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# Top 10 Most Uncrowded Resorts in North America - Page 4

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Originally Posted by anachronism

Pretty sure that is Goodbye Girl at Breck.

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Originally Posted by skier31

I don't think so.

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Originally Posted by cmsummit

Fine, I'll stop screwing around. Any Colorado Skier knows that is Widowmaker at Granby Ranch.

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Originally Posted by tball

Here's some rough math on why it takes very few skiers to track up the powder, even at a large ski area:

I skied 30 miles per my Garmin watch on 30,000 vertical foot day at Copper (not even a full day), .   My watch automatically pauses on the lift in ski mode, so that's just going downhill.  Let's say a third of that isn't really skiing, rather just getting somewhere to ski.  That leaves 20 miles of actual skiing:

• 20 miles x 5280 feet/mile = 105,600 feet of skiing.

Lets say I destroy a five foot wide path of powder with my indulgent greed:

• 105,600 feet x 5 feet = 528,000 square feet of tracked up powder in a day.

• 528,000 square feet / 43,560 square feet/acre = 12.12 acres tracked up in a day.

Someone correct me if my math is bad, but it looks like I can personally track up at least 12 acres/day.  By that math it only takes about 200 skiers to track up Copper's ~2500 acres in a day, or 133 skiers to track up Wolf Creek's ~1600 acres in a day.

Per sibhusky's post above, Big Sky did  473,000 skiers last year over 5750 acres.  Over a ~150 day season that's an average of 3153 skier visits/day.   Since ~500 skiers will track up Big Sky in a day, it should be tracked up in a couple hours on an average day.   Again, anyone please correct any assumptions or calculations I got wrong.

That all fits with:

1. My personal experience that a relatively few skiers can track up a big ski area quickly.
2. Skiers being willing to pay big bucks for cat and heli skiing.
3. Folks being willing to risk their lives in the backcountry for powder, including the owner of Wolf Creek!

Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism

You are assuming:

1. Skier concentrations are constant.  Skiers will distribute themselves evenly around the mountain.

2. A skier's paramount desire is to ski as much untracked snow as possible, every turn, on every run.

3. A skier will continue hunting down untracked snow until every gap between every tree through every inch of the inbounds terrain is marked up.

None of these assumption are correct, which is why untracked snow stays remains through thousands of skier visits.  I see it all the time- the quickest shot down off the ridge is tracked down to a solid pack, but spending an extra minute to skate further along the ridgeline gets you virgin snow.  Despite what people claim at the end of the day and on the internet, they ski the terrain they want to ski with good snow instead of seeking out untracked snow- the terrain tends to drive things for most people, not the snow.

So basically, I think your model isn't practical because it doesn't model what is seen in the real world, which is untracked powder lasting for days after a storm for those who deem it worthwhile to spend a little more effort to find and ski it- hitting lessor known areas (last gate in waterfall in the video above) or taking more effort to get there (Voodoo Bowl).

OK, I see your point.  I think, maybe, my "powder destruction" model above applies to the first 80 or 90% of the powder.  The remaining 10 or 20% is far more complex.   Yep, I'll frequently ski tracked up terrain I enjoy (steeps in Spaulding Bowl at Copper) vs. untracked that isn't as fun for me (not so steep Spaulding Glades).

Even at the "crowded" resorts like Copper you can get some amazing untracked days after a storm if you work hard enough.  The last 5 or 10% can be really good.   This is Tucker Mountain a day after a storm when I did the hour hike around when the cat wasn't running:

I got 1000 vertical feet only crossing a handful of tracks a full 24 hours after the storm.  That was last run of the day, so folks the next morning would have untracked two days after the storm.

See more in my mini tucker hike TR here:

And, to @anachronism's point, I rarely ski Tucker because it's such a pain in the butt.   I know where to find great snow at Copper that is easier to access, even if it's a little more tracked up.

Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism

Fair enough. The point was more that these steeper pitches are arranged such that you can hit multiple areas of steeps without hiking. Personally, 1000 feet of steeps with lesser pitches mixed into a 1200-1400 vert descent works for me, but I'm not everybody.

