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Alta/Snowbird vs. Squaw or Kirkwood

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
Hi all, am new to the community. I am a 59yo 49yo woman who just started skiing 2 years ago. Was HOOKED from the very first lesson. I normally ski the sierras/Tahoe but my husband has business in Utah in Dec and I'd like to try Snowbird or Alta as he will be nearby. However, after reading the reviews, especially about the Bird, I am quite intimidated to try there. My question is, does anyone know how Alta compares terrain-wise with squaw valley or Kirkwood? I regard both as the most challenging in Tahoe region and am wondering if anyone is familar with them and with Alta or Snowbird. I am a cautious intermediate and have 74mm Volkls that I guess I should leave behind when visiting Utah's powder? If anyone has any advice (besides staying out of the way) I would really appreciate it.

Mod note: fixed typo for age per later post
post #2 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by SierraLamb View Post

Hi all, am new to the community. I am a 59yo woman who just started skiing 2 years ago. Was HOOKED from the very first lesson. I normally ski the sierras/Tahoe but my husband has business in Utah in Dec and I'd like to try Snowbird or Alta as he will be nearby. However, after reading the reviews, especially about the Bird, I am quite intimidated to try there. My question is, does anyone know how Alta compares terrain-wise with squaw valley or Kirkwood? I regard both as the most challenging in Tahoe region and am wondering if anyone is familar with them and with Alta or Snowbird. I am a cautious intermediate and have 74mm Volkls that I guess I should leave behind when visiting Utah's powder? If anyone has any advice (besides staying out of the way) I would really appreciate it.


Welcome to EpicSki!  Are you skiing blues at Kirkwood and Squaw?  If so, you will have a great time at Alta.  I'm your age.  Was lucky enough to ski Alta as an intermediate long ago and loved it.  Still my favorite after becoming an advanced skier . . . after age 50 when I was retired and had more time for skiing.

 

You could bring your skis, but plan on renting if you are lucky enough to catch a storm.  I used to bring my Rossi skis that were 75 underfoot.  Would use them most of the time.  I was skiing mostly still skiing groomers when I had those skis.  Now my all-mountain skis are 88 underfoot.  For a 1-week ski trip to Utah, I end up renting perhaps 2-3 days.

 

Perhaps @Altanaut can give you a more direct comparison.  Pretty sure she has skied Squaw.  I've only skied at Squaw and Kirkwood one day each.  She's the EpicSki Ambassador for Alta and lives in SLC.  Check out her Unofficial Guide if you haven't already.

 

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

 

For other Unofficial Guides, look on the menu bar for the link.

post #3 of 25

Alta has a lot of pleasant intermediate terrain.  If you can ski the intermediate terrain off Caples Crest and Sunrise at Kirkwood or Gold Coast at Squaw you'll enjoy Alta.

post #4 of 25
Thread Starter 
Excellent, this is exactly what I was looking for. Gold Coast is my fave...am now looking forward to Alta. Thanks!
post #5 of 25

Even Snowbird has terrain that will please solid intermediates. I vaguely remember visiting the bird when I was only a few years into my skiing habit. I enjoyed it pretty well. 

 

The one thing I like about the bird as an intermediates is you can see the terrain you'll be skiing. So there's not too much worry about getting in over one's head. (until you start purposely search out those "secret" terrains, that is)

post #6 of 25
For a self described "cautious" 59 year old intermediate, I can't think of a worse place to ski than Snowbird. Alta, on the other hand is surprisingly inviting to intermediates.

Also, in Utah, for you I'd consider Solitude and Snowbasin. Solitude might just be perfect actually.
post #7 of 25

Snowbird is ridic for an intermediate...I think half the people that go there are ticking off a box on the ski to-do list.  Many better choices.  It's a great hill, don't get me wrong, but not for an intermediate.  IMHO..

post #8 of 25
Thread Starter 
Thanks everyone, got all the info I need. We'll be at Alta