Daring descents, roaring fires, fondue feasts in festively festooned ski bars and Santa visits amid snow-sparkling spruce — just some of the bucket-list benefits of a skiing Christmas. Seasonal schedules and dazzling decorations turn ski resorts into quintessential Christmas cards. And, with pressure to produce social media memories, some ski areas are going the extra mountain mile this winter.
Throughout December, skiing Santas are posing for pics at events such as Park City’s Snowfest in Utah. Heavenly Holidays in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., hosts a Santa search around the slopes. Panorama, Canada, ups the ante with a paragliding Claus. Also in Canada, Santas and helpers get free skiing at Sunshine Village, Banff Mount Norquay and Whistler Blackcomb, where hundreds of lookalikes ski together. Steamboat’s Santa shows nifty equestrian skills, riding the slopes on horseback to preside over the Dec. 23 stocking scramble at the Colorado resort.
On Christmas Eve, he rappels from Snowbird’s Tram in Utah and miraculously manages to do it again from the Jackson Hole Tram in Wyoming the same day. After his Dec. 24 rounds, he goes heli-skiing with Canadian Mountain Holidays on Christmas Day.
Trees and lights
In Colorado, Breckenridge’s tree lighting ceremony coincides with a riotous Race of the Santas, with hundreds of Claus couples racing kids dressed as reindeer. British Columbia’s Whistler Blackcomb illuminates its Village Stroll with 250,000 LED lights. Definitely the most luxurious tree-cutting experience is by helicopter with Canadian Mountain Holidays, where guests can go with heli guides to cut the perfect tree to decorate in the lodge.
Let it snow
For the sassiest snowmen, the Waldorf Astoria Park City has invented a snowman creation kit, encouraging families to populate Snowman Alley. Creators, rewarded with marshmallow treats, have their designs featured on social media. Christmas snow is used creatively at Colorado’s Keystone, where it’s made into what’s billed as the world’s largest snow fort, built at an altitude of 11,640 feet.
Christmas villages are a festive feature at many resorts, particularly Colorado’s Telluride, where Mountain Village, accessed via the Polar Express gondola, is reinvented as the North Pole, complete with Santa’s workshop, live reindeer, caroling, tree-lighting train rides, ice skating, holiday movies and treats. A Polar Express train from Durango, near Colorado’s Purgatory Resort, takes families for a caroling, storytelling and gift-giving jaunt in their PJs.
Since ugly sweaters turned trendy, staff at Lake Louise Inn in Alberta have donned glitzy, garish garments, and guests who check in wearing similar attire get a 20 percent discount during much of December. In British Columbia, Sun Peaks’ tree-lighting coincides with its Ugly Sweater Contest on Dec. 14, and Vail, Colo., hosts the Holiday Sweater Run on Dec. 15 with snowball throwing and cocoa breaks.
Gingerbread gets tastebuds tingling, especially at Utah’s Stein Eriksen Lodge in Deer Valley, where a team of 10 takes months to plan and execute extravagant masterpieces. To learn professional gingerbread techniques, Colorado’s Snowmass Viceroy holds free classes Dec. 23. And, to go inside a gingerbread house, there’s the gingerbread-coated Legends Café at Hotel Colorado.
The sweet stuff
Chocolate is another key Christmas component, and Keystonebrings it to life-size with its Chocolate Village hand-built from 7,500 pounds of imported chocolate. S’mores are being reinvented at resorts, too — notably Aspen Snowmass, where candy cane flavor, made with white peppermint chocolate bark, is handed out free.
Holiday markets are perfect places to buy unique gifts from local artisans. Breckenridge hosts the Handmade Holiday Market in its arts district with DIY workshops and a caroling karaoke party. Taos, N.M., which has new direct flights from Dallas this winter, just added a local artisan holiday market. There’s the Kris Kringle Market in Vail Village for handmade toys, Christmas ornaments, decorations and culinary treats. Telluride hosts the Holiday Arts Bazaar and Pop-Up Market Dec. 24 and 31.
Ringing in 2019
For Dec. 31, resorts focus on posh nosh, bottomless champagne, torchlight descents and firework fests. A private snowcat ride with Clicquot Cats yields the ultimate view over Aspen’s fireworks atop the Little Nell run, with champagne and caviar included. Quebec’s Mont Tremblant holds a hair-raising ’80s party; and Banffoffers rides on the New Year’s Eve Express, a skating party, fat-bike obstacle race and live music around town, or a fireworks and five-course feast on the slopes at Sunshine Mountain Lodge.