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SKI SEASON Preview by Richelle Blanken

at TraveAgentCentral.com

A STRONG DOLLAR and a host of new hotels are driving interest in Europe this ski season, but there’s plenty to do stateside as well.
“We’ve definitely been seeing a rise in international bookings,” says Richelle Blanken, vice president of Alpine Adventures. “The dollar is strong against the Euro and the Swiss Franc, so we’ve had a lot of inquiries for Europe.”
Millennial travelers, too, are increasingly taking ski vacations in Europe as the strong dollar has led to lowers costs, says Blanken.
“If they’re on the East Coast near a major airport, they can fly over in winter for about the same price as Colorado or Utah,” explains Blanken. “A lot of Millennials haven’t gone to Europe, so they can stay a couple of extra nights in a gateway city — we’re definitely seeing a rise in that.”
For clients traveling with their family, Blanken recommends booking early, particularly for popular holiday periods like Christmas and New Year. Another good tip for families is to consider a private home rental. “For example, we can do a six-bed-room ski-in / ski-out house in Deer Valley or Park City, Utah, and if people don’t want to deal with cleaning or cooking, we can hire a private chef for one to three meals a day,” says Blanken. “It ends up being more affordable than doing rooms at a five-star hotel, and it gives everyone a lot of space.”

New Hotels on the Horizon

Guests headed to Europe this season will have their pick of a host of new and freshly renovated hotels. This December, for example, the new Hotel Barriere Les Neiges is set to make its debut in Courchevel. The luxury property will have 42 guestrooms and suites, some with connecting doors for families, as well as direct access to the Courchevel ski area. All suites come with butler service. For dining, guests can check out the Le Fouquet brasserie, as well as a south-facing outdoor terrace and lounge. Other amenities include a cinema room and the Spa Diane Barriere, which offers an aquatic circuit, swimming pool, hammam, sauna, outdoor Jacuzzi, fitness center and seven treatment rooms with a treatment menu developed specifically for winter sports.
In Val Thorens, the new Hotel Pashmina offers ski-in / ski-out access from its 50 rooms and suites as well as concierge service, according to Dan Sherman, vice president of marketing for Ski.com. Chef Romuald Fassenet, winner of the Meilleur Ouvrier de France prize, leads the property’s two restaurants.The bar has a unique design with chairlift benches and a dining alcove in the shape of a cable car. For another offbeat experience, there is an igloo on site in which guests can spend the night. Another added incentive is an on-site spa offering wellness and beauty treatments by L’Occitane.
Also at Val Thorens, Fahrenheit 7 has renovated all 107 of its guestrooms and suites in a design that’s meant to be modern yet cozy.There are four restaurants on the property: Seven, for breakfast; the Terrace, for lunch; and La Rotisserie or Le Zinc for dinner. La Rotisserie serves a variety of roasted meats, fish and other dishes, as well as kid-friendly options, while Le Zinc specializes in fondues and other local dishes, sometimes with live music.
Val d’Isere is getting two new hotels this season: La Mourra Hotel Village and Chalet Skadi. La Mourra is a series of luxury private chalets, a restaurant and a lounge bar arranged in a mountain hamlet at the entrance of the old vil-lage and a short walk from the center village, which has a variety of shops and restaurants.The property is held by the same family from the famous Hotel Le Blizzard, says Sherman.
Chalet Skadi is a new four- to 10-person unit opening December 17. In addition to chalet-style services, guests also get access to the Les Bains du Montana spa, which has an indoor swimming pool, sauna and hammam, as well as beauty treatments by 5 Mondes.
Club Med, which has 20 all-inclusive ski resorts in the Alps and beyond, is offering an all-new Ski Expert program for graduates of the Club Med Expert Agents program. Perks include advance notification of exclusive webinars, personal invitations to FAM trips, one free night for every 14 nights booked and much more. For program details, visit clubmedexpertagent.corn or travel agent university.com. For your clients, Club Med is currently offering all-inclusive ski vacations from $169 per person, per night, if booked by August 30.

Eye on the U.S.

Meanwhile, major resorts across in the Rocky Mountains are also rolling out new hotels and slope side upgrades.
The new Limelight Hotel Ketchum is on track for a December opening. When complete, the hotel will have 99 rooms, 14 condos for sale with 12 lock-off units and a new restaurant and lobby lounge. Modeled after Lime-light’s existing Aspen hotel, the new property will be close to downtown shops and restaurants and the Sun Valley River Run base area. Guests can also enjoy expanded continental breakfast, apres ski deals in the lobby lounge and pet-friendly rooms.
Speaking of apres, this season will also see the winter debut of the new LBC Apres, located mid-mountain on Snowmass in the Lynn Britt Cabin, serving $6 gin and juice cocktails and apres food specials starting at $5.The Cabin also has DJ entertainment, a fire pit and outdoor lounge seating.
In Vail, the ski-in / ski-out Vail Cascade Resort and Spa will reopen as a newly minted member of The Luxury
Collection following a $35 million renovation that included a complete redesign of guestrooms and amenities, such as a new fine-dining concept, a lounge with live music overlooking Gore Creek, and a gourmet market and cafe. Destination Hotels will continue to manage and operate the property.
The Arrabelle at Vail Square, A Rock-Resort is also fresh off the June debut of its own renovations, which included updates to soft seating and carpeting in all 36 hotel rooms.The project also entailed a full revamping of the hotel’s workout facility along with addition of new and expanded cardio equipment, HD TV integration, high impact flooring, a separate core / stretch zone and a new hydrotherapy facial machine at the Rock Resorts Spa.
In Utah, Park City Mountain Resort is fresh off its 2015 debut as the largest ski and snowboard resort in the United States after a $50 million capital improvement project connected the former Park City and Canyons Resorts. This year, Park City will begin its season on November 18, with Canyons following suit the day before Thanksgiving — both earlier than their traditional opening dates. Snowbird is set to open its newly renovated and expanded Creekside Lodge at the beginning of the 2016-2017 season, nearly doubling the size of the existing building and adding new dining and ticketing options.

Text by ADAM LEPOSA

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