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First trip out West - Where should we go? [from Mid-Atlantic, intermediate couple]

post #1 of 56
Thread Starter 

I'm planning a trip out West this season for my wife and I and looking for advice on where to go.  This would be our first trip West, and possibly our last for a while so we really want to make the most of it.  We typically have skied mid-Atlantic and a little New England.  I'm tentatively thinking 7 nights with skiing 4 or 5 days out of the week.  We'd really like to be part of, or very near, a cool town that we can explore, get some good food, etc. when we're not skiing.  We're going to treat this as a nice vacation where we're lucky to also get to ski and not just a ski trip (although skiing is still the main attraction). 

 

My wife is a fairly advance beginner/low intermediate -  she's very comfortable on greens and most blues, particularly well groomed blues.  I'm a pretty solid intermediate - any blues and some blacks (love steeps, not so much hard core bumps, never tried trees but would love to get a lesson on easy level trees).  I envision my wife taking a group lesson every morning while I ski hard on my own, then we'd meet for lunch and ski together in the afternoon.  I'd love a mountain where we could take the lift together, sometimes take different runs down, and still meet at the bottom easily.  

 

For lodging, we're looking for either ski-in/ski-out or within a short walk to the slopes and nice accommodations but not necessarily extravagant (think Marriott level not Ritz Carlton).   The village, town and off slope activities are also very important for us.  

 

From my initial research, I'm kind of leaning toward the Aspen or Park City areas b/c of the towns.  But I'm not sure which resort would be best for us at each?  Looks like maybe Snowmass for Aspen but it seems fairly far from town? And probably PCMR for Park City?  Seems like Vail would have the right skiing for us and a great village area but it seems very spread out and is there much of a town around there?

 

I've been looking forward to this trip for 20 years and feel a little like a kid in a candy store b/c there are so many options.  I would love to hear any opinions on the places I've mentioned and how they would fit into what we're looking for and/or any suggestions for other places I should consider.

 

Many thanks! 

post #2 of 56

Aspen is great, but you are correct that Snowmass is about 9 miles from town (free bus) and Ajax (area right next to town) is really not suitable for beginners.  If your wife is closer to a low intermediate, there is stuff she can ski at Ajax and it would be more fun to stay in town (if you can find something in your price range) and then ski a day (or two) at each resort.  The non-Ajax days would NOT be ski in/ski out.  Ski-in/out at Ajax might be pricy, but maybe Shredhead can make some recommendations.

 

Vail has a lot to offer also- good food like Aspen and plenty of good skiing.  There is a Marriott in Lionshead that is a short walk to the slopes.  Vail is more of a resort town (compared to Aspen being more of a true town with a resort), but there are still plenty of shops and things to do.  There is a free bus that runs from Golden Peak to Vail Village to Lionshead that is really convenient, so I wouldn't worry about it being spread out as everything you want to do is pretty well connected.  

 

Breckenridge has a town like Aspen, but not quite as high end with more of a Western mining feel.  Lots of ski in/ski out that is also walkable to town.  Weekends will be more crowded than some of the others, but mid-week is usually not an issue outside of X-Mas, Spring Break, etc. 

 

Park City, with a lift going from town is another good option with some nice resto choices and shopping.  It was also a mining town, but has moved more towards the high end direction.

post #3 of 56

Welcome to EpicSki!  Where do you ski the most in the Mid-Atlantic?  My home mountain is Massanutten in northern VA.

 

Do you have any time constraints on when you can take the trip?  Obviously if you can avoid school holidays, that's best.

 

At the right time, Park City would be great. A day at Deer Valley or Alta would be worth doing if staying there.  A few advantages of SLC are that the airport is rarely messed up by weather, somewhat lower elevation than many places in Colorado, and several places to explore for intermediate/advanced skiing within an hour's drive.  Can be done at whatever budget level, from quite low in the city to very nice slopeside lodging.

post #4 of 56
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by marznc View Post
 

Welcome to EpicSki!  Where do you ski the most in the Mid-Atlantic?  My home mountain is Massanutten in northern VA.

 

Do you have any time constraints on when you can take the trip?  Obviously if you can avoid school holidays, that's best.

 

At the right time, Park City would be great. A day at Deer Valley or Alta would be worth doing if staying there.  A few advantages of SLC are that the airport is rarely messed up by weather, somewhat lower elevation than many places in Colorado, and several places to explore for intermediate/advanced skiing within an hour's drive.  Can be done at whatever budget level, from quite low in the city to very nice slopeside lodging.

