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Winter Extravaganza: Where to go?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

Hello there! I have been reading all over your forums, enjoying the wisdom and advice, but I thought I would post my plans and see what advice you can send my way. Please excuse my terminology and lack of knowledge.


A little bit about myself:  I am a 26 year old male and have been skiing 4-5 times in my life. Most of those were only for a couple days on the east coast and Breckenridge is the only place out west I have skied.  I consider myself an intermediate skier as I can get down most regular blacks with ease.  I can hit moguls/bumps but I do fall occasionally and it requires a slow pace. Hopefully, without sounding arrogant, I would like to point out that I am an athlete and pick up sports (including skiing) quickly. This might help with your analysis.


So here is the fun part.  I have the whole Winter off to ski and I would like some help making decisions on where to ski. Here is the TENTATIVE list of places -- in chronological order -- that I am considering:


  • Epic pass (Vail, Breck, A.Basin, etc) for the first 1-2 months.
  • Alta/Snowbird for a week
  • Lake Tahoe for a few days (I can use my Epic Pass here)
  • Whistler for 2 months
  • Jackson Hole for a week on the way home.


I have a few concerns and will probably add more after this post.  If you see anything that I should think about that I am not, please point it out.  


1.) Will CO have good snow/conditions around the opening month?  If not, is there some place on my list that might have better? I can always change around my schedule. I picked CO first as it is cheaper with the epic pass and I have a variety of resorts to practice and learn.


2.) Should I reconsider a safari type winter and stick to one (or two) locations? If so, what one offers me the best all around ski experience.  From what I have read on this forum, I think whistler is my best bet here, BUT I am open to suggestions. As I said earlier, I tend to catch on quickly in sports and I want a mountain that I can grow into skill-wise. 


3.) How hard is it to find month-to-month accommodations in some of these spots?  So far it is a breeze in CO and Whistler, but the others (from what I have seen in the forums) look to be more difficult. Any thoughts or insight where to find places to stay in Lake Tahoe or Jackson Hole?  Alta/Snowbird, I plan on staying in a motel within SLC.


4.) I enjoy challenging myself and really prefer out of the norm type runs.  I tend to bore easily of plain-jane groomed black runs.  After reading for hours on this forum, I think all of these stops will give me just what I am looking for, but if you think I should start or end with a different mountain, let me know.  I picked CO area for two things: cost and variety.  I think CO will be perfect preparation for some of the tougher terrain ahead of me in UT, Whistler, and Jackson. Any advice here is appreciated.


More to come....


As this plan is tentative to weather, conditions and time, it might change a lot. If I left any crucial details out, please ask away.


Look for my equipment post in the other forum. :)


Thanks for all the future help.



post #2 of 19

Is cash unlimited?

How you going to swing Whistler for two months?  Apartment and a season pass?

post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 

Cash is not unlimited.  I will be looking for bargains where ever I can find them.


Yeah, I will be doing month-to-month lease apartments in both CO and Whistler along with a season pass. 

post #4 of 19

Much envy over your ability to make free time to ski uninterrupted for a whole winter.smile.gif   Assuming you want to do this in a fairly economical manner...once you get past your season pass costs then the big expense will be lodging. Staying in small condos or motels with cooking facilities will save a lot on food too.  I think your plan to start by locating around the Vail Resorts will let you maximize their pass and visit numerous ski areas.  As you know, there is a glut of condos around Frisco/Silverthorne/Dillon that you could search to rent one relatively cheaply on a long term basis.  You could make a whole season right there by going to Keystone early as a learner, then Arapahoe Basin in the late spring as an expert, while skiing Vail, Breck and Beaver Creek in between as your skills progress. If you wanted to relocate for say, the month of February, you could go to the Lake Tahoe ski areas also covered by the same pass.  There are a lot of cheap motels around Heavenly and you may be able to get a long term rate at one, or split time in a cheap motel near Reno for easier access to Northstar.


It hardly seems necessary to add Whistler to the mix (says the guy who has never experienced its goodnessredface.gif), but if you want to do that then go with the line-up as outlined in your original post.  Here's another thought about the safari type plan, in addition to the Epic pass, consider the Monarch ski area season pass and visit many of the 25+ resorts that it is good at, including small, neat ski areas around CO and NM.  Details here:  http://skimonarch.com/index.php/ticketspasses/season-passes

post #5 of 19

What have you done in the way of lessons?  I realize you are a good athlete and can pick things up quickly, but there can be a difference between linked recoveries or tougher slops and link turns with good technique.  Sounds like you have the ability to do the latter and would likely get to this point quicker with some good instruction.  Both Keystone and Breck have unlimited adult lesson plans available 4 days a week for most of the season for under $300.  If you go to Keystone before Thanksgiving, there is a good chance that you would get an all day private if you are in the advanced "group"- has happened to me a handful of times the last two years.


