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Where to spend a season: Jackson Hole, Snowbird/Alta, or other?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

I grew up skiing Whistler and have had a season pass there for 14 years skiing 30 to 50 days each season. I love Whistler, but I've hardly ever skied anywhere else, and next winter, I'm planning to take a break from work and move my home base for a season.

 

Important factors for me (in decreasing priority): challenging terrain; reliable high-quality snowfall; lack of crowds; access to backcountry skiing; and proximity to other good resort skiing. I've narrowed my choices down to Jackson Hole or Snowbird/Alta. I would live in either Jackson or SLC/Sandy (rather than at the mountain base).

 

Jackson Hole

+ arguably the best expert resort terrain in the lower 48

+ reliable snowfall, and cold temps keep it dry

+ awesome backcountry skiing in the Tetons

+ close to Grand Targhee, 4 hours from Big Sky, and 5 hours from Salt Lake City

+ Jackson is more of a ski town and more fun than SLC

- SE aspect means surface conditions can get bad in March

? unsure what crowds are like (note: I'll ski mainly mid-week)

 

Snowbird/Alta

+ likely the best expert resort terrain next to Jackson Hole (and Whistler!)

+ unbeatable, reliable, high-quality snow

+ great backcountry skiing in the Wasatch (but with lots of others sharing it)

+ several other Utah resorts close by, 5 hours to Jackson Hole, day's drive to California or Colorado

+ N aspect preserves the snow even late season

- SLC is a big metropolis without much of a fun atmosphere

- I hear the crowds can be horrendous even mid-week and powder gets shralped fast

- traffic jams and avalanche closures on the road into Little Cottonwood Canyon

 

At this point, I'm leaning towards making Jackson Hole my base but taking off in March to ski north facing terrain in Utah (i.e. Snowbird) or higher elevation terrain (i.e. Colorado).

 

Other areas I did consider: Big Sky, Telluride, and Mammoth. I also considered Europe but was put off by the inconsistent snowfall history and the "need" for a guide to ski off-piste.

 

Any opinions would be appreciated. Thanks!

post #2 of 17

Statistically, I think Alta/Snowbird is the best option if you like skiing powder.  That is only one factor, however.

 

As far as a place to live, JH would be hard to beat -- in fact, I can't think of a ski town I like better.  I'd love to live in a cabin at Alta, but SLC itself is kind of depressing to me for some reason.

 

Though I have always enjoyed skiing at JH, I don't agree with your comment "reliable snowfall, and cold temps keep it dry".  JH can have great powder, but my experience tells me that conditions can be wildly variable there (much more so than the best Wasatch resorts).  I would jump at the opportunity to spend a season at JH, of course, but not if it came down to a snow comparison to Alta/Snowbird.

 

post #3 of 17

I think a lot of the factors that make the SLC resorts great for those traveling would make it less desirable for being a local but if I were moving out west it would be to Utah because I like not being broke ski bum.  I would have to have access to a decent job and reasonably affordable housing.  I also think that a "bad" snow year in Utah is probably still above average for most of the rest of North American ski areas.  Now if I were to win the lottery of find some long lost rich uncle Jackson would be it.  I can't imagine a better mountain for challenging skiing.

post #4 of 17

IMHO:  The quality of life in a ski town, like Jackson, is much higher than in SLC.  I would add Aspen to your list.

post #5 of 17

One other thing that I thought of is that the season in Utah is usually much much longer than well just about everywhere else.  The last few years Snowbird has been open in to June.  On the other hand Jackson Hole has opening and closing dates set in stone.  So if you plan to use the lifts as much as possible that could be something to consider

post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the replies. I checked and Snowbird stays open ~ 2 months past JH.

 

Does anyone have a comment on crowds/lift-lines between Snowbird/Alta and JH?