 

Mostly Snowshoe and Wintergreen.  I've never actually tried Massanutten, but would like to take the kids there for a 2-3 day trip.  

 

For timing, we're really flexible - I'm thinking maybe early March and definitely want to avoid school holidays.  Obviously want to avoid Park City for Sundance as well but i think that's in January.

 

What is typically considered the best time of year?  I would think March would be best chance of good snow but not brutally cold weather?  

post #5 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by hokienRIC View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by marznc View Post
 

Welcome to EpicSki!  Where do you ski the most in the Mid-Atlantic?  My home mountain is Massanutten in northern VA.

 

Do you have any time constraints on when you can take the trip?  Obviously if you can avoid school holidays, that's best.

 

At the right time, Park City would be great. A day at Deer Valley or Alta would be worth doing if staying there.  A few advantages of SLC are that the airport is rarely messed up by weather, somewhat lower elevation than many places in Colorado, and several places to explore for intermediate/advanced skiing within an hour's drive.  Can be done at whatever budget level, from quite low in the city to very nice slopeside lodging.

 

Mostly Snowshoe and Wintergreen.  I've never actually tried Massanutten, but would like to take the kids there for a 2-3 day trip.  

 

For timing, we're really flexible - I'm thinking maybe early March and definitely want to avoid school holidays.  Obviously want to avoid Park City for Sundance as well but i think that's in January.

 

What is typically considered the best time of year?  I would think March would be best chance of good snow but not brutally cold weather?  

Be happy to tell you more about Mnut some time.  Great place for kids.  Great place for kids and adults to learn.

 

Later is better.  Meaning you are correct that March beats Jan.  I've been taking spring break trips to Alta in April with my daughter and that has worked out very well.  But that's too late for Park City.

 

Is this a family trip?  If so, how old are your kids?

post #6 of 56

Park City is the perfect first trip out west.  Easy to get to.  Lots of variety.  Cool town.  Nice mix of crunchy and posh -- probably not perfect if you're posh or crunchy, but if you're curious to see what ski towns look like, it's a good place to start.  Assuming you don't care too much about epic powder, I think you're fine going whenever's convenient.  March & April might be nicer in terms of sun & snow, but non-holiday weeks in Jan/Feb would probably give you a chance for a better deal. 

 

One other thing to remember -- speaking as a Whitetail regular -- is that Colorado altitude can really affect some people.  If it's your only trip, I'd stay low.   

 

Also in Park City, be sure to check out the fly&ski free deal:  it's changed in recent years, but the jist is that you get a free lift ticket when you show that day's boarding pass.  If you can get a morning flight direct to SLC, then you can be on the slopes by noon, so it's definitely a nice bonus.  Used to be that you could just show up and show your ticket, now i think you have to pre-book and watch out for blackout dates. 

 

Enjoy!

Mike

post #7 of 56
Park City. Lot of town, conveniently located relative to the ski area. More like a town than a mall.
post #8 of 56
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by marznc View Post
 

Is this a family trip?  If so, how old are your kids?

 

This trip out West will be without the kids.  They're 5, 3 and 3 so a bit young for me to justify the cost and trouble of flying them out west.  Would like to bring them in a few years once they're able to ski with us (and not just drop them off at ski school/kids camp every day).  We took them to VT (Stratton) last year and they had a blast.  Will probably take them for a short trip to Wintergreen or Massanutten this year if the wife and I are able to pull this trip off by ourselves.  

 

Do you know how young they start lessons at Massanutten?  We're looking at a 6-week morning program for the kids at Wintergreen b/c it's the closest to us but may also look at Massanutten for a mid-week trip. 

post #9 of 56
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Leisurely View Post
 

Park City is the perfect first trip out west.  Easy to get to.  Lots of variety.  Cool town.  Nice mix of crunchy and posh -- probably not perfect if you're posh or crunchy, but if you're curious to see what ski towns look like, it's a good place to start.  Assuming you don't care too much about epic powder, I think you're fine going whenever's convenient.  March & April might be nicer in terms of sun & snow, but non-holiday weeks in Jan/Feb would probably give you a chance for a better deal. 

 

One other thing to remember -- speaking as a Whitetail regular -- is that Colorado altitude can really affect some people.  If it's your only trip, I'd stay low.   

 

Also in Park City, be sure to check out the fly&ski free deal:  it's changed in recent years, but the jist is that you get a free lift ticket when you show that day's boarding pass.  If you can get a morning flight direct to SLC, then you can be on the slopes by noon, so it's definitely a nice bonus.  Used to be that you could just show up and show your ticket, now i think you have to pre-book and watch out for blackout dates. 

 

Enjoy!

