The skiers and snowboarders began piling onto the plane that was set to fly from Denver to Bradley International Airport on Monday.
Some were coming back from the mountains of Colorado. Some were connecting to Windsor Locks from Utah and others from Lake Tahoe.
Almost to a person, it was the consensus that it was a rough holiday period on the hill.
Except for one person: me.
A couple from Seymour sat down next to me before boarding. Colorado was not kind to either of them, one a snowboarder, the other a skier.
"There was not a lot of snow," they said almost simultaneously.
"Well I had a 44-inch base in Vegas."
"And a full terrain park."
Several heads turned when hearing the declaration. Yes, as crazy as it sounds, the Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort is one of the hot spots this season. Western storms have been running in a southerly direction and dumping snow into Lee Canyon in southern Nevada, where LVSSR sits.
The Las Vegas snow resort is the novelty if the snow sports industry. It is located just 45 minutes from The Strip. The trip there up Highway 95 takes visitors through downtown, which sits at about 2,100 feet above sea level. Another 6,000 or so feet later, you are at the base of the lifts.
By western standards Vegas is small — 11 trails and three chairlifts and about 1,000 feet of vertical. But considering where it is, it's one of those “must-visit” places for any skier and rider. You can get the resort, get in a full day and still be back on The Strip for dinner and a show or an early session at the blackjack table.
And it snows there; the record is 220 inches set three seasons ago.
LVSSR President and General manager Kevin Stickelman calls it the best environment for snowmaking — and snow collecting — in the industry. The resort sits in a box canyon that cuts off the wind from even notoriously breezy Vegas. So what snow falls, falls straight down and cold overnight temperatures create a natural refrigeration system.
After sunrise the temperatures generally reach the 40s. One can see all the way down to the desert floor from atop Chair 1.
The runs are short, but offer good cruising, an easy way down for intermediates and an extensive terrain park (a good 70 percent of the patrons are snowboarders).
And it’s easy to get to with direct flights from Bradley or quick connections through major airports like Denver and Chicago
Those who know the mountain well will testify that it offers some of the best off-piste and tree runs on the continent. If you want to hike, you will find challenging and fun terrain, and some secret powder stashes above and around the current trail system.
But the resort proper is going to get wider, higher, and a lot more sophisticated thanks to regulatory approval of an expansion plan that will create 10 lifts and 50 trails.
The Humoldt-Toiyabe National Forest Service accepted the LVSSR Master Development Plan in July. The news came after several years of examining the extensive multi-phase project, which will take up to a dozen years to complete and includes additional lifts, trails and a new lodge.
For now it boasts a remodeled guest services area, ski and snowboard school and rental center. Its snowmaking reservoir, once a glorified swimming pool, is now filled with 7 million gallons.
LVSSR already has a federally funded ski bus program in place to get visitors and the young locals to the mountain from The Strip and a location in the northern part of the city.
It all makes the people piling onto the plane just after New Year’s Day salivate at the thought of skiing and riding Vegas.