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Steamboat vs. Sun Valley

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
I just returned from Snowmass where the sun was shining and the skiing was heavenly! But I'm already wondering about next season... and need opinions about Steamboat vs. Sun Valley for two, mostly blue-slope, skiers. Aside from the 4 hrs. it takes to drive to Sun Valley from Boise, which resort overall is a better bet for a 4-day stay? Thanks much for your thoughts and advice!
post #2 of 18

Both resorts are long blue groomer paradise.  Steamboat is going to have more consistent snowfall; Sun Valley is lucky to have more than a 40" base most years.  Both areas have a lively base with good restaraunts in town nearby, but Steamboat has the edge IMO.  SV is going to have the edge on steep terrain, but not by much.  Neither mtn has the gnar factor like Jackson Hole, Snowbird, or even Snowmass (which is an underrated hill).  The last time I hit SV I spent the day cruising through snow guns on Warm Springs, so maybe that's why I'd give Steamboat the nod.

post #3 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thank you; I was thinking along the same lines but needed to hear from someone with first-hand experience!
post #4 of 18

It took my ski club group 3 hours to get from Boise to Sun Valley in our bus, not four.  Maybe it depends on where you start.


Sun Valley is a hoot, with its over-the-top amazingly lush lodges, steepish groomers, impeccable grooming, happy people, no lift

lines.  There is little powder; don't go there for powder.  Read Bill Miles' unofficial guide to Sun Valley here on Epic.  It's good.

There are inbounds bowls, easily accessed without hiking.  There are plenty of bump runs as well.  You can find tree

runs, too, mostly without tree wells due to the type of trees growing there.  But if you're looking for extensive glade skiing,

go elsewhere.  If you want to do fast skiing on groomers not interrupted by intersections and not complicated by double

fall lines, nor twists and turns, then pick Sun Valley.  If you shop, the town at the base is full of whatever you want.  There 

is even free parking across the street from the main lodge at River Run.  


Your blues will be Sun Valley's greens, and your blacks will be its blues.  The mountain (Baldy) rises steeply from the

valley floor.  The snow will be hero snow so all the groomers will ski beautifully.  The views are stunning, of course.  

Sun Valley is an island of well-heeled skiers being treated to top-of-the-line groomers away from the madding crowd.  

Be sure, if you go there, to catch the free mountain tour on your first day for a healthy dose of the mountain's unique

history and geology.  

post #5 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thank you... Now I have another good perspective! My main concern is lack of adequate snow. I skied there when I was very young and don't remember much.
post #6 of 18

At Sun Valley they blow the best snow in the world.  The whole system is computerized to match the type of snow coming out of each gun for whatever the conditions are at that point on the trail.  During my one week there this year, which has been a very low snow year, the snow on the trails was deep, not a whisper of my familiar New England "ice," anywhere, and it felt like real snow.  The bowls were full, too, and I didn't see any signs that they blew snow in there.

post #7 of 18
Thread Starter 
Sounds promising... What was the weather like and when were you there? How do costs compare.... Steamboat vs Sun Valley?
post #8 of 18

My group just went, March 4-11.  This was too late; we should have gone earlier.  Snow was melting on the southern faces of everything.


The trip was all expenses included, so I cannot deal intelligently with prices.  Don't know a thing about Steamboat.  Sun Valley isn't cheap by any means, but the way I did it with a ski club was quite reasonable.  Would I choose such a groomer-focused mountain normally?  Maybe not, but I enjoyed the trip nevertheless.  It was a cultural adventure (how the well-heeled ski) as well as a big mountain experience for me.  The ski club chose the destination.

post #9 of 18
Originally Posted by Michaelfahlund View Post

Sounds promising... What was the weather like and when were you there? How do costs compare.... Steamboat vs Sun Valley?


Costs are what you make of them.  If you want to, you can spend $15 or $50 per meal at either place.  I've only lodged at Steamboat, just day trips to Sun Valley, so I won't hazard a guess there.  I usually go the route of The Rockies condos through Steamboat central lodging or use VRBO to get a house there.


2013 from the Pony Express lift at Steamboat.


post #10 of 18

I live in the Sun Valley area and have skied Steamboat.


I would say that costs are generally comparable, at a level a notch below Aspen and Vail. For example our Christmas week single day lift tickets were about $105 (currently $99 decreasing to $69 on March 31), whereas I think I read Vail's were $139. The best deals are stay and ski packages offered by the Sun Valley Company on their website for early and late season.


On the question of snow, it depends on what your criteria is. This is the lowest snow year in the twelve seasons I have been here. We still opened top top bottom on Thanksgiving day and should make it until April 20th, although likely only on the northish facing Warm Springs side for the last week or so.

