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Snowbird/Alta Strategy [Midwest father & son, January]

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

Planning a ski trip for my son and I over MLK weekend in January.  Based on time constraints, only looking at SLC locations.  Quick background, we've been skiing for three years - live in Chicagoland area so Wisconsin ski "hills" for 10+ days with 5 days over spring break at Steamboat (2 years) and this past April in Deer Valley.  At DV, we were fortunate to receive 3' of snow and ski in true powder for the first time (Steamboat didn't have much snow the years we went though they got a lot this year).  We both loved the powder experience and it seems LCC has the best chance of having snow in mid-January.  Right now, Snowbird seems to have a great rate.  We can stay 4 nights and lift tickets for the both of us for $1,200.  No where else comes close.  My thinking is to ski (we are both skiers) two days at Alta and two days at Snowbird.  I'm thinking we would start at Alta (Day One) then Snowbird (Day Two).  After that, then decide where to spend the last two days.  Worse case, if we don't like either (can't fathom that) we drive to Deer Valley for a couple of days.  Does this make sense or should we spend all days at one place or the other?

post #2 of 18
Sounds perfect. No one can tell you how the snow will be yet, of course, other than to say "normally, it's..."
post #3 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by peter60521 View Post
 

Planning a ski trip for my son and I over MLK weekend in January.  Based on time constraints, only looking at SLC locations.  Quick background, we've been skiing for three years - live in Chicagoland area so Wisconsin ski "hills" for 10+ days with 5 days over spring break at Steamboat (2 years) and this past April in Deer Valley.  At DV, we were fortunate to receive 3' of snow and ski in true powder for the first time (Steamboat didn't have much snow the years we went though they got a lot this year).  We both loved the powder experience and it seems LCC has the best chance of having snow in mid-January.  Right now, Snowbird seems to have a great rate.  We can stay 4 nights and lift tickets for the both of us for $1,200.  No where else comes close.  My thinking is to ski (we are both skiers) two days at Alta and two days at Snowbird.  I'm thinking we would start at Alta (Day One) then Snowbird (Day Two).  After that, then decide where to spend the last two days.  Worse case, if we don't like either (can't fathom that) we drive to Deer Valley for a couple of days.  Does this make sense or should we spend all days at one place or the other?

Welcome to EpicSki!  GIven that you've skied out west before, your plan seems pretty reasonable to me.  Have you checked out the Unofficial Guides for Alta and Snowbird?

 

I met up with a family in April who were skiing out west for the first time.  At least for mom and kids.  They are probably better skiers than you and your son.  The kids race in the Catskills.  They took a shuttle over to Alta the first day.  We met up and they got a tour of the blue groomers before I took them back to Snowbird via Mineral Basin.  I knew by then that they would be fine skiing from the top on Chip's Run down to the Snowbird base.  It was a blue sky day.  They enjoyed Snowbird and Alta.

 

Snowbird has a free mountain tour.  Well worth it if you don't have anyone to show you around.  I had a good time when I did it years ago as an adult intermediate.  Definitely useful to learn the layout.  I was with a ski club.  The second day (prepaid) at Snowbird was a heavy snowstorm with very low visibility all day.  I still had a good time because I knew where to go.

 

If you decide to avoid renting a car, it's also possible to get a shuttle over to another canyon for a day trip.  Solitude and Brighton are fun for intermediates.  Solitude is less crowded in general.

post #4 of 18
Thread Starter 

marznc,

 

Thanks for the advice.  Yes, I read the unofficial guides several times and watched numerous youtube videos (seems the traverses are hairy than some of the runs!).  My plan would be to have a private lesson on Day 1 at both Alta and Snowbird (some may frown due to teaching style differences).  We've had great success with private lessons in the past both with the "technical" aspects of the instruction and skiing areas we wouldn't have done on our own (trees at Steamboat).  I've read numerous threads on going to Solitude/Brighton.  My view is Alta/Snowbird are such iconic places, I want to go there.  My worse case is if we find Alta too intimidating, we will drive over to Deer Valley where we had great snow (late March/first week of April) this past Spring.

post #5 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by peter60521 View Post
 

marznc,

 

