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March in Colorado with little girls. Steamboat? Keystone?

post #1 of 30
Thread Starter 
Looking for some first-hand advice for a family trip at the end of March. I was thinking ski-in lodging. Kids and wife won't ski full time. Girls age 6 & 8. Driving from MN, and I don't want to drive much more than 14 hours.
post #2 of 30
End of March I think you want to stay higher for conditions. WP/Summit County, not the 7K base elevation resorts.
post #3 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by NayBreak View Post

End of March I think you want to stay higher for conditions. WP/Summit County, not the 7K base elevation resorts.

 

It's a rare, rare year that conditions are not pretty damned good at the end of March (ok, the last two years have been two rare years). I wouldn't worry about conditions- usually this is as deep as the snowpack will get.

 

Coming from the North and trying to minimize the drive, I think Steamboat is the obvious choice.

 

If you have two part-time skiers, you will need something for them to do, which is the primary reason I suggest Steamboat. The town has a lot of non-skiing stuff to offer (the in town hot-springs is very nice after a ski day and strawberry park hot springs, if you can get there, is amazing), good shops, and a real town instead of resort amenities that solely exist to Hoover your wallet.

 

Winter Park has a very minimal town- I'm not sure part-time skiers will find enough to occupy them.

 

Copper Mountain- same kind of deal, with Frisco being the closest actual town, with limited activities aside from cross country and sledding.

 

Breck and Keystone. Breck has a town. Late March sounds like a Spring break trip, or at least it is for part of the country. Expect Breck and Keystone to be mobbed- Steamboat, WP, or Copper will be a lot more laid back, especially Steamboat. Keystone really has nothing but the typical resort crap at the base. Breck obviously has a lot of shops and neat places in the town, but again, mobbed.

 

Vail- Vail sucks.

 

Finally, the not-seriously suggesting it but throwing it out there just in case it actually fits your vision of a ski vacation- Sunlight.  Its laid back, uncrowded, unpretentious. Has some great terrain, and with the single base area, its the kind of place you can lets the kids roam free and still be able to follow where they are while you ski. It has some of the cheapest ski-in-ski-out lodging that has ever existed. Glenwood Springs is a great resort town, worlds largest hot springs pool, cave tours, lots of shops etc. Aspen is an hour upvalley too if you want to spend a day or two exploring.  Its not the ritzy, glamorous, jet setting type of ski vacation, but it is the kind where I have more fun.

post #4 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skidude 007 View Post

Looking for some first-hand advice for a family trip at the end of March. I was thinking ski-in lodging. Kids and wife won't ski full time. Girls age 6 & 8. Driving from MN, and I don't want to drive much more than 14 hours.

 

Did you follow this recent thread?

http://www.epicski.com/t/121292/is-winter-park-the-best-combination-of-skiing-value-convenience-for-a-family

 

Are the girls and wife beginners or intermediates at this point?  What kind of terrain are would you like for yourself . . . ideally?

post #5 of 30
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by marznc View Post

Did you follow this recent thread?
http://www.epicski.com/t/121292/is-winter-park-the-best-combination-of-skiing-value-convenience-for-a-family

Are the girls and wife beginners or intermediates at this point?  What kind of terrain are would you like for yourself . . . ideally?

Thanks for the link. I have been taking the summer off of Epic!

Little girls can all ski ok. Certainly any green out West, and some blues. My wife is a groomed blue skier. They have learned on shitty snow here in the midwest, so they should love the snow pack in colorado. I am comfortable skiing just about anywhere on the mountain. My choice would be LCC.

Looks like Steamboat is worth a look. WP too. I wasn't super excited about Keystone, but I'm not the decider.
post #6 of 30
Thread Starter 
S
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post

It's a rare, rare year that conditions are not pretty damned good at the end of March (ok, the last two years have been two rare years). I wouldn't worry about conditions- usually this is as deep as the snowpack will get.

