Ski Vegas…er, Lee Canyon

Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort changes name back to Lee Canyon

You can still Viva Las Vegas! On the Strip, just not at the ski area.

In November 2015, after a 12-year run, the Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort officially changed its name back to Lee Canyon, the resort’s original name when it was founded in 1963. The move was made to better reflect its heritage and evolution into a year-round destination.

Viva le ski in Las Vegas at Lee Canyon Ski Resort. PHOTO: Courtesy of Lee Canyon
Viva le ski in Las Vegas at Lee Canyon Ski Resort. PHOTO: Courtesy of Lee Canyon

“Despite changing our name to Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort in 2003, locals and longtime guests still refer to us as Lee Canyon,” says resort president Kevin Stickelman. “After 40 years, what Lee Canyon stood for was still an integral part of our DNA: an unpretentious, year-round family outdoor recreation area. And that’s who we are today.”

As well as rolling out a new website, the resort—one of eight owned or managed by family-owned Powdr Corp.—will incorporate its new Lee Canyon identity into all signage, marketing materials, uniforms, and other branded items. Among other things, inspiration for the switcheroo came from the rich heritage of ski patches skiers sewed onto their jackets and backpacks. Management took note, seeing the patches as reminders of the guests’ fond memories.

“We wanted to create something filtered through a nostalgic lens while staying modern and relevant,” translates a marketing-jargoned Stickelman. He adds that Lee Canyon’s new brand identity was crafted by Portland, Oregon-based Hovercraft, a brand development agency that has worked with such brands as NIKE and Ride Snowboards.

Of course, the name change doesn’t mean it still won’t hint of Vegas. Runs like Black Jack, Keno, The Strip, Slot Alley, High Card, Low Card, and, yes, Bimbo, still promise to be local favorites, joining such double diamond fare as Bristlecone Ridge and Dolomite. And its 250 acres of hike-to terrain, giving it a respectable 2,779 feet of vertical, will work off any all-you-can-eat buffet in Vegas.

“You can’t ignore the fact that we’re only an hour out of Vegas,” adds marketing director Jim Seely. “It makes us a pretty unique resort.”

While 70 percent of its business are locals from Vegas, he says, the rest is comprised of visitors, many of whom opt for a day of skiing over a hangover in Sin City.

On your next trip to Vegas, take a break from the Strip at Lee Canyon. PHOTO: Courtesy of Lee Canyon
On your next trip to Vegas, take a break from the Strip at Lee Canyon. PHOTO: Courtesy of Lee Canyon

“People will come up and ski here one day, and then take a helicopter ride over the Grand (Canyon) the next,” he says. “People can come do something cool like skiing during the day and then go back and party in Vegas.”

Even the altitude warning on the resort’s trail map about its 8,500-foot base elevation could be mistaken for the typical trip to Vegas: “You may experience symptoms of altitude sickness, including headaches, nausea, insomnia and loss of appetite.”

Marketing hype aside, it’s not just the brand that’s getting a boost. The name change comes with terrain changes as well. In 2011, the U.S. Forest Service approved a Master Development Plan for the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest resort, whose 10-year outlook calls for adding 50 trails and 10 lifts to the 195-acre resort. In the past four years, it’s already added 14 trails, growing its count to 30, and installed two new high-speed quads to replace older lifts. It has also upgraded its snowmaking capacity and renovated its base lodge as well as retail and rental shops. Top this with 240 inches of annual snowfall—which will hopefully balloon like a card shark’s chip stack this year thanks to El Nino—and you get a great reason to make the trip this season.

“We’re pretty excited for El Nino,” says Seely. “We’ve had a light past few years and are hoping for the pendulum to swing the other way this season.”

And best of all, it’s just 60 minutes from the Strip, meaning you can escape to ski while your spouse thinks you’re just nurturing a harmless hangover in Sin City.