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First Trip out West [with family, mixed ability]

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

I have been considering a trip out west with my father and possibly more family. I plan on having my trip be either over Christmas time (late December), mid January, or mid to late February. Anytime past April 20th could work also, but I think the conditions would be too spring like. Currently, I mostly ski in the east in Maine (Sugarloaf, Saddleback, and Sunday River). I am an advanced skier (not quite an expert), and have not run into anything in Maine that is beyond my skiing ability. I enjoy skiing in glades, bumps, and ungroomed runs most. I would not be able to ski some of the extreme terrain out west such as corbet's couloir. I would, however, be able to ski most everything on the mountain. My father, however, would ski almost all groomers and prefers to ski long, fast, runs. He can handle very steep groomers, and a little non groomed stuff, but not much. The rest of my family are not very good skiers and would benefit from a lesson. I also have a young sister who would like to learn to ski. I need a place where all types of skiers would have fun. We are not really into the nightlife scene. All we need are a few good restaurants. I am considering the following places:

 

Alta/Snowbird/Solitude

Jackson Hole (possibly Grand Targhee)

Big Sky

Telluride

 

My main questions are:

Which of these would be best for early/mid season?

Which will have the most variety for the entire family?

Which will be the least expensive?

Which will have the most powder and expert terrain?

 

Thanks.

post #2 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by skiNE View Post
 

I have been considering a trip out west with my father and possibly more family. I plan on having my trip be either over Christmas time (late December), mid January, or mid to late February. Anytime past April 20th could work also, but I think the conditions would be too spring like. Currently, I mostly ski in the east in Maine (Sugarloaf, Saddleback, and Sunday River). I am an advanced skier (not quite an expert), and have not run into anything in Maine that is beyond my skiing ability. I enjoy skiing in glades, bumps, and ungroomed runs most. I would not be able to ski some of the extreme terrain out west such as corbet's couloir. I would, however, be able to ski most everything on the mountain. My father, however, would ski almost all groomers and prefers to ski long, fast, runs. He can handle very steep groomers, and a little non groomed stuff, but not much. The rest of my family are not very good skiers and would benefit from a lesson. I also have a young sister who would like to learn to ski. I need a place where all types of skiers would have fun. We are not really into the nightlife scene. All we need are a few good restaurants. I am considering the following places:

 

Alta/Snowbird/Solitude

Jackson Hole (possibly Grand Targhee)

Big Sky

Telluride

 

My main questions are:

Which of these would be best for early/mid season?

Which will have the most variety for the entire family?

Which will be the least expensive?

Which will have the most powder and expert terrain?

 

Thanks.

Welcome to EpicSki!  I suggest you start by reading relevant threads in the Resort section since you already have some candidates in mind.  One way to find those threads is to start on the EpicSki Resort page (between Gear and Forums on menu bar).  Scroll down to the bottom and look for Related Conversations.

 

No one can answer the expense question.  Too many variables.  Obviously staying slope side is more expensive than a cheap motel in town.  You'll need to do your own research for the type of travel arrangements, lodging, and local transportation that will work best for your family.

post #3 of 16

Of the options you listed there Big Sky seems to fit the bill the best.  The terrain at Big Sky has something for everyone from nice easy groomers like Mr K to challenging black diamonds like Liberty Bowl.  Then there are quite a few blue runs that are long and have steep sections like Calamity Jane.  The skiing off Lone Peak and Andesite will keep your family happy and you can try out the expert terrain on the upper half of Lone Peak.  I took my family there the week after christmas last year and we plan on returning that time period this year.    

post #4 of 16
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the insight. I will look into other forums also.

post #5 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by skiNE View Post

 

Alta/Snowbird/Solitude

Jackson Hole (possibly Grand Targhee)

Big Sky

Telluride

 

My main questions are:

Which of these would be best for early/mid season?

Which will have the most variety for the entire family?

Which will be the least expensive?

Which will have the most powder and expert terrain?

 

Thanks.

 

Of the places you listed, I have only been to Telluride.  I am fairly certain it would NOT be the least expensive of those choices (my guess is that it would be the most expensive as well as the hardest to get to).  Telluride definitely has all the variety necessary for your family, as well as amazing scenery.  Late February would be the ideal time to go and there is no way it can compete with Alta/Snowbird and Jackson Hole as far as "most powder and expert terrain" is concerned.

