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Where to ski in the West in Mid December? Alberta, JH or Big Sky? [from Toronto, low budget]

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

I'm looking to go on a skit trip before the big crowds hit the western resorts over the Christmas break, so most likely the week of Dec 15-20. I'm from the east so don't know where the snow is the best that time of the year. Should I hit up Lake Louise and Sunshine in Alberta or go down south of the border where I have found some great early season deals at Jackson Hole, in Montana, Idaho and Utah. Where is the snow best that time of the year? I know it is going to be a bit of a risk in mid-December but want to know what is going to be the least amount of risk.

post #2 of 15

Close to Jackson Hole is a place called Grand Targhee.  Hands down the best early season bet for good snow.

post #3 of 15

  Waiting until your departure to decide,  is the best way to know the skiing will be good.

Where are you departing from?   Big airports will have more options,  than smaller regional airports.

post #4 of 15

Grand Targhee......I second that...........I would stay there slopeside.......JH is about 60 minutes away from the GT

post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 

I'm leaving from Toronto, so there are lots of options flying from here. I'm on a bit of a budget though (University student) so would prefer to book earlier to save some money on the trip

post #6 of 15

Banff area will be definitely be very lean on snow that early so not a great idea. Whistler could be good or awful that early.

Grand Targhee makes sense but I have no idea how you'd get there from TO.

FWIW I've had excellent early skiing at Mt Baker but, like Whistler, it could be good or awful.

Cheapest/fastest/best chance is probably Whistler. At the very least you can party and shop 'til you drop plus Skican and other tour companies working out of TO may have some very good early season package deals.

post #7 of 15

Another idea is to fly to Kamloops, BC and ski Sun Peaks.

I heard that have better than average early season...perhaps

Revelstoke as well. 

post #8 of 15
Paging @danot.

I skied Sun Peaks over Christmas last year, which was a tough year for early season snowfall in BC and PNW. Most of the resort (3 mountains) was open, with sketchy conditions on lower elevation double black runs. Good coverage overall though. On some runs they do a lot of early season snowmaking, in part due to an arrangement with the Austrian ski team for early season training. They apparently also do a lot of summer grooming (brush cutting and rock removal) on groomers, so it doesn't take as much snow to open.

No crowds smile.gif
post #9 of 15

The OP could fly direct from Toronto to Calgary, Kelowna, or Vancouver with a connector flight to Kamloops and a shuttle to Sun Peaks and then stay for $25/night at the Hostel at the Burfield Base. You can buy your $85/day lift ticket right across the street at the Burfield Chairlift, so it is virtually a ski in/out location. The SP Village (bars restaurants, shopping) is a couple kilometre walk, with a regular free shuttle bus on weekends and holidays.


Sun Peaks is usually the first ski resort in the B.C. Interior to open because while the other resorts are waiting for the stumps to get covered, SP has pulled most of its stumps years ago, has some snow making that others don't have and can get a groomer packed base way ahead of other resorts. Projected opening for this season is Nov. 22. Some years all of the runs are open by mid December, some years it takes until early January.


I would recommend getting a cheap flight in advance with Westjet (Air Canada tends to loose skis) to Vancouver only. Then if it is dumping in Whistler, then it becomes an option. If Whistler is struggling then get a last minute flight to Kamloops where it is less likely to be "going off" but very likely to have good coverage and good conditions on the runs that are open.


Flying domestically within the USA is cheaper than flying in Canada, so a flight from Buffalo to Salt Lake City and staying in a motel in Sandy and a ski bus to Alta/Snowbird might work.


JH and Big Sky are more difficult to get to. The town of Jackson does have cheap motel rooms (Motel6=$50/night) because winter is the off season due to nearby Yellowstone Park and there is bus service to the skiing 20 minutes away. Lift tickets are over $100/day.


Right now the Canadian dollar is worth .89 cents US, and dropping so that is an added expense to consider for travel in the USA.

post #10 of 15

15th to 20th could be "reasonable" at Whistler.

They will have been operating over 3 weeks by that point so hopefully worst case is just some limits on terrain. And if there is no snow there good chance it won't be much better elsewhere in the NW.


On the positive side early December is a bargain. Lots of deals and empty rooms

But there is a reason for it.


If I had to book a ski holiday in advance, I would just take the cheapest airfare with the least stops to someplace that sounded interesting to me. Airfare is one of the few variables you can  control.

post #11 of 15

A couple of mentions.  In Summit County, it seems there is always a fight to be open sooner.  Arapahoe Basin is a half decent bet for the early season and it is close enough to several others that would allow a little leeway if conditions are iffy.


Also, a couple years ago Mammoth got a TON of snow in December.  I think it is an el nino year, so it is worth checking to see if things are picking up at all in the southern mountains compared to the north.


Mt. Baker is probably a good bet, and maybe Mt. Hood too.  Not sure on that latter one.  

post #12 of 15

Probably the least amount of risk for mid December would be Mt. Baker, but unless you've always had a wish to try the place out and it's on your bucket list, I would not recommend it.  Too small, no lodging, iffy snow, the best terrain may not be fully open.  Whistler would be a better bet.

post #13 of 15

Targhee opens up this weekend with 49" on top, half that midway.  Easy call.


So where'd you decide to go, Mr. JMoss?

post #14 of 15

Targhee is the safest choice for mid-December, averages 96% open Dec. 15.  If it's a fast start season Jackson (average 56% open) may be worthwhile on the same trip.


Salt Lake is probably second choice. Alta averages 84% open Dec. 15 and the other 3 Cottonwood areas 70-75% open.   Other Utah areas average less than half open.


Whistler would be 3rd choice, averaging 73% open and at least 60% open in 3/4 of seasons.


Denver would be 4th choice, driving to Vail (average 68% open) or Steamboat (69% and somewhat more consistent than Vail). 


I would not consider committing airfare to any other ski destination in mid-December unless I knew abundant natural snow was already on the ground. 


The longer you wait the more info you have about the current season.  Targhee/Jackson have had average snowfall, which is fine for Targhee but Jackson needs to pick up the pace if you want it to be good by Dec. 15.  Utah is below average so far but may get a major storm this weekend.   Whistler releases very little info before they open, but there is reputedly a decent snowpack in the alpine already and it has advanced its opening date to the upcoming weekend.   Colorado was quite dry for a while but last week's snow brought them up to an average range for mid-November.


Keep in mind that advanced/expert terrain rarely has snowmaking and needs a deeper base.  If you're an advanced skier and see an area 50% open, that usually means minimal advanced/expert terrain.

Edited by Tony Crocker - 11/19/14 at 12:16pm
post #15 of 15

I'm not sure how I missed this one, but as I stated in other threads, there's no such thing as a low-budget trip out of Toronto.

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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Mountain/Resort Related Forums › Resorts, Conditions & Travel › Where to ski in the West in Mid December? Alberta, JH or Big Sky? [from Toronto, low budget]