Resorts in the Big Sky area prepare for winter season

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With Sun Valley, Idahos entry into Ski magazines top 10 awards, several new luxury properties in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and a new ski mountain in Montana, the Big Sky region is coming into its own among snow sports enthusiasts looking for new destination ski experiences.

The following is a sampling of improvements and specials for the coming season in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana:

Wyoming

The Four Seasons Jackson Hole, which opened last year, has brought luxury to this rugged ski area with its ski-in/ski-out access and pampering service. Ski valets are on hand to carry your equipment to the lift and tune your skis overnight.

That said, the property is family-friendly, with a Kids Club for children age 18 and younger offering gaming stations, a pool table, foosball table, TV, movies, books and toys.

Also available are Kids Fun Nights, complete with arts and crafts, games and dinner and nanny services.

At Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, children under age 17 can take part in activities at the Kids Ranch, where they can play at Fort Wyoming, an outdoor Wild West sports playground; take Ske-cology, an interactive program combining ski and snowboard lessons with environmental education; or test their mettle at Team Extreme, where they can tackle the steeper trails with a ski instructor.

Families can also take a guided snow-coach tour through Yellowstone National Park, cross-country ski in Grand Teton National Park or hunker down for a sleigh ride through the National Elk Refuge.

After a day in the snow, families can warm up at the hotel in the heated hot springs-style outdoor pool and three outdoor hot tubs, accompanied by complimentary hot chocolate and smores.

Packages at the 148-room, 24-suite property follow:

  • Ski Free and Ski Spree, available Dec. 2 to April 2, includes a daily lift ticket to the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and daily equipment rental for two. Rates start at $455, double, from Jan. 2 to 22; $670 from Jan. 23 to April 2.
  • Spa Renewal, good through April 2, features accommodations for two and a 50-minute spa treatment. Prices begin at $385, single or double, from Jan. 2 to Jan. 22; $590, single or double, from Jan. 23 to April 2.
  • Fourth Night Free, good Jan. 2 to April 2, includes a fourth night free for guests who pay for three nights.
  • Call (800) 819-5053 or go to www.fourseasons.com.

    Agents can help skiers save up to 50% on an early season Ski Free package at Spring Creek Ranch in Jackson Hole. From Dec. 3 to Dec. 24, participants pay from $150 per room per night, double, for accommodations with a fireplace; breakfast for two at the Granary restaurant and lift tickets for two to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort or Grand Targhee.

    Sleigh riding at Spring Creek Ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Grand Targhee typically opens before Thanksgiving; Jackson Hole is slated to open in early December.

    Spring Creek Ranch accommodations feature stone fireplaces and hand-crafted pine furniture and include suites, studios with full kitchens, two- and three-bedroom luxury condos and executive homes. The property also features a Wilderness Adventure Spa. A complimentary shuttle service is available to link guests from the slopes into town.

    Call (800) 443-6139 or (307) 733-8833 or visit www.springcreekranch.com.

    The Teton Mountain Lodge in Jackson Hole features 79 condominium units that can be broken into 128 hotel suites and rooms, all located slope-side at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and less than a mile from Grand Teton National Park.

    The lodge is gearing up for the upcoming ski season with a variety of new programs and packages.

  • The Tip Top Tune package includes four nights of on-slope accommodations, three days of skiing or snowboarding at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, daily breakfast and an equipment tune-up. Also included is a Skiers/Riders Tune-Up Massage at the new Mountain Lodge Spa. The package starts at $690 per person, double.
  • The Skiers Dream package includes four nights of slope-side accommodations, three days of lift tickets and daily breakfast at the Lodges Cascade Grill House. The price is from $550 per person, double.
  • The Home Away From Home package features four nights in a one-bedroom condo, $100 worth of stocked groceries upon arrival, three days of adult lift tickets, a family sleigh ride to Solitude Cabin for dinner and daily breakfast at the Lodges Cascade Grill House. The package starts at $565 per person for a family of four with two kids age 10 or under.
  • All three packages are available from Dec. 3 to April 2 and do not include tax or resort fee. Visit www.tetonlodge.com or call (800) 801-6615.

    The Snake River Lodge & Spa in Jackson Hole unveiled a How Sweet It Is package designed to highlight the mountains new Sweetwater chair lift. Available Dec. 3 to April 2, the package includes an 80-minute Sweet Earth Wrap per person, inspired by the hydrothermal clay and minerals at Yellowstone National Park.

    Also included are four nights accommodations, daily breakfast and three days of skiing at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Rates start at $2,529, double, not including tax. Call (866) 975-ROCK or visit www.rockresorts.com.

