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Aspen - 8th-22nd December 2013 - will we be disappointed with the conditions?

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

After a near-miss with the Big C I have a bit of money coming in from a critical illness insurance policy so I decided to splurge on a once-in-a-lifetime ski trip.

 

We usually ski Colorado because my wife has had bad experiences in Europe and loves the wide-open pistes and more consistent snow conditions. Mainly ski'ed Breckenridge but also been to Winter Park and Vail. 

 

We've both always wanted to try Aspen so figured now is the time to do it.  The issue is timing. We can't go in early 2014 as we have already booked a two week vacation to the Maldives scuba diving for my birthday in February and I can't get two two-week vacations from work so close to each other.  Instead we are thinking of going December this year.  Christmas looks like being incredibly busy and expensive so we were looking at the early season, more precisely the middle of December - 8th-22nd. 

 

We were looking at staying at Snowmass for the first week for ski-in-ski-out and then moving to Aspen itself for the second week.

 

However, am now looking at the conditions and wondering whether there will be enough snow!  No point spending a bucket of cash on a once-in-a-lifetime ski trip and then not skiing, right?  

 

I hear that they have snow cannons which are active from Thanksgiving - so pretty much a week before we are aiming to get there - but how many runs will open with just snow cannons?

 

I'm a reasonable intermediate, my wife more an experienced beginner/early intermediate, so we won't be put off by a lack of black/double diamond runs opened, we are more looking for leisurely groomed runs to take and enjoy the scenery.  We would just prefer the scenery to be snow rather than grass/mud/rock!  :)

 

Are we going at the wrong time of year?  If we have to we could put it back to Jan/Feb 2015 but that seems such a long way off and I haven't ski'ed in the last two years now!

 

Any advice / experience of skiing Aspen/Snowmass this early in the season would be much appreciated!

post #2 of 23

See Tony Crocker's comments here and website, but I wouldn't plan the ``once in a lifetime'' trip to Aspen/Snowmass in December -- particularly after spending the first week of January this year skiing there on what passes for ice in Colorado. 

Mid-December you'd be better off looking at Alta, I'd think. But really, if feasible I'd put if off until March if you want to hit Aspen.

Naturally, if you take my advice I'm sure it will totally DUMP snow in your December window, Catch 22 and all that, but trips of a lifetime skiing and December just are not a good match. 

post #3 of 23
Ditto to the above. Aspen has limited snowmaking and does not get a huge amount of natural snow. Open terrain in December can be VERY limited. For a month of skiing, March is money.
post #4 of 23

First, congrats on your recovery!

 

What about late March or early April 2014?   I'm a Colorado native and I always plan to ski a bunch the first two weeks of April.  I never plan to ski in December, and only do every few years when the snow is usually just OK.  In March or April you are pretty much guaranteed good snow and it's much warmer.   It turns from high season in March to low season in April, so you can find great deals and the slopes are empty come April.

 

Whenever you go, you might just want to stay in Snowmass the whole time, as Snowmass and Buttermilk are going to have the best skiing for you.   The shuttle from Snowmass to Aspen is convenient for going out to dinner, etc, but I could see how it would be fun to stay in town for a few nights.

post #5 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tball View Post

First, congrats on your recovery!

 

What about late March or early April 2014?   I'm a Colorado native and I always plan to ski a bunch the first two weeks of April.  I never plan to ski in December, and only do every few years when the snow is usually just OK.  In March or April you are pretty much guaranteed good snow and it's much warmer.   It turns from high season in March to low season in April, so you can find great deals and the slopes are empty come April.

 

Whenever you go, you might just want to stay in Snowmass the whole time, as Snowmass and Buttermilk are going to have the best skiing for you.   The shuttle from Snowmass to Aspen is convenient for going out to dinner, etc, but I could see how it would be fun to stay in town for a few nights.

