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AltaBird Utah crowds end of January

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

I've read through heaps of the threads on here about LCC and Utah skiing (there are plenty!) but can't seem to find an answer to these questions:

 

Basic info: I'm from Australia. A group of ~14 family and friends are planning a ski trip to the US in the last week of January 2014 (likely Jan 23-31, give or take a day) and we're 99% set on skiing at Alta and Snowbird (staying in one of the condos on the road between, so we'd ideally ski half and half, roughly). We contemplated staying in Park City, mostly skiing the 3 resorts there and travelling to LCC once or twice for the day, but have decided we should be basing ourselves where the skiing is best... Powder is premium. Challenging terrain is also necessary. Hence LCC.

 

However, in my reading (mostly of the forums on this site) I've often seen comments about the mad rush, aggressive attitudes and large crowds on powder mornings in LCC. So my *main question* is: to what extent is this the case in the time we'll be heading there? Bad enough to warrant choosing another destination, or is the end of January a bit more of a down period for crowds?

 

4 of us have skied JH in 2011 (we were there roughly Jan 17-25 so a little earlier). Although we did encounter crowds on powder mornings, and the mountain certainly did get tracked out pretty quickly, we managed the 1st or 2nd tram up on a 5" morning (I know, I know that's not a huge amount but pow is pow) and we weren't too far from the front of the queue for the Bridger Gondola on an 8" morning, having lined up from 8.30.

 

Furthermore, confirming what I've read in several threads here, once we actually got up onto the mountain the crowds mostly dispersed pretty quickly. Whereas, I've also read that Snowbird and Alta can experience long lift lines for much of the day when there's been plenty of new snow. Once again, does this happen regularly in the last week of January? I can understand it on a weekend but what about midweek?

 

We also managed to get to the front of the line for the Bridger Gondola, which accesses plenty of quality terrain in itself, on several mornings having arrived as late as 8.45 or 9.00 (non powder, may have been a Saturday, can't remember 100%). This leads me to another question. The Peruvian Express Chair at Snowbird seems to access plenty of vertical and even Gadzoom may be worth lapping in the mornings while the crowds fight it out for the Tram and the upper mountain.Similarly at Alta, Supreme and Sugarloaf lifts also seem to access plenty of good terrain. Do the Peruvian and Gadzoom chairs see similar crowds to the Aerial Tram on, say, a 12" pow day? Once you've made it to the top of Collins or even Albion lift at Alta, do the crowds then simply form around Supreme and Sugarloaf?

 

Thanks in advance to anyone who can advise on these questions. I know its annoying when yet another thread is started but if even one experienced Utah skier can give me a heads up that would be much appreciated. I'm more than happy to advise on Niseko Japan (been there twice), and go into great detail on my JH trip if I can help others planning to go there.

 

PS we were utterly spoilt by Niseko. Approx 180cm fell over our 7 days, with almost no crowds. We skied on a base of 4 metres... Can't recommend Hokkaido, Japan more highly for powder skiing and the terrain is hardly boring (if not overly steep, there's plenty of it with enough steeper stuff for those prepared to look for it)

post #2 of 19

Hi Tomdf,

 

I don't live in Utah, but have been to Alta and Snowbird enough to feel like I know both about as well as a non-local can. I personally have had great luck with the last week of Jan. or first week of Feb. I have encountered smaller crowds at that time of year than in March. Of course, it snows when it snows, and any choice of time is a crap shoot as far as freshies go. Powder does bring out the locals, and they have an uncanny ability to track up the whole mountain within a couple of hours. However, I have never found midweek to be particularly crowded at either Alta or Snowbird, whenever I have been up there.

