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Fly to Ski: Great resorts a short flight away

 January 11, 6:03 PMSF International Travel ExaminerBob Ecker

Though Lake Tahoe area resorts are fantastic, a short place ride gets you to some awesome resorts throughout the western part of North America. Sometimes it’s best to get out of your car, hop on a flight and jet off to different ski locale. See something new and experience new adventures. Here are six sensational resorts accessible via a short flight.

Telluride, located in southwestern Colorado is where the Wild West meets some of the hardest skiing around. With a base elevation of 8,725 ft. and going to over 13,000, Telluride offers all sorts of hike only terrain, far off the beaten track. Skiers and riders can hit vast backcountry forested areas and never see another human for miles. There can be avalanches at these elevations so participants should always carry the proper equipment. But for those daring enough to tackle it, Telluride can’t be beat. Advanced skiers or riders will enjoy Telluride’s hike-in terrain. Those keen on adventure can hit vast forested backcountry areas and rip up miles of challenging pristine trails. It’s a unique mountain plus Telluride itself is an authentic, historic American town. US Airways flies into Telluride, the highest commercial airport in the North America. 

Mammoth Mountain is one tremendous resort, with miles of demanding runs like Kiwi Flat above White Bark Bowl.  California's Mammoth gets vast amounts of snow and stays open later in the year than any other major resort. Their terrain parks are legendary including 3 half pipes and 7 terrain parks in all. (The nutty Unbound Terrain Park is considered by some, the best terrain park in the world) Also don’t miss the incomparable Lakefront Restaurant in the Tamarack Lodge, near the cross country/snowshoe areas. This Cal/French restaurant is the best dining spot in all of Mammoth  New Alaska/Horizon Air flights fly directly from San Jose to Mammoth.


When it comes to big time resorts, well, Whistler/Blackcomb, the largest ski resort in North America in British Columbia is the place to hit. Hosting many of the upcoming 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics Games events, the mountains, people and partying is legendary. Though it will be crazy next month during the Games, (very tough to find lodging) think about visiting this World Class resort soon or after the events. Plus, this season hardy souls can tackle the exact same downhill course that the Olympians will be hitting next spring. It’s an amazing place and plenty of excellent hospitality/dining spots too. Air Canada and other airlines fly to Vancouver and beyond. 

Sun Peaks, located inland British Columbia is sometimes described as the “Anti-Whistler,” which isn’t a knock on either resort. Where Whistler presents a huge vibrant scene, Sun Peaks is moderate in size, comfortable, contains a charming village but still offers superb, sunny skiing. Plenty of Brits and Aussie return to Sun Peaks, year after year, to enjoy its casual ambiance and low key attraction, despite the long distance. Sun Peaks is also the home to the Austrian Ski Team, a unique, important honor in the world of professional skiing. Best to fly to Kelowna or better yet, Kamloops then take the shuttle to the Ski resort. I can’t wait to return.

Utah, known as “The Greatest Snow on Earth” is accessible through a short hop to Salt Lake City from all Bay Area airports. Various airlines fly to Salt Lake City, less than an hour from many world class ski resorts. Delta offers the most frequent flights. The excellent “Quick Start” program once again allows fliers to redeem their same day boarding pass for a free same day lift ticket at Park City resorts. Known as opulent and luxurious, Deer Valley Resort in Park City also is also home to some of the steepest chutes in Utah. Its 6 adjoining mountains combine deep powder, plus some very scary, steep, rock-lined chutes with 40-degree plus pitches. Locals and visitors know that this is the place to get crazy, fly those cornices and then enjoy Deer Valley’s legendary après ski scene. Remember, Deer Valley is for skiers only, no snow boarders. Trust me, you have to experience Deer Valley, at least once.


Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon is home to the lovely Snowbird, one of the coolest resorts anywhere. Huge snow, massive steeps and bowls plenty of wild backcountry access; it’s no wonder that the US Freeskiing Nationals will be held here in March. Snowbird is also the only in North American resort with a long, ski through tunnel connecting two areas, the front side Peruvian Gulch to the large, bowl laden, Mineral Basin. Snowbird is a challenging snow lover’s dream come true.

Get out of the car - fly to ski.
c. Bob Ecker 2009 

Important Baggage notes: 

Transport Canada, a department of the Canadian government, has implemented a new ban on carry-on baggage. Customers on flights from any airport in Canada to the United States are not permitted to carry-on any baggage. Exempt from this ban are medication or medical devices, small purses, cameras, coats, items for care of infants, laptop computers, crutches, canes, walkers, containers carrying life sustaining items, a special needs item, musical instruments, or diplomatic or consular bags. This means no boot bag or ski related carry-on returning from Canada at this time.

Air Canada: First checked bag free, second checked bag $30. Ski, snowboard AND Boot bag considered one bag, and not oversized. Due to new carry-on restrictions on flights FROM Canada into the US (your return flight) Air Canada is waiving their normal fees and allowing up to three free checked bags. For example, regular economy passengers will be permitted up to three checked bags weighing 50 lbs. each.

Delta: $25 on first checked bag (ski bag PLUS boot bag are considered one item) $35 on second checked bag. Prepaying saves $2, or $5 per flight.

Alaska/Horizon: $15 for first checked bag, $25 for second checked bag. Ski bag and boot bag are considered separate items

Southwest Airlines. Bags fly free. Yea.

US Airways: First bag $20 online, Second $30 online. At Airport $ First $25, Second $35