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Skiing in Denver area around new year [Swedish family, advanced skiers]

post #1 of 63
Thread Starter 

Hello,

 

We are a Swedish family planning to fly in to Denver and ski over new year. The main alternative we are considering now is Aspen. It seems extremely expensive though, and any hint on great but better priced options would be highly appreciated.

 

(The family is me and my wife plus two boys, 10 and 13 years old. We are all good skiers and all enjoy black slopes and some off-piste.)

 

/Fredrik

post #2 of 63

That’s the expensive time of year, and Aspen is 3+ hours from the city.

 

More affordable resorts closer to town are Winter Park and Copper Mtn. Each of the mountains offer a 4 pack for $150/$175 or so. That’s going to be your best bet for a resort with quality snow and terrain near Denver.

post #3 of 63
Thread Starter 

Thanks.

 

A 3h drive is not too much of an issue for us. We can definitely consider options at that distance. 

post #4 of 63

You have many, many options of ski areas near Denver. You will get as many opinions on where you should go as there are posters on this site...

 

You could narrow down the advice if you tell us a bit more of what is important to you and your family.

 

Just to give you a sense of it, Aspen is one of the furthest away from Denver and is known for attracting movie stars and billionaires. (Think Gstaad) However it's popular for a reason. The town is charming, right at the base of Aspen Mountain and filled with great restaurants and things to do off the hill.  "Aspen" has four separate mountains, all on a free bus route, Buttermilk is the easier mountain, Snowmass has a wide variety of terrain and then Aspen Highlands and Aspen Mountain are known more as expert mountains. You might be able to reduce the cost of your trip there if you elect to stay in Snowmass, a different town but nearby and also on the free shuttle bus route.

 

The other end of the spectrum would be Loveland or Arapahoe Basin. Both are on Loveland Pass, much closer to Denver. They do not have a town or resort at their base, just a day-lodge facility with restaurant, etc. They are very low-key, skier's mountains. No fancy cafes, no fancy anything. You'd have to stay in one of the nearby towns and drive to ski. Some of the towns nearby are sweet, but a lot of it is very suburban in feel.

 

Then there are the many, many resorts/mountains in between.

 

Also, that early in the season, you might consider which resorts are likely to have good snow coverage by then. This is a great site to look at historical weather patterns for all the resorts:  http://bestsnow.net/

post #5 of 63

And it's the peak holiday.  I would rent a car and get as far away from Denver as possible to cut down the crowd factor.   As noted on my website listed in the post above, I'm not a fan of most Colorado areas in the early season, especially if you have expert skiers in your group, discussed at some length in a recent post. http://www.epicski.com/t/121151/copper-mountain-christmas

post #6 of 63

To cut down on the expense, if you have a car and don't mind driving, you could stay in Glenwood Springs 45 miles down the road.

 

Glenwood doesn't have the restaurants, nightlife, and shopping of Aspen, but it still a pretty nice little town.

 

Also, it is a similar distance to Vail and Beaver Creek, so you could try those.

post #7 of 63
Thread Starter 

Thank you all for your detailed replies! Will digest this and gather more info on the options you suggested.

post #8 of 63

How many days are you skiing?   I'd also recommend staying in Glenwood Springs.  The traffic between Denver and the ski resorts can be horrendous.

 

http://www.prweb.com/releases/Glenwood_Springs/Ski_7/prweb10129803.htm

post #9 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by SHREDHEAD View Post

How many days are you skiing?   I'd also recommend staying in Glenwood Springs.  The traffic between Denver and the ski resorts can be horrendous.

 

http://www.prweb.com/releases/Glenwood_Springs/Ski_7/prweb10129803.htm

 

You can also find cheap lodging in the Roaring Fork valley area at Carbondale. I've stayed at the Days Inn there a few times. Its basic but definitely serviceable.

 

Since we are covering the whole gauntlet of skiing in Colorado, some of the cheapest slopeside accommodations in existence are here: http://www.brettelberg.com/ Sunlight is a local mountain Glenwood Springs, its about an hour drive from there to Aspen, and of course, you are mountainside to Sunlight in a condo at prices typically cheaper than a motel in the valley (includes kitchen!). Sunlight is a nice little mountain, but I'm not seriously recommending somebody fly in from a different continent to ski there.