 

Have you considered the lodge experience at Alta? I personally like The Goldminer's Daughter, mere feet from the bottom of the Collins lift. BTW, I spent a great week there with a couple I met there from Sydney. They were a huge amount of fun. Are all you Aussies so gregarious?beercheer.gif Anyway, by lodge experience, I mean that breakfast and dinner are included, and the dinners are full on white tablecloth affairs, easily comparable to any $50 dinner I have ever enjoyed. The skiing experience is quite intense: you roll out of bed, go up to breakfast, ski hard all day, hit the hot tub and, perhaps, the bar, then have a fantastic dinner, go to bed early, and do it all again the next day. At about $120/day, double occupancy, its a deal that's hard to beat. And, the intensity of the actual ski experience can't be beat. The other great thing about being right there is that if you really luck out and get a big dump, the road up LCC may close due to avalanche danger and you will have the mountain essentially all to yourself. I haven't lucked into that, but I have spoken with many who have.

 

As you have correctly noted, on powder days the Snowbird tram can be quite crowded, but you can access pretty much all the challenging terrain you could want by going up the Peruvian then through the tunnel to Mineral Basin. Or, Gadzoom to Gad2 or Little Cloud. Of course, the tram takes you all the way up in one ride, which is why people line up for it. I would not let the possibility of large crowds dissuade you from your LCC plans.
 

post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 

cosmoliu, thanks heaps for all of that info! Very reassuring.

 

We looked into it (the lodge experience) but having a group of minimum 11, likely 14-16, and being the gregarious australians that we are (answered 2 of your questions at once ;) ) we decided we'd prefer to fork out the extra $, get ourselves somewhere that can accommodate all of us in the one space, and then spend our downtime there, just hanging out, reliving the day's skiing and sampling any Utah (or other) beers we can get our hands on! Am aware that its difficult to get alcohol up in the canyon, at least outside of the bars, due to the one small grocery store at Snowbird (only sells 3% beer... Japan wins in that regard! And JH) but we'll be bringing up a good supply from the state liquor store at the base. At least that's the current plan.

 

We've been told by a correspondent from the real estate company that we will have ski in/out access, and that regardless they run a free shuttle in the mornings and afternoons to the condo area, so being a little further from the lifts than Goldminer's Daughter/Cliff Lodge at Snowbird doesn't feel too much of an issue.

 

Thats great to hear, thanks for that

post #4 of 19

Hi Tomdf,

 

Looks like you have your act together. BTW, a friend and I am gestating a plan to be up at The Goldminer's Daughter, likely the last week of Jan. PM me closer to that time if you want to make some turns, and maybe see a few places you might not find on your own.
 

post #5 of 19

Tomdf:  sounds like a fun trip!  Note that there is a possibility that the Epicski Utah Gathering will be the last week of Jan.  In that case, you'll be able to ski with plenty of folks who know Alta/Bird well.

 

http://www.epicski.com/t/119773/utah-gathering-2014

post #6 of 19

The problem with Alta/Bird, it can be crowded anytime because of it's proximity to SLC.  If it dumps, the Tram and Collins will have big lines.  But most of the time you can avoid the big ones by riding Peruvian and Wildcat.

 

That being said, it's a great place and every skier should go there at some point.

 

Don't stay in PC.  That's during the Sundance Film Festival and it will be a zoo.  Plus the skiing there is just average.

 

The Alta lodges are really nice, but with that many people, you'll save a ton in a condo. If you rent a car, you can shop at Smiths for food and the state liquor stores have some full strength beer.

post #7 of 19

It sounds like the condo is up in LCC.  I'd ask the rental agency if you can still get to Alta or Snowbird when the road is closed.   It would be a huge bummer to be locked down in your condo if the canyon is closed.  A couple of my best powder days were when the canyon was closed and we were staying up there.  We walked right on the tram for a day and a half after a multi-day storm of 60+ inches!