A picture may help.  Areas in green are 25-35*, areas in red are more than 35*

Quote:
Originally Posted by nathanvg

A picture may help.  Areas in green are 25-35*, areas in red are more than 35*

Waterfall area seems to be lacking resolution/accuracy. I think anybody that has been in there would clearly stand behind the idea that most lines in there are 35*+. Otherwise, seems legit.

The Unofficial Guide has pictures of all of this terrain. It's really up to the individual to decide whether it is their bag or not.  To me, the steep areas ski much bigger than they appear on a map.

Obviously this is a very, very benchy ski area, and certain areas are just long straightlines. Most of my ski day happens in Numbered Chutes because the flats are less flat there, and most of that terrain has enough pitch for turns and a decent flow, mixed in with a short very steep/cliff section.  I spend less of my day in Waterfall because of the extensive flats above- typically means following bushwhack tracks without turns to get into the good stuff.

A good portion of WC steeps are quite technical, and the whole layout of the ski area has really forced me to up my game. My first season at Wolf consisted of me blundering into tight chutes and cliffs buried in the woods, typically lacking any signage whatsoever until you are on top. I ran into challenges I never would have expected because everywhere I heard how "flat" Wolf was. It made me a better skier by forcing me to ski terrain in ways that were out of my comfort zone.

Personally, I have more fun at Wolf than I've ever had in a season skiing anywhere else. I've never felt that I'm missing out on terrain, which is one of the reasons I am so vocal about the place. The reputation kept me from coming down to ski here until I moved here, and since then I'm kicking myself that I didn't give it a shot sooner. Its not everybody's bag, but there is plenty of challenge here, and that is the message I hope people hear among the noise of Wolf being flat. Honestly, I think if people used "benchy" vs. flat, I'd probably derail less threads. ;)

On a side note, if my understanding of local geology is correct, the benchy aspect comes from very large glaciers/ice sheets moving across the terrain.  Instead of small alpine glaciers moving downhill, these filled the valley and travelled crosswise against the fall line. At different times, the glaciation reached different levels, making different terraces. The Southern San Juans tend to have peaks that are either jagged or rounded, depending on whether the peak elevation was above or below the highest reach of the ice sheet.

Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism

On a side note, if my understanding of local geology is correct, the benchy aspect comes from very large glaciers/ice sheets moving across the terrain.  Instead of small alpine glaciers moving downhill, these filled the valley and travelled crosswise against the fall line. At different times, the glaciation reached different levels, making different terraces. The Southern San Juans tend to have peaks that are either jagged or rounded, depending on whether the peak elevation was above or below the highest reach of the ice sheet.

Sounds similar to the Appalachians.  A lot of the mountains here exhibit the same "benchy" feel.

How big are the bench spots at WC, generally speaking?  Sometimes I like those benches if they're short enough to maintain speed and then you can launch off them and catch some air.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JayT

How big are the bench spots at WC, generally speaking?  Sometimes I like those benches if they're short enough to maintain speed and then you can launch off them and catch some air.

Sorry, no. The main bench that runs throughout the middle of the ski area ranges from about 1/4 to 3/4s of a mile long. It ranges from almost totally flat to a low intermediate pitch. Generally, if you are skiing into one of the longer, steeper pitches, you are paying for it by having the terrain above that be flatter- certainly for the Waterfall area.

Most storms, even huge storms, it is just enough pitch to not get stuck- but not really skiing, more riding to tails to maintain momentum in the flattest stuff.

1-2 storms a season come in upside down and make untracked terrain an absolute sufferfest- the snow is unsupportive so you sink, but the heavy snow on top creates drag. One day last year I spent 3 hours trailbreaking back to the lift- 40" upside down storm, and once I got off the 35* pitch area to a 25* area, I ground to a halt and had to slog ALL THE WAY DOWN.