 

I love everything about Telluride and think it would certainly fit the bill, but Big Sky would probably be an even better fit.

post #6 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lofcaudio View Post
 

 

Of the places you listed, I have only been to Telluride.  I am fairly certain it would NOT be the least expensive of those choices (my guess is that it would be the most expensive as well as the hardest to get to).  Telluride definitely has all the variety necessary for your family, as well as amazing scenery.  Late February would be the ideal time to go and there is no way it can compete with Alta/Snowbird and Jackson Hole as far as "most powder and expert terrain" is concerned.

 

I love everything about Telluride and think it would certainly fit the bill, but Big Sky would probably be an even better fit.


Thanks. I am beginning to develop the suspicion that Jackson Hole and Alta/Snowbird are resorts mostly for experts.

post #7 of 16

Alta has a fair amount of intermediate terrain.  If you stay in Salt Lake and drive, you will be able to get the cheapest accommodations and food of all of the locations you mentioned.  You also can expand your resort list to include Big Cottonwood Canyon, the Park City resorts, and Snowbasin.

 

That being said, I think Big Sky is a better choice.  It is rarely crowded.  It has an incredible diversity of terrain and a lot of it.  It has stuff as tough as anything at Jackson or Snowbird.  It may not get quite as much powder as Snowbird/Alta or Jackson, but it is pretty respectable and the powder will last for days as opposed to hours (or minutes).  It's also pretty affordable.

 

Mike

post #8 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by habacomike View Post
 

Alta has a fair amount of intermediate terrain.  If you stay in Salt Lake and drive, you will be able to get the cheapest accommodations and food of all of the locations you mentioned.  You also can expand your resort list to include Big Cottonwood Canyon, the Park City resorts, and Snowbasin.

 

That being said, I think Big Sky is a better choice.  It is rarely crowded.  It has an incredible diversity of terrain and a lot of it.  It has stuff as tough as anything at Jackson or Snowbird.  It may not get quite as much powder as Snowbird/Alta or Jackson, but it is pretty respectable and the powder will last for days as opposed to hours (or minutes).  It's also pretty affordable.

 

Mike

 

I love Big Sky (although I haven't been there for years).  The only thing is depending where you are coming from, the flights can be quite expensive.  For me to fly to Bozeman or Butte costs almost $900 around the holidays.  So for my family of 4 that's $3,600 just to fly there. I can fly into Helena for $200 - $300 less, but its a bit of a hike from there.

 

It was on my short list for next X-Mas, but unless the price of flights goes down, I'll be going elsewhere.

post #9 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by skiNE View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lofcaudio View Post
 

 

Of the places you listed, I have only been to Telluride.  I am fairly certain it would NOT be the least expensive of those choices (my guess is that it would be the most expensive as well as the hardest to get to).  Telluride definitely has all the variety necessary for your family, as well as amazing scenery.  Late February would be the ideal time to go and there is no way it can compete with Alta/Snowbird and Jackson Hole as far as "most powder and expert terrain" is concerned.

 

I love everything about Telluride and think it would certainly fit the bill, but Big Sky would probably be an even better fit.


Thanks. I am beginning to develop the suspicion that Jackson Hole and Alta/Snowbird are resorts mostly for experts.

Jackson Hole is not the ideal place for adult beginners and intermediates, although it's a great place for kids to learn.  Snowbird is also not the best choice for intermediates.

 

On the other hand, Alta is a great place for beginners and intermediates of any age in my opinion.  Especially if they are willing to take a lesson or two.  My daughter's first trip was when she was 7 in April.  She knew enough from learning to ski in the southeast to ski blue runs.  There was a snowstorm the day we arrived.  By the end of the first day at ski school, I had a little powder hound who was ducking into the trees next to the groomers hunting for "baby powder."  She was doing Alta black runs a few seasons later since we continued to go for spring break.  My first trips to Alta were as an intermediate.  While it's been fun to explore more of the terrain as an advanced older skier in recent years, I always enjoyed Alta.