 

post #7 of 17

IMHO.

challenging terrain:  good argument could be made for either JH or Alta/Bird;

reliable high-quality snowfall:  Alta/Bird definitely wins this;

lack of crowds:  maybe the edge to JH; Alta/Bird is has notoriety for powder day "locusts"

access to backcountry skiing:  good argument could be made for either 

proximity to other good resort skiing:  Alta/Bird definitely wins this including low crowd options.

Live in either Jackson or SLC/Sandy (rather than at the mountain base):  would suspect Sandy much cheaper place to live.

Besides Aspen, another CO location might be Frisco with relatively cheap Epic ski pass to spend winter checking out Vail, BC, Breck, Arapahoe Basin and Keystone, plus Heavenly and Northstar.  Got to be some tasty terrain in all that.

post #8 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamesj View Post
 plus Heavenly and Northstar.  Got to be some tasty terrain in all that.


nope, no nasty terrain in the whole Tahoe area. move along please.eek.gif

post #9 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamesj View Post

IMHO.

challenging terrain:  good argument could be made for either JH or Alta/Bird;

reliable high-quality snowfall:  Alta/Bird definitely wins this;

lack of crowds:  maybe the edge to JH; Alta/Bird is has notoriety for powder day "locusts"

access to backcountry skiing:  good argument could be made for either 

proximity to other good resort skiing:  Alta/Bird definitely wins this including low crowd options.

Live in either Jackson or SLC/Sandy (rather than at the mountain base):  would suspect Sandy much cheaper place to live.

Besides Aspen, another CO location might be Frisco with relatively cheap Epic ski pass to spend winter checking out Vail, BC, Breck, Arapahoe Basin and Keystone, plus Heavenly and Northstar.  Got to be some tasty terrain in all that.


Hi, Jamesj.

 

I'd agree pretty much right down the line with your comparisons with the exception of the backcountry access.  

 

Just my opinion (but I have done a great deal of backcountry skiing at both locations), but I think JH wins handily in this category.  

 

If "backcountry access" means out-of-bounds gates from the resort, there's just no comparison at all.  The amount of terrain that can be reached from the JH gates is enormous and the quality is very, very high.  Snowbird/Alta has good access to some great ob skiing, but the scale is tiny in comparison.  

 

If "backcountry access" means skin or hike-to terrain outside the ski area boundaries, then Alta/SB get a little closer but I still think that the JH options are still significantly greater when you take into account three (or four) different mountain ranges that can be reached relatively easily.

 

Control Tower:  I think the crowds/lines are moderately similar.  JH has a few thousand locals with season passes who ALL seem to show up on powder mornings.  My own opinion is that there's a difference in "feel" however.  Once you're on the lift and reach the top at JH, people spread out rapidly and ski all over the mountain - both inbounds and out.  That means, again just my opinion, that once you're on the mountain skiing you don't have the "frenzy" feeling that you do at Alta or Snowbird when you take off from the top down the same traverses that all the other maniacs are rushing toward.  It's a very subjective thing, but I just don't get the same "mass chaos" feeling at JH that I do at Snowbird (I'm not an Alta fan so I don't ski there much).

 

Last but not least, I don't know how you feel about supporting people who stand to gain monetarily from the massive development of an open pit gold mine in one of the most environmentally sensitive areas of the world.  The founder/owner of Snowbird has a major financial interest in seeing that the Pebble Mine project, near Lake Iliamna and Bristol Bay in Alaska, becomes a reality.  Bristol Bay is the site of the largest wild salmon migration in the world, and the Pebble Mine arguably presents a serious threat to that ecosystem.  That connection may not be anything that might enter into your decision, but it's the reason that I will no longer ski at Snowbird.  Sorry for the thread tangent, but the Alaskan wilderness is a major hot button for me.    

 

post #10 of 17

I wouldn't decide this one based on skiing alone. SLC and Jackson are so different in terms of cost of living, population, amenities, etc... It should be obvious where you want to go.

 

I think the Xfactor is the long season and that there is more to do than just skiing in UT. in jackson you are 4 hours form big sky, in SLC you are 4 hours from Moab and St. George. When weeks of high pressure hits in January or holiday crowds descend the big Xfactor is going south for a few days to ride bikes, canyoneering, and party in the desert until the snow returns. You are alot closer in SLC.