Coming from the North and trying to minimize the drive, I think Steamboat is the obvious choice.

If you have two part-time skiers, you will need something for them to do, which is the primary reason I suggest Steamboat. The town has a lot of non-skiing stuff to offer (the in town hot-springs is very nice after a ski day and strawberry park hot springs, if you can get there, is amazing), good shops, and a real town instead of resort amenities that solely exist to Hoover your wallet.

Winter Park has a very minimal town- I'm not sure part-time skiers will find enough to occupy them.

Copper Mountain- same kind of deal, with Frisco being the closest actual town, with limited activities aside from cross country and sledding.

Breck and Keystone. Breck has a town. Late March sounds like a Spring break trip, or at least it is for part of the country. Expect Breck and Keystone to be mobbed- Steamboat, WP, or Copper will be a lot more laid back, especially Steamboat. Keystone really has nothing but the typical resort crap at the base. Breck obviously has a lot of shops and neat places in the town, but again, mobbed.

Vail- Vail sucks.

Finally, the not-seriously suggesting it but throwing it out there just in case it actually fits your vision of a ski vacation- Sunlight.  Its laid back, uncrowded, unpretentious. Has some great terrain, and with the single base area, its the kind of place you can lets the kids roam free and still be able to follow where they are while you ski. It has some of the cheapest ski-in-ski-out lodging that has ever existed. Glenwood Springs is a great resort town, worlds largest hot springs pool, cave tours, lots of shops etc. Aspen is an hour upvalley too if you want to spend a day or two exploring.  Its not the ritzy, glamorous, jet setting type of ski vacation, but it is the kind where I have more fun.
Sunlight is a great idea, but the drive starts adding up! AND there is another family going that is more into fancy crap.
post #7 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skidude 007 View Post

S
Sunlight is a great idea, but the drive starts adding up! AND there is another family going that is more into fancy crap.

 

Well, the drive is a long hour (1:20 or so) from Vail.  But if others want more of the Jet-set experience, that's not Sunlight. I think Steamboat would be the place if it needs to be Colorado.

 

Have you considered Big Sky or some of the other Montana resorts? Google says Big Sky is 14 hours and change from Minneapolis- it may be another area to look into.

post #8 of 30

Big Sky is an interesting idea.  Can get very nice 3BR/3BA condos for good rates.  Either in the Moonlight or Big Sky village or a little less in the valley 10 min away.  If you could consider a warm up ski day at Bridger with a night or two in Bozeman, that's a bonus.  Bridger has a great ski school that caters to local families.  As a non-profit, lift tickets and lessons are a great deal.

 

Moonlight is being purchased by Big Sky, so could have a combined ticket this season.

post #9 of 30

Steamboat is great in March and now with the added night skiing, you can do other activities in the day time and still get in some evening/night time runs too. They are running some specials now and I have heard bookings are way up already.  

post #10 of 30

For kids especially for little ones, the best choices, in my opinion,  are Vail and Beaver Creek.

 

Vail has lots of places to stop. Lots of places where kids can ski through the trees hide and seek style.  There are some good choice for picnic tables to stop and rest and have a snack and there is a great deal of terrain on which they would feel comfortable.  When they get tired, there are lots of ways to download quickly so you can get back up and go skiing.  When our kids were little, we found that Vail was just about the best for the kids.  When they got tired and needed a snack,there was usually a picnic table that was fun (Jebbe's deck on Avanti near the top of the race course was a favorite - feeding the birds while eating a snack).

 

Beaver Creek is also great and there is a lot of lift in/lift out lodging that you can use as well (i.e. Westin Riverfront) or many of the cheaper places in Avon (Christie Lodge is one) are on the main loop free bus line that drops right off at the gondola at the Westin.  Very little walking required.  The skiing is a bit tougher so if your kids are good skiers it's not a problem.  However, if you do the Arrowhead or Bachelor Gulch area, you have a lot of places to stop and feed the kids at the bottom or mid hill picnic spots.  There won't be crowds there and there is great terrain for little ones.  Our kids actually like BC the best, but they've been skiing since they were 2 and were skiing blacks when they were 4 and 5.  Either way, both areas are huge and have great terrain for little kids.  Ask the mountain guide types at the base of the lifts for advice.

