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December 6th-13th, Whistler, Banff or Breckenridge? [coming from UK]

post #1 of 42
Thread Starter 

Hi Guys,

 

It's my first post! I use the website a lot for research but actually didn't realise there was a forum.

 

Anyway I have a question.

 

Which resort would you go skiing to over the week 6-13th December? Dates cannot be changed.

 

We are British and ski blue-red-black in Europe.

 

We did actually go to Breckenridge/keystone/A-basin 2 years ago for 5 days at the beginning of November(around the 4th) and there were a few decent runs open, about 4 runs at each. I am guessing there would be twice as much open?

 

I suppose my question really is which location brecken/whistler/banff do you think would have the most runs open at that time of year? Or would you suggest somewhere completely different?

 

Kind regards,

 

CP


Edited by Cornishpatriot - 9/23/15 at 4:06am
post #2 of 42
One great resource is here: http://bestsnow.net Go to the region or resort, look for the charts with Best Time to Ski.

Also, I am adding tags (in desktop mode, look to the right hand side of the page) because this topic has been covered a lot (early season skiing). Essentially, early season is a crap shoot, best guess is to buy air tickets to a place that has lots of choices, i.e., Denver or Salt Lake, then be ready to pick the actual resort based on data closer to your arrival. The weeks you are going should still have plenty of accommodations available.
post #3 of 42
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post #4 of 42

I'd shoot for Breck of the 3 on the basis that it is highest, Colorado doesn't look particularly sensitive to the forecast El Nino and in any event has snowmaking that will have ensured decent coverage for Thanksgiving.

 

 I've been to Whistler around that time and it's a bit of  a crapshoot even in a good natural snow year you can be skiing rocks and stumps still on any decent terrain.

post #5 of 42

A place with snow making and a good amount of low angle intermediate runs has the best chance of having the most runs open. Lake Louise might qualify and it has one of the highest base elevations in Canada but not so high as to have any altitude acclimatization needed, something that is required for Breckenridge for most people.

 

Sun Peaks should also get some consideration as they have low angle runs, some snow making and 25+ years of summer grooming, picking rocks, pulling stumps, cutting weeds and planting grass. SP once had a tough start to the year and had 100 runs open with skiing on about 18" of compacted snow.

post #6 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cornishpatriot View Post
 

Hi Guys,

 

It's my first post! I use the website a lot for research but actually didn't realise there was a forum.

 

Anyway I have a question.

 

Which resort would you go skiing to over the week 6-13th December? Dates cannot be changed.

 

We are British and ski blue-red-black in Europe.

 

We did actually go to Breckenridge/keystone/A-basin 2 years ago for 5 days at the beginning of November(around the 4th) and there were a few decent runs open, about 4 runs at each. I am guessing there would be twice as much open?

 

I suppose my question really is which location brecken/whistler/banff do you think would have the most runs open at that time of year? Or would you suggest somewhere completely different?

 

Kind regards,

 

CP

Welcome to EpicSki!  One big difference between early Nov and early Dec is that Thanksgiving in late Nov is a major U.S. holiday.  That means ski resorts with the snowmaking capability and especially those at high elevation like Breck and A-Basin work very hard starting early Nov to get the slopes ready to open for 7-day operations before Thanksgiving weekend.  I think if you fly to Colorado, you'll find fun on the slopes not only at Breck and A-Basin, but Loveland and a few other places as well depending on natural snowfall.

 

This video from late Dec 2011 gives some idea of how much snowmaking coverage Breck has for opening trails in early season.  My guess is that they have continued to add snowmaking capability in recent years.

 

post #7 of 42

I agree with Sibhusky on flying to either Denver or Salt Lake City (where there are many ski resorts close to each of those airport) and determining closer to the actual trip where to book the actual resort.  Jackson Hole out of SLC and Aspen/Snowmass out of Denver are possibilities if the conditions warrant it, if you don't mind driving 4 hours.  There is a non-stop flight on BA from London to Denver but SLC requires a layover at another airport so this may tip the favor to Denver.

 

In order to provide a more tailored opinion, here are a few additional questions for OP:

- how important is the après ski?

- do you need ski-in/out & stay in one resort the entire week?  Or do you prefer to drive to a couple of different resorts?

- do you want 4 & 5 star experience & snow grooming or do you just want lots of snow?

post #8 of 42

I'd book the direct to Denver and then wait till the last minute,  to choose a final destination.

 

Early season on the front range, especially Breck, Keystone, Vail and A basin.  The snow can get hammered by all the Epic passers,  on the limited terrain.

 

Aspen doesn't get the skier traffic, like the front range and Aspen Mountain's is very aggressive getting terrain open early. 