 

SLC folks will come out when it snows, but it's also the bozos like me who drive/fly to LCC for the big dumps (2-3 feet) that really crowd up the place.  Sorry.  I'll still go in a heartbeat for a big dump even knowing it will be crowded.   So, count yourself lucky if you happen to hit a big storm!

post #8 of 19
Thread Starter 
Thanks marznc will definitely keep an eye on that, always
looking to meet new people to ski with!
Thanks for all the info everyone. Its in the condo area on the road
between Bird and Alta (not sure if you're talking about same place?)
we're told ski in/out to Bird and ski in from Alta so hopefully road
closures can only mean good things!
Don't blame you tball, just envy you for being driving/short flight
distance from the joint
post #9 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by tomdf View Post

Thanks marznc will definitely keep an eye on that, always
looking to meet new people to ski with!
Thanks for all the info everyone. Its in the condo area on the road
between Bird and Alta (not sure if you're talking about same place?)
we're told ski in/out to Bird and ski in from Alta so hopefully road
closures can only mean good things!
Don't blame you tball, just envy you for being driving/short flight
distance from the joint

From your description of the condo location, might be good to do some calculations about lift tickets.  For "ski in from Alta" that means taking a shuttle bus in the morning if you only want to pay for an Alta ticket that day.  Then taking the Wildcat lift at the end of the day and skiing a steep tree run to get back to the condo.  Alternatively could get an Alta/Bird combo pass and avoid the bus, assuming then tram, Mineral Basin, and the connection is open that day.  If that's of interest, then the Mountain Collective Pass might be worth it.  Currently $369 for two days plus 50% off any additional days.  All days are for the combo pass.  The MCP may sell out fairly soon.

post #10 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by marznc View Post

From your description of the condo location, might be good to do some calculations about lift tickets.  For "ski in from Alta" that means taking a shuttle bus in the morning if you only want to pay for an Alta ticket that day.  Then taking the Wildcat lift at the end of the day and skiing a steep tree run to get back to the condo.  Alternatively could get an Alta/Bird combo pass and avoid the bus, assuming then tram, Mineral Basin, and the connection is open that day.  If that's of interest, then the Mountain Collective Pass might be worth it.  Currently $369 for two days plus 50% off any additional days.  All days are for the combo pass.  The MCP may sell out fairly soon.

 

 

It's worth it! 

 

 

I don't think the MCP will sell out till fall, but they will keep ratcheting it up $20 every couple of weeks/months.  I purchased mine on 3/19 for $349 when the graph was nearly sold out and they raised it the next week.  Who knows I could be wrong, but they sold them last year till November, but it was new?

 

http://www.themountaincollective.com/?gclid=CL6Qzan-ibcCFTSVMgodXRgAKA

 

 

Occasionally the condos will be interlodged longer than the village, but not real often.

post #11 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by SHREDHEAD View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by marznc View Post

From your description of the condo location, might be good to do some calculations about lift tickets.  For "ski in from Alta" that means taking a shuttle bus in the morning if you only want to pay for an Alta ticket that day.  Then taking the Wildcat lift at the end of the day and skiing a steep tree run to get back to the condo.  Alternatively could get an Alta/Bird combo pass and avoid the bus, assuming then tram, Mineral Basin, and the connection is open that day.  If that's of interest, then the Mountain Collective Pass might be worth it.  Currently $369 for two days plus 50% off any additional days.  All days are for the combo pass.  The MCP may sell out fairly soon.

 

 

It's worth it! 

 

 

I don't think the MCP will sell out till fall, but they will keep ratcheting it up $20 every couple of weeks/months.  I purchased mine on 3/19 for $349 when the graph was nearly sold out and they raised it the next week.  Who knows I could be wrong, but they sold them last year till November, but it was new?

 

http://www.themountaincollective.com/?gclid=CL6Qzan-ibcCFTSVMgodXRgAKA

 

 

Occasionally the condos will be interlodged longer than the village, but not real often.

Seems like the MCP didn't start selling last year until the summer.  Hard to predict when they will decided enough is enough.  Lots of ads all over the Internet right now.  My ski buddy and I got the MCP early on for our annual late season Alta trip.  Working on how to get to Jackson Hole and Mammoth as well.