1  A-Basin is open and KS will be open in a few days- not sure if the others open that early, but you could wait for snow reports and decide


2  I don't think you are going to run out of terrain in CO, Tahoe or Whistler and might have the chance to meet up with more locals staying in a single location.  If I was in your shoes, I might consider CO until mid Dec and then pick a Euro resort for the season for an entirely different experience, but there are advantages to staying in NA


Can't add much to 3 & 4


Welcome to Epic

post #6 of 19

I don't usually get too stoked on others' pre-trips (post trips are where it's at), but this one sounds like a dream. Good on you for making this thing happen.


A couple of questions/points to help you out:


Why spend two months in Colorado and Whistler and only a couple of days elsewhere? I get the epic pass, but why devote so much time to Whistler when there are so many other resorts to see in BC? Obviously if you were planting roots for the season, Whistler makes plenty of sense, but since you seem committed to bouncing around, why not try a couple of places then lock in what you like best. I'm also not sure how feasible it is to find month-to-month rentals in the middle of high season. If it's difficult, it might be better to spend a week or two tops at each resort.


You seem to be missing a big chunk of real estate. I assume you'll be driving, so if you're going from Tahoe to Whistler why not stop at one or two Oregon/Washington resorts? If it were me, I'd have trouble passing through that area without a stop at Baker.


I don't think I'd do such an ambitious road trip without at least trying to hook up with the Powder Highway. You can find the info on its website, if you don't know about it, but basically it's an area of Interior BC with a ridiculous concentration of resorts, heli-skiing, cat skiing and backcountry lodges--basically the ultimate skiing road trip in itself. I'd even cut my greater trip short to save money if it meant trying some of the incredible-looking cat/heli skiing there. The snow is supposed to be much better than Whistler/Tahoe, too.


I'd outfit my car for overnighters if I was doing a trip like this. This way, if you have trouble finding a place, you have a back-up. There's probably a thread or two about this here, and TGR has a couple of really long threads about it. Hopefully you're taking some kind of SUV/CUV that you can transform into a makeshift camper when needed. This will both save money and give you some peace of mind when traveling to a new location without lodging locked in.


Good luck and keep us updated!

post #7 of 19

One other thing--look for hostels. Not that many NA resorts offer them, but they're among the cheapest ways to stay. Off the top of my head, I know that Salt Lake City has one, Jackson has one or two, Glenwood Springs has one and Crested Butte has one. Or at least they did; it's always possible these went out of business. They offer some of the cheapest rates around, have a community kitchen for doing cooking and all but force you to meet and hang with other skiers and riders, many of which will probably be around your same age.

post #8 of 19
  • Epic pass (Vail, Breck, A.Basin, etc) for the first 1-2 months.    $669 +  $600/month
  • Alta/Snowbird for a week                                                        $1000
  • Lake Tahoe for a few days (I can use my Epic Pass here)         $500
  • Whistler for 2 months                                                            $1759 +  $2000/month
  • Jackson Hole for a week on the way home.                             $1000

                                                                                                 $10,128.00 before food,  gas or any other expenses. 

post #9 of 19
Thread Starter 

Wow, thanks for all the quick and very helpful replies.  I will try to respond to everything.


MEFree:  That is a very good point and I have given lessons some thought.  I will definitely have to take advantage of some early season lessons (fundamentals!!). And I did not realize A Basin opened up so early (Crossing fingers for some good snow). Should I take advanced lessons?  I wasn't sure if I qualified for advanced or not.


Yeah, I should have probably thought more about skiing in europe since I just got back from there.  There seems to be so much different skiing in NA that I want to hit up and learn before I venture back across the pond though.


JoeUT: Thanks for all the pointers.  I honestly did not even think to check Oregon/Washington resorts.  I have always heard how incredible Whistler is, so I just figured I would head straight there. As of right now, I am looking into Baker.  Thanks. I will also have to read up on the Powder Highway.  All though, that sounds a bit above my head at this point. 


Yeah, the ole' camper! I definitely am trying to set up a sleeping area in my SUV before I leave.  That will allow for some quick stops at said Baker and other mountains.