 

If you put your kids in an all day lesson at Vail or BC, they will have a blast, learn something and you can go ski the whole day.  We found that their ski school was just so much better organized for kids than pretty much anywhere else.

 

As well, there is plenty to do at the base and towns at both BC and Vail and a lot/most of it is accessible by walking.

 

We too are from MN.  If you are near the twin cities, you can get an Epic local pass that covers 10 days at Vail/BC and will also get you a season's pass at Afton Alps (bought by Vail last year).  For under 18 and younger, the passes are a super deal and you'll either get your Afton skiing or your Vail skiing for free depending on how you look at it.

 

J.

post #11 of 30

or you could go to steamboat have excellent all day kids ski school (at a lower cost than Beaver or Vail),  2 kids terrain/trees areas (fantastic beginners tree areas in the intermediate ski area, so the whole family can stay together) stay at half the cost and may even be able to fly the kids for free,  (see packages, many locations include 1 kid 12 and under per parent for free)  free transportation to downtown/to mountain, night skiing and tons of off snow activities.

post #12 of 30

That's nothing that Vail doesn't have.  If you want to get into an argument over terrain, there's a lot more of it at both BC and Vail than at Steamboat.  Been to both many times.Vail for things to do for the whole family is just plain hard to beat.  There is a reason that  BC is rated #1 family area.

 

In any ski town - and Vail is no exception - there are great deals especially if you book this time of year.  In point of fact, the times I went to Steamboat cost me more than when I paid to stay in Vail or Avon.  Given the MN connection, if you ski locally, you can almost ditch the cost of lift tickets entirely.If you did this, you could put the younger ones into a D-team and by the time you got out west, they'd probably be skiing the pants off of you.

 

So, it basically gets down to pick your vibe and what are you looking for.

 

According to Ski Magazine's ratings for best family areas:

 

1. BC

2. Deer Valley

3. Snowmass

4. Northstar

5. Whistler Blackcomb

6. Vail

7. Park City

8. Steamboat

9. Breck

10. Sun Valley

 

These rankings have been pretty stable for the past few years.  I'd also say that they match my experience when we were taking out kids out west.

 

Here's the link for the passes that cover Afton Alps and the western areas.

 

So, basically, if you went to BC and didn't like it there's Vail.  If you don't like that there's Breck and if you don't like that there's Keystone too (also a decent family area).  All on the same lift ticket all within 30 minute of each other and all tie into your pass back in MN if you choose to go that route.  Hard deal to beat and all world class.  If the snow winds up not being great at one, you've got options - an unfortunate need if you book this time of year.  Get up in Steamboat and if you have snow issues, you're a long ways from no where.  And if you have snow issues, you have vacation issues.  In Summit county area, the various areas are all at different elevations so, if necessary, you can go to one of the ones that are quite high (Breck, Keystone) to save a vacation.  That said, it's hard not to be happy at BC or Vail if you are trying to keep the little ones engaged.

 

You'll have a great time.  Done right, you're kids will be lifelong ski buddies.    They learn fast and the younger they learn the better they become.  Even now, when my kids are in college, we still go on ski trips as a family and ski together.  

 

 

J.

post #13 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnJ80 View Post
 

That's nothing that Vail doesn't have.  If you want to get into an argument over terrain, there's a lot more of it at both BC and Vail than at Steamboat.

 

A Vail guy arguing terrain superiority. Hysterical.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnJ80 View Post
 

So, basically, if you went to BC and didn't like it there's Vail.  If you don't like that there's Breck and if you don't like that there's Keystone too

 

And if you don't like crowds you are shit out of luck.