Mike

 

Actually, a mix of "crunchy & posh" sounds perfect.  We definitely enjoy nice amenities and good food but don't care for a lot pretentiousness.  I hadn't actually given any consideration to the altitude affect - is that a pretty common issue?

 

I definitely think Park City would move to the top of the list if we end up having to cut the trip down to 4-5 days.  The travel to most of Colorado for us would likely be too much for a shorter trip like that.  

 

thanks for the insight. 

post #10 of 56
Another vote for Park City for a couple of reasons not mentioned, easy and inexpensive to fly in and out of, rarely delays and quite a few direct flights from the east. Lots of choices near by with The Canyons, Deer Valley and the cottonwood ski areas so if you get some great options in you want to explore.
post #11 of 56

 I hadn't actually given any consideration to the altitude affect - is that a pretty common issue?

 

Yes.  Almost everyone coming in from the flatlands will feel the effects of altitude above 8000'.  The only question is how severe they  are.  Obviously, many many skiers fly in from low altitudes, so for the vast majority of people the effects are minor - shortness of breath and difficulty sleeping being the most common.  It goes away in a couple of days as you acclimate.

 

About 20% of visitors experience mild altitude sickness; unfortunately it's impossible to tell in advance who will get sick and who will not.  The easiest cure is to simply go to a lower altitude. 

 

If you go to Salt Lake City and stay in town you can probably avoid it altogether since you'll be sleeping at 5000' and only spending a few hours above 8000'.  If you go to a place like Vail or Aspen, you'll be at 8000' the whole time with no easy option to descend.  If you go to somewhere like Whistler you'll never get above 8000' since the summit is only 7500' or so. 

 

I don't know exactly what to tell you here - it's likely  that you and your wife are in the 80% who aren't susceptible, but it's not a given.  The safe way to play it is to go somewhere with a lower elevation or the option of descending, but this may be needlessly cautious.

post #12 of 56

One lower-elevation Colorado option is Steamboat, which would also fill your "fun town" criteria.  Seems like it would be suitable for your ski abilities too.

post #13 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by hokienRIC View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by marznc View Post
 

Is this a family trip?  If so, how old are your kids?

 

This trip out West will be without the kids.  They're 5, 3 and 3 so a bit young for me to justify the cost and trouble of flying them out west.  Would like to bring them in a few years once they're able to ski with us (and not just drop them off at ski school/kids camp every day).  We took them to VT (Stratton) last year and they had a blast.  Will probably take them for a short trip to Wintergreen or Massanutten this year if the wife and I are able to pull this trip off by ourselves.  

 

Do you know how young they start lessons at Massanutten?  We're looking at a 6-week morning program for the kids at Wintergreen b/c it's the closest to us but may also look at Massanutten for a mid-week trip. 

Makes perfect sense to leave the kids at home.

 

Don't have time right now to tell you why Mnut is much better for kidsthan Wintergreen but that's the truth unless you own property at Wgreen.  Maybe I'll put into a different thread.

post #14 of 56

Park City will be the easiest, and any of the three resorts will do.  PCMR (3,700 skiable acres) boarders the city, and that can be fun.  Canyons (4,000 skiable acres) has lots of new slopeside ski in/out lodging.  Both areas are huge with an enormous amount of intermediate and advanced terrain.  Deer Valley (2,100 skiable acres) is smaller, but certainly large enough for a one week vacation.  All are Top-10 resorts.  Both Deer Valley and Canyons have top restaurants, and you will have no shortage of good food in Park City.  It is an easy drive into Park City from Canyons or Deer Valley (or take a shuttle bus). Remember to check out the Olympic Park and Alf Engen Ski Museum (just before Canyons with heading to the ski areas).  Assuming the Olympians will be elsewhere when you travel, you will see school age kids luge, fly, freestyle, etc.  It is an impressive facility, as is the museum.  If you have $$$ to spend, take a bobsled ride.

 

I used to live in Vail, and you cannot go wrong there.  Yeah, there is a big village (they forgot the alleys) with shuttles and no shortage of food or shopping.  I miss the place.  The drive is longer from Denver than the SLC-PC drive, but it is also scenic if you arrive during the daylight hours.  Shuttles are always available from the airport.

 

If you are using travel or credit card points for lodging, good luck finding hotels that will take them during the ski season.  You have the Marriott in PC and the Hyatt Escala at Canyons (ski in/out).     There are great deals available now that include  lodging with lift tickets and breakfast.  Check the resorts for details.

post #15 of 56

1.  Park City, not the mountain, town.  Stay anywhere and get on super efficient shuttles to all 3 resorts.

 

2,  Vail, perfect, everything works, 2 hour drive from Denver.  Drink advil 1-2 days prior, no alcohol first day on slopes, and you ski away!!!  And the bragging rights....