SHREDHEAD and anyone else who is interested in my costs: I have already looked into hostels and cheap places to stay in almost all of my destinations.  I have a room rented out in CO for $350 a month and one in Whistler (if I stay) for around $600.  Both will have kitchen and W/D available, so that should help keep costs down. Lake Tahoe, I will be staying with someone so the costs should be minimal. I will be sharing a motel room or going to a hostel in SLC, so that 5-7 day stay should be relatively cheap. 


Gas is going to kick my butt. Between $1200-2000 Total. That is including my return trip.


Thanks for all the timely advice. I have a lot more ideas now.


Keep them coming!



post #10 of 19

Whistler is a great place, I'm just try to point out that it just about doubles your budget.The pass is still $1759/60=$30/day.

 Trying to split a season between the two is a little too ambitious. 

Pick one and take some side trips.



I think MEfree and JamesJ have good ideas. 

post #11 of 19
  • Epic pass (Vail, Breck, A.Basin, etc) for the first 1-2 months.
  • Alta/Snowbird for a week
  • Lake Tahoe for a few days (I can use my Epic Pass here)
  • Whistler for 2 months
  • Jackson Hole for a week on the way home.

Wow. Lucky you.

post #12 of 19

Yeah, I kind of agree with ShredHead. Any of those destinations are a season unto themselves, especially for an intermediate skier that's only been out West once. Maybe base yourself in Colorado, then do a bunch of week-long trips to Wyoming, Utah, Montana, Tahoe, etc. Not only could this save money but it will allow you to travel based on conditions rather than being locked in to rentals, passes, etc., something that would work out well in a La Nina year when some places might get bombed and others might get nothing. 


post #13 of 19

Couple thoughts:

1) places where Motel6 has locations you often can get a weekly rate.  I currently have SLC and Jackson for a week for $221 and this is with a minifridge and microwave. 1 day cancellation policy.


2)Buy a Geigerrig hydration pack and you receive a great booklet of free tickets (on the webiste home page go to the bottom right and click on skullcandy passport).  Neither the website nor the booklet (I have one) says there is a limit to the number of booklets that can be bought.  If I was doing your trip I would buy 3 packs through the company and return 2 if you could not multiregister the booklets.


Alpine Meadows-Holiday black outs not defined
Homewood-any day pass

The Canyons-any day lift pass
Sundance-any day lift pass
Snowbassin-any day lift pass

New Mexico:
Angel Fire-any day pass

Big White-any day pass
Castle Mountain-any day pass
Kicking Horse-any day pass
Silverstar-any day pass and a second at 50%

post #14 of 19
Originally Posted by jdock85 View Post

MEFree:  That is a very good point and I have given lessons some thought.  I will definitely have to take advantage of some early season lessons (fundamentals!!). And I did not realize A Basin opened up so early (Crossing fingers for some good snow). Should I take advanced lessons?  I wasn't sure if I qualified for advanced or not.



Chances are you don't yet, but early in the season, it does not really matter until that much until they start opening up some of the off piste terrain.  I say this because an athletic level 5 or 6 can usually keep up reasonably well with a level 7 or 8 ON PISTE- throw in crud, powder and moguls and it might be a different story.  


If I was doing the lesson deal at Keystone or Breck, I'd really try to get out to Summit ASAP as the pre-Christmas instructor to student ratios can be pretty amazing for a "group" lesson.


One thing I didn't notice is what type of night life you are looking for.  I have heard good things about Whistler, so this may influence how much time you want to spend there.  If it is important, I understand the desire for 2 months.  If it is less important, then, as others have said, you will probably get in plenty of good challenging skiing elsewhere without having to spring for the extra expenses.  


Breck has something of a Hostel- the Fireside, I think, but as you have noted, you shouldn't have much trouble finding a place or someone looking for a roomie early in the season- CL is slammed with this stuff right now.  If you end up looking at Hotels this meta search quickly checks price and availability at over 200,000 hotels and shows you which supplier has the best price.  I've used it with good success which is one of the reasons it was featured in this travel article here at Epic  For anything from couch surfing with strangers to shared rooms to exclusive digs rented by individuals, you could also try Air BnB.  I have Chalet Frisco listed there, but they also offer smaller places and a standby list option.  Don't be afraid to negotiate on that site if it is last minute or off peak times.