 The snowmaking runs have been fine all season, however the non-snow-making runs were late to open and the  10% or so of south facing runs have either completely melted out or are non-skiable. If you are looking for quantity and quality of snow similar to other Rocky Mountain areas, let alone Targhee or LCC, Sun Valley is not your place.

post #11 of 18
Sun Valley's a better hill. Steamboat has more consistent and better snow.
SV's really good, when it's good.
post #12 of 18

Steamboat gets a lot of snow but it's poorly exposed to sun.  January is best, February is OK (early better than late) and March will be spring conditions unless it's dumping while you're there. 


Comments above regarding Sun Valley's grooming and snowmaking are correct.  They may maintain the best snowmaking surfaces I've ever skied.   Sun Valley is about half north facing. My last visit on a President's weekend was 70% winter snow, including skier's right tilt in the bowls.  With regard to the low snowfall, the bowls didn't get open until February this year I think.  February is on average Sun Valley's best month.  With half north facing March would be good most seasons, but in a low snow year the bowls would degrade.

post #13 of 18

I think you've gotten a lot of good advice and I'll just echo a few things. The Sun Valley Co has great ski and stay packages although sadly they are remodeling the lodge and it will be closed for the entire 2014-15 ski season. They will still have the historic Inn (a different building than the Lodge) so they still might have the packages, but I wonder if the packages will sell out fast next year because the 148 rooms in the Lodge will be unavailable. You can actually get very reasonably priced lodging right in town (Ketchum) at one of the 2 Best Westerns or the Tamarack (these are right on the bus line and a very short ride to Baldy), and buy lift tickets on Liftopia. I think Ketchum beats Steamboat as a great town by miles. If you are into food/restaurants Ketchum/SV is way better. If you prefer groomers to off piste then again SV wins, though like others said if you do like plenty of new snow then Steamboat is better. Sun Valley is a lot prettier than Steamboat.


Not that I'm opinionated at all. :)


Oh and I can do the drive from Boise to SV in 2.5 hours as can the Sun Valley Express shuttle, depending on the driver.

post #14 of 18

shameless bump to this topic, but I didn't want to create a new one so... :hijack:


has anyone been to those late season demo days in Sun Valley?


I see they will have a demo this weekend, but I'm not sure if this is something with reps or something sponsored only by Pete Lanes. I had been to sun valley a couple of years ago on a demo day, can't really remember when was that and not even sure if it was march or december, but they didn't have anything interesting just a few frontside carvers, not really what I was looking for.


Here is what they say: 


Products from Blizzard, Burton, Dalbello, Fischer, Head, Lange, Salomon, Stockli, Tecnica, and Volkl.


I'd be mostly interested in testing some boots and hopefully 14/15 cochise, but I'm not sure I won't be disappointed with the 3hrs drive! I'd guess only mondo 27 boots would be available as well which is far from being what I need!

post #15 of 18

You can demo boots?

post #16 of 18
Originally Posted by LiquidFeet View Post

You can demo boots?


weird isn't it? But assuming a limited number of boots maybe on specific mondo. Otherwise why would you tell there is going to be demos from Lange and Dalbello? Hard to take any conclusions from a boot demo but, for a few runs your feet won't hurt enough to need work I'd think...


here is the full description from their calendar of events:


Come down to the Base of Warm Springs on March 29th, and on Sunday, March 30 the Base of River Run to try out all 2014/2015 skis and boots before you buy them! Products from Blizzard, Burton, Dalbello, Fischer, Head, Lange, Salomon, Stockli, Tecnica, and Volkl. All product testing will be free!! All 2014/2015 equipment available for pre-ordering. Save up to 20% on next year's equipment by special ordering now! For any questions, please call Pete Lane's rental department at 208-622-6123.

post #17 of 18

It sounds like they are dumping their rental equipment here at the end of the season.  

post #18 of 18

I have been to Sun Valley's demo days a couple of times in the last 5 years.  There have been factory reps from a number of companies including most of those mentioned above.  The ski selection did seem more focused on the narrow to all mountain type widths.  I have never noticed any boot demo program at Sun Valley or anywhere else I have been when there was a demo day.  That is an interesting little sidelight to this demo day.  Overall, my experience at Sun Valley demo days have been generally positive as there have not been scads of people competing for a few skis.


The last time I was browsing at Pete Lane's, they carried the Cochise and they had the Bonafide in the demo pool.  I would guess it about a 50/50 proposition whether they will have the Cochise to demo.  I would try calling the shop if it is important to you since that is a good shop and typically has helpful people working there.  Have fun--would be curious to hear about the new Cochise.

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