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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Mountain/Resort Related Forums › Resorts, Conditions & Travel › Skiing in December [Purgatory, Wolf Creek, or Telluride? driving from Austin, TX]
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Skiing in December [Purgatory, Wolf Creek, or Telluride? driving from Austin, TX]

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

Where is the best place to ski in December over the Christmas Break:  Purgatory, Wolf Creek, or Telluride?  Some of us are beginners, others can do blacks but happy on blue runs.  The most important thing is that we find a place that will have a good base in December without crazy lines.  We were planning on Wolf Creek, but I read in several places that their lifts and rentals can't handle the crowd in peak season and most of your time is spent waiting in line.  Any suggestions?

post #2 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by MissHap View Post
 

Where is the best place to ski in December over the Christmas Break:  Purgatory, Wolf Creek, or Telluride?  Some of us are beginners, others can do blacks but happy on blue runs.  The most important thing is that we find a place that will have a good base in December without crazy lines.  We were planning on Wolf Creek, but I read in several places that their lifts and rentals can't handle the crowd in peak season and most of your time is spent waiting in line.  Any suggestions?

Welcome to EpicSki!  Are you planning on driving or flying?

 

There are some comments about Telluride in this recent thread:

http://www.epicski.com/t/127758/skiing-in-america-earlyjanuary

post #3 of 19

Wolf Creek is the only place on that list with a good track record for full snow coverage by Christmas.  This might account for crowds overwhelming limited facilities at an otherwise quiet area. 

 

I always advise people to avoid Christmas week due to crowds, prices and speculative snow conditions if forced to commit far in advance.  For those constrained by family commitments/school holidays I wrote this feature: http://50.87.144.177/~bestsnow/fam_ski.htm .

 

If this is a fly-in destination trip the Southwest is in general not a good region to commit in early season. Is the OP focused on the Southwest because it's within drive distance? 

 

 

 

 

post #4 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thanks.  Yup.  It's the driving distance that has us looking at the southwest.  We live in Austin, Texas and Christmas is the only time our family has time off to go skiing. Flying at that time of year with 5 people makes the trip so much more expensive, and lodging costs are also doubled during peak season, so I was trying to avoid flying to the bigger, more northern resorts. Thanks for any input you might have.  

post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 

That link was helpful.  Thanks.  Do you know of a site where I can find out if the resorts have snow making capabilities?  

post #6 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by MissHap View Post
 

That link was helpful.  Thanks.  Do you know of a site where I can find out if the resorts have snow making capabilities?  

Some ski resorts note the level of snowmaking on their websites.  For resorts for which there is an EpicSki Ambassador and/or Resort Page, you may be able to find out that way.  There is a link to the list of Ambassadors at the top of the Resorts section.

 

The best way to search within EpicSki archives is to use a directed Google search.  For instance, could try "snow making Telluride: epicski" and see what turns up.

post #7 of 19

As mentioned Wolf Creek will be your best bet out of the three you list. Nothing much else within reasonable (one day) driving distance will have any better chance of good December snow coverage. But Wolf Creek is a bit of a nightmare at Christmas. Very, very crowded. If Alberta is open it is a bit better but the rental shops and lodges are overwhelmed and lift lines can be long.

post #8 of 19
The best thing about driving, you don't have to decide till you get in the car.
If you go before Christmas, you won't have any problem getting accommodations at the last minute. Even after there's usually places available. They might cost a liittle more or you may have to drive further, but good conditions are worth it.

With El Niño, NM might be better.
post #9 of 19

I was at Monarch (2 hr north of Wolf) this past Christmas. Line wasn't too unreasonable.

 

(I didn't rent ski or take lessons, those might be a different story)

post #10 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by MissHap View Post
 

Where is the best place to ski in December over the Christmas Break:  Purgatory, Wolf Creek, or Telluride?  Some of us are beginners, others can do blacks but happy on blue runs.  The most important thing is that we find a place that will have a good base in December without crazy lines.  We were planning on Wolf Creek, but I read in several places that their lifts and rentals can't handle the crowd in peak season and most of your time is spent waiting in line.  Any suggestions?

 

Wolf Creek really may not be the best choice for your group.  The mountain is overloaded on Christmas Break, mainly with your friends and neighbors for the same reason you are considering.

 

They get a ton of snow. It is cheap. It is one of the closest places in driving distance from Texas, and the place gets mobbed Christmas-New Years. Go the week before, empty. Week after, still pretty empty. Week of, insane.

 

I doubt Wolf is the best match for terrain, either. Wolf doesn't do too well in the groomed cruisers (or groomed period) department. Most of the groomed terrain has a very sedate pitch- not what the solid intermediate skier aspiring to advanced is probably looking for.

 

Wolf Creek generally offers your best chance in Colorado for 100% open, wall to wall skiing by Christmas, and the best chance to get some powder turns EVEN during Christmas Break, EVEN days after a storm. The mountain can be fun even when the traditional side of the mountain is mobbed- Alberta is usually deserted during peak holidays. However, rabid-tree fiends that can spend all day lapping the Alberta lift does not sound like your group.