Thanks for the advice.  Yes, I read the unofficial guides several times and watched numerous youtube videos (seems the traverses are hairy than some of the runs!).  My plan would be to have a private lesson on Day 1 at both Alta and Snowbird (some may frown due to teaching style differences).  We've had great success with private lessons in the past both with the "technical" aspects of the instruction and skiing areas we wouldn't have done on our own (trees at Steamboat).  I've read numerous threads on going to Solitude/Brighton.  My view is Alta/Snowbird are such iconic places, I want to go there.  My worse case is if we find Alta too intimidating, we will drive over to Deer Valley where we had great snow (late March/first week of April) this past Spring.

Sounds like you've done your homework.  You will not find Alta too intimidating.  There is plenty of fun terrain that does not require a long traverse.  I skied there long ago as a young teen in my second season . . . in straight skis, and loved it.  First took my daughter there when she was 7 after a few seasons in the southeast.  She was fine on the blue groomers.  Ski school had her looking for powder on the edges of groomers after the first day.  Also know more than one adult who learned to ski at Alta and love it.  Of course, few beginners or intermediates post videos.  ;)

 

For a private lesson at Alta, I highly recommend Arthur Haskell.  He's been teaching a long time and is PSIA Level 3.  The last dozen years at Alta.  Arthur lives near me in central NC, but spends his winters in SLC.  Not only did I have a great time with him with a friend last April, both advanced skiers, but he also did a private for a friend who is an intermediate, as well as her two tweens who are Level 7/8 in Alta Ski School.  All three of them only ski once a year during spring break at Alta.

 

I've taken private lessons from a number of different Level 3 instructors, both out west and at Massanutten.  At that level, I've always been happy.  Different styles is not necessarily a bad thing.  Helpful to learn what style works best for you.  By the way, I didn't up the level of my skiing until after age 50.  That's why my daughter started skiing.  I retired relatively early to enjoy being a parent.  Since my husband is a non-skier (really, really a non-skier), I didn't ski much as a working adult.  He grew up in Chicagoland.

post #6 of 18
Thread Starter 

marznc,

 

Well, I'll be 50 this September.  I'll definitely ask for Arthur.  In your experience, are we better served skiing 4 days at one place?  My thinking given the proximity (and the reputation) to do both Alta and Snowbird.  The interesting thing about ski schools, is if I go by the Snowbird guide, we are definitely Level 4 if not 4.5.  I can't find "level" at the Alta website.  From the description, we are advanced (confident on groomed Black runs).  Our view/strategy is to use our flat, no powder, garbage heap skiing to get practice and comfortable (though, interestingly enough, there are runs even in WI/IL that have steep parts).  After our powder experience this past March, we want to that experience again.

post #7 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by peter60521 View Post
 

marznc,

 

Well, I'll be 50 this September.  I'll definitely ask for Arthur.  In your experience, are we better served skiing 4 days at one place?  My thinking given the proximity (and the reputation) to do both Alta and Snowbird.  The interesting thing about ski schools, is if I go by the Snowbird guide, we are definitely Level 4 if not 4.5.  I can't find "level" at the Alta website.  From the description, we are advanced (confident on groomed Black runs).  Our view/strategy is to use our flat, no powder, garbage heap skiing to get practice and comfortable (though, interestingly enough, there are runs even in WI/IL that have steep parts).  After our powder experience this past March, we want to that experience again.

Here's the Alta level descriptions for children.  Not sure there is one online for adults.

 

http://www.alta.com/pages/skilllevel.php

 

Based on my daughter's experience at Alta going from Level 5 to Level 8 (ages 7-12), sounds like your son is probably Level 6, perhaps 7.  Skiing on groomed blacks may or may not mean using solid technique that leads easily to ungroomed terrain.  Of course, for a private lesson it doesn't really matter.  As with all Level 3 instructors, Arthur also has Children's Specialist certification.  He handles lessons with two people very well.  My friend's kids really wanted a second lesson with him after the first one (3 hours).  They were Level 7/8.  My friend extended from 2 to 3 hours for her private.  She was probably Level 5/6 and hadn't had a lesson for a while.

