What's new at ski resorts in the West, Canada

Skiing in Vail, Colo. Skiing in Vail, Colo. Photo Credit: Vail/Liam Doran

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The biggest on-mountain news in the West this winter is Jackson Hole Mountain Resort's effort to woo intermediate skiers and riders.

Long a magnet for expert and extreme skiers and snowboarders drawn to its deep powder and 4,139 vertical feet of bowls, steeps, chutes, glades and cliffs, the Wyoming resort has taken the edge off. Much of its $8million in capital improvements is concentrated in Casper Bowl, including more intermediate terrain, a new high-speed chairlift, expanded snowmaking, three new grooming vehicles and an intermediate terrain park.

And at the lift-ticket window, Colorado's Keystone is offering kids 12 and younger free skiing or snowboarding every day all season, including holidays. The catch: They and their parents must stay a minimum of two nights in resort lodging (village, base area and ski-in/ski-out slopeside condos and hotels), booked through Keystone's central reservations service.

Here's what else is new this season in Colorado, Utah, California and Canada.

COLORADO

Vail celebrates its 50th anniversary with a new 10-person, Wi-Fi-enabled gondola in Vail Village.

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Beaver Creek has 17 acres of new terrain and adds snowmaking coverage to an additional 30 acres.

Aspen Mountain's Little Nell Hotel has a new $2.5-million restaurant, Element 47 (the periodic table number for silver, which was mined extensively in the area). Nearby Snowmass opens the $13 million Elk Camp restaurant and adds 230 skiable acres on Burnt Mountain.

Copper Mountain's 300-foot zip line, added over the summer, will continue operating through the ski season. The zip line allows two people to travel side-by-side 30 feet above the resort's West Lake ice-skating rink at speeds up to 30 mph.

Arapahoe Basin has added a conveyor lift in its Pika Place Learning Arena for beginners and Aces' Kids Park, a beginner-level terrain park adjacent to the new lift.

Winter Park's new tubing park features four lanes, conveyor lift access and a warming structure serving hot chocolate.

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UTAH

Alta celebrates its 75th season with its own anniversary beer, produced by Wasatch Brewery.

Canyons Resort introduces the Ultimate Mountain Experience, with six Olympians and other athletes coaching guests for three-day sessions.

Deer Valley replaced its chairlift with a high-speed, detachable quad, part of $8million in improvements.

Park City Mountain Resort offers a new terrain park, Neff Land, and a three-day freestyle camp for children.

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Snowbird replaced its Little Cloud double chair with a high-speed quad. The new lift reduces ride time to the top of Snowbird from eight minutes to 31/2 minutes.

Sundance adds a fixed-grip quad chair, its first new lift since 1995. It loads at an upper parking lot and provides access to a terrain park and the resort's back side.

CALIFORNIA

Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, which share lift tickets, have $24 million in improvements. Squaw gets two new lifts: the high-speed, six-seat Big Blue Express and the Mountain Meadow triple. Alpine Meadows' redesigned terrain park has grown to one mile in length.

At Northstar, snowcats now offer rides on Sawtooth Ridge, providing better access to "sidecountry" slopes. Guided backcountry tours will bring skiers and riders to new terrain beyond the gated-access Sawtooth Ridge resort boundary.

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Heavenly's Peak Performance Academy offers new clinics, helping boarders handle the resurrected 18-foot half-pipe. Last winter's apres-ski "Unbuckle" parties at the mid-mountain Tamarack Lodge were so popular they will be held nightly this season. Heavenly will play host to the U.S. Freestyle Championships March 29-31.

Kirkwood's $5 million in improvements targeted restaurants, bars and restrooms. A new snowcat road improves access to expert terrain for the Expedition Kirkwood program, which offers classroom and on-mountain courses in avalanche certification, beacon training and backcountry awareness.

Mammoth Mountain adds the Unbound Playground Progression Park, near the Canyon Lodge, with low features and instructional signage for wannabe freestyle skiers and snowboarders.

CANADA

British Columbia's Whistler Blackcomb has six new "Wonder Routes," a network of tours, trails and vantage points.

Each route showcases a unique aspect of the mountains:

The Top of the World Route features views from Whistler Blackcomb's four highest peaks.

The Steeps Sampler highlights the steepest ski and snowboard runs on both mountains.

The Size Matters Route showcases the longest runs on both mountains.

The Gold Medal Route features points of interest from the 2010 Winter Olympics.

The Family Certified Route highlights family-friendly areas and points of interest.

The Powder Stashes Route guides guests through powder snow areas.

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