I'm not going to play it off like the benchy aspect is some hidden treasure. Certain areas can be playful with sapling pillows and small rollers (the area under numbered chutes 8-10 is like this), most of it is just something you put up with to ski the better stuff in snow conditions generally better than the rest of CO.

Quote:
Originally Posted by focker

I always wonder how Big Sky makes money.   Seems like they hardly get anyone there

Howabout xmas time? Im trying to put together a short list of places to visit during winter break since my older child is getting to the point where its difficult to take her out of school too often. Ill try out Solitude this year and also have Sun peaks on my list. Criteria for making the list is better chance for decent snow coverage that early, fairly easy to get to from LAX, and enough to do to keep wife and kids happy. So tiny places that are out of the way wont make it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by agreen

Howabout xmas time? Im trying to put together a short list of places to visit during winter break since my older child is getting to the point where its difficult to take her out of school too often. Ill try out Solitude this year and also have Sun peaks on my list. Criteria for making the list is better chance for decent snow coverage that early, fairly easy to get to from LAX, and enough to do to keep wife and kids happy. So tiny places that are out of the way wont make it.

Thanks to Tags, look here for threads about ski trips during Christmas vacation.  No promises but should be able to find some useful info.

Quote:

Originally Posted by marznc

Thanks to Tags, look here for threads about ski trips during Christmas vacation.  No promises but should be able to find some useful info.

Wow, the link actually had a previous thread I started in May regarding this topic that I had completely forgotten about. Big sky was mentioned as well as Snowmass. Thanks

tballs's formula is not unreasonable, though I think cmsummit's assumptions are better.  At any rate I agree with the point about how few skiers it can take to track out a mountain.

Quote:
I like your "untracked the day after a storm" goal!    That is a really tough goal.

Solitude: Still relatively easy to find powder at 3:30PM on a President's Day with 17 inches new.

Sundance:  Have not skied in powder, probably no busier than Solitude but gets far less snow

Powder Mt: 5,500 acres including bus and cat runs.  Powder is generally destroyed by sun or wind before it's tracked out.

Castle Mt: Vast terrain with wind reloading.  Powder lasts multiple days midweek. Weekend powder would still last all day but there could be a liftline on the upper chair.

Discovery: Have not skied, but read TR's.  Best powder terrain on that hill is underutilized

Lost Trail: Besides being in the middle of nowhere, it's only open 4 days/week.

Sunlight: Defer to anachronism

Wolf Creek: Defer to anachronism

Brundage: Nearly as deserted as Castle midweek.  An extra chair runs on weekends, runs will get tracked but glades are wide open easily skied

Silver Mt.: Defer to PeteNoIdaho

No guarantees here, but at least there's a conversation about multiple day powder at most of these areas.

Edited by Tony Crocker - 9/24/14 at 5:00pm
I've seen all the powder skied in under an hour at Silver, but every powder hound in the region shows up when the pickings are slim. Then thete are the othet days, as in N. ID Pete's pics.

Discovery well it has some great moments and a great backside.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker

Sunlight: Defer to anachronism

I'd leave it off this list. In a typical year, powder days are far enough apart that when you do get a foot or so, there is pent of desire to go after it.  When I lived there, I had small stashes I could regularly hit, but they were small.

I think the fact that Aspen is so close adds to skiing culture. A lot of the places in this discussion are in areas where winter is considered the off season. Not everyone skis. Not everyone lives for the powder day, and thus not everyone queues up to go get it. Most people I knew in the Glenwood area skied.

The best powder days I had at Sunlight were weekdays where the snowfall didn't hit that magic 10" or so number where people would duck out of work.  Those days were surreal. Pull up in the parking lot at 8:50 and have the first spot in the lot. Pull boots on, its 9:05, there are 2 people in the lodge. Chairlifts have been spinning for 5 minutes and I'm still the first guy on. The second guy getting on 10 chairs behind me is the ski area social media guy that's going to go take some photos to post on Facebook to get people to actually drive up the hill.

