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Spring Skiing - Vail vs. Alta vs. Something Else

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

I'm planning a ski trip out west this spring and had originally been set on Alta/Snowbird. My main objectives were snow and reducing the hassle of a major trip from an airport to a ski resort. Nothing scares me more than driving in snow.

 

Things changed when I found out that I may be able to get some free lift tickets for Vail. I've heard Vail can be very iffy in the springtime. I have skied there once, and it was spring and wonderful, but I was also very young so maybe things have changed...

 

I don't care about a ski town, nightlife, or a "scene." If that's what's there then whatever, but I just want to ski, eat dinner, maybe relax in a hot tub with a beer, and go to sleep, wherever I am. I guess I'm sort of lame like that.

 

My question is this - if my main objective is snow and skiing, where would I have a better chance of finding that? Is Alta significantly better than Vail for rolling the dice on March/Spring snow? Just because Vail might be free doesn't necessarily make it worth it...

 

If there is something even better, I am open to that as well...

 

When is the best time to go and when does it get too late? I am able to go anytime after March 1, and I understand conditions are totally impossible to predict, but is there a general time frame of when resorts start closing stuff?

post #2 of 13

If you are talking March or early April, there is probably no problem with snow an any of your choices, even in a below average year.

 

Alta and Snowbird are noted for staying open late in the spring (talking May). Not sure when Vail closes. Check websites or call.

 

Me, I would choose Alta/Snowbird
 

post #3 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by flowersrg10 View Post

 

I don't care about a ski town, nightlife, or a "scene." If that's what's there then whatever, but I just want to ski, eat dinner, maybe relax in a hot tub with a beer, and go to sleep, wherever I am. I guess I'm sort of lame like that.

 

 

Any of the Alta lodges. I like The Goldminer's Daughter. Great food, friendly people, visitors and staff alike, and just steps to the Collins Lift. Roll out of bed>eat breakfast>Ski>eat lunch>Ski>Hot Tub>eat dinner>sleep...Repeat. You will absolutely hate it when you have to catch the shuttle back to the airport.

post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 

I was definitely looking at the Alta lodges because I like to be fed and to sleep.

 

Would the free tickets to Vail warrant changing my plans? I haven't booked anything yet so wouldn't be a big deal. 

post #5 of 13

Discounted Alta tickets at the Lift House Ski Shop, at the entrance to Big Cottonwood Canyon are $79. Should be able to have the shuttle driver stop there, particularly if other riders want tickets. Liftopia probably can do better, but you are locked in to the dates. I understand that Alta themselves do pretty well for a multi-day ticket, which they really didn't do in the past. Only you can say whether or not the free Vail tickets are worth it, but budget is not the only consideration, IMO. The difference in vacation experience is like night/day. What you posted in the OP seems to indicate that you are an Alta kind of g(uy)(al).

post #6 of 13

Alta/Bird are great in the spring, you might be lucky and even get a powder day! Also if you plan to be there early April you can try some skis during the Alta Demo Day which is pretty nice!

post #7 of 13
Lift ticket prices for Alta start to drop by 25%-50% on their website in early April; if @marznccomes by she can probably pin it down. I imagine other resorts do the same kind of thing. That's also when you'll find off season prices for on-mountain lodging too.
post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 

Are the conditions still good in early April? I was looking for early April discounts, but Easter is the first weekend in April, so I guess they are keeping prices inflated for that???? I have a friend who worked at Alta a couple of years ago, and he said that unless I am getting a crazy deal, I should aim for no later than mid-March. Thoughts? 

post #9 of 13
April can be hit or miss. A friend of mine was there last year mid April and said it was great. YMMV
post #10 of 13
One note of caution....if the warm cycles this season continue, then chances of hitting true spring conditions will be high for the rest of the season (like yesterday, which was near perfect for a warm bluebird day). In Colorado this season, the highest altitude ski areas have been fairing very well both in snow amounts and quality, with Copper and Breck seeming to continue to stand out.

If it were me, even for March this year (Colorado's statistically snowiest month) I would think strongly about hedging my bets on high altitude conditions. My gut is that CO will stay in the storm path, but we aren't going to break the cycle of record warmth between cycles. High altitude with various aspects facing or not facing the sun is playing out well right now, but as sun angle gets up in March impacts will change/increase in the warm cycles so maybe move your thinking a month out, i.e. plan for March as if it were April. The only downside of going high is your personal physiology in dealing with high altitude if you are coming from low altitude.
post #11 of 13

i have been the last three years to SLC in very late March/early April... looking to set up the same trip again for this coming spring - work at a school here in Scotland and its the only 2 weeks i can go so i chase the best snow....

 

http://www.epicski.com/t/127749/utah-spring-2014-april-2nd-15th-trip-report-with-video

 

can't seem to find the 2013 trip report...

 

http://www.epicski.com/t/112065/spring-skiing-round-salt-lake-city-april-6th-to-15th

post #12 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by flowersrg10 View Post
 

Are the conditions still good in early April? I was looking for early April discounts, but Easter is the first weekend in April, so I guess they are keeping prices inflated for that???? I have a friend who worked at Alta a couple of years ago, and he said that unless I am getting a crazy deal, I should aim for no later than mid-March. Thoughts? 


Obviously impossible to predict in advance, but my experience doing April trips to Alta the last five years is that there is plenty of cover and the chance of a powder storm is pretty good.  Of course, can also end up with some warm days as well.  You are correct that Easter influences when the discounts start.

post #13 of 13

The average incidence of snow at Alta declines from ~90 inches in March to ~70 in April.  So the odds of powder are not that different than mid-winter.  However those odds are still low (~20% of Alta days with 6+ inches) due to the streaky patterns of weather. 

 

So Naybeaks' comments about snow preservation for the ~80% of days without new snow are on point.  Alta and Vail are fairly similar in snow preservation.  I'd argue Alta is actually better since Vail's best terrain, the Back Bowls, are highly sun-sensitive.  Alta has lots of north facing steeps, though you may have to take long icy/slushy traverses to get to them.  And you have Snowbird next door where a lot of the north-facing natural terrain is more accessible.

 

Only if you use your Vail pass to ski A-Basin and the upper third of Breckenridge will you gain any spring snow preservation advantage over Alta/Snowbird.

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