 

If there is enough snow for interlodge, I assume those in a SB condo still get to ski before most who have to make it up the canyon road one way or another.

post #12 of 19
Since you are somewhere where it is ski in ski out, and road closures won't hurt you, only help you., I think you're staying at the right place, Versus Park city. The skiing in Park city is definitely not as challenging, so you would probably feel like you're wasting a trip sort of. Not that there aren't some good parts to those resorts. I have only skied Utah for three years, but it is true that the crowds can get terrible at Snowbird for sure. I've only gone to Alta twice, this past year. I love Alta. The one powder day we had at Snowbird was such a pain to get to because of road closures, we didn't get to ski that much. We still enjoyed it because the powder was great but the lines were very long. So the next day when we decided to go to Alta, I was worried that it would be the same thing, and I wanted to go to Solitude instead. But it turned out that there were no crowds the next day And even though there wasn't that much powder left over, there was still some, and the snow quality was just amazing, Even if it was groomed. The Park city resorts are annoying because even though they claim to be 3000 vertical feet, you can never Ski that much, or hardly ever. The runs are really only 1000 or 1500 vertical feet at the very most. But Alta which is only around 2000 vertical feet I think you can Definitely Ski it all easily so it really is better as far as long runs go. You should take the expert tour/lesson that Alta has. It cost money, but if you do that your first day there, you'll be set for the rest of your trip, Knowing where to go.
post #13 of 19
Hi guys. i'm from the south, too, but from Argentina, not Australia. We are going to be at Alta/Snowbird the last week of January, aswell. I made a reservation for a Condo called The View in Snowbird. Does anybody has any reference about it?
Thanks
post #14 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by TanoB View Post

Hi guys. i'm from the south, too, but from Argentina, not Australia. We are going to be at Alta/Snowbird the last week of January, aswell. I made a reservation for a Condo called The View in Snowbird. Does anybody has any reference about it?
Thanks

All the bigger condo buildings at Snowbird are in the same general area in terms of the ski in/out aspect.  Relatively easy for advanced skiers to ski in from Snowbird, but a bit harder to ski in from Alta.  To ski at Alta, can either get an Alta/Snowbird combined pass if the connection is open that day or take the free bus that goes around the town of Alta to ride between the Snowbird and Alta bases.

 

Have you see pictures of The View building? 

post #15 of 19
Quote:
PS we were utterly spoilt by Niseko. Approx 180cm fell over our 7 days, with almost no crowds. We skied on a base of 4 metres... Can't recommend Hokkaido, Japan more highly for powder skiing and the terrain is hardly boring (if not overly steep, there's plenty of it with enough steeper stuff for those prepared to look for it)

Powder probabilities at AltaBird in late January are about half what they are in Niseko. BUT

Quote:
Challenging terrain is also necessary.

AltaBird is much better for that.

Quote:
I have only skied Utah for three years, but it is true that the crowds can get terrible at Snowbird for sure. I've only gone to Alta twice, this past year. I love Alta. The one powder day we had at Snowbird was such a pain to get to because of road closures, we didn't get to ski that much. We still enjoyed it because the powder was great but the lines were very long. So the next day when we decided to go to Alta, I was worried that it would be the same thing

Most of that is because "the next day" is always going to much less busy than the immediate day at the end of a storm.  I have a timeshare week at Snowbird and have skied both areas nearly every year since 1996.   Historically Alta had worse liftlines, but they became fairly similar after the high speed Collins was built in 2004.  In the past 3-4 years Snowbird does seem busier though it is also a bigger mountain.  That said lines at both areas tend to be intermittent by lift.   Peruvian is an obvious "safety valve" for the tram.  It never makes sense to wait for more than 2 trams anymore.