As soon the World Cup Race is over and they've pulled the fencing and picked up the hoses.  They'll open, if they have a 20" base.

Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk open December 12 and Snowmass will always open a bunch more terrain.

Aspen's also really nice before the Christmas rush, stores are fully stocked.   Everyone is happy the seasons started and all the restaurants are gearing up, offering specials to get people to spend money.

 

Steamboat often has good early season conditions and it's also a really nice town.

 

It's a bit far from Denver, but Telluride also really nice and could benefit from El Nino.

post #9 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by marznc View Post
 
 

 

This video from late Dec 2011 gives some idea of how much snowmaking coverage Breck has for opening trails in early season.  My guess is that they have continued to add snowmaking capability in recent years.

 

Five new fan guns showed up two weeks ago. Upgraded snowmaking was a stated goal for this year.

 

As for getting crushed by the Front Rangers...if there is little natural snow then it will be fairly crowded on the man made, but if we have decent natural then you will see nothing resembling crowds that week. We'll be spread all over the mountain.

post #10 of 42

Denver or Vail Airport .... and then head to whatever resort has the most open runs / snow ...... Hotels and condo's are wide open that time of year...

 

BTW - I just booked my flights for Dec 17-24 ... And that's my plan ...

 

Good luck,,, enjoy

post #11 of 42
Whistler should be the bees knees by then...Breck is going to be slammed except maybe mid-week. And Banff should have bonkers amounts of snow by then. From a Colorado native, don't pass up on Canada. Especially, if you've been to Breck before...
post #12 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by triplenet View Post
 

Denver or Vail Airport .... and then head to whatever resort has the most open runs / snow ...... Hotels and condo's are wide open that time of year...

 

BTW - I just booked my flights for Dec 17-24 ... And that's my plan ...

 

Good luck,,, enjoy

 

 

EGE's a good plan, taking the direct from MIA.

But I don't think I'd pay much extra to take the commuter up from DEN.

 

I flew the ASE direct to ORD yesterday and it's amazing how close EGE and ASE are,  as the crow flies.   But it's a 70 minute drive because of the canyon, Glenwood and  Hwy 82.

post #13 of 42
I'd suggest Breckenridge. Usually some of the high alpine terrain is open by December 9. That early crowding will not as much of an issue although weekends will be a bit more of an issue.

While Aspen is a great choice, Breck is almost certain to have more terrain open early.

Mike
post #14 of 42

I would assume that the question is partially motivated by which airports serving ski country have direct flights from the UK

post #15 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by SHREDHEAD View Post
 

 

 

EGE's a good plan, taking the direct from MIA.

 

Yep... Love the direct from Miami... Take it every year...

 

It a bit expensive at $625 but its a great flight ... 

 

we don't book hotels until we see conditions and usually the day before we leave ... 

 

Aspen, Steamboat, Vail, Beav ,,,,, all close to EGE 

post #16 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by habacomike View Post

I'd suggest Breckenridge. Usually some of the high alpine terrain is open by December 9. That early crowding will not as much of an issue although weekends will be a bit more of an issue.

While Aspen is a great choice, Breck is almost certain to have more terrain open early.

Mike


IF they have terrain open.  Both 2012 & 2013 had tons of Vail private lessons, skiing Aspen early season,  because of conditions.

Last year was good on the front range and it wasn't as apparent.

 

 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by SHREDHEAD View Post
 

 

I flew the ASE direct to ORD yesterday and it's amazing how close EGE and ASE are,  as the crow flies.   But it's a 70 minute drive because of the canyon, Glenwood and  Hwy 82.

 

I just checked.    Aspen's actually closer to Vail's airport than Vail!

post #17 of 42

EGE to Vail is 38 miles 

 

EGE to Aspen is 86 miles..... 

 

DEN to Vail is 128 miles 

post #18 of 42
ASE 29.1 as the crow flies.
post #19 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by SHREDHEAD View Post

ASE 29.1 as the crow flies.

 

So ASE is closer to EGE than Vail is to EGE. But Vail is closer (barely, I think) to EGE than Aspen is.

 

The bigger point is that depending on the mountain passes open, and given where the roads run, it can be a LOT further to drive someplace in CO than to fly. 

 

There was a "driving from Aspen to Crested Butte" discussion in another thread somewhere... it's only like 25 miles between them by air (or BC hiking and skiing). But it's a 4.5 hour drive because of the roads/passes you have to take in the winter.

post #20 of 42
I'm an Aspen fan boy. I'm moving from Breckenridge to Aspen. Even so, Breck is a better bet for early season terrain than Aspen. It is higher, and management opens the high alpine terrain ASAP as opposed to other places in Colorado like Copper

For the dates that the OP mentioned, they are better off betting on Breck at this point in the game. Might things wind up differently? Sure, but the odds favor Breck.