 

My home mountain, Massanutten, is 1100 ft vertical on 70 acres.  So I know exactly what you mean about using a small place in the flatlands to get ready for a trip out to a big mountain.  Have you ever had a lesson from a Level 3 instructor in the midwest?  I've been taking advantage of the clinic for seniors (over 50) at Mnut that's taught by a very experienced Level 3.  Learning how to make the most use of the terrain available was very useful.  Meant I managed to stay better than my daughter even as she improved rapidly as kids can if they have a chance to ski enough.

 

Powder skiing at Alta is what pushed me to work at improving as I had more opportunities to ski.  Started going  out to some of the harder terrain off the High T a couple seasons ago.  Alta is a great place to learn to ski powder because can start on short trails like Vail Ridge or off the edge of groomers if lucky enough to be there after a snowstorm.

 

The first few times I and my daughter were completely happy skiing at Alta only.  Since I'd skied at Snowbird as an intermediate, I wasn't in any hurry to ski there until I was more comfortable on harder terrain.  Skied at Snowbird more in the last few years.  My recommendation if you decide to stay at Snowbird is to ski Alta for a couple days, including a lesson with Arthur, then decide whether you want to explore someplace else.  Of course, snow conditions are a factor as well.

 

Needless to say I'm biased.  But I would rather stay in a small room or even a dorm room at one of the Alta lodges than at Snowbird. All Alta lodges include meals, which makes for a more relaxed vacation for me.  The bonus at Alta Lodge is the free children's program for kids 12 and under.  My daughter loved that as much as the skiing.  Always found a friend to play with.  Didn't matter that there aren't TVs in the rooms.  The lodges make it easy to meet folks who could turn out to be interested in skiing together for a few runs or half a day.  For a budget trip, I'd stay in a SLC motel like the Midvale LaQuinta.  I would drive unless the road is too snowy.

post #8 of 18
Thread Starter 

Greatly appreciate the advice.  Interestingly, my son and I have inverted experiences.  On a deep powder bowl (we were the only two people skiing mayflower at DV at that time), i was fine but he struggled.  Then on another "black" run with deep powder and soft moguls he was down 3 mins before me.  Go figure.  Thanks for the link.  He's between level 7 and 8 (probably the same for me),  Now based on your advice, I'm thinking we will book at Alta and do two days with Arthur.  Then we can do the Alta-Snowbird pass on day 3 or 4 to at least experience Snowbird.  That way if we think Snowbird is too "extreme" we aren't stuck there.  Does that make sense?  Truly, for us we could ski the same place for many days and be happy because it's not WI or IL.  Though food is important to me (definitely a "live to eat" person), I look forward to skiing/staying at a place where people talk about skiing.  We would welcome connecting with others.  Especially my son who's very social so if he met other high schoolers around the same ability he would be fine going off with them.  I've read reviews that suggest staying in SLC.  My point is I don't want to drive if not necessary.  That being said, I've read about the possibility of being "snowed in" and not being able to leave your lodge.  How likely is that?  To your point on Level 3 instructors, do you know any in the Midwest?  We did an intro lesson three years ago but that was it.  I'm thinking of doing a lesson this coming season with a specific focus on hard-packed moguls (my skiing nemesis).  

post #9 of 18

Although being completely "snowed in" in LCC certainly does happen, it's not that common.  What happens more often is that the road is closed for a few hours in the morning.  That said, I prefer to stay in Alta unless a trip to SLC is for the purpose of skiing at several different places.

 

Did you find this 2014 thread about the lodges at Alta?

http://www.epicski.com/t/125833/alta-lodges

 

The way the dining rooms work at the lodges, there is a table for folks who want to meet others.  The conversation isn't all about skiing, but pretty close.  Dinner is a leisurely affair.  If you want to explore lodging possibilities, best to call.  Since there are a lot of return guests, rooms book up early during prime season.  Some folks make their reservation for next winter during the summer.

 

Assuming you are Level 7/8, there is plenty of terrain you will enjoy at Snowbird.  Mineral Basin on a day with good visibility is easy to figure out.  The front side takes a bit more time to get oriented.

