|MISTY MOUNTAINTOP: The cloud-covered summit of Whistler (Nathan Borchelt)|
Heavenly Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly boasts Tahoe's highest elevation and longest vertical descent. And thanks to the largest snowmaking system on the West Coast, Heavenly is often one of the first Tahoe resorts to open for skiing and snowboarding. So naturally they have a few pre-season deals to entice you to head west before the full-bore winter rush.
Heavenly's midweek Buy-One-Get-One-Free offer features a variety of lodging options. Buy one night of lodging and one lift ticket and get the next day and night free—that's two nights lodging midweek and two days of skiing or riding starting at just $149 per person. This package is available November 25 to December 20 and March 30, 2008 to April 17, 2008, based on double occupancy. (www.skiheavenly.com; 800.HEAVENLY)
Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia
If you didn't get your fill of beach bonfires this summer, head to Whistler Blackcomb for their quirky opening ritual known as the Annual Ullr Ceremony. Named after the Nordic God of Snow, Whistler Blackcomb locals show Ullr due respect by sacrificing skis and snowboards to a tremendous bonfire. The mountain dwellers circle the fire, dancing and chanting Ullr's name in the hope that he will deem their sacrifices worthy enough to cover the valley with snow and deliver a long season filled with fresh powder.
Apparently last year's ritual was a great success; Whistler Blackcomb boasted its snowiest season on record—40 percent more than its annual average. And next year, access to the slopes will be even easier thanks to the new Peak to Peak Gondola project, expected to be completed in December 2008. This scenic new lift will whisk skiers and riders from Whistler's Roundhouse Lodge to the Rendezvous Lodge on Blackcomb Mountain, offering easy access to both resort mountains on the same day. The breathtaking gondola ride will cover 2.73 miles in 11 minutes, reaching a highest vertical point 1,361 feet above Fitzsimmons Creek—a new world record.
Pre-season skiers and 'boarders may miss out on the virgin gondola ride, however, as opening day at the resort is slated for November 22. But that just means the early birds get to camp out on their favorite mountain and carve up tracks from dusk till dawn, and then start over on the other peak the following day.
As North America's premier mega-resort, Whistler Blackcomb offers a deal for those who plan ahead. Just book your vacation by November 15, and you can save up to 33 percent on your ski holiday. And remember, kids 12 and under can stay, ski, and rent free all season long. (www.whistlerblackcomb.com; 866.218.9690)
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication