The Best New Year’s Traditions at Mountain ResortsPublished on 12/20/2022 · 7 min readLooking for something new to do next New Year's Eve? Check out Ski Expert Ian Greenwood's list of ski resorts that offer both fun NYE parties and awesome ski lines!
Photo by Jamie Fenn
The clock inches closer to midnight. Bottles of champagne are passed around. The crowd—whether it’s at a nightclub, a house party, or in the streets of New York—bubbles with excitement. Someone yells out a countdown, and most people freeze to join in. A few rush through the crowd after realizing they’ve misplaced their desired New Year’s kiss.
The clock strikes! It’s midnight. Couples young and old embrace, those left out might enjoy a smooch with whatever poison they’ve been sipping on. While this tradition sounds exciting when described with a bit of fanfare, it’s really old hat. The sparklers, bubbly, midnight champagne toast, pop of confetti, resolutions… like worn shoe leather, they’ve served a purpose. They’re reliable and trustworthy but, ultimately, a bit forgettable.
New Year's Eve doesn’t have to be a rehash of familiar traditions. The magic still exists in some places, you just have to know where to look. Mountain locales, with their “off-the-beaten-path” honorary status, are little nooks with no shortage of this magic, especially when it comes to wrapping up the holiday season and ringing in the New Year.
So, maybe you’re planning a New Year’s getaway at a mountain resort? Or you’re just plain tired of the New Year’s rigmarole and want something new? You’re in the right place! Read on for a list of the hottest NYE parties and entertainment at mountain resorts throughout the United States. No need to stay at home to enjoy your glass of champagne.
1. Beaver Creek
Commonly referred to as the Beav, Beaver Creek Resort in Beaver Creek, Colorado, hosts a family-friendly New Year’s event season after season. This past New Year’s Eve, it brought the festivities into the village, which resides at the base of the hill. Surrounded by picturesque views, revelers enjoyed plenty of live entertainment. At slopeside, New Year’s kicked off with a live band and concluded with a family-friendly DJ set. In the spirit of early ski mornings, the event wrapped up at 10 p.m. with a live showing of the New York City ball drop and a fireworks show. If you’re a skier who prioritizes an early bedtime so you don’t miss those first chair powder turns and you have a gaggle of kids in tow, swing by the Beav next New Year’s Eve for some family-friendly fun. Plus, this event is open to the public and free of cost.
The next morning, after the festivities, the slopes of the Beav are typically quiet. The usual holiday travelers have returned home, and those who may have partied a little too much are still in bed. So, this is a great time to take advantage of the Beav’s vast terrain. From mellow groomers to exciting bowls, this New Year’s celebration isn’t just about getting down on the dance floor—getting down the slopes with a smile on your face is part of the equation, too.
During the rest of your stay, don't forget to enjoy the Beav's world-class dining options, like Splendido or the Beaver Creek Chophouse. A four-course dinner, short ribs, top-shelf alcohol, or even fresh seafood can be as much a part of ski vacations as the fresh tracks.
Vail Ski Resort in Vail, Colorado, has certainly made a name for itself in the skiing world. With high-class resort amenities like the Ritz Carlton, world-class skiing, and a bounty of fine-dining options with extravagant menus, it’s the go-to resort if you’re looking to ski and ride in style. And, in staying true to its trademark, Vail locals do a blow-out New Year’s Eve.
The main visual spectacle at Vail Mountain Resort is the annual torchlight parade. While you might assume that the parade marches through the heart of the village, you’d be wrong. Instead, swap the marching band for a cadre of world-class skiers composed of locals, dirtbags, and ski instructors. Starting at the peak, the crew proceeds on skis toward the base area, arcing gracefully in unison, lights in hand. The result is a staggering light show etched into the side of slopes, glowing in the darkened evening air like a lava flow.
Pro-tip: Vail's Golden Peak area provides an excellent viewing point for this torchlight parade.
Unfortunately, this event didn’t take place during New Year’s 2021. It’s tradition, though, so if your New Year’s 2022 itinerary includes Vail, odds are you’ll get a chance to spot this otherworldly show.
And, given that Vail is a hopping epicenter of nightlife, the torchlight parade isn’t the only fun event on tap. Loads of bars and restaurants host parties to ring in the New Year throughout Vail’s village area. Some offer family-friendly vibes, whereas others stretch late into the night. Outside of the jamming clubs and bars, the tree-lighting ceremony presents another opportunity to get your light show fix if the torchlight parade wasn't enough. Whatever your goal may be for New Year’s, Vail’s got it all.
If you’re more interested in the hard-charging, big mountain resort experience, Alta Ski Area in Alta, Utah, is worth a look. First, to imagine this resort, take the usual terrain park and spread it throughout the entire mountain. The result is an endless wonderland of seemingly manicured jumps, hips, and cliffs around every bend (but they’re all natural!). A true jibbers paradise.
Luckily, if donning your hotdogger’s hat and flying through the air upside down or throwing a butter over a roller is not your cup of tea, Alta’s got plenty of manicured groomers and a bustling base area with cozy lodges, too. The local’s drink of choice is the “Alta Bomb,” a pint of beer spruced up by dropping a shot of espresso into its bubbling depths. Think “Irish Car Bomb” (a much more fearsome mixed drink concocted with Bailey’s and Guinness) if it bought a van and decided to hit the road in search of adventure.
In some ways, the titular “Alta Bomb” functions as a metaphor for the New Year’s celebrations that go down at this resort every year. They’re one part laid back, and another part laced with energy, like a potent mix of beer and espresso.
Remember Vail’s torchlight parade? Alta’s New Year’s Eve hinges on something similar, although in this case, audience participation is encouraged. Passholders, or those who are willing to pony up the modest $10 fee, are allowed a single ride up to the peak after darkness arrives on the big day. While red roadside flares were used in the past, their usage was snuffed due to safety concerns. These days, the resort encourages participants to bring their own cocktail of glowing lights. Once the posse is assembled at the top, the revelers head down the slopes in a stream of lights. This is a once-a-year chance for a lift ride on Alta’s famous terrain after dark.
If you’re less on the thrill-seeking side of things, you can hang out by the bonfire or on the lodge deck with a hot toddy. As the crowd of glowing skiers descends, you’ll be treated to a magical show that’s typically joined by a high-altitude barrage of fireworks. Similar to the Beav, this portion of the night wraps up early at around 7 p.m., making it a great event to attend with your young ones.
But the festivities don’t end there. Many of the hotels at the base area host private parties for those interested in swigging champagne until the clock strikes midnight, and plenty of options are open until 10:30 p.m. if you need some evening desserts.
Adding a little snow and ice can reinvigorate your New Year’s experience. No need to throw out the champagne, just check out a higher elevation for a different perspective on a worn-out holiday. Who knows, maybe one of these could take center stage as a fresh New Year’s tradition for you and your family.
If heading into these wintery locales next January piqued your interest, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a Curated Ski Expert! They’ll be able to set you up with the ski gear and cold-weather clothing you’ll need.