Edited by MEfree30 - 11/2/11 at 4:03am
post #15 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the advice guys.  I have another question.  Do you recommend having a AWD or 4WD car while I am out there or do you think I will be fine with FWD?  


Thanks again.

post #16 of 19

@jdock85 - great sounding trip.


Having lived (and taught) in Keystone for a season - nothing wrong with the Frisco/ Keystone/ A-Basin as a start point especially for the cheap lesson pass. Hit the lessons hard early and you will reap the benefits later on your trip. During that season I also got to ski Breckenridge/ Copper/ Aspen/ Beaver Creek & Loveland.


My season long road trip (2008) looked like this: A-Basin & Keystone (10 days) / Snowmass (10 days)/ Alta UT (7 days - 96" of powder during this week!!!!)/ Jackson Hole WY (10 days - snowed in so had to stay longer than planned - nice)/ Bridger Bowl MO (10 days)/ Whitefish MO (5 days)/ Kicking Horse BC (10 days)/ Revelstoke BC (10 days)/ Whitewater BC (7 days - this is an awesome little 'resort')/ Mt Hood WA(4 days - I know this is an odd one but we visited friends) and ended at Silverstar BC (15 days).


It was during a hard winter so I know what you are in for travel wise. I had a Ford Explorer with Discoverer ATR tyres and it helped keep us going on some marginal days. It helped not really having a schedule so we could stop when it wasn't safe to keep going. That said a decent reliable car, the smarts to stop when you know it is marginal, proper winter tyres and the willingness to fit chains should see you through. Being able to handle a FWD car and the smarts to stop and fit chains or just stop for the night/ day outweighs the sense of invulnerability that a lot of 4WD/ AWD/ SUV drivers seem to have in winter. Include some traction mats, a sack of sand and a decent snow shovel as well. Sheet ice on the roads in Idaho in Feb on the way into Jackson Hole was pretty special as was the Teton Pass on the way to Montana.


Three things that really made a difference for us: Thule roof box - for skis, poles and any wet gear, plus food that needed to stay cold/ rubber backed bathroom mats from Target/ K-mart - cheap and great for standing on when changing in the car park and for covering the tailgate to sit on whilst getting boots on and off/ Hotgear boot bag - dries ski boots and gloves after a long day and makes sure they are toasty warm every morning - indispensable for a long road trip.


I am Whistler based now so I know I am biased but there is just not anywhere else in North America that has everything that Whistler has to offer which is why I moved here rather than Colorado or Montana to settle (although I love both of those places). Whistler is the complete package which is why it consistently ranks so highly. The A-Basin & Keystone/ Breckenridge/ Frisco triangle comes close and probably has better powder (although it gets less snow) and more clear days but it is colder and everything involves a drive to start and end the day. Aspen/ Snowmass is a similar setup and probably a greater variety of terrain in a smaller area but you are then driving to Glenwood Springs to try and save money on groceries or get anything that you cannot get in the resort. There is just something very cool about being able to walk or take the bus everywhere and having something to do when you are not skiing.


Alta has or had a backpackers. Certainly worth a stay - first week of February seems to have consistently insane snowfalls. Big Sky & Bridger Bowl are certainly worth the stops if you are going past. I have done the WA loop in the past - certainly worth stopping at Stevens Pass and Mt Baker if they are having a good season (Farmers' Almanac says that they should have one). We joined one of the hotel chains that does points/ free nights (Choice I think) for our trip so it ended up that every fifth night was free and the rooms always had kitchenettes so we could save money (and stay healthier) by cooking our own food quite often.


We managed to meet up with Epic forum people or instructors in quite a few places as well in order to get the 'local' scoop which always helps. Remember that they are probably doing this on their day off so it pays to have taken the lessons to be a good skier early in the season so you can keep up and enjoy what they are showing you.


Message me if you have any questions about any of those places and especially Whistler. Good luck and safe travels.



post #17 of 19

Excellent post from Andrew, esp about car travel.  I would add that If you stay around Frisco/Silverthorne/Dillon you might look for a place near a free Summit Stage stop to get to Keystone, Breck and others without driving your car on snowy days.

post #18 of 19

If I was taking a winter to ski, i would want to be mobile. RV's/ motor homes are the way to go. Get to be where the snow is falling, no excuses, hitting up hotsprings/pools along the way. never skiing the same line twice.


Can't imagine loosing to much value in a used RV one season later, so it probably be cost effective too.

post #19 of 19

fwd is fine. just get snow tires, chains and traction mats, a blanket and a shovel.


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