Canyons will open on Friday, Nov. 29, and Pastorino said it will be more of a quiet opening than a grand event, because they want to make sure all of the new bells and whistles Vail has installed are working properly.
"There are two ways this transition could have happened: we could have chaos or we could have a really well-prepared team working under what we think are some really great leader in the industry in the Vail Resorts Company," Pastorino said. "Clearly, the latter has happened."
While Pastorino said most of the changes are internal processes that guests will not notice, the Epic Pass system is the biggest change at the resort.
The Epic Pass is Canyons' new season pass that will also allow purchasers to ski at any Vail Resort in the country, including those in Colorado, California, Michigan and Minnesota. The pass also allows 15 days at three Vail resorts in Europe.
Pastorino said the Epic Pass will make skiing and snowboarding run more smoothly at the lifts. Rather than having an employee at the lift take your pass, scan it and wait for a response, riders will simply need to have the pass somewhere in their clothing. Once on a lift, the pass will be scanned as riders pass under the arch.
"Now, basically, they can just ski on through there, and there will be an operator who has a database that actually shows photos of whose pass is coming along and cross-reference them," Pastorino said. "These arches are currently being constructed all around the resort, and they are mostly all in place."
Riders can purchase the free smartphone app "Epic Mix," which will link to their Epic Pass. The app, Pastorino said, can track every single run riders do on the mountain the entire season as well as track other people in their group if they link them to their app as well.
There are 150 different "badges" riders can earn on the app, such as the "Canyons Conqueror" for riding every single run on the mountain. The app can link to social media accounts and announce when riders have earned different badges.
The feature Pastorino said he thinks riders will get the most out of is the photo tool. Epic Mix photographers will be on the mountain all season long taking pictures of riders that link automatically to their accounts. They can then look at the pictures on their phone and purchase hard copies of the photos they want, he said.
Riders can be photographed going down Canyons' newest run, "Figment." Pastorino said it is a blue intermediate run off Dream Peak that gives riders better access to a different part of the mountain.
When riders are getting off the mountain during what Pastorino calls "aprés time," between 2 and 6 p.m., they can snack on some of the new menu items at more than 20 different restaurants at the resort.
The Farm will now feature chicken and waffle tacos, which is sweet and sour chicken sautéed with vegetables and wrapped up in a taco shell made out of waffle batter. Umbrella Bar is adding a Utah Scone burger, taking the idea of a Utah scone and building a burger on top of it with Summit County beef and locally sourced vegetables. Red Tail Grill's newest menu item is the 4,000-Acre burrito, Pastorino said. It is a 2 ½-foot long burrito that customers can fill with their choice of carnitas, carne asada or chicken.
When it comes to Canyons' "highly acclaimed" ski school, Pastorino said there are a couple of changes to the existing programs. The "Canyons Mountain Team" program has been extended to 12 weeks and is now for youth ages four to 14. It begins in January and runs through March.
"The idea is more stability from the instruction standpoint," Pastorino said. "Once your child is assigned to a group, they will have that same instructor all program long and will be with the same group of new friends and equal-level skiers and snowboarders."
The local weekend program for kids will now be "á la carte," Pastorino said. There is no minimum or maximum number of days customers can purchase.
There is also a brand-new program available called "Ultimate Four." Pastorino said it is a class with a guaranteed maximum ratio of four-to-one, kids to instructor. If parents don't want to pay for a full-on private lesson but still want individualized attention, he said, "Ultimate Four" is the program to choose.
Pastorino said there will be a new director at the ski school: Jeff Lindgren. He will come from Breckenridge, another Vail Resort, and has more than a dozen years of experience.
"Jeff is going to bring some new energy," Pastorino said. "Vail has an amazing reputation for the ski and snowboard schools, but it's not like we're starting from a bad spot."
As for the things locals know and love about Canyons, Pastorino said Vail management has said they will take this first year to assess the resort in all areas. Their history, he said, tends to be that bigger changes will come after they evaluate everything.
Canyons will continue to offers runs and lifts as well as snow-shoeing, Zip Lines and horse-drawn sleigh rides at dusk every night throughout the season.
If visitors want to buy or rent ski and snowboard equipment on site, Pastorino said Canyon Mountain Sports is still the main shop, rental outlet and tuning shop in the village. Rossignol and Burton are the primary partners for equipment, and Canyons is a Burton "Learn to Ride" snowboard center.
"Burton actually has snowboards that are custom-made for kids as young as four for the area we have set up specifically for kids that young," Pastorino said. "The board has a tow-rope on the front so the instructors can drag them along the runs, boxes and rails and get them used to balancing."
He said the ski school will still offer programs for children starting with state-licensed daycare for children as young as six-months-old. The Canyons Cubs program is for children ages two to four, and it includes daycare as well as on-mountain activities. Canyons Cats is for children ages four to six, and Canyons Carvers covers children ages seven to 12. Many of Canyons' ski instructors, he said, will be returning this winter season.
Pastorino said Canyons will continue to host its traditional holiday events, including the Thanksgiving "Harvest Buffet" on Thursday, Nov. 28, from noon until 6 p.m. in the Grand Summit Ballroom.
To get visitors and locals in the Christmas spirit, Santa Skis Free day will be Saturday, Dec. 21 this year. Skiers and snowboarders who dress up like Santa, or an elf, will be able to ski free at Canyons that day.
In the spring, Canyons will host its seventh annual "Spring Grüv" from March 22-31. The pond-skimming event, which is where competitors dress up in costumes and attempt to ski or snowboard across a 50-foot-long pond, will take place on the first day along with a concert. Steel Pulse will be the headlining act, Pastorino said, and they are a multiple European Grammy-winning reggae band.
From the opening on Nov. 29 until closing day on April 13, Canyons will open for riders at 9 a.m. and close at 4 p.m., and Pastorino said the transition to management under Vail Resorts has been much easier than he expected.
"We are truly trying to deliver what Vail calls 'the experience of a lifetime,'" Pastorino said. "A full-groomed, fine dining and luxury lodging experience as well as some adventure and other great experiences."
For more information on ski school programs, new offerings or how to purchase a season pass, visit www.canyonsresort.com.