 

I'm anything but a Steamboat cheerleader- but for most people the biggest thing that stands it its way is how hard to get to for most skiers. But not a guy coming from the North with a car, a guy who mentioned part-time skiers, kids, and drive time but NOT uber-gnar terrain. I think Steamboat stands out as the best choice there, and if it isn't, the better choice is not the much more crowded place with basically the same terrain deficiencies.

post #14 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Finndog View Post
 

Steamboat is great in March and now with the added night skiing, you can do other activities in the day time and still get in some evening/night time runs too. They are running some specials now and I have heard bookings are way up already.

 

wtf!  night skiing at SB????   man, that's a nice change less you mean at Howellson, which doesn't mean bad ...

 

I terms of Steamboat, I think it depends on how locked in you are.   I travel from Iowa west with a 13.346hr drive or maybe I should say 930mi .... so from Minneapolis I couldn't argue that Big Ski wouldn't be worth it.  you can do an Amtrak too which may be entertaining especially if you can do a sleeper(s).   Of course, air may be cheaper depending on destination as Minn is a major hub ..

 

If considering activities, if your not going to depend on skiing to fill your whole day, then I can state that Steamboat itself is a great destination for family as one can hit their downtown, ski time square, athletic club (Hot Springs fed waters) and have a great time.

 

How long???  an added family can complicate.

 

From a family of 5 perspective, we do trend to Steamboat as we can find slope side with pools/hottubs.   A list of have to items help a lot as it really will aid in ruling out destinations.

 

 

1.  location?

2.  Ski School?

3.  Local fun - what else is required? what else is desired?

4.  cost .. are you limited to a top spend and if so, is that to drive ... what of the other group?  can or are they ok with flying, higher spend?

5.  duration?

 

your into (maybe) spring break which changes costs considerably depending on where you travel.

 

We loved Copper for spring break but mostly because my daughters were (7, 12, 16) were wanting a pool.   this too limited the lodging at Copper but we all loved it.  WP is a pretty safe bet for snow as it's higher altitude, but when I did this with my middle daughter when she was 11, we hit Denver museums for a day of festivities.

 

From a rankings perspective, I think BC has a kids waterpark ... that in itself is entertaining.   Much goes to what you look to do.   My kids always were happy with even simple plans after skiing the day.  One of their most cherished moments was simply to hit the hot tub/pool after the day, hanging for a 1 to 2 hrs and splashing around.  They liked a day off as we typically spent 7 - 8 nights .. and insisted on a day of shopping which implied candy, soda fountain, ice-cream, t-shirts, even goggles .... but we did plan for this which from a very simple perspective, most any resort can suffice.

 

They'll remember the time with you more than the time in car or specifics where .. my middle one still remembers how on spring break, she and I would ski WP (only 3-4 hrs max a day) and then work puzzles and watch the Harry Potter marathon on Disney ... this and Amtrak sleeper made her trip .....

post #15 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skidude 007 View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by marznc View Post

Did you follow this recent thread?
http://www.epicski.com/t/121292/is-winter-park-the-best-combination-of-skiing-value-convenience-for-a-family

Are the girls and wife beginners or intermediates at this point?  What kind of terrain are would you like for yourself . . . ideally?

Thanks for the link. I have been taking the summer off of Epic!

Little girls can all ski ok. Certainly any green out West, and some blues. My wife is a groomed blue skier. They have learned on shitty snow here in the midwest, so they should love the snow pack in colorado. I am comfortable skiing just about anywhere on the mountain. My choice would be LCC.

Looks like Steamboat is worth a look. WP too. I wasn't super excited about Keystone, but I'm not the decider.