Three laps later, the church youth group crowd is groggily making it out of the fleabag condos slopeside to wander around the beginner area. 2 guys have joined me and the social  media guy has made his Facebook and Twitter posts and is free skiing. By the time I leave at 1:00, maybe 1/3 of the advanced terrain has yet to have a single track laid.

But large swaths of terrain don't tend to last days there. Like Aspen Mountain, it is a long but narrow mountain, and wide short mountains (like Wolf) tend to hold snow better- more lines for people to hit in the acreage before things trap up, and more traverses to discourage people from ranging out to get the untracked snow 50 feet further out.

I suspect Powderhorn may be a good candidate. More snow than Sunlight, no major resort in the area, more lateral width to the acreage, similar skier visits.

Please, go to all those places, and far far from mine.

Crystal Mountain midweek?  I've had a great next day powder experience there.  Makes sense since there is almost no lodging, and folks two hours away in Seattle don't even knows it's snowing.  Just more rain.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tball

Crystal Mountain midweek?  I've had a great next day powder experience there.  Makes sense since there is almost no lodging, and folks two hours away in Seattle don't even knows it's snowing.  Just more rain.

Skiers in Seattle know very well when it's snowing in the mountains.  There is no lack of sources of information about snow conditions and forecasts.  When there is a big dump, they show up big time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Posaune

Skiers in Seattle know very well when it's snowing in the mountains.  There is no lack of sources of information about snow conditions and forecasts.  When there is a big dump, they show up big time.

Agreed.  Last year, during what was a somewhat mediocre winter*, the several mid-week powder days that I took off work for felt like a weekend up there.  I know I'm part of the problem... sorry all you regular mid-week skiers.

* Despite the total snowfall number.  Especially earlier in the winter, there were long stretches without snowfall and some freeze thaws.  There were still plenty of good days, but they mostly came late in the season.

Edit: Actually, in retrospect, I know why tball had a great next-day powder day up there.  It's because all the Seattle skiers were up there the day before on the powder day.  The day that everyone thinks is going to be good can be a mad house.  The day after is probably going to be a ghost town.

The list of least crowded areas is related to, but not the same as the list of best places for powder.  The fact that Sunlight gets half as much snow as Wolf Creek means it's far less attractive for powder.  But it's still extremely uncrowded because it's "in the shadow" of Aspen and Vail.

Crystal has a big metro area with a high population of advanced skiers.  It's never going to make an "uncrowded list" with that population base within drive-up distance, especially since it's #1 for terrain scale and quality in that market.  However local weather guru Larry Schick has convinced me that Crystal belongs on the short list for best powder skiing.  The key reason for this is the avalanche controlled South Backcountry.  This requires 15-20 minutes of traverses and/or short hikes.  As at Wolf (and other places) powder lasts much longer when a little grunt work is required to access it.

An "uncrowded list," in the premise as originally posted, should be defined primarily by lack of liftlines and very low skier density.  The very best of these should also be relatively slow to track out on powder days.

The frequency of powder days is an absolute criterion for "best areas for powder." If you don't get 300+ inches a year, there are so few days of 6+ inches that you're not a "powder resort" no matter how low the skier density.  Conversely the amount of snow one gets should not be a requirement for an "uncrowded" list.

Powder magazine attempts to combine these attributes by multiplying snowfall x acreage and dividing by skier visits.

Well...  Crystal's 300,000 skier visits on 2600 acres with 400+ inches of snowfall seem to make it worth noting.  The skier visits/acre ratio is similar to Telluride which is top of the list in the OP.  I love how you WA skiers try to keep it a secret

Quote:
Originally Posted by Posaune

Quote:
Originally Posted by tball

Crystal Mountain midweek?  I've had a great next day powder experience there.  Makes sense since there is almost no lodging, and folks two hours away in Seattle don't even knows it's snowing.  Just more rain.

Skiers in Seattle know very well when it's snowing in the mountains.  There is no lack of sources of information about snow conditions and forecasts.  When there is a big dump, they show up big time.