 

My suggestion would be Monarch. The mountain does not need large base to ski really well and is typically 100% open by Christmas. A lot less holiday crowding than Purg or Wolf. Should be faster and easier to get there than Telluride. Terrain that should complement your group well. Inexpensive lift tickets.

post #11 of 19

I just booked Steamboat from 12/27 to 1/2. I had vouchers on Southwest and wanted to buy my tickets the day the airfare opened up. I have been to Steamboat  over Christmas (3 yrs ago) and it was 100% open and liftlines were very short. I believe it has been 100% open over Christmas the past few years as well. I actually used Tony's website to narrow down my choices ( A big thanks to Tony BTW). Not sure how far a drive it is for you.

post #12 of 19

Nevermind, Just googled the drive. 17 hours is kinda far. Sorry I should have checked the drive before posting.

post #13 of 19
Quote:
Flying at that time of year with 5 people makes the trip so much more expensive, and lodging costs are also doubled during peak season 

These are the reasons to perhaps twist some arms planning for the future to choose a different week.   If this is due to kids in school, I suggest spring break.  In Colorado that's still wall-to-wall coverage with winter snow in most places.

post #14 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post
 

These are the reasons to perhaps twist some arms planning for the future to choose a different week.   If this is due to kids in school, I suggest spring break.  In Colorado that's still wall-to-wall coverage with winter snow in most places.

 

While suggesting Spring Break is typically sage advice (and IMO a much better time to go skiing), this is NOT GOOD ADVICE for Purg and Wolf Creek. Texas' spring break is the busiest week of the year, even busier than Christmas (when some choose family obligations over skiing). Texas is a long day's drive from skiing, and the result is that anybody that wants to come tends to schedule for either Christmas or Spring Break.

 

Texas schedules their Spring Break in such a way where almost the entire student population has the same Spring Break week.

 

Texas Spring Break at Wolf Creek is a madhouse. Purg slightly less crazy, but still, one is aiming for the roughest experience of the year. I don't know enough about Telluride to comment, but I expect the significantly longer drive to Telluride attenuates the effect somewhat.

 

Monarch has a much milder Christmas/Spring break effect with terrain well-suited to how the OP describes their group.

post #15 of 19
Quote:
Texas Spring Break at Wolf Creek is a madhouse. Purg slightly less crazy, but still, one is aiming for the roughest experience of the year. I don't know enough about Telluride to comment, but I expect the significantly longer drive to Telluride attenuates the effect somewhat. 

It's still going to be better at spring break just for having many more resorts in full operation to choose.   There are several places in New Mexico that are also good for beginners/low intermediates and no doubt also full of Texans.  At Christmas, in many years it's a choice of Wolf Creek or mostly man-made snow.

post #16 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post
 

It's still going to be better at spring break just for having many more resorts in full operation to choose.   There are several places in New Mexico that are also good for beginners/low intermediates and no doubt also full of Texans.  At Christmas, in many years it's a choice of Wolf Creek or mostly man-made snow.

 

Tony, trust me on this. Wolf Creek sees its peak visitation at Spring Break. Christmas is not much better crowd-wise, but Spring Break is busier.

 

Pretty much any other mountain, I am in full agreement that Spring Break works better than Christmas for crowds and coverage.

 

I think the OP is accurate that crowds and rental lines over Christmas or Spring break are really bad. Renting off-mountain will take care of a lot of that, but you can't escape the crowds.

 

I don't think the mountain is a good terrain match either. Wolf does great at low pitch and amazing at powder/trees/short steeps.  It lacks upper advanced groomers- The Charisma run is basically the entire mountain when it comes to those.

post #17 of 19

I defer to anachronism in the details of Wolf Creek.  My point is that at Christmas the OP may be forced to go there for decent snow, while at spring break she will have numerous alternatives.

post #18 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post
 

I defer to anachronism in the details of Wolf Creek.  My point is that at Christmas the OP may be forced to go there for decent snow, while at spring break she will have numerous alternatives.

 

And that point is a legitimate one.

 

However, based on my admittedly limited experience, it seems when the region has a low snow year, people stay home rather than condense into Wolf Creek.

 

2012-2013 was a very poor early season. Wolf got 20" of snow the entire season until mid December. They got 60+" in a December storm that was a game changer and opened up the mountain. Wolf had by far the best conditions in the area and was the only place within an extended drive that was 100% open. Christmas was busy but not crazy.

 

2013-2014 was completely different. Ski area open October 19. Reached an 80" base before Thanksgiving. Storms kept beating on the mountain until Mid-December. Taos and other local mountains had a very good early season as well. Visitation was up considerably over the previous Christmas, even though you had a lot of good choices at all the competing mountains.

 

My conclusion is that when the area doesn't get a lot of snow, people either stay home or drive to another region rather than consolidating to Wolf Creek.

 

Yes, Spring Break is obviously much safer for coverage reasons, although Christmas at Wolf Creek is *usually* a safe bet for 100% open. I think the rule is 1 year in 10 the mountain doesn't receive enough snow by Christmas to be effectively open (they spin the bunny hill lift, the only area of the mountain with snowmaking, during times when the natural snow doesn't come).

post #19 of 19
Quote:
I think the rule is 1 year in 10 the mountain doesn't receive enough snow by Christmas to be effectively open

The snow data supports precisely that conclusion.

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