Thanks - I have been very lucky - lucky to get the most treatable/survivable cancer, and lucky to have caught it at the earliest possible stage, and also lucky to have great treatment - 2 months from diagnosis, through surgery to recovery - didn't even need chemo, and now in "surveillance" mode.  I am extremely grateful, having lost a number of family members to cancer.

 

Thanks also to all the feedback - sounds like I came to the right place for advice, and definitely sounds like December is not a great plan fot the "ski trip of a lifetime!".  

 

Will need to rethink. Unfortunately April 'is one of my wife's busiest times at work so she can't get time off then.  Is there a spot after Chrsitmas that is typically better value / a bit quieter in Aspen/Snowmass?  It may be we can get away with going two weeks in Jan and then go away again at the end of Feb to the Maldives.  I'm pretty sure I can do it as the first weeks of Jan are dead for us - we are an IT services company and close out everything for Q4, so Q1 is slow.  The wife has to check at her end.

 

I'd been sold on a double-headed trip by our travel agent - it does sound like Snowmass is ideal for us from a slopes perspective, but our agent says you just have to do Aspen proper at some point and this is likely to be the only time we'll go to this ski region.  As you say, we could just bounce across on a shuttle once or twice to say we've "done" Aspen.  

 

Lots to think about, t hanks again for all the great feedback.

post #6 of 23
Thread Starter 

Re places to stay - our agent recommended the Westin for Snowmass for the first week, then either the Jerome, Limelight or St Regis at Aspen.  

 

I've read the Tripadvisor reviews for the Westin which is ski-in-ski-out but i'm seeing varying reviews - there are certainly better reviewed hotels in Snowmass.  

 

 

At Breck we always stayed at Trail's End Condo's which was a fantastic ski-to-door location, I guess we were thinking staying at a hotel rather than self-catered condo might be a bit more relaxing but Stonebridge Condo's looks interesting. Anyone been here, or to the Westin, with any comments or other recommendations?

 

Our main criteria are - a bit of luxury and a ski-to-door location. In an ideal world a nice log fire would be great, and a hot tub! :)

 

Aspen I know is not ski-to-door - kind of torn about staying here for a whole week.  It might be that we look to do 10 days in Snwomass and then switch for 4 nights to a hotel in Aspen rather than a full week.  The wife may well be all skied out by then anyway and could just take advantage of a spa hotel like St Regis to chill and pamper while I scope out the slopes and find some runs that she would be comfortable on.

 

Again any thoughts / recommendations on Aspen hotels would be really appreciated! 

 

Thanks again,

 

Ken

post #7 of 23

DON'T BOOK ANYTHING NOW

 

Wait till December the 4th - 5th and get on the internet. Checkout where there is snow and where there is forecasts for more and go there. You will always be able to get in for your dates.

 

I have always waited till the last minute to book Christmas and Easter and was always able to get in somewhere the snow was good. Sometimes I booked Friday afternoon and flew out Saturday morning TOD.

 

I would rather go to a lesser known resort with good snow conditions than a big name resort and be walking amidst flowers on the ski slopes.

post #8 of 23

Early January would be a good bet, I have been there the week after New Years a number of times. Expect good coverage, at least on the groomers, and no crowds. Might be pretty cold, though.

 

Can'r help on hotels, i always stayed at the cheapest places (bathroom down the hall) which I don't think you are looking for.

post #9 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by jimintokyo View Post

See Tony Crocker's comments here and website, but I wouldn't plan the ``once in a lifetime'' trip to Aspen/Snowmass in December -- particularly after spending the first week of January this year skiing there on what passes for ice in Colorado. 

Mid-December you'd be better off looking at Alta, I'd think. But really, if feasible I'd put if off until March if you want to hit Aspen.

Naturally, if you take my advice I'm sure it will totally DUMP snow in your December window, Catch 22 and all that, but trips of a lifetime skiing and December just are not a good match. 

 

 

eh that was Ice. After skiing for 6 weeks of lift served in northern Vermont. I skied Jan 13 at copper. The icest snow I had skied all year long... I was sick of the people asking me how I was liking the Copper, Co snow, to which I was just like its way slicker than what I am use to in vermont. 