 

 

Enjoyy!

post #16 of 56

Re altitude, definitely easier if you can sleep below 8000 feet. PC is 6500, Steamboat 6500, Vail is about 8000. In my experience, the places near Denver where it can be a significant issue are the Summit County resorts. Breck, keystone, Copper. You're sleeping at over 9000 feet anywhere near those places. Which you will definitely notice.  

post #17 of 56

For sure, the Alf Engen museum is well worth checking out for anyone interested in ski history.  I got to look at the exhibits a few years ago in June and was much impressed.  And there was no admission fee!!  

 

Kudos to the museum staff, thanx

post #18 of 56

For a really memorable adult ski trip Aspen is hard to beat.  At your ability level I'd recommend staying in Snowmass and just ride the bus several nights into Aspen for apres-ski. There are tons of upscale shops, restaurants and bars in Aspen.

post #19 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamesj View Post
 

For a really memorable adult ski trip Aspen is hard to beat.  At your ability level I'd recommend staying in Snowmass and just ride the bus several nights into Aspen for apres-ski. There are tons of upscale shops, restaurants and bars in Aspen.

I agree on hard to beat Aspen. I would tend to reccomend staying in town and forgoing ski in-ski out

post #20 of 56

Hands down Mt. Bachelor and Bend, Oregon.
Here is a link.
http://www.mtbachelor.com/winter/index.html

post #21 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacques View Post
 

Hands down Mt. Bachelor and Bend, Oregon.
Here is a link.
http://www.mtbachelor.com/winter/index.html

I liked Bend when I visited there a few years back, but don't recall it being ski in/ski out.

post #22 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by MEfree30 View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacques View Post
 

Hands down Mt. Bachelor and Bend, Oregon.
Here is a link.
http://www.mtbachelor.com/winter/index.html

I liked Bend when I visited there a few years back, but don't recall it being ski in/ski out.


True, there is no ski in/out.  Town is 20 miles from the lodge and chairs.  The road is an easy drive,  Bend has a zillion place to eat from the finest to the cheapest.

post #23 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by hokienRIC View Post
 

My wife is a fairly advance beginner/low intermediate -  she's very comfortable on greens and most blues, particularly well groomed blues.  I'm a pretty solid intermediate - any blues and some blacks (love steeps, not so much hard core bumps, never tried trees but would love to get a lesson on easy level trees).  I envision my wife taking a group lesson every morning while I ski hard on my own, then we'd meet for lunch and ski together in the afternoon.  I'd love a mountain where we could take the lift together, sometimes take different runs down, and still meet at the bottom easily.  

 

For lodging, we're looking for either ski-in/ski-out or within a short walk to the slopes and nice accommodations but not necessarily extravagant (think Marriott level not Ritz Carlton).   The village, town and off slope activities are also very important for us.  

 

 

Many thanks! 

I'd recommend Breckenridge for those criteria.  It has the ambiance of an old mining town, offers up the most diverse selection of terrain with plenty of moderate blue runs that wind around all over the massive sized resort.  There's also a run or two that end down on the main drag in the rustic area where you can ski to town, grab a lunch at one of several restaurants there, then hop a shuttle bus back to the lifts. Very cool place to spend your first trip to the rockies. 

post #24 of 56

Granted Breck is a cool town (as Tride, Crested Butte, Steamboat, Aspen), but frankly their LSG's (long steep groomers) are boring.  'Cept for 4 runs on the last lift, those we likey, mucho!

post #25 of 56
Thread Starter 

Thanks to everyone for your input.  Based on the input I've received here as well as some additional research on my own, I'm really intrigued by both Vail and Park City.  I can get direct flights to either, the village/town seems pretty accessible, and they have plenty of beginner/intermediate options for us.   However, it seems like both Steamboat and Breck would also give us what we want but they are both a good bit less expensive.   Does that sound right?   And would Breck/Steamboat be close to Vail/PC as far as the overall experience goes? Or would it be worth the extra $$ to go to Vail or PC?

post #26 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by hokienRIC View Post
 

Thanks to everyone for your input.  Based on the input I've received here as well as some additional research on my own, I'm really intrigued by both Vail and Park City.  I can get direct flights to either, the village/town seems pretty accessible, and they have plenty of beginner/intermediate options for us.   However, it seems like both Steamboat and Breck would also give us what we want but they are both a good bit less expensive.   Does that sound right?   And would Breck/Steamboat be close to Vail/PC as far as the overall experience goes? Or would it be worth the extra $$ to go to Vail or PC?