 

Based on my one trip to Steamboat a while back when I was an adult intermediate, Steamboat was one of the places I thought my daughter would enjoy when she was an intermediate.  The town was a nice break from the Steamboat village of condos everywhere.  But then I spoiled her by starting to take annual trips to Alta Lodge in April to meet up with friends.  Alta ski school turned her into an advanced skier in a few seasons.  Now Big Sky and Bridger are higher on my bucket list for her when we don't go to Alta.

post #16 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post
 

 

A Vail guy arguing terrain superiority. Hysterical.

 

 

And if you don't like crowds you are shit out of luck.

 

I'm anything but a Steamboat cheerleader- but for most people the biggest thing that stands it its way is how hard to get to for most skiers. But not a guy coming from the North with a car, a guy who mentioned part-time skiers, kids, and drive time but NOT uber-gnar terrain. I think Steamboat stands out as the best choice there, and if it isn't, the better choice is not the much more crowded place with basically the same terrain deficiencies.

 

Did you read the OP? This is for little kids. Seriously, pay attention.  Terrain at Vail or BC is perfect for kids.

 

I don't know where you are skiing, but it's easy to ski uncrowded terrain at BC unless you insist on skiing on Centennial right out in front.  Arrowhead?  Empty.  Bachelor Gulch? Empty.  And both are  perfect for little kids.  Steamboat?  Meh. It's ok - genuinely mediocre skiing.  And if it stinks, you're stuck ... in a cow town with no other options close by (been there, done that several times).  

post #17 of 30

Steamboat - no brainer.  3 days of ski school took my four year old from disaster to blue black ripper.  One base.  Real town.  You'll fall in love with the trees.

post #18 of 30

@ PEte, yes, real night skiing on the mountain is new for this season.  

 

@Mikestaple- thanks! Yes, you get it.  

 

I still say if you get bored at Steamboat you either just don't know where to ski or you can't ski trees. I can't imagine getting bored.  Last year I had over 20 powder days (that's at least 6") and I wasn't up there all that much. Hey if you don't like trees, then yes, skiing only at the resort and not knowing where to go, its not Jackson. If you are looking for long groomers, we don't have a lot. Want uber steep gnar, nope, (unless you know where to go) nope. BUt endless trees, few crowds, fun hidden gems all over and really good snow (more than the average resort) that holds so much better, its hard to beat the boat.  Yes, I am biased Thumbs Up   

 

For kids, we have an amazing program and tons of kid friendly but fun terrain. I have skied Vail and BC and know the terrain. FIrst off, you need to bring another suitcase just to afford to ski there; especially BC. but unless you have seen the new kids terrain and program in tha past couple of years, you don't know whats there.  Add that to a kids-ski-for-free program (I think they will have this again) 

 

In the end, its great that Colorado offers such great places to ski, hike bike or just wander around and enjoy a beautiful view. 

post #19 of 30
I think Steamboat's a great option. But I wouldn't count on night skiing in late March being all that great.
post #20 of 30
Yeah, night skiing on cut-up refrozen would be nasty, unless they regroomed...
post #21 of 30

Regarding Steamboat re-grooming the night runs. I called and asked that question. I got an email a couple days later that said yes, they are going to re-groom those slopes before opening for night skiing. Too bad it's only on Fri, Sat, and Sunday nights.

post #22 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by SHREDHEAD View Post

I think Steamboat's a great option. But I wouldn't count on night skiing in late March being all that great.

 

on an average season, there is plenty of coverage. That area is a mainstay for ski racing so its in good condition Plus, they just ran new lines and improved guns for early opening/ late season lower areas. the new lines extend all the way up to Buddy's improving flow dramatically. They also added a couple of new groomers.

post #23 of 30

If it's between Keystone and Steamboat, I'd go with Steamboat. Late-season conditions aren't any better in Keystone typically than they are in Steamboat, and Keystone can be mind-bogglingly crowded almost all the way through March.

post #24 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Finndog View Post
 

 

on an average season, there is plenty of coverage. That area is a mainstay for ski racing so its in good condition Plus, they just ran new lines and improved guns for early opening/ late season lower areas. the new lines extend all the way up to Buddy's improving flow dramatically. They also added a couple of new groomers.