 

For a trip to Big Sky, there are a lot of reasons to starting out with a few days at Bridger.  Much cheaper way to get acclimated.  Very good ski school with reasonable rates.  Bozeman is a university town with inexpensive lodging.

post #10 of 16
Another vote for Big Sky of those listed, but unsure why you are worrying about expert terrain. It seems like the group is pretty diverse, but without cliff jumper types. So, I'm going to suggest you come here to Whitefish. Hefty dose of tree skiing, a few chutes and stuff that are probably beyond you, but a huge area called Connie's that is part of Hellroaring Basin which I am positive would challenge you. Lots of cruisers. Cheap. Close to the airport. Very much a family vibe, good restaurants, no glitz. Not on everyone's radar. Best months are probably Jan/Feb. Nice town, where people actually live year round, not some Disney "village". Airfare can't be any worse than flying into Bozeman.
post #11 of 16

Alta, then perhaps Solitude because of straightforward airfares and connections, variety of terrain, and typically reliable snow throughout the season.

post #12 of 16
Thread Starter 

I forgot to mention in my post above that uncrowdedness was one of my biggest factors, which Big Sky, Solitude, and Telluride would definitely fulfill. Thanks for all the replies so far

post #13 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by skiNE View Post
 

I forgot to mention in my post above that uncrowdedness was one of my biggest factors, which Big Sky, Solitude, and Telluride would definitely fulfill. Thanks for all the replies so far

...and Solitude.  Although it would not provide the variety/scope of terrain of the others on your list, it gets pretty big if you incorporate adjacent Brighton into total ski terrain and Solitude has a cute, compact, family-friendly base village.  Let me be clear, all on your list would be a blast.;)

post #14 of 16

I will also vote for Big Sky, it's got pretty much everything you are looking for and it's a great time. I'll also though in a few other options for consideration that might work for you.

 

Don't fear Jackson Hole, there is plenty of intermediate terrain there for the family too and it's a great town. My first trip to Jackson we actually split a week between there and Big Sky which is an easy 3-4 hour drive (flew into and out of Jackson, drove immediately to Big Sky and skied there first). Best of both worlds, and you can even spend the day at Targhee on your way back down if you want. I don't think there is a better ski town than Jackson Hole. 

 

Alta/Snowbird/Solitude are all great and I don't think there is a shortage of beginner/intermediate terrain. My son was talking lessons at Alta last year a few days before his 5th birthday and they have a great school. I would also suggest the Park City area if you are looking at Utah. That gives you Canyons, Deer Valley and PCMR just a few minutes apart as well as probably a better selection of restaurants. Price might be the issue here but deals can be had if you book early.

 

Vail is great from a convenience standpoint and is a great place. Easy flight into Denver, and once you park your car you won't need it for the week. It's not going to be the least crowded mountain you could pick, but it's huge and has massive uphill capacity so lines are manageable, except maybe first lift up on a powder day. In spite of the pricey reputation, you it's big enough that you can find deals. 

 

Whistler/Blackcomb is spectacular and similar in qualities to Vail, though roughly twice the size. It's an amazing place to ski and if you are looking for variety, this is your place. Weather and snow quality would be the biggest risks. 

 

We just returned from a week in Banff, skiing at Lake Louise, Sunshine Village and Kicking Horse. It was a spectacular trip and I can recommend all of those places, but I mention it in particular because it can be a very reasonable alternative to the others price-wise, and while I am sure they have their busy periods the crowds aren't crazy. It's also one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, easily rivaling the Tetons and the Alps. 

post #15 of 16

I was asking the same question just before this ski season for a trip we ended up taking in February: http://www.epicski.com/t/121323/family-of-five-february-trip-solitude-snowmass-steamboat-etc.  Got similar responses - as well as a lot of recommendations for Steamboat.  We ended up going to Solitude and it was the perfect trip for us.  My son and I who are advanced snowboarders found plenty to challenge us, while my wife had all the groomed run cruising she could ask for.  We even got her to venture off the groom a bit and took her down Honeycomb Canyon once.  I wouldn't say there is much in the way of expert/extreme terrain, but there are plenty of intermediate-advanced options.  My girls enjoyed the ski school during their three days in classes and we saw a significant improvement in their skiing during that time.  Close proximity to Salt Lake City and other resorts provides plenty of options.  There is a quaint little village with a few nice restaurants, but not at all overwhelming or crowded like some of the large ski town might be.  Best of all, we had powder every day and no crowds.  It may not be the cheapest option, but probably not any more than a nice place at the other resorts you are looking at.  I have to admit that I've never been to the other resorts being recommended, but I can say Solitude was perfect for us.  So much so in face, that we are considering looking at buying a condo there.

post #16 of 16
Quote:
 Which of these would be best for early/mid season?

 

This is the key. Which is it? It makes a big difference. If you're going to plan now, my guess is only Alta/Solitude will reliably have good early season snow. Telluride has a significant chance of having practically none at all, even in January if it's a La Nina type of year. All would be fun, but no ski area is fun if there's no snow.

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