    Montana

    Winter sports enthusiasts looking for uncrowded slopes and a host of on- and off-mountain snow activities may want to consider a visit to Big Mountain Resort in Whitefish.

    Improvements at the Summit House, a cafe and bar, are under way this season, with new furnishings and a new menu.

    Future development, to the tune of $12.5 million, will include a new day lodge, expanded novice terrain and a hotel-conference center.

    Both the hotel and the Outpost Lodge expansion will be ready for the winter season. A new Base Camp Kids Center features childcare and ski rentals.

    The mountain can accommodate some 1,600 people in a variety of lodging options, from condominiums and townhouses to hotels and motels. The Morning Eagle Lodge in Big Mountain Village, for example, offers ski in/out accommodations and shops at the Morning Eagle pavilion.

    There are 3,000 acres in all, with 91 trails -- the longest of which, Hellfire, is 3.3 miles -- and the resort features plenty of tree- and bowl-skiing. The terrain is mixed, with 20% for beginners, 50% for intermediates and 30% for experts, all served by 13 lifts.

    New for 2005-2006 is a five-day winter pass priced at $175 per person, good for five days of skiing or riding during the winter season, excluding Dec. 26 to Jan. 1 and Feb. 18 to 20.

    Ski-and-stay deals include Hibernation House Value Season packages starting at $65 per person, per day, double, for lodging, lift tickets and breakfast. The special is valid Nov. 23 to Dec. 17 and April 1 to 9.

    Kids age 6 and under ski free, while adults pay $49 a day for lift tickets during regular season, $39 in early and late season.

    In addition to downhill skiing, visitors can cross-country ski at Glacier Nordic Center; snowshoe along trails on Big Mountain, Whitefish Lake, Round Meadows and Glacier Park; and snowmobile from the Big Mountain summit with the Montana Adventure Company. Families can bundle up in elk furs on a dogsled tour along 12 miles of Stillwater State Forest trails with Dog Sled Adventures on Big Mountain or ice skate at the Stumptown Ice Pavilion.

    Call (800) 858-4157 or visit www.bigmtn.com.

    Moonlight Basin will offer joint lift tickets for the coming season that also allow visitors unlimited access to neighboring resort Big Sky.

    The two resorts comprise almost 5,300 acres and 23 lifts serving terrain for a variety of skill levels. Of the runs at Moonlight Basin, 25% are for beginners, 50% for intermediates and 25% for advanced or experts.

    At the Moonlight Basin base area, the Moonlight Lodge offers a gourmet restaurant called the Timbers and a full-service spa.

    At mid-mountain, the Madison base features a Wild West-style dinner theater at the Jackass Creek Saloon.

    For families, a Moonlight Mountain Kids childcare center caters to kids ages 6 months to 8 years with such activities as sledding, ice skating and snow shoeing; a Night Owls program operates several evenings a week for children ages 5 to 12. 

    For the winter season, the reciprocal Lone Peak Lift Ticket is priced at $78 for adults and $59 for juniors and seniors, available at both Moonlight Basin and Big Sky Resort. Kids age 10 and under ski free. Call (406) 993-6000 or visit www.moonlightbasin.com.

    Idaho

    Sun Valley is marking its 70th anniversary this winter with an early-season package set to run Nov. 23 to 27. It includes four nights lodging, three days of skiing and a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings.

    The package is priced from $293 per person, double, not including tax. Visitors can also tack on a pre-holiday package, from Nov. 27 to Dec. 19, that includes one nights accommodations and a lift ticket for $64 per person, double.

    Families can take advantage of a Kids Stay & Ski Free program that runs in conjunction with both packages, enabling children under age 16 to ski and stay free with parents at a Sun Valley Resort property.

    The special is good for one child per parent and is valid from Jan. 2 to 30 and March 4 to the end of the season.

    A snowboarder in Sun Valley, Idaho.Also new is a Lift Exchange Program, which allows skiers and snowboarders to use their multiple-day lift tickets on other goods and services besides skiing.

    Options include a massage at the Sun Valley Salon & Day Spa; snowshoe rental and lunch at Trail Creek Cabin; ice skating and lunch at Gretchens Restaurant; Sunday brunch for two at the Sun Valley Lodge Dining Room; dinner at the Ram Restaurant and a movie at the Opera House; dinner for two at Bald Mountain Pizza and a movie; and a sleigh ride and lunch at Trail Creek Cabin.

    Visitors to Sun Valley will notice a host of on-mountain improvements, including a new 425-foot superpipe for skiers and snowboarders and a renovated Sun Valley Inn Convention Center with more than 12,000 square feet of meetings space. Call (800) 786-8259 or visit www.sunvalley.com.

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

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