 


Edited by tromano - 3/15/11 at 6:01pm
post #11 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Peters View Post




Hi, Jamesj.

 

I'd agree pretty much right down the line with your comparisons with the exception of the backcountry access.  

 

Just my opinion (but I have done a great deal of backcountry skiing at both locations), but I think JH wins handily in this category.  

 

If "backcountry access" means out-of-bounds gates from the resort, there's just no comparison at all.  The amount of terrain that can be reached from the JH gates is enormous and the quality is very, very high.  Snowbird/Alta has good access to some great ob skiing, but the scale is tiny in comparison.  

 

If "backcountry access" means skin or hike-to terrain outside the ski area boundaries, then Alta/SB get a little closer but I still think that the JH options are still significantly greater when you take into account three (or four) different mountain ranges that can be reached relatively easily.

 

Control Tower:  I think the crowds/lines are moderately similar.  JH has a few thousand locals with season passes who ALL seem to show up on powder mornings.  My own opinion is that there's a difference in "feel" however.  Once you're on the lift and reach the top at JH, people spread out rapidly and ski all over the mountain - both inbounds and out.  That means, again just my opinion, that once you're on the mountain skiing you don't have the "frenzy" feeling that you do at Alta or Snowbird when you take off from the top down the same traverses that all the other maniacs are rushing toward.  It's a very subjective thing, but I just don't get the same "mass chaos" feeling at JH that I do at Snowbird (I'm not an Alta fan so I don't ski there much).

 

Last but not least, I don't know how you feel about supporting people who stand to gain monetarily from the massive development of an open pit gold mine in one of the most environmentally sensitive areas of the world.  The founder/owner of Snowbird has a major financial interest in seeing that the Pebble Mine project, near Lake Iliamna and Bristol Bay in Alaska, becomes a reality.  Bristol Bay is the site of the largest wild salmon migration in the world, and the Pebble Mine arguably presents a serious threat to that ecosystem.  That connection may not be anything that might enter into your decision, but it's the reason that I will no longer ski at Snowbird.  Sorry for the thread tangent, but the Alaskan wilderness is a major hot button for me.    

 



 



Quote:
Originally Posted by tromano View Post

I wouldn't decide this one based on skiing alone. SLC and Jackson are so different in terms of cost of living, population, amenities, etc... It should be obvious where you want to go.

 

I think the Xfactor is the long season and that there is more to do than just skiing in UT. in jackson you are 4 hours form big sky, in SLC you are 4 hours from Moab and St. George. When weeks of high pressure hits in January or holiday crowds descend the big Xfactor is going south for a few days to ride bikes, canyoneering, and party in the desert until the snow returns. You are alot closer in SLC.

 


Those are two very good assessments of the two options.  I think one other thing to consider is that when the crowds do come you could head north in Utah.  Snowbasin and Powder Mountain tend be much less crowded than the resorts in LCC, BCC, and Park City.
 

 

post #12 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Peters View Post




Hi, Jamesj.

 

I'd agree pretty much right down the line with your comparisons with the exception of the backcountry access.  

 

Just my opinion (but I have done a great deal of backcountry skiing at both locations), but I think JH wins handily in this category.  

 

If "backcountry access" means out-of-bounds gates from the resort, there's just no comparison at all.  The amount of terrain that can be reached from the JH gates is enormous and the quality is very, very high.  Snowbird/Alta has good access to some great ob skiing, but the scale is tiny in comparison.  

 

If "backcountry access" means skin or hike-to terrain outside the ski area boundaries, then Alta/SB get a little closer but I still think that the JH options are still significantly greater when you take into account three (or four) different mountain ranges that can be reached relatively easily.