 

It's not the coverage I'd be worried about.   We've all skied frozen groomed slush, first thing in the morning, it ain't that great.

 

I'd just throw that out of the equation.  Then if they have good snow and it happens, bonus.  But I sure as hell wouldn't count on it.

post #25 of 30

^^^ Yep, everybody typically has good coverage at the end of March.  It is the surface conditions that vary dramatically.   High elevation areas will have much better surface conditions than low elevation areas.  I love Steamboat, but it's a low elevation ski area and faces West.  I wouldn't plan a trip to Steamboat at the end of March when there are much better options available that are likely to still have winter snow conditions rather than being in full-on spring melt.

 

Here's the data from Tony Crocker that backs up the high elevation areas as the best bets.  Notice how Steamboat and even Vail get spotty in March:

http://50.87.144.177/~bestsnow/colohist.htm

 

And his comments on Steamboat are "Best in state in December/January for highest snowfall, but lowest elevation and worst exposure of Colorado destination resorts," from:

http://50.87.144.177/~bestsnow/ncconet.htm

 

Snowmass is a good choice that hasn't been thrown out yet.   I think Copper is an obvious choice if you are OK with the smaller village and the short drive to Frisco and Breck for some non-ski activities if you get bored there.  Copper has the most northerly facing mountain of the high-elevation resorts and can maintain winter skiing conditions well into April similar to A-basin, and it's less crowded than the other Summit County resorts.


Edited by tball - 9/17/13 at 12:02pm
post #26 of 30
^^^^i was trying unsuccessfully to make that point in post #2. In an overall climatology pattern that hasn't really shifted in over 2 years, it is hard to bet on late March. Yes, the snow picked back up this year, but it was still warm....
post #27 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post

Yeah, night skiing on cut-up refrozen would be nasty, unless they regroomed...

 

hahahaa, that's called Midwest skiing, OP is from Minn.  But I'd agree, if hitting Co, why seek what you can get at home. 

post #28 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by tball View Post
 

 

Snowmass is a good choice that hasn't been thrown out yet.   I think Copper is an obvious choice if you are OK with the smaller village and the short drive to Frisco and Breck for some non-ski activities if you get bored there.  Copper has the most northerly facing mountain of the high-elevation resorts and can maintain winter skiing conditions well into April similar to A-basin, and it's less crowded than the other Summit County resorts.

 

I agree that Snowmass is a great choice, if the OP is willing to drive that far- the only reason I didn't mention it.

 

A would agree with the Steamboat ski conditions thing if we were talking April. But even late March, I think Steamboat is still a very safe bet.

post #29 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by mikestaple View Post
 

Steamboat - no brainer.  3 days of ski school took my four year old from disaster to blue black ripper.  One base.  Real town.  You'll fall in love with the trees.

 

Another vote for Steamboat ski school. Our then 7 year old asked to go back for extra days and wanted to bring his instructor Uncle Glen home with him. From a parents point of view Uncle Glen is the most intelligent kids instructor our son has ever had, and our son's skiing really took off.

 
Staying at the base made it really easy and convenient if anybody wanted to finish early or start late.
post #30 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ski Kiwi View Post
 

 

Another vote for Steamboat ski school. Our then 7 year old asked to go back for extra days and wanted to bring his instructor Uncle Glen home with him. From a parents point of view Uncle Glen is the most intelligent kids instructor our son has ever had, and our son's skiing really took off.

 
Staying at the base made it really easy and convenient if anybody wanted to finish early or start late.

 

funny,

 

If I'm thinking clearly my kids loved Glen.  He's been there for years, I think he gives kids helmet flair as to excite them but really, make them recognizable to him easily ...

 

heck of a nice guy .. made skiing a game and fun for them.

 

Honestly, my kids had days where they didn't find any friendships either other students or teacher but most the time, 90%, loved SB ski school.

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