 

Somewhere there is a thread about skiing in the Midwest.  When things get more active in the fall, that might be a good place to ask about finding a high level instructor.  Or you can simply call and ask the ski schools at places you are familiar with.  Or start a thread.  While there are instructors who aren't Level 3 who have equivalent teaching experience, asking for a Level 3 initially can make it clearer that you want someone who is fully qualified to teach advanced skiers.

post #10 of 18

All good input from marznc. Alta and Snowbird are two of my favorite places on earth. If you have been in Steamboat's trees, e.g. Shadows, you will be fine at Alta.

 

Since you brought up the social aspect of skiing, I want to mention that the lodge experience at Alta is unparalleled for meeting other like minded people. My preference is for the Goldminer's Daughter for its proximity to the Collins Lift. If it's just the two of you, you could either ask to sit at a community table or spot a single or duo when you walk in to the dining room. I have met some of my best repeat skiing buddies that way. I connected with a guy from Boston a few years back when we spotted him sitting alone at dinner. It turns out he had worked at the Goldminer's in an earlier life and over the next four days gave us a primo local's tour of Alta. I ran into him by chance the following year at Collins Shelter for lunch, and he introduced me to a group of skiers I've been back to LCC with for the past three years. I met several Epic Bears this past Feb. at the Utah get together while staying again at the Goldminer's, and plan to ski with one of them whenever I am in the Park City area for the foreseeable future. Other Bears I hope to connect with at future Epicski get togethers. My point is that the Alta lodge experience is much more than a brochure can possibly describe, and unique, in my experience, within the skiing world. If you stay at a lodge up at Alta and find yourself skiing alone, it's your own dam fault.

 

Being "interlodged" is pretty rare. Though I have wished for such an epic dump while up there, I've not experienced that much snow in the 20 or so weeks I have stayed either at Alta or Snowbird. Came close one year, but it didn't get invoked. 

 

As far as the two area ticket, if you get a great lift ticket package for one area or the other, you can always upgrade a single day for $30 if the spirit so moves you that day.

post #11 of 18

The one time we were stuck inside Alta Lodge was not due to Interlodge, but because the lifts never opened because of the threat of thunderstorms.  Due to the social nature of the place, my daughter and I had a fun day.  Never stayed in our room at all.  Most people were in the common areas or the SItzmark (full service bar inside Alta Lodge), even those who just felt like reading.  I know the ping-pong table was set up in the locker room.  As it turned out, little thunder but plenty of snow was happening by lunch time.  I and a friend ended up changing our departure flights in order to stay longer.  The next day was a spring powder day!

post #12 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by peter60521 View Post
 

  Right now, Snowbird seems to have a great rate.  We can stay 4 nights and lift tickets for the both of us for $1,200.  No where else comes close.  My thinking is to ski (we are both skiers) two days at Alta and two days at Snowbird.  I'm thinking we would start at Alta (Day One) then Snowbird (Day Two).

 

 

Any rate you get from Snowbird,  will only include a Snowbird lift ticket.  You can upgrade to the alta/bird, but it adds $30ish a day.

I too, think you might be better off at a lodge in Alta.  But since the lodges are private, they don't really get much of a discount on lift packages.

High season, it's a lot cheaper to stay in the valley and commute.

 

I prefer Southwest out of Midway.  They aren't booking that far out yet, but the 7:20pm direct gets you to SLC around 10 and the 4:50pm back,  gets you off the hill around 2ish and home early enough to get a good nights sleep.

post #13 of 18
Quote:
Now based on your advice, I'm thinking we will book at Alta and do two days with Arthur.  Then we can do the Alta-Snowbird pass on day 3 or 4 to at least experience Snowbird.  That way if we think Snowbird is too "extreme" we aren't stuck there.

This is probably a good idea.  Most low intermediates get burnt out pretty fast at Snowbird by my observation.  Good point on ticketing (and convenience) on where to stay if most of your skiing is at Alta.  I also agree that the lodges at Alta are a good way to go for a father and son.  So check out the cost including tickets and dinners (included at Alta lodges but not at Snowbird), and if the difference is not huge consider staying at Alta.  Note this recommendation is from a Snowbird timeshare owner since 2008 and visitor since 1981.