 

OP honestly why not go in March?

post #10 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Josh Matta View Post

 

 

eh that was Ice. After skiing for 6 weeks of lift served in northern Vermont. I skied Jan 13 at copper. The icest snow I had skied all year long... I was sick of the people asking me how I was liking the Copper, Co snow, to which I was just like its way slicker than what I am use to in vermont. 

 

OP honestly why not go in March?

As per original post, I have a 2 week vacation to the Maldives booked for my birthday - 22nd Feb - 8th March.  We have my annual company sales kick off in Feb so there's no way I can`'t take any more vacation time in Feb or March next year.  It might be possible for us to go early Jan 2014, but need my wife to confirm with her management.  Otherwise the trip might have to wait til 2015.

post #11 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by ken1969 View Post

As per original post, I have a 2 week vacation to the Maldives booked for my birthday - 22nd Feb - 8th March.  We have my annual company sales kick off in Feb so there's no way I can`'t take any more vacation time in Feb or March next year.  It might be possible for us to go early Jan 2014, but need my wife to confirm with her management.  Otherwise the trip might have to wait til 2015.

 

January would be better than December, but it will still likely be early season conditions with less than 100% of the mountain open. In a typical year (if Aspen gets those anymore- its been a pretty sparse decade with only 2 of the last ten years being truly exceptional snow) the Aspen areas should have all of their intermediate terrain open by the first week in January, and should be 100% open (all of the expert terrain it sounds like isn't a big draw for you) by the end. 

 

If it was me, I would book 1 room rather than move from Snowmass to Aspen or vice versa. Its a 10 minute bus ride by a free bus to go from any of the Aspen resorts to any other, so wasting a few hours on check-out check-in doesn't really make sense in my eyes. If you are a nightlife person, it may make sense just to book a room in Aspen for the duration.

 

A car is not terribly useful in Aspen because there aren't many places to leave it parked for more than 2 hours- if you are renting, the car is going to sit in the hotel parking most of the time.

 

In terms of skiing, with a month's time, be sure to take time and ski at all of the areas. Buttermilk has a reputation as a beginner area, but it has some good intermediate runs and can be pretty deserted.

 

How well do your boots fit? Snowmass, Aspen, and Highlands all have a LOT of vertical drop that will test the fit of your boots quite a lot. Aspen Mountain in particular will generate pain from any fit problems, because it is a solid intermediate pitch the whole way down. If you or your wife get any pain from your boots, that is something you will really want to get squared away before trying to ski a month in Aspen.

 

With most of a month to visit, be sure to take a downvalley trip (or two) to Glenwood Springs on a day off from skiing.  The hot springs pool is a great way to work the muscles loose again, and it is a beautiful (and less pretentious) resort town.

post #12 of 23

I like the 10 days in Snowmass and 4 nights in Aspen idea.  That's what I'd do.  It's just so convenient to have ski-in ski-out in Snowmass.  Coming home and resting at lunch is nice on a trip that long.   I've stayed at the Hotel Jerome in Aspen and it's amazing.  It's right downtown to walk to everything, but a bit away from the mountain for skiing.   I'm not sure if that matters much at that point.  Maybe your wife will be in the spa while you shuttle to Highlands by then.

 

I've only stayed in condos in Snowmass. There are lots of ski-in ski-out condos.  Make sure your travel agent can give you those as an option too.  Check vrbo.com and some of the local Aspen rental agencies.  There are some really nice condos if you don't need everything a hotel offers.   

 

I think January is a good option for good conditions since you don't need expert terrain.  The last couple years have been rough in Colorado, but I think you would have had a fine time in January.  Probably not December though.   January is also low season except for MLK weekend which is Jan 20, 2014.  

 

Here's a graph of the Colorado snow pack data I posted in another thread (click it to enlarge).  It has the last four years: two bad years, one average year and one great year.   I added my subjective idea of when the conditions get good with the shaded area.   This should give you an idea of the variability you are looking at.  Again, even in the bad years I think you would have enjoyed January, but not December.