Of course, given the early date, they could fly to Denver and choose the area with the best conditions. However, I suspect a 5 hour transit to Aspen after a 10 hour flight plus hour and a half clearing of customs will result in selection of someplace closer to Denver.

Mike
post #21 of 42


It is a bit of a toss up at that time of year. 

 

Staying in Banff gives you the option of Lake Louise, Sunshine, Norquay as well as Kickinghorse and Panorama if you are OK to drive a ways.

I am a Lake Louise skier and will say two things about that.  1) conditions at that time of year can vary significantly from year to year. 2) the men`s and ladies world cup races are the week before you are going so that part of the hill be heavily injected frozen mess.  `Thankfully that is only a small part of the hill.  Usually a lot of terrain but unlikely the back chutes(double blacks) will be open.

Sunshine at that time of year will have beginner and intermediate terrain open but it is unlikely Goats eye will be open where they have more advanced terrain.  Norquay is a small hill with most of it`s beginner and intermediate terrain open then.  They do have some phenomenal advanced terrain when the snow is good including some of the best advanced mogul runs but these are pretty sketchy if even open at this time of year.

Panorama has some decent terrain open at this time of year but not the Taynton bowl (the old heli skiing area). But it is about 1 1/2 hour drive.  Are you renting a car.

Kicking horse has some of the steepest and deepest stuff around but again about 1.25 hour drive.  Conditions that time of year can be mixed - awesome powder or manmade ice.

 

Because of the geographical spread usually one will be good and you can go to the one that  has the best snow.

 

Early season Whistler can be good or horrible - often very wet snow at that time of year.  If it is poor you have little in the way of alternatives.

 

I am not familiar with Colorado but it is higher elevation than the Banff area and gives you the option of resorts to `shop` for the best snow sort of like Banff.

 

To increase the likely hood of good snow I would pick Banff or Breck.

 

The Cdn dollar has taken a beating lately so if budget is a concern you may get better value in Banff. 

post #22 of 42
Thread Starter 

Hey guys, firstly thank you for all the help and advice.

 

This is the situation at the moment. (I am in charge of organizing and my biggest fear is going somewhere without snow! lol)

 

Banff from the sound of it sounds like a lot of driving but we would drive own car so not to big an issue. My wife's parents who we are going with are the type of people who want to be first on last off ski people. So that means we are not bothered about Apres ski, just some nice places where to eat.

 

We are decent skiers so as long as there are some good intermediates we are not to fussed about blacks. We kind of enjoy long trails more.

 

Breckenridge is a slight problem because all flights to and from Denver to UK are connecting flights, not ideal, Also it seems to be more expensive than the other places are the moment, but there are so many different options, breck, a basin, Vail, etc.

 

Whistler flights are direct but the big put off point is the late opening time, 26th Nov. will there be many runs open  come the 6th December? For me I would love to try this place as loads of people say Vancouver is a beautiful city and I have this image in my head that because of the winter Olympics there must have been plenty of new machines to make man made snow.

 

The biggest fear is we go somewhere and there are either minimal runs or no runs at all.

 

Is there a site that tells me on average how many runs are open at that time of year?

 

I think what I am really trying to ask is which resort will have the most runs open?

 

I can hold off booking stuff until end of October but deals for Banff end 2nd nov and then whistler/brecken mid November.

 

 

 

Thanks people.

post #23 of 42

BA fly direct LHR- DEN.  I'd still shoot for that on the basis that I'd likely get access to lots of runs across Breck, Keystone & A Basin (+ Copper if you're prepared to double up on lift tix loyalty) + maybe Vail for some more variety.  Whistler might be epic but calling before November feels like a hail mary while any "normal" expectation would be for Summit to be "fair +" conditions +. 

 

Nowhere will have nothing open because to the importance of US Thanksgiving market but I'd rather hedge toward best chance of some natural snow.

post #24 of 42
Maybe nowhere in Colorado, but WE don't open for Thanksgiving because after years of doing it, the extra expense of making snow to produce crap conditions didn't produce the income to justify it. So, we might be open on Dec 4, but if nature isn't having any of it, it'll be Dec 11th. So "nowhere" is actually a huge over-statement.

Look at assume of these projected openings:




How many are planning for Thanksgiving?
post #25 of 42
Quote:
 

 

The biggest fear is we go somewhere and there are either minimal runs or no runs at all.

 

Is there a site that tells me on average how many runs are open at that time of year?

 

I think what I am really trying to ask is which resort will have the most runs open?

