What does the new year mean to you? New diet…new hobby…new gym membership? Maybe. How about fresh powder and slopeside parties? That sounds a little more like it. Let’s add family activities, live music, fireworks, and again, fresh powder. If you’re looking for all that – New Year’s fun in the mountains and some top notch skiing and snowboarding – the following list of resorts is for you.
What’s always great: The state of Maine’s nickname is ‘Vacationland.’ I think Sunday River is a big reason why it got that name. This is a premier eastern ski resort. It has a massive snowmaking operation that helps cover its nearly 1,000 skiable acres, spread over 6 different peaks. It has ski-in-ski-out lodging dotting the base area, and even has spotlit night skiing. I can speak from personal experience about something else that doesn’t often get mentioned in resort reviews; the on-mountain medical services. My evidence is anecdotal, but those services are fantastic. As a young teen I sustained a major head trauma after hitting a tree while skiing out of control in the terrain park. The Sunday River Ski Patrol is a big reason I’m still alive. So, you can feel comfortable and safe knowing they’re there to help in the unlikely event that you do have an accident.
There are plenty of off-mountain reasons to visit Sunday River, too. For classic ski town nightlife visit the nearby town of Bethel. It’s packed with quiet little bars, restaurants and B&Bs, plus the type of post card scenery you expect from a quaint northern New England hamlet. In the early season hiking trails remain uncovered, and once the snow falls there is cross country skiing and snowshoeing in abundance. Don’t forget the most important thing, you may be up in the mountains, but you’re still in Maine, so fresh lobster is always close by! Act accordingly.
New Year’s Eve: An all ages party, Fire Dancing, a fireworks show, and a boozy countdown party that goes into the wee hours of the morning. All that and great snow the next day.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
What’s always great: The vertical! No resort in the USA has more vertical drop than Jackson Hole. 4,100 feet of exhilaration from the top of the aerial tram down to the base in Teton Village. Jackson Hole is known to cater more to expert skiers than to beginners, but the resort is big enough that everyone can find terrain they’re comfortable on. Regardless of your ski level, ride the tram to the summit and grab some made to order waffles and coffee at Top of the World. After that, if you’re crazy, huck it down Corbet’s Couloir and ski on home. If you’re not crazy, just walk over to the edge and watch all the people that are skiing off of cliffs, then simply ride the tram back to the base.
You’re probably aware that Jackson, WY is a world class recreation and cultural destination, year-round. Both Jackson and Teton Village offer the finest western resort amenities you can imagine – fine dining, art galleries, and high end shopping – but don’t worry, if you’re on a budget, there’s still plenty to do. Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks are just up the road, and each has incredible offerings during the snowy months. Camping, cabins, snowshoeing and backcountry skiing and riding, plus dinner hearthside in one of the historic park lodges – whether you’re on the hill, in Jackson or anywhere else in the area, you won’t find much to complain about.
New Year’s Eve: The resort has a skiing, torchlit parade from the top of the mountain to the bottom which culminates in a huge fireworks display over Teton Village. Jackson has parties for every taste, from raucous countdowns to live music.
What’s always great: Hmmm… maybe the fact that Whistler is arguably the greatest ski and snowboard resort on the planet. I know I harp on stats a lot, but look at these – 8,100 skiable acres, 5,020 vertical foot drop, 200 runs, 37 lifts, and more than 400 inches of snow each year. When it comes to mountains, like some other things in life, biggest isn’t always best. But with all that space at Whistler, I guarantee you find what you’re looking for in a ski hill.
The town of Whistler doesn’t lack for options either, especially when it comes to food. People come to this town and resort from all over the world so the spread of restaurants reflects the crowd. If you’re up for a fancy night, try the Rim Rock Cafe and Oyster Bar, but if you just want some quality eats for a good value, check out Tacos La Cantina. After the snow, the food is the next best thing about Whistler, so rest assured you can’t go wrong.
New Year’s Eve: Whistler also has a fireworks display planned, along with a number of other family friendly events. For those looking to party in the traditional sense, the pubs and bars throughout the various base village areas host a joint crawl event leading up to midnight. Full details and tickets will be available soon here.