Yeah, but all the not-really-skiers are mostly clueless when it snows in the mountains.  Don't underestimate the advantage "dedicated skiers" have in Seattle over, say, Denver.   It's remarkable how snowstorms in Denver bring skiing to mind and bring out the crowds, even when the storms don't hit the mountains.

Seems like a good time for this video.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker

The list of least crowded areas is related to, but not the same as the list of best places for powder.  The fact that Sunlight gets half as much snow as Wolf Creek means it's far less attractive for powder.  But it's still extremely uncrowded because it's "in the shadow" of Aspen and Vail.

Crystal has a big metro area with a high population of advanced skiers.  It's never going to make an "uncrowded list" with that population base within drive-up distance, especially since it's #1 for terrain scale and quality in that market.  However local weather guru Larry Schick has convinced me that Crystal belongs on the short list for best powder skiing.  The key reason for this is the avalanche controlled South Backcountry.  This requires 15-20 minutes of traverses and/or short hikes.  As at Wolf (and other places) powder lasts much longer when a little grunt work is required to access it.

An "uncrowded list," in the premise as originally posted, should be defined primarily by lack of liftlines and very low skier density.  The very best of these should also be relatively slow to track out on powder days.

The frequency of powder days is an absolute criterion for "best areas for powder." If you don't get 300+ inches a year, there are so few days of 6+ inches that you're not a "powder resort" no matter how low the skier density.  Conversely the amount of snow one gets should not be a requirement for an "uncrowded" list.

Powder magazine attempts to combine these attributes by multiplying snowfall x acreage and dividing by skier visits.

I agree. Think Sunlight deserves mention on the uncrowded list, not on the "powder for days after a storm" list.

Sunlight is the most uncrowded ski area, on a day to day basis, that I have ever skied.  Even Ski Cooper tends to see more people than a typical Sunlight day, at least it has felt like that when I have skied there.

Powder days at Sunlight, when they happen, are great and an all day affair, but for the reasons I stated above they don't tend to hang around for days after a storm, except for a few 3 turn stashes that are probably unclaimed now that I am not skiing there. ;)

Most uncrowded ski areas should be pretty damn good when the snow falls, if you can manage to ski there when the snow falls...

Quote:
Originally Posted by tball

Well...  Crystal's 300,000 skier visits on 2600 acres with 400+ inches of snowfall seem to make it worth noting.  The skier visits/acre ratio is similar to Telluride which is top of the list in the OP.  I love how you WA skiers try to keep it a secret

Yeah, but all the not-really-skiers are mostly clueless when it snows in the mountains.  Don't underestimate the advantage "dedicated skiers" have in Seattle over, say, Denver.   It's remarkable how snowstorms in Denver bring skiing to mind and bring out the crowds, even when the storms don't hit the mountains.

The Village at Sun Peaks is 3,000 ft higher than downtown Kamloops, 45 minutes away, yet Kamloops skiers mostly don't go skiing unless there is snow in their back yards. lol

Quote:
Originally Posted by DanoT

Quote:
Originally Posted by tball

Well...  Crystal's 300,000 skier visits on 2600 acres with 400+ inches of snowfall seem to make it worth noting.  The skier visits/acre ratio is similar to Telluride which is top of the list in the OP.  I love how you WA skiers try to keep it a secret

Yeah, but all the not-really-skiers are mostly clueless when it snows in the mountains.  Don't underestimate the advantage "dedicated skiers" have in Seattle over, say, Denver.   It's remarkable how snowstorms in Denver bring skiing to mind and bring out the crowds, even when the storms don't hit the mountains.

The Village at Sun Peaks is 3,000 ft higher than downtown Kamloops, 45 minutes away, yet Kamloops skiers mostly don't go skiing unless there is snow in their back yards. lol

That does not happen in the Seattle area because there is almost never snow in anyone's back yard.  Some years there is not a flake.  In the record year of 98-99 I seem to remember that we didn't have any appreciable snow in the lowlands (I don't remember any), but it nuked just about every day in the mountains.  People who ski rely on the area ski reports, weather forecasts, and independent reports like online telemetry.  If they didn't do that they wouldn't go skiing.  Also, Puget Sounders don't tend to go skiing (except for the hard core) when there is snow in their back yards because they can't get out of their driveways.  It's insane to drive in the urban area in snow.  Lots of drivers are clueless and the snow removal infrastructure is poor to non-existent.