I consider the restaurants and shopping to be a bit more refined at Vail & PC compared to Breck (and from what I remember of Steamboat).  Except for Vail, all were Western mining towns at some point, but Vail and PC tend to appeal to more of a high end L.A./Manhattan/International type crowd while Breck and Steamboat seem a bit more laid back and geared more towards middle America (on the affluent side that can afford to ski).  I am probably overstating the differences a bit in that I have instructed plenty of people at Vail from Colorado, Florida, mid-West, etc.

 

You can find good food and good skiing at all 4 places, so it just depends on the type of environment you prefer.

post #27 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by hokienRIC View Post
 

Thanks to everyone for your input.  Based on the input I've received here as well as some additional research on my own, I'm really intrigued by both Vail and Park City.  I can get direct flights to either, the village/town seems pretty accessible, and they have plenty of beginner/intermediate options for us.   However, it seems like both Steamboat and Breck would also give us what we want but they are both a good bit less expensive.   Does that sound right?   And would Breck/Steamboat be close to Vail/PC as far as the overall experience goes? Or would it be worth the extra $$ to go to Vail or PC?

I would say Steamboat is better than Breck.  The time required to adjust to high altitudes over 6000 ft really is something to consider for a one week trip for someone from the southeast.  I don't have major issues acclimating but am never at my best the first couple days.  I went to Steamboat as an intermediate and had a good time.  The town is fun.  Definitely worth going to a hot springs.

 

If the trip is mostly about getting more ski experience, no real advantage once you get to Park City vs. Steamboat.  Would you be flying into Hayden or Denver?  The Denver airport is more likely to have weather delays due to snowstorms than SLC.  Make sure you account for ground transportation costs when comparing the different destinations.  Don't need a rental car for either PC or Steamboat.

post #28 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by hokienRIC View Post
 

Thanks to everyone for your input.  Based on the input I've received here as well as some additional research on my own, I'm really intrigued by both Vail and Park City.  I can get direct flights to either, the village/town seems pretty accessible, and they have plenty of beginner/intermediate options for us.   However, it seems like both Steamboat and Breck would also give us what we want but they are both a good bit less expensive.   Does that sound right?   And would Breck/Steamboat be close to Vail/PC as far as the overall experience goes? Or would it be worth the extra $$ to go to Vail or PC?

 

 

Vail isn't a real town. It's a psuedo European village. The skiing would probably be fun for you though. It's more expensive, especially ski in/out. Parking alone is $20 per day. If you do decide to go forget ski/in out and stay in Minturn. Plan to ski one day at Beaver Creek. Actually, Beaver Creek would be fine for the whole week.

 

I would go with Breck or Park City. The downside to Breck is distance from the airport You will have to rent a car and drive 2 hours after your flight.

 

You might want to also check out Heavenly in Lake Tahoe. That would be a fun trip for you. Fly into Reno. Great skiing for intermediates, amazing views of the lake, plenty other things to do as well.

post #29 of 56

Another vote for Park City. All three of the areas there should work well for both of you and give very different skiing experiences.  Everything said above and there are just a lot of non-skiing things within easy doable range.

 At the Olympic Training Center the Museum and the Bob Sled to see sliding from a whole new prospective.  

Salt Lake of course.

An evening 30 minutes away in Midway is interesting for a place called The Homestead http://zermattresort.com/site-map/crater-soak-for-two?gclid=CO3r8M25lLoCFeqDQgodDiEAGw great hot springs.  If you were to try this consider The Spin Cafe, on US 40 in downtown; good food, eclectic menu, reasonable prices, and try the home made ice cream.

 

Have to put a plug in for Sun Valley while we are here.  An iconic Western ski resort with a KA town too.  Doesn't get the snow, but love that place.

post #30 of 56

Just my 2 cents:

 

Steamboat would be my recommendation. The cruising runs are 1st rate. The town is authentic and very walkable. Although it is a couple of miles from the resort, the free shuttle service serves all of Main Street downtown and will drop you at the resort at least as close as a ski-in condo. There are many excellent bars and restaurants along Main Street, all within easy walking distance. The town's elevation is relatively low for Colorado and would be less of a potential burden than the higher resorts. Due to the lower elevation, I would not schedule a trip later than the 1st week of March.

 

No need for a rental car. Fly into nearby Haden and have one of the many, friendly shuttles take you directly to your destination. They will also arrange a pick-up to take you back to the airport when you leave.

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