 

Control Tower:  I think the crowds/lines are moderately similar.  JH has a few thousand locals with season passes who ALL seem to show up on powder mornings.  My own opinion is that there's a difference in "feel" however.  Once you're on the lift and reach the top at JH, people spread out rapidly and ski all over the mountain - both inbounds and out.  That means, again just my opinion, that once you're on the mountain skiing you don't have the "frenzy" feeling that you do at Alta or Snowbird when you take off from the top down the same traverses that all the other maniacs are rushing toward.  It's a very subjective thing, but I just don't get the same "mass chaos" feeling at JH that I do at Snowbird (I'm not an Alta fan so I don't ski there much).

 

Last but not least, I don't know how you feel about supporting people who stand to gain monetarily from the massive development of an open pit gold mine in one of the most environmentally sensitive areas of the world.  The founder/owner of Snowbird has a major financial interest in seeing that the Pebble Mine project, near Lake Iliamna and Bristol Bay in Alaska, becomes a reality.  Bristol Bay is the site of the largest wild salmon migration in the world, and the Pebble Mine arguably presents a serious threat to that ecosystem.  That connection may not be anything that might enter into your decision, but it's the reason that I will no longer ski at Snowbird.  Sorry for the thread tangent, but the Alaskan wilderness is a major hot button for me.    

 


Actually it's pac rim that Dicks involved with and the Chuitnahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuitna_Coal_Project

Funy thing is people bitch about Snowbird and Dick B ass desire to disnify the lcc with rollercoasters, addtional trams, rotateing resturants atop hidden peak etc yet pony up the $$$$ for their season and day passes.

sadly I've never been to JH or toured the tetons so I can't really contrast. but the wasatch, cache, orquihs and uintas all offer seperate mountain ranges that I'd count as easily acessiable.


 

 

post #13 of 17

Philosophical differences aside, do both.    Snowbird's spring pass is cheap and you can always find a place in SLC for a month or two. 

post #14 of 17

Dude, of course Alta/Snowbird should be your number one choice.  Not that I'm partial in any way.

post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by SHREDHEAD View Post

Philosophical differences aside, do both.    Snowbird's spring pass is cheap and you can always find a place in SLC for a month or two. 



Plenty of enviro-weenies pissed that JHMR exists, that people sell ski homes there, and that people flyfish anywhere.  So you could go to Jackson and feel secure that some weenie has their nose out of joint about enviro-issues in your backyard (but not theirs), just like some people are concerned that residents of Alaska might want to work and get paid.  So I wouldn't sweat the enviro-thing.

 

You don't mention how big an issue cash is.  Overall Sandy or Ogden are more economically versatile in some ways.  Assuming you're not also into alpine climbing (in which case Jackson would be it) SLC with a car gives you lots of great resorts nearby in addition to Alta & Snowbird, great access, and a short trip to Jackson when you want.  MTB scene better in Jackson overall locally, but Utah has great MTB away from the tree-huggers who've helped shut down SLC on the way to keeping Alaskans from working.  Fishing is much more varied in UT, but Jackson is obviously close to some of the best trout fishing (of several kinds) anywhere.   

 

In terms of finding reliable BC partners that are fits with you, personally SLC is a bit easier in terms of pairing up if you're new to the network there and don't come with lots of introductions.  People in Jackson are super-friendly in this regard, but things seem a bit more established there to me.

 

 

 

 

post #16 of 17
Quote:

Originally Posted by CTKook View Post

 

MTB scene better in Jackson overall locally, but Utah has great MTB away from the tree-huggers who've helped shut down SLC on the way to keeping Alaskans from working. 

 

 

 

 

Only for freeride, XC not so much. And he is here in the winter time, none of the trails will be open in Jackson or in the Wasatch, but in S. UT it will be full on. 

post #17 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by tromano View Post



 

Only for freeride, XC not so much. And he is here in the winter time, none of the trails will be open in Jackson or in the Wasatch, but in S. UT it will be full on. 


Agreed re S. UT and NV (easy drive further on).  Seasons have a way of stretching though, so if you have diverse interests worth keeping in mind. 

 

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