To say that Seattlites (or Bellinghamsters) aren't aware of snow conditions means that you don't ski here.  Even occasional skiers are aware of how to get the information, and they do it.

Just out of my own personal experience, of the resorts and areas listed so far, I think most do not qualify as "uncrowded", but there's a few that certainly do. Additionally, I have a nice list of my own of various resorts and areas that I think are awesome little uncrowded gems, but I won't share it. My question, not directed to anyone in particular, is if you personally enjoy the fruits of one of these uncrowded resorts, why would you do all you can to promote it on a highly-trafficked public internet forum?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lemon Zest

Just out of my own personal experience, of the resorts and areas listed so far, I think most do not qualify as "uncrowded", but there's a few that certainly do. Additionally, I have a nice list of my own of various resorts and areas that I think are awesome little uncrowded gems, but I won't share it. My question, not directed to anyone in particular, is if you personally enjoy the fruits of one of these uncrowded resorts, why would you do all you can to promote it on a highly-trafficked public internet forum?

Most of these resorts I would qualify as uncrowded are doing just fine financially though. They may not have the flashiest marketing department but they get enough visitors to run operations without relying on huge real estate deals and other vail-ish type tactics. I could understand if your local mountain was really suffering that you would promote it, but if all was good I'd leave well enough alone.

Perhaps Lemon Zest would be willing to tell us where he lives, if not where he skis.  Most of this is geography.  If you live in Montana (sibhusky) or interior BC (DanoT) you don't have to look far to find an uncrowded resort.  If you're in California, Denver or Seattle, it may take quite a bit more effort.  The uncrowded places that are more accessible are "in the shadow" of more famous places.  I've been raving online about how great Castle Mt. is for 15 years, and I'm not going to claim that I've made the place more crowded.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker
I've been raving online about how great Castle Mt. is for 15 years, and I'm not going to claim that I've made the place more crowded.

Yes. I don't think random blowhards like myself homering for their favorite places is going to move the needle much.  The idea that the hordes are going to come running and ruin somebody's "secret" resort the moment it is mentioned on the internet seems rather conceited to me.

I've had a PM this fall from someone who,after reading my unofficial guide to Sun Peaks, has decided to spend the winter at SP. Oh no.

Not to worry though as SP is not on this Top 10 list. However the Burfield chair at SP is located about 2 miles from the SP Village and is at the top of the list of least crowded quad chairlifts in N.A. At over 10,000 feet long, the slow 22 minute ride from bottom to top scares off most visitors, who ride the Burfield chair once and never return. The shortest run from the top of the Burfield to the bottom is well over 2 miles long.

My M.O. on a powder day is to start from the SP Village, ski a bunch of powder runs while riding the high speed detachable chairs, then around 10 or 10:30 head to the Burfield and bag a bunch more powder runs where I am 1st or 2nd or 3rd down a bunch more runs, all black or double black diamond. It is almost like there are two different resorts, the one with all the amenities, a ski through village with 7 hotels, bars, restaurants and shops, and lots of other activities and then there is the Burfield side of the mountain, a seemingly private resort with a 1970s vibe including the most apply named run on the mountain which leads skiers from MT. Morrisey over to the Burfield base, called "Back In Time".

And then there is Castle Mountain in southern Alberta, the greatest mountain in N.A, that you have never heard of. (I think I have already posted about Castle in this thread but I haven't reread the thread)  According to the guy who plows the parking lot, he is one of 130 associates who own the mountain and who do not want to see any increase in the 90k annual skier visits. This is not enough skiers to make the place profitable but they also own the water and sewer system and the fees paid by the people with private homes, cabins and town houses on site make up the financial short fall. Now that you have read this paragraph, I am required to kill you or at least get you to swear to Castle Secrecy and vow never to ski there.

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