Carry a torch for the New Year at a ski resort


FlambeauMassif_Credit MarcArchambaultTorchlight parades and fireworks are de rigueur for New Year’s Eve at ski resorts in the U.S. and Canada. They are fun to watch, but it’s even more fun to be part of the show – i.e. be a participant in a torchlight parade! Not all ski areas let the general public join in the trip down an unlit hill at night, but if they do, sign up now!

There is nothing more beautiful than being out on a mountain at night and it’s a real hoot to actually be part of the spectacle. A recommendation from my meager experience (I have participated in one actual torchlight parade) – if you’re going to be holding a real torch at any of these events, wear old clothing (but dress warmly as you’ll have to stand around for a while).

Food, games, spectacles (more fireworks than the Fourth of July!), entertainment – you name it, you can count on ski/snowboard resorts to have something fun for skiers and non-skiers alike.

Le Massif, in the Charlevoix area of Quebec on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, is jumping the gun and having an “eve of New Year’s Eve” celebration on Wednesday night, Dec. 30 (although they are calling it a French-Canadian evening). If you want to participate in their down-mountain parade, which is open to all, you must wear a headlamp as that, and the light of the moon, is all the illumination you’ll have to guide you down the full 2526-foot descent of the mountain.

Awaiting participants at the base will be free entertainment and a sumptuous meal (for $15.95) of French pea soup, ragoût de boulettes & pig’s feet, with sugar pie, a decadent Quebeçois specialty, for dessert. Not to be missed as Le Massif is known for its unique gourmet offerings in its base lodges throughout the winter. The event gets under way at 4:30 p.m. at Le Massif’s summit (and they provide a shuttle bus back to the top when the evening is over). Reservations recommended.

Now on to the actual New Year’s Eve. In Wyoming at both Jackson Hole and Grand Targhee, children get their own “torchlight” parade, using glow sticks instead of torches, of course. Olympic gold medalist Tommy Moe will be leading the kids down Eagle Rest at Jackson Hole so sign up early. The adult torchlight parade starts at 5:30 followed by fireworks at 6 p.m.

At Grand Targhee, children ages 5 to 12 can participate in the glow-stick parade, while anyone 12 and older may be part of the official torchlight parade, which also begins at 5:30 p.m. They definitely recommend that you wear old clothing.

Kirkwood in California lets the public participate in their torchlight parade for a $10 fee as a fundraiser for their Avalanche Dog Program. (Tickets need to be purchased in advance.) The first torch will start down Zachary at 6 p.m., with the parade winding its way down the run until it reaches the Village Plaza. Fireworks follow then it’s recommended that those who still want to party head across the street to Bub’s Pub where the New Year will be rung in in traditional Kirkwood manner with live music and specials throughout the evening.

And if you can’t participate, torchlight parades are among the few things that it’s almost as much fun to just watch. At Hunter Mountain (New York), their torchlight parade and fireworks start at 7 p.m.

In Montana, at Whitefish Mountain Resort (formerly Big Mountain), you can watch or participate in the “New Year’s Eve Rockin’ Rail Jam,” where skiers or boarders will slide custom built rail features under the lights. This will be followed by their torchlight parade and, of course, fireworks – they recommend getting some mulled wine at Ed & Mully’s Restaurant and enjoying the show.

If you happen to be in Alaska, head to Alyeska where, starting at 8 p.m., skiers and snowboarders (you have to be regular at Alyeska to participate) will traverse the slopes with torches attached to bamboo poles, lighting up the mountain with a red glow. They tout that one of the biggest firework displays in Alaska will be shown immediately following – maybe they’ll be able to see it from Russia!

In New Mexico, both Taos and Angel Fire  will have torchlight parades and fireworks. Taos begins at 6 p.m. Angel Fire offers snowcat rides from 5 to 6 p.m., with their torchlight parade beginning at 6:15, followed by fireworks.

Whether you have children or not, you’ll find lots to do at the renowned family ski resort Smugglers’ Notch in Vermont. Scheduled activities for children start at 6 p.m., with the resort’s New Year’s “Celebration Bonfire,” torchlight parade and fireworks getting under way at 9 p.m. Kids then have the Giant Slide, Smuggs Bouncy House, music with DJ Meg & I-Man, mini-golf, and other games to entertain them. For something different, the adults can head off to a karaoke party at Bootleggers’ to sing in the New Year.

Whether you want them to be romantic or think of them for fun for the whole family, line up for a complimentary horse drawn sleigh ride from 6 to 9 p.m. on New Year’s at Boyne Mountain in Michigan. Stick around for the resort’s torchlight parade and fireworks from 9:15 to 10 p.m.

No torchlight parade at Cranmore in New Hampshire, which will offer night skiing until 8 p.m. and tubing under the lights until 9 p.m., but a fire dancer performance from 5 to 7 p.m. might be the next best thing, followed by fireworks at 7:30 p.m., and skiing and riding until 8 p.m.

California’s Squaw Valley, which this season is celebrating its 60th at the same time it celebrates the 50th anniversary of hosting the 1960 Olympic games, has a unique offering for New Year’s – a trip to their 8,200-feet High Camp via their Cable Car (upload between 5 and 5:45 p.m.) where they’ll host a dinner and dance then toast the New Year at Eastern time – 9 p.m. They promise to get everyone back down by 9:30 for the fireworks at the base.

Fireworks will be part of the celebration at both Sugarloaf (at 9:30 p.m.) and Sunday River (at 8:30 p.m.) in Maine, with Sugarloaf hosting both a teen and a separate adult party and Sunday River offering a New Year’s moonlight snowshoe tour (I guess they want you to start your New Year’s resolutions early) at 7 p.m. and the Shilly Shally Fire Dancers from New York at 8 p.m.

Actually there are too many events to list them all, so, if you’re anywhere near snow country, think about heading to a ski area to welcome in the new decade. Just check the website of your favorite – it’s almost a guarantee there is some fun, even exorbitant, event going on – it’s winter resorts’ busiest time of the year and entertaining their customers is what it’s all about.

An added bonus if you are a skier or a boarder and don’t stay out too late or imbibe too much: chances are you’ll find the slopes relatively uncrowded on New Year’s Day. You may even get the mountain almost all to yourself. Happy skiing and Happy New Year!