 

Colorado Snowpack

post #13 of 23

Yep, early January wasn't too good (re tball's graph) this year.

 

Is there no way to rebook the Maldives trip for December and use the Feb-March period for skiing?

If not, I'd take TQA's advice and wait to see some snow reports in early December, then go where it looks good.

post #14 of 23

Then again, trip of a lifetime?

Have you ever drank champagne soaking in your own private open-air hot spring bath as it dumps huge snowflakes that will accumulate into some of the world's best powder by morning?

post #15 of 23
Quote:

Yep, early January wasn't too good (re tball's graph) this year.

 

Is there no way to rebook the Maldives trip for December and use the Feb-March period for skiing?

If not, I'd take TQA's advice and wait to see some snow reports in early December, then go where it looks good.

+1 I don't really need to add much because nearly all of the advice has been spot-on. Mid-December in Aspen is a very bad idea for advance booking for anyone.  It is true that January is less risky for you than many if you don't need expert terrain.   But if your schedule is that inflexible, I'd save Aspen for another season when you can go in February/March.  

 

T-ball's graph is informative.  When the snowpack starts dropping, that's a sign of a still good coverage but mostly spring conditions.  Note that in average seasons the snowpack is still rising until a week or so into April.   Late March/early April really is mostly winter conditions in high, north exposed resorts in most of Colorado (and a few other places in North America).   This is something that is difficult to persuade people who live far away (UK, US east of the Mississippi) for their once a year ski vacations.  December/January are cold, March/early April is the beginning of spring, skiing must be better in December/January, right?   Aspen is one of those places where that assumption is most WRONG.

post #16 of 23
Thread Starter 

Thanks again to all for the advice.  @jimintokyo - actually, this is a really good idea.  We've been told Feb is the best time for the Maldives, but the difference between December and Feb is relatively minor, certainly when compared to the difference in Aspen between December and Feb!!  So we are now investigating Snowmass/Aspen for Feb instead as long as we can also get the Maldives booked!  :)

 

Thanks again,

 

Ken

post #17 of 23

I have to wonder how many days collectively all of you guys have skiing Aspen in December?  This season will be my 33rd season pass in Aspen and I will admit that December wouldn't be my first choice, but the skiing's is a lot better than you guys are portraying.  From my experience, the two week's prior to Christmas are usually a lot better than the two weeks after.  That was certainly the case these last two years.

 

That being said, if the OP is game, last minute is the way to go in December. 

 

Ken: Would you harness the power of Epic Ski and let us decide were you go for the "Trip of a Lifetime" on December 1st?

post #18 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by ken1969 View Post

Thanks again to all for the advice.  @jimintokyo - actually, this is a really good idea.  We've been told Feb is the best time for the Maldives, but the difference between December and Feb is relatively minor, certainly when compared to the difference in Aspen between December and Feb!!  So we are now investigating Snowmass/Aspen for Feb instead as long as we can also get the Maldives booked!  :)

 

Thanks again,

 

Ken

That would be the preferred way to go for sure.  If you pull the trigger on this trip, getting a Mountain Collective pass in advance may be your best bet in terms of lift tickets, but you will have to do the math.

 

As far as how to split your time in Aspen/Snowmass, it really depends on what your priorities are.  The town of Aspen has the most ambiance, night life, resto selections, shopping, etc.  Ajax (the in town ski area) is a good, small, condensed area mainly suited for advanced intermediates and up with very little green terrain.  Snowmass is big like Vail with terrain for everybody, but it is not a real town like Aspen (or Breck).  Definitely worth checking out Highland even if the hike to bowl is above your skill set and your wife (and you) may enjoy a day at Buttermilk to hit some easier terrain when you are staying in town.  

post #19 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MEfree30 View Post

That would be the preferred way to go for sure.  If you pull the trigger on this trip, getting a Mountain Collective pass in advance may be your best bet in terms of lift tickets, but you will have to do the math.