 

I can hold off booking stuff until end of October but deals for Banff end 2nd nov and then whistler/brecken mid November.

 

 

 

 

 

This should help: http://www.skinet.com/ski/resorts/2000/02/top-18-early-season-resorts

 

If I were flying across the ocean for an early season trip I'd keep my expectations low and pick someplace that had other things to do in case conditions were bad. Make it more of a vacation with some skiing, hopefully good skiing, would be involved. 

 

You said you were put off by Whistler's late opening. It's not indicative of early season snow, which often blows away most other places in North America. Whistler is huge and snowmaking is not that extensive compared to areas in the Rockies (like Colorado) which generally get much less natural snow than Whistler, but have the cold temps to support extensive snowmaking. When Whistler doesn't have a lot of snow, it's usually because the temperatures haven't been cold enough, not because of lack of precipitation. We have gone to Whistler for American Thanksgiving (end of November) for some years now, and it's generally been very good for that time of year, but last year was abysmal and the year before was just okay. You just never know. We've also done many early December trips (we are 4 hours away) and have had great conditions, but again, that doesn't mean you will. In Colorado you know there will be runs open because of snowmaking, so that's really the safer bet. We go to Sun Valley before Christmas every year and they get very little natural snow, but we know that they will have made snow and the open runs will be in very good shape (they are famous for taking care of their runs). It's a wonderful place to be around Xmas and there is plenty to do besides skiing. For us it's a good trade off--we just expect to stick to groomers and are pleasantly surprised if there is good natural snow. I guess this is a very long winded way of saying, do you want to take your chances that Whistler will be very good for that time of year, as it generally has been, or do you want to go where you know snowmaking will at least provide some runs? (I've left Banff out of this as I've never skied there). With Whistler, there is other stuff to do and there is Vancouver down the road, so if the skiing is bad I don't think you'll have a bad holiday.


Edited by Christy319 - 10/13/15 at 9:11am
post #26 of 42

Whistler almost always opens before the official opening date, even last year which was not a great one. The snowmaking is one of the most extensive in N.A. (courtesy of the Olympics) so as long as the temperatures get cold enough to make snow there can be a lot of skiing at that time.

post #27 of 42

Banff is truly one of the most beautiful places in the world.  It is also about 1:30 from the airport, so it is closer than breckenridge or whistler to the airport.  

 

Summit County has some of the most extensive snowmaking.  You have Breckenridge, Copper, Keystone, and A-Basin all with 15-20 miles of one another.  It is a short jump over Vail Pass to Vail.

 

I'm not sure what is causing the expense.  That early, lodging should be cheap.  If you are getting quoted high prices, you could always stay in Frisco and play the snow conditions between Breck/Keystone and Copper/Vail.

 

If the expense is lift tickets, realize that you have a couple of options.  One is to buy the Epic Local pass.  It allows unlimited skiing at Breck, Keystone, A Basin, Vail, and Beaver Creek and will probably be less expensive than 5-6 days of lift tickets.  Another is to focus on Copper, Loveland, and A-Basin.  You should be able to buy 4-pack passes for less than $200/head.

 

Mike

post #28 of 42

For the OP's original question, the answer based upon past statistics overwhelmingly favors Whistler over Breck or Banff. 

 

But the correct answer is that Dec. 6-13 is way too early to count on snow anywhere.  Therefore you should fly to Salt Lake City and rent a car but not book lodging anywhere.  It's the dead zone of the vacation business and you will be able to score last minute cheap lodging wherever you go. The Cottonwood Canyons of Utah are about as likely as Whistler to have good snow that early, but you're also 5 hours from Grand Targhee, which may have even a bit better odds. And you're a day's drive from Tahoe and many places in Colorado.  The point is you don't know where the best snow will be but Salt Lake, in addition to being a good choice in its own right, gives you many more last minute options.

 

People who like to lock in their resort choice and lodging far in advance should NEVER schedule ski vacations Dec. 6-13.

post #29 of 42

^^^ THIS.  Exactly.  Alta is very high, gets lots of snow almost every year, and is stunningly beautiful.  And Snowbird is attached, and it has some of the most playful skiing in N. America.

 

But golly Banff/Lake Louise looks gorgeous too...but I've never been there.  After that I'd look at Aspen, where even if the snow is weak the scenery is...well, that's why it's the priciest land in the U.S.   

post #30 of 42

Erm SLC is also relatively a PITA to get to from the UK compared to direct flights into Vancouver, Calgary & Denver.  This isn't a question from a domestic tourist with an open book on flights  Having a few hours layover in Minneapolis or Atlanta or Dallas or Chicago is a real hole in the head after a transatlantic flight and in the context of a week's vacation is a pretty big time suck.

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