i ski mostly afton because of proximity and the epic pass. last year i had passes at both welch and afton. took classes at both also and had great experiences at both. as others have posted i think that welch definitely has more varied terrain, but i found it that after that honeymoon period (had been years since i skied welch before last year) that the difference in terrain was a mute point and ended up at afton more because of convenience after i had made my money back on the welch pass. I'm sure that this year i will end up down there time or two w/ the kids just to mix things up.
i like buckhill only for proximity and i usually only go in the am on there $13 pass. nice way to get hour or so of skiing/exercise w/o breaking the bank. we also will put the kids in there ski school if time is of the essence. we have had wonderful experience there w/ all there instructors and classes that seem to be really geared for kids.
we are set up for classes at afton this year in the adult boy/girl academy in january and the kids in the mountain cruisers.
i tend to go as often as work schedule permits which is usually during the am when I'm working nights and on weekends. I'm always looking for excuses to go at other times though.
as far as improvements at afton it really looks like it is mostly behind the scenes w/ a few cosmetic touches. first they staff are now all in Vail blue (instructors), black (lifties), black/yellow (scanners, ?), etc uniforms. the rf scanning is great, but some of the staff still seem to be having issues on how to more efficiently use them. out west they have a arm swinging/rotating/wrist bending system that doesn't hold up the lines, but its all part of the growing process. i have seen people been turned away that were trying to sneak on the lift which I'm sure was (is) an issue w/ the sticker tickets everyone uses. slight improvement/healthier offerings in the walk up food kiosks or rolly-polly hot dog stands as i like to call them. haven't been to paul's or the crest yet so can't comment on improvements if any. felt like the food was always good for pub type food. epic mix is nice not only for amusement, but great to keep track of the kids. updates was real time on lift they were getting on. think once they integrate the epic rewards (which they are still tweaking) one will be able to redeem points for classes, tickets, etc. another nice thing once they figure the kinks out is the epic academy that keeps track of skier level and good across all sites attached to the epic pass account holder, no more paper updates to keep track of.
one nice thing is they all the jumpers/railers etc are mostly now positioned by chair 7/8. really eliminates a lot of the crazy boarders/skiers elsewhere on the hill that sometimes made it unpleasant especially when we skied w/ the kids. fun to read and amusing to say the least how they complain about the set up on afton's FB web page. the jumps off of chair 7 are pretty big too. heard the lifties say how it's going to be a popular spot for them to see the wrecks waiting to happen, plus fun to see kids doing some brave stuff off those jumps while riding the lift.
i have heard many say how pleased they are w/ the new snow making capabilities and quality, but not sure if that is combination of equipments/weather or just great snow making weather.
coffee mill sounds like a trip to make sometime. thanks @mcdave69 for the "unbiased" review. would have not considered going for a visit otherwise.
as others have mentioned if anyone is going out to afton or else msg/pm and if it works out skiing w/ someone is always a good thing, but no today in ~ neg 10-15 degrees though. its a time for santa and gin & tonics.
merry christmas and hopefully we MN skiers will have a chance to meet on one of our hills.
Edited by midwestfabs - 12/24/13 at 1:25pm