 

For somebody coming across the ocean to ski here, I would recommend Aspen, Telluride, or for the expert skier, Crested Butte, as the mountains that are unique enough to warrant the visit. Vail is just big- the terrain does not really justify the hype, and it will be terribly crowded around Christmas.

 

For an intermediate skier, Snowmass offers a Vail type experience with a ton of intermediate cruising runs. Same price, much less crowds. For an expert skier, the terrain at Snowmass and the Aspen areas absolutely blows away the Vail/Breck terrain.

 

HOWEVER, as others have noted, Christmas is still early season for Colorado, and can be hit or miss.  In many years, the expert terrain will not be open at Christmas at any mountain in Colorado.

 

Of the 3 mountains listed, Telluride gets more snow, but also has a more volatile early season- it can be ridiculously deep snow, or it can be no snow and a mess at Christmas.

post #10 of 63

Is there any way you can move your trip to the following week?  

 

Early Jan after the holiday crowds leave is one of my favorite times to ski in Colorado.  The slopes are empty... as in ghost town empty.   It will be much cheaper and you will feel like you have the mountains to yourself.  The availability of expert terrain can be hit or miss, but the snow conditions on the on-piste terrain is almost always outstanding.

post #11 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mom View Post

You have many, many options of ski areas near Denver. You will get as many opinions on where you should go as there are posters on this site...

 

You could narrow down the advice if you tell us a bit more of what is important to you and your family.

 

Just to give you a sense of it, Aspen is one of the furthest away from Denver and is known for attracting movie stars and billionaires. (Think Gstaad) However it's popular for a reason. The town is charming, right at the base of Aspen Mountain and filled with great restaurants and things to do off the hill.  "Aspen" has four separate mountains, all on a free bus route, Buttermilk is the easier mountain, Snowmass has a wide variety of terrain and then Aspen Highlands and Aspen Mountain are known more as expert mountains. You might be able to reduce the cost of your trip there if you elect to stay in Snowmass, a different town but nearby and also on the free shuttle bus route.

 

The other end of the spectrum would be Loveland or Arapahoe Basin. Both are on Loveland Pass, much closer to Denver. They do not have a town or resort at their base, just a day-lodge facility with restaurant, etc. They are very low-key, skier's mountains. No fancy cafes, no fancy anything. You'd have to stay in one of the nearby towns and drive to ski. Some of the towns nearby are sweet, but a lot of it is very suburban in feel.

 

Then there are the many, many resorts/mountains in between.

 

Also, that early in the season, you might consider which resorts are likely to have good snow coverage by then. This is a great site to look at historical weather patterns for all the resorts:  http://bestsnow.net/

 

Yes, this.   There is quite a difference between staying at the Little Nell or the Days Inn over New Year's. Some idea of budget and type of accommodation would be most helpful, and what you want in a ski area.

 

Steamboat is not a bad idea ... if you book early, you can get some discounts, and they are a better bet for snow in early season. There are other things to do if the snow isn't great, and the surrounding area is kinda cool for a visitor (ie, very American cowboy western, etc. rather than faux European). 

 

for example,

 

http://book.steamboat.com/Coris/VacationPlanner/Vacation.aspx

 

http://www.steamboat-springs.com/LOVE

post #12 of 63
Thread Starter 
Thanks again for all replies. I have looked around from the suggestions, but we are still booked in Aspen. Just a few days left while still being able to cancel hotel reservation in Aspen, and just to make a final check. I was asked to give some more details about our preferences and here they are:
1) Great pists for carving cruising is a prime one. We are all experienced, no need for too easy slopes. Some challenging ones are surely a plus.
2) Easy off-pist is of interest. The kids have zero avalange training, and we are seeking the easy and safe.
3) The place must give us something we do not get at home. We have nice skiing relatively close by here at home in Sweden and Norway, and we truly do not fly across the Atlantic for skiing in December expecting the skiing experience itself motivates that trip.
4) We definitely want to stay in a town at the skiing location. The town has to have a nice atmosphere.
5) We are not that price sensitive, but this is of course a relative term, and here is certainly still some fear with Aspen. When looking at eating out at New Year's eve we noticed that a restaurant only offered a set menu at 400 USD/person. That is truly way out of our league. We are starting to realize that we may need to eat at home that evening. We have a full kitchen, so no real worry, but what about the other nights? Will it be hopeless to get a meal at a decent price for the adjacent days?

So given these additional details, any further advice anyone like to give?

