New trails, new inns herald East Coast season

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BOSTON -- Although Jack Frost kept his distance during a wet and warm fall, East Coast ski resorts are gearing up for the 2005 season with a flurry of packages, expansions and improvements. They include:

" Okemo Mountain Resort, Vermont: The new Jackson Gore Inn and base area are up and running this season, featuring accommodations that range from guest rooms to three-bedroom suites as well as a separate base area and an underground parking garage.

Trails connecting Okemo base area to Jackson Gore have been expanded, and two graded trails have been added to the mix: the 3,200-foot Supernova and the 1,500-foot Black Hole.

In all, Okemo boasts the highest vertical drop in southern Vermont at 2,200 feet, with 604 acres served by 18 lifts, including five high-speed detachable quad lifts, and 113 trails, one super pipe, six terrain parks and one snow-skate park.

Triple Peak Resorts, which owns Okemo Mountain Resort, completed the purchase of Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado in March and operates Mount Sunapee Resort in New Hampshire. Call (800) 78-OKEMO or visit www.okemo.com.

" Mount Sunapee, New Hampshire: Mount Sunapee unveiled a six-day season pass, valid Sundays to Fridays through February during nonholiday periods. Participants can choose from a Mount Sunapee-only or Sunapee/Okemo versions, priced from $599 and $699, respectively, for adults.

Families can take advantage of the Mount Sunapee Unlimited Peak or Four Mountain Unlimited Peak passes, which offer select discounts on childrens or young adults tickets.

Also new are reduced-rate lift tickets for Mondays, from $30 to $52 a day, excluding select holiday periods. On nonholiday Wednesdays, two can ski for the price of one. Call (603) 763-2356 or go to www.mountsunapee.com.

" Sugarbush Resort, Vermont: With an eye to drawing winter sports enthusiasts and their children, Sugarbush teamed with Circus Smirkus to offer live, family-friendly entertainment every Saturday night throughout the season.

Performances, which are geared to kids ages 4 to 12, will take place at the Sugar Bear den in the Gatehouse Lodge from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. A pizza dinner is included. Kids will learn about such perennial favorites as juggling, prat falling and spinning plates on straws.

Reservations are recommended. Call (800) 53-SUGAR or visit www.sugarbush.com.

" Sugarloaf/USA, Maine: Families looking for a last-minute getaway can take advantage of a Ski Free, Get Free Kids Programs & Free Rentals special at Sugarloaf during Childrens Festival Week, Jan. 9 to 13. 

Available to children ages 4 to 12, the program requires a three-night minimum stay midweek. A program of nightly family and childrens activities going on all week will include entertainers, Festival Night and Movie Night. Rates begin at $87 per person, per night.

Kids & Teens Ski Free weeks, valid on select dates in February and March, also are available, priced from $69 per person, per day.

Maines highest ski mountain, Sugarloaf, opened a 400-foot superpipe with 16-foot walls as well as a new rail park called the Pipeline. Call (800) THE LOAF or visit www.sugarloaf.com.

" Mont-Tremblant Resort, Quebec: The resort is marking its 65th anniversary with free guided tours daily and a ski like in the good ol days program designed to showcase the glade runs and moguls in the Edge, a terrain featuring ungroomed artificial snow.

Ski-and-stay packages, including lodging, lift tickets, breakfast and dinner, begin at $75 per night, per person.

The resort has a range of accommodations, from the LErmitage du Lac, a four-star, three-diamond boutique hotel with 69 rooms, to the Suites Tremblant, where kids under age 17 stay free with their parents. Call (866) 783-5629 or go to www.tremblant.ca.

" Waterville Valley, New Hampshire: Midweek Stay and Ski packages at the Golden Eagle Lodge start at $200 per night January through March, excluding vacation and holiday periods. The package includes condominium accommodations and two adult ski tickets.

Visitors also can take advantage of a Wheel of Deals prize wheel promotion, available all of January, excluding Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It offers freebies and discounts on lift tickets on Mondays and Fridays. Call (800) GO-VALLEY or go to www.waterville.com.

" Shawnee Peak, Maine: Known for its night skiing, the resort completed expansions and renovations at the base lodge and boosted its snowmaking capabilities for the coming season. Call (207) 647-8444 or visit www.shawneepeak.com.

The new owners of Saddleback Mountain in Maine are investing $12 million in improvements that will include seven new trails." Saddleback Mountain, Maine: New owners are investing $12 million in improvements, resurrecting the resort from possible closure in 2003.

Improvements are slated to include construction of a new, larger base lodge; seven new trails; two extended trails and a new terrain park with a 200-foot half-pipe; a new quad lift; an extended double lift; and updated snowmaking capabilities.

Construction of a 125-room hotel is scheduled to begin during the summer of 2005 along with a tubing park and ice-skating rink.

Weekend and holiday lift tickets are $35 for adults, $30 for kids ages 13 to 18, $25 for kids ages 7 to 12 and free for kids age 6 and under. Call (207) 864-5671 or go to www.saddlebackmaine.com.

" Sunday River, Maine: The largest ski resort in the state is spending $1.2 million on capital improvements this season, including renovations at the South Ridge and Barker base lodges, the addition of four new snow cats and the expansion of the spa and cafe at the Jordan Grand Resort.

Sunday River is offering a theme week for skiers age 50 and over, in conjunction with the Global Over 50 Ski Club, from Jan. 23 to 28. Activities include organized group skiing, apres ski social events, special dinners, clinics and a sock hop.

Packages are priced from $239 per person for five nights accommodations, a five-day lift pass and a Perfect Turn instructional clinic. One-night versions of the package are available from $55.

A Childrens Festival, where kids ages 4 to 12 ski and stay for free, is also on tap from Jan. 9 to 14. Participating children receive free instructional clinics and rentals daily or stay-in day care for half-price. Activities include a welcome reception, photo opportunities with Sunday River Snow Monster mascots, entertainment, a parents night out and races for children.

Packages start at $85 per adult, per night, double. Call (207) 824-3000 or visit www.sundayriver.com.

To contact reporter Felicity Long, send e-mail to [email protected].

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