Quote:
Although being completely "snowed in" in LCC certainly does happen, it's not that common.  What happens more often is that the road is closed for a few hours in the morning.

Those are the days we dream about, also know as "country club skiing" until the road opens.  I've only had one of those days staying at Iron Blosam regularly since 1996.

post #14 of 18
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the advice.  We decided on staying at the Alta Lodge Jan 15 - 19.  We'll have private lesson 16 - 18.  Have a late afternoon flight on the 19th so hopefully ski until 1:30.Trying to do a second trip somewhere though tough with high school kids and non-skiing spouse.

post #15 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by marznc View Post
 

Welcome to EpicSki!  GIven that you've skied out west before, your plan seems pretty reasonable to me.  Have you checked out the Unofficial Guides for Alta and Snowbird?

 

I met up with a family in April who were skiing out west for the first time.  At least for mom and kids.  They are probably better skiers than you and your son.  The kids race in the Catskills.  They took a shuttle over to Alta the first day.  We met up and they got a tour of the blue groomers before I took them back to Snowbird via Mineral Basin.  I knew by then that they would be fine skiing from the top on Chip's Run down to the Snowbird base.  It was a blue sky day.  They enjoyed Snowbird and Alta.

 

Snowbird has a free mountain tour.  Well worth it if you don't have anyone to show you around.  I had a good time when I did it years ago as an adult intermediate.  Definitely useful to learn the layout.  I was with a ski club.  The second day (prepaid) at Snowbird was a heavy snowstorm with very low visibility all day.  I still had a good time because I knew where to go.

 

If you decide to avoid renting a car, it's also possible to get a shuttle over to another canyon for a day trip.  Solitude and Brighton are fun for intermediates.  Solitude is less crowded in general.

 

 

Can someone point me to the unofficial guides to these mtns?  I cant seem to locate them.  I assume its easy and I am just being dimwitted, however.  :D

 

I am trying to figure out the logistics of staying in Park City with a group of people and getting around to ski the Canyons side as well.  Thanks!

post #16 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by skier2369 View Post
 
Can someone point me to the unofficial guides to these mtns?  I cant seem to locate them.  I assume its easy and I am just being dimwitted, however.  :D

 

I am trying to figure out the logistics of staying in Park City with a group of people and getting around to ski the Canyons side as well.  Thanks!

No, it's not that obvious.  One way is to click on Unofficial Guides (menu bar) and look around for Alta.  The other way is to use the Ambassador roster at the top of the Resorts section.

 

http://www.epicski.com/a/alta-an-unofficial-guide

 

As for Park City or Canyons info, go to the Resorts Page for the resort and scroll down to the bottom to find relevant threads.  Or try this search in Google "SLC travel: epicski".

post #17 of 18

My dad and my son and I skiied at Alta the last two years and are going back again this February. My son is probably a 6. He'll ski easier groomed blacks and venture down blue mogul runs. He's still not a fan of powder much above his ankles, but he oves a light dose. He's probably a 6 by the Alta description.

Last year we skiied Snowbird one day and he had no trouble. The only problem was a complete whiteout hit right when we got to the top and we were a little lost in Mineral Basin. We ended up over by the Gadzoom and Gad2 lift for the afternoon and my son had a blast skiing the 4" that fell while we hunkered down in the lodge for lunch.

You'll have a great time.

The only thing not already mentioned is it can be COLD that time of year. I mean highs of 10 degrees with blizzard conditions. But I live in Tucson, AZ so it might seem like nothing to you.

post #18 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by marznc View Post
 

No, it's not that obvious.  One way is to click on Unofficial Guides (menu bar) and look around for Alta.  The other way is to use the Ambassador roster at the top of the Resorts section.

 

http://www.epicski.com/a/alta-an-unofficial-guide

 

As for Park City or Canyons info, go to the Resorts Page for the resort and scroll down to the bottom to find relevant threads.  Or try this search in Google "SLC travel: epicski".

 

Thanks a lot!

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