From all I have been able to read about Aspen, it is clear that we go there in the busiest period, and we have clearly seen that reserving tables at good restaurant for a nonVIP Swedish family can be a challenge. But what about the slopes? I have read that they are never crouded. Is this true? The outlook of spending our vacation waiting in line for the lifts can definitely be a showstopper.

Thanks again
Fredrik
post #13 of 63

Every resort will have their busiest period during the time you are contemplating coming.  That being said, Aspen is a great choice given your desires.  You don't need avalanche training to ski off-piste in Colorado.  I don't want to minimize the risk of avalanches, but all off-piste areas (except for those outside of the boundaries of the resort) have avalanche mitigation by the ski patrol.  Aspen has a tremendous variety of terrain, everything from tremendous beginner terrain to groomed expert slopes to some of the best extreme off-piste skiing in Colorado.  Hiking Highlands Bowl is a tremendous off-piste experience, but does require pretty advanced technique to ski.  Even so, there's tons of terrain to progress from intermediate to expert off-piste terrain.

 

Regarding dining expense, New Year's eve will have fewer options that are more expensive.  And Aspen's dining tends to be more expensive than the rest of Colorado -- think New York City prices.  That being said, there are affordable dining options and even the expensive options are a) value for money (IMO) and b) much less expensive than dining in Sweden.

 

So, I'd suggest you stick with your plan and visit Aspen.

 

Mike

post #14 of 63

I think you will really like Aspen.   Christmas is the busiest season, but lift lines will still be short.  Snowmass will be the busiest and even there, if you know where and when to go, you can avoid them easily.  The Aspen gondola will have a small line from 10am-11:30, but after that it's walk on most of the time.

 

Aspen has tons of great restaurants at all price levels and I love dinning out.  But NYE is the one night of the year where I refuse to dine out. 

After making a nice dinner at home this year, I'll pour myself a cocktail in a plastic cup and walk around town and enjoy the festivities. 

 

Were do you have hotel reservations?  How old are your kids?

post #15 of 63

Busy at Aspen means that the lower lifts may have a 3-5 minute line and you will ski onto the lifts on the rest of the mountain.

post #16 of 63

Great advice above.  Go to Aspen.  You'll have a blast. 

 

The great news is it's been snowing a lot.   Conditions are looking fantastic already.

 

If you have any doubts, just check these camera every day:

http://aspen.roundshot.ch/

http://aspen.roundshot.ch/highlands

 

It's snowing now so you can't see anything.  Here's a nice archive image from a week ago:

 

http://aspen.roundshot.ch/highlands?t=2013-11-13+16-50-00

post #17 of 63

If you decide not to go to Aspen (and Aspen is probably a great choice for you) the next most interesting experience would be Steamboat.  It's a great town with an authentic Cowboy-Western America atmosphere, gets lots of snow, and the skiing in the Aspen trees is really good (but also has plenty of carving groomer skiing).  It's not cheap but it seems like it's probably cheaper than Aspen.

 

It's also similar distance from from Denver as Aspen. 

post #18 of 63
Thread Starter 
Thanks again for all replies! It has been really helpful. I feel very comfortable staying with our reservation now.
post #19 of 63

There are less expensive places to eat in Aspen and Snowmass. These are two that I have eaten at in Snowmass Village, basic and inexpensive. certainly not gourmet fare, but not bad.  The "Boomin' Newman" sandwich at the Village Tavern is named after my brother...

 

http://www.tasterspizza.com/

 

http://www.villagetavernsnowmass.com/

post #20 of 63

Some of the best,  less expensive restaurants in Aspen are Finnbarr, Justice Snow, Hickory House and Little Anne's.  Most every high end restaurant has a bar menu with the same food for 40% off.  Most of these have four top tables that are just as nice as the sit down section.  L'Hostaria, Cashe Cashe, Campo de Fiori, Ute City and Pacifica to name a few.

 

The key at Christmas, if you don't want to wait, is go out really early or really late,5:30- 6pm or 10. 

post #21 of 63

A little surprised Breckenridge didn't get any mention. Tons of lodging options, good skiing above the tree line and I still enjoy downtown a short walk away. Based on the snow they're already getting, the steeps look like they'll be ready for Christmas.

post #22 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snowslappy View Post
 

A little surprised Breckenridge didn't get any mention. Tons of lodging options, good skiing above the tree line and I still enjoy downtown a short walk away. Based on the snow they're already getting, the steeps look like they'll be ready for Christmas.