 

The tram at JH runs bigger lines than major lifts at AltaBird.  Overall JH's lift system is still less efficient IMHO.  That means more waiting in line at JH but powder gets tracked out faster at AltaBird  There are outlying areas requiring some effort to reach (Catherine's/Patsy Marley at Alta, Tigertail at Snowbird are examples but far from an exhaustive list) that will get tracked much more gradually.

 

At the beginning of a storm or if it's just a modest snowfall, Alta will be a better bet for powder than Snowbird:

1) On average Alta gets 10-20% more snow

2) Alta has more moderately pitched open terrain where you can float on less new snow when you would be bottoming out on Snowbird's more consistently steep pitches.

 

Once you have a foot or more new snow it's likely good everywhere, so where to ski depends more on personal preference.  However, terrain will open gradually with avalanche control work.  On these days consider buying the combined AltaBird pass to give you maximum flexibility to hit newly opened terrain.

post #16 of 19

As a local SLC skier I can say the reputation exceeds reality. A normal line at Alta or Bird is non existent. I'm never there for weekday powder days but on weekends at least in that time of year there are really only 2 lifts you need to avoid and those are Mineral and the Tram. I know that sounds really bad but you can actually get to all the terrain off the tram except for Silver Fox by taking Gadzoom to Little Cloud then going across Road to Ogden and taking the upper traverse gate (only for upper Cirque and Rat's Nest!) or the mid or lower ones. Collins looks like it has a huge line but it moves really fast and the only problem is how fast people go on the High T. If you are there mid week it should be fine, just look how big the Mineral line is before you drop in. Worst comes to worst, if you have an AltaBird pass, you can take Baldy (never seen a line) and go over to Alta and hit either Blackjack or Keyhole off Wildcat if you want to get back to Bird. Both of those are pretty sweet on powder days. Hope I helped, LCC is awesome!

Lastly, if you are looking for pure powder but really worried about lines try Solitude and the Milly Side of Brighton. No one is ever in BCC and Honeycomb holds powder for about 2 weeks if you look in the right place. 

post #17 of 19

Sounds like you are serious about snow. This is a good reason to come to Utah.

 

Keep in mind if you find the crowds at Altabird unacceptable, you have a couple areas about an hour to the north that could work as a good release valve. While not as prolific as LCC/BCC, Snowbasin and Powder Mountain may offer some of what you hope to find. Personally I love the terrain at Snowbasin and the $18 cat rides at PowMow are tough to beat if it hasn't snowed in a few days. It's not quite as convenient as skin/skout in LCC, but if you are flying all the way from Australia it's good to know you have options.

post #18 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ryan Murphy View Post
 

As a local SLC skier I can say the reputation exceeds reality. A normal line at Alta or Bird is non existent. I'm never there for weekday powder days but on weekends at least in that time of year there are really only 2 lifts you need to avoid and those are Mineral and the Tram. I know that sounds really bad but you can actually get to all the terrain off the tram except for Silver Fox by taking Gadzoom to Little Cloud then going across Road to Ogden and taking the upper traverse gate (only for upper Cirque and Rat's Nest!) or the mid or lower ones. Collins looks like it has a huge line but it moves really fast and the only problem is how fast people go on the High T. If you are there mid week it should be fine, just look how big the Mineral line is before you drop in. Worst comes to worst, if you have an AltaBird pass, you can take Baldy (never seen a line) and go over to Alta and hit either Blackjack or Keyhole off Wildcat if you want to get back to Bird. Both of those are pretty sweet on powder days. Hope I helped, LCC is awesome!

Lastly, if you are looking for pure powder but really worried about lines try Solitude and the Milly Side of Brighton. No one is ever in BCC and Honeycomb holds powder for about 2 weeks if you look in the right place. 

Ryan: Welcome to EpicSki!  Have you found the info about the EpicSki Utah Gathering in early Feb yet?  Mostly in LCC, but starting out up in the Ogden Valley.  Hope you can join the fun.

post #19 of 19

You want to hit a big dump!!!!!! You know you do! Crowds or not! :)

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