Prayers for snow have been amply rewarded over the past few months. In the week before a blizzard hammered the East Coast, resorts such as Whistler Blackcomb , Wolf Creek received seven feet of new snow or more.
From the Sierra Nevada to Central Park, there has been no shortage of the white stuff. And those who pray for snow are likely praying to Ullr, often identified as the Norse god of snow. He is Thor's stepson and one of the best archers of any pantheon, but there is little (if any) evidence he was ever the god of snow -- not to mention the fact that prayers for snow were likely few and far between during his heyday as a deity. Prayers for no more snow had to be much more common in the Viking era.
But many artists of the day depicted Ullr on skis, and ski resorts subsequently adopted him as their own. So while La Niña might have more to do with the impressive tallies this ski season, the bearded fella remains the god of choice in snow-hungry mountain towns.
Breckenridge, Colorado, hosts the annual Ullr Fest (Jan. 9-15, 2011), my favorite wacky winter carnival in ski country. The weeklong festival encompasses a wide range of activities, from bonfires to the Ullympics (how far can you chuck a frying pan?) to dating games, capped off with an always interesting parade (I've judged it for several years running) and plenty of carousing. It's also a great time to ski Breck, when the slopes aren't besieged by the weekend hordes. And it doesn't really matter if Ullr is the patron god of snow or not, so long as it snows.
Breckenridge Central Reservations (tel. 888/251-2417; www.gobreck.com) is offering 20 percent off stays through Feb. 10. For home rentals, Paragon Lodging (tel. 888/306-1376; www.paragonlodging.com) is offering a fifth night free on select vacation homes, many of which are ski-in, ski-out.
Other Ski News, Ski Deals & Ski Events
Badger Pass Ski Area (Yosemite National Park, CA)
As of Dec. 18, Yosemite's Badger Pass Ski Area, revered as a great hill for beginners since opening in 1935, is accessible via a shuttle ($10 round-trip) from the city of Oakhurst. The shuttle ride is about 2 hours each way and also stops at Tenaya Lodge just outside the park boundary en route to the slopes.
Squaw Valley USA (South Lake Tahoe, CA)
For $999, two people can enjoy four nights at the Village at Squaw Valley USA (tel. 866/548-6511; www.thevillageatsquaw.com) and three full-day lift tickets. A gear-rental upgrade adds about $110 per person. The deal is available Jan. 18-Feb. 18 and Feb. 27-Apr. 10.
Whistler Blackcomb (Whistler, B.C.)
At North America's largest resort, all 8,117 acres are open for business. A "5th Night Free" deal with five nights' lodging and four full-day lift tickets starts at C$113 per person. There are also comparable and a Jan. 15 showcase of some of the world's top ski and snowboard photographers in the Deep Winter Photo Challenge.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (Teton Village, WY)
Among the best deals at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is a weekday special with ski-in, ski-out rooms at the Village Center Inn starting at $99 per night Mondays through Thursdays and a "Powder Package" that starts at $325 per person (based on quadruple occupancy) for four nights in a two-bedroom condo and three full-day lift tickets per person. See Jackson Hole Resort Lodging's specials page for more deals and additional information.
Copper Mountain (CO)
Buyers of Copper Mountain's new Snow Day Pass have more reason than usual to invoke Ullr's name in prayer. The pass is just $99 -- not much more than a walk-up, one-day lift ticket -- but it allows holders to ski or board any day the resort receives 4 inches or more of new snow, with no blackouts. Sure, it's a gamble, but so far, so good, and you get two days (Feb. 6 and Apr. 15) no matter what falls out of the sky. But act soon: The deal ends Jan. 13.
Looking for more great ski packages? Find more Colorado ski deals and New England ski deals.