And most likely the longest lift lines in the state, for the time frame they'll be there.

post #23 of 63

Yes you should be happy with Aspen if the strong early season continues.  Aspen is probably the best ski resort in North America for restaurants.  And Shredhead has it right about the bar menus and early/late options if you're trying to keep prices down.

 

And I'll reiterate what segbrown said above. Stay away from the places close to Denver during the holidays.

post #24 of 63

Aspen is by far and away the best choice. I've skied there nearly every year the week before Christmas for 15 years or so and only last year (an exceptionally poor early season) were very few expert runs open. Usually, most if not all expert terrain is open by then.

 

Snowmass has terrain for everyone; massive amounts of lengthy blue cruisers, moderate bump runs and outstanding double diamond runs. Make a point to hike to Hanging Valley from the top of the High Alpine lift. It's off piste, but avalanche controled. The hike is short; 5 to 10 minutes. The snow is deep and the terrain is outstanding.

 

After you do that, make a point to ski Highland Bowl at Aspen Highlands. Wait until your third or fourth day to get acclimated, but DO NOT MISS THIS!!! It's more of a hike than the one at Snowmass, but you'll be talking about this for months.

post #25 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by djgeoff View Post
 

Snowmass has terrain for everyone; massive amounts of lengthy blue cruisers, moderate bump runs and outstanding double diamond runs. Make a point to hike to Hanging Valley from the top of the High Alpine lift. It's off piste, but avalanche controled. The hike is short; 5 to 10 minutes. The snow is deep and the terrain is outstanding.

 

After you do that, make a point to ski Highland Bowl at Aspen Highlands. Wait until your third or fourth day to get acclimated, but DO NOT MISS THIS!!! It's more of a hike than the one at Snowmass, but you'll be talking about this for months.

 

I would think the Cirque lift would be open in a peak period like Christmas, no? Perhaps not if the coverage was sketch enough to make them want to limit traffic, but both Hanging Valley and the Cirque can get accessed from the platter without a hike if the platter is spinning, just a long traverse.

post #26 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post

I would think the Cirque lift would be open in a peak period like Christmas, no? Perhaps not if the coverage was sketch enough to make them want to limit traffic, but both Hanging Valley and the Cirque can get accessed from the platter without a hike if the platter is spinning, just a long traverse.

I've never gone into the Hanging Valley from the platter. You might be able to do so, but the hike is so inconsequential from the top of the High Alpine lift I've never done it.

Mike
post #27 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by habacomike View Post


I've never gone into the Hanging Valley from the platter. You might be able to do so, but the hike is so inconsequential from the top of the High Alpine lift I've never done it.

Mike


Its a slight downhill traverse the whole way. If the platter is running, it is the best way to access.

post #28 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post
 


Its a slight downhill traverse the whole way. If the platter is running, it is the best way to access.

Given the triviality of the hike, not sure I agree with you.  If I'm riding the platter, I'd rather ski the terrain in the Cirque like AMF or Gowdy's, or the Headwall.

 

Mike

post #29 of 63

Fredrik, 

 

just a thought, but have you checked how much extra it would be to fly straight to Aspen? When we flew out of Aspen, it was only something like $10 extra because of the way sectors worked for our international ticket. Unless of course there is a reason that you want to travel overland from Denver to Aspen.

post #30 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by djgeoff View Post
 

Aspen is by far and away the best choice. I've skied there nearly every year the week before Christmas for 15 years or so and only last year (an exceptionally poor early season) were very few expert runs open. Usually, most if not all expert terrain is open by then.

 

Snowmass has terrain for everyone; massive amounts of lengthy blue cruisers, moderate bump runs and outstanding double diamond runs. Make a point to hike to Hanging Valley from the top of the High Alpine lift. It's off piste, but avalanche controled. The hike is short; 5 to 10 minutes. The snow is deep and the terrain is outstanding.

 

After you do that, make a point to ski Highland Bowl at Aspen Highlands. Wait until your third or fourth day to get acclimated, but DO NOT MISS THIS!!! It's more of a hike than the one at Snowmass, but you'll be talking about this for months.

 

There's a chance my son and I will be out there same time as Fredrik.  What are the odds Hanging Valley and Highlands Bowl will both be open at New Year's time?
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