 

As far as how to split your time in Aspen/Snowmass, it really depends on what your priorities are.  The town of Aspen has the most ambiance, night life, resto selections, shopping, etc.  Ajax (the in town ski area) is a good, small, condensed area mainly suited for advanced intermediates and up with very little green terrain.  Snowmass is big like Vail with terrain for everybody, but it is not a real town like Aspen (or Breck).  Definitely worth checking out Highland even if the hike to bowl is above your skill set and your wife (and you) may enjoy a day at Buttermilk to hit some easier terrain when you are staying in town.  

Our priority is pretty simple - great skiing!  We are both around 45 years old and our partying days are long behind us.  Apres for us is a decent meal and a few drinks - we have stayed many times at Trail's End Condo's in Breckenridge which has been perfect - we found Mi Casa very local and convenient, great if simple food and great margheritas! :)  We probably headed out further afield into Breck town maybe one or two nights out of a 14 night trip, the rest of the time we either relied on Mi Casa or cooked for ourselves.  

 

We read up on a few places in Snowmass and Snowmass Mountain Chalet looked particularly interesting - ski-to-door with breakfast and lunch provided, and sounds like it's also right next door to a little Mexican place.  Anyone been here?  

 

We are still contemplating a 10/4 split with the last 4 days somewhere in Aspen, either at The Viceroy, Limelight or maybe The Jerome.  Any thoughts about any of these places?  Main aim of going to Aspen is to put a real luxury spin on the tail end of the vacation which falls right on my birthday - maybe spend a day in a spa, head out to a nice restaurant etc.  

 

Thanks again for all the advice you guys are great! :)

 

Ken  

post #20 of 23

Lot's of people love the Mt. Chalet in Snowmass.  Not luxurious, but a nice location with very good service.  The Viceroy is the newest luxury hotel/condo complex in Snowmass.  I've never  been inside, but it's suppose to be nice.  Ton's of nice condo's in Snowmass, including Wood Run, Wood Run Place, Chamonix and the Crestwood.

 

In Aspen I'd rate the luxury hotels

1. Little Nell

2. St. Regis

3. Hotel Jerome

 

Limelight's a nice hotel with a good location.  But IMHO, not in the same category of luxury as the Little Nell which is also owned by the Aspen Ski Company.

 

I'm sure you will love skiing in Snowmass.  February is probably my favorite month, but I think you could have fun at either time.

post #21 of 23

FWIW, we stayed at the Westin last January, and it's fine for a few days, but I sure wouldn't want to stay there for a week or more.  I think you'd like the variety at Snowmass, but get a condo if you're going to be there a while.  And, go there in early February, not late December, for better coverage. 

post #22 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by ken1969 View Post

Thanks again to all for the advice.  @jimintokyo - actually, this is a really good idea.  We've been told Feb is the best time for the Maldives, but the difference between December and Feb is relatively minor, certainly when compared to the difference in Aspen between December and Feb!!  So we are now investigating Snowmass/Aspen for Feb instead as long as we can also get the Maldives booked!  :)

 

Thanks again,

 

Ken

 

IMO that's the way to go.  I emphatically agree with everyone else that you should not book a 'once in a lifetime' ski trip in early/mid December -- unless you're going to wait until the last minute and try to storm-chase.  (That is, don't commit to going to Aspen, just wait until early December and then book a last-minute trip to wherever has the most snow in the US.)

 

Another option would be to go somewhere that has glacier skiing instead (probably in Europe.  Zermatt's nice.)

 

Or try to swing a 1-week heli trip (or two!) somewhere later in the season, since you've got money to burn...  :-)

post #23 of 23

How about going to a place that should have better snow early on?  Whistler, BC perhaps?  This is a "once in a lifetime" kind of destination.....even more than Aspen!

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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Mountain/Resort Related Forums › Resorts, Conditions & Travel › Aspen - 8th-22nd December 2013 - will we be disappointed with the conditions?