on tap is a long list of programs for adults and families, including weekend courses on winter photography, snowshoeing, tracking winter animals, climbing a 4,000-foot peak, and beginner backcountry skiing.
5. Sugarloaf's outdoor hot tub
After cruising the corduroy and busting through the bumps at Sugarloaf, surrender to the soothing jets and bubbles in Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel's new 30-person outdoor hot tub.
The kidney-shaped tub, between the slopeside hotel's east side and Sawduster chairlift, has a patio and welcoming lounge chairs to stretch out those tired legs.
The $240,000 amenity is part of nearly $3 million in improvements at the western Maine resort, including a kitchen renovation in the hotel's 45 North restaurant, Sugarloaf base lodge upgrades, 200 additional snowguns, and more glades on Burnt Mountain.
6. Peak performance at Mount Mansfield
The Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center, set at the foot of Mount Mansfield, is fast becoming the cultural hub for the picturesque town of Stowe, Vt., and bringing a new level of sophistication to the après ski scene. The year-round facility hosts an array of events, from concerts and theater performances to films and lectures, in its state-of-the-art hall. The mountain-lodge architecture fits the alpine setting, with a wood-shingle exterior, cedar columns, and pine accents. The atmosphere inside the 420-seat, barn-like hall is intimate and warm, with golden Douglas fir walls, open ceiling trusses, and Vermont slate.
Top events this winter include Rudolf Nureyev State Ballet Theatre of Russia performing "Sleeping Beauty," the New York-based comedy artists Chicago City Limits, and the award-winning Ruckus circus performers.
7. Western resorts expand terrain options
Think bigger means better? Find out by making tracks this season to Breckenridge, Colo.; Big Sky, Mont.; Sugar Bowl, Calif.; or Red Mountain Resort, British Columbia. Breckenridge unveils Peak 6 with 400 acres of bowls, glades, and trails plus an additional 143 acres of high-alpine hike-to terrain serviced by a new six-pack chairlift.
The acquisition by Big Sky of neighboring Moonlight Basin bumps the combined resorts into one of North America's largest, with a thigh-burning 4,750 acres of skiable terrain zippered with 33 lifts and tows.
A new triple chair at Tahoe's Sugar Bowl makes it possible to experience the fall-line steeps, chutes, and glades of Strawberry Fields without hiking.
And Kootenay powder paradise Red Mountain has added a quad chair accessing Grey Mountain, opening 997 acres that previously were restricted to Red's snowcat operation, which has moved to White Wolf Ridge.
8. Ski South Dakota and visit Mount Rushmore
Approximately 3 million people visit Mount Rushmore annually. Come winter, visitation drops from highs of 5,000 a day in summer to fewer than 100 people daily. That's a lot more wiggle room. Comparable to Yellowstone being close to the ski area, Big Sky, Mount Rushmore is only a 75-minute drive to the Black Hills ski resort of Terry Peak. With a vertical rise of 1,100 feet and an elevation over 7,000 feet, more snow falls on Terry Peak than anywhere else in the region.
In a state with the 300-mile-long cross-country Catamount Trail spanning its length, Nordic skiing is getting love from the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum in Stowe. From classic Stowe Derby posters to a biathlon rifle used in the 1972 Olympics, the new yearlong exhibit "Kick and Glide" highlights the Green Mountain State's cross-country skiing culture through properties like the Trapp Family Lodge and influential athletes including Bill Koch and John Caldwell. The theme is timely in this Olympic year as three Vermonters are on the US Cross Country Ski Team.
10. Heady Topper brewery closing to the public
If you're headed to ski or ride in Vermont's Mad River Valley, Stowe, Bolton Valley, or Smuggler's Notch for the weekend and want to secure some Heady Topper, the Alchemist Brewery's infamous double India pale ale, ranked as the top beer in America by Beer Advocate users, well, good luck.
The brewery, which sits just off Interstate 89's exit 12, would often sell out of the cans by the time Bostonians could make the Friday commute, but news it will close to the public Nov. 15 could mean more production heading to local customers. A few outlets serve it, including The Prohibition Pig in Waterbury, Gracie's in Stowe, and Castlerock Pub at the base of Sugarbush.
Local liquor stores, including Stowe Beverage, receive shipments, but they can be random and sell out quickly. Check the Alchemist's Twitter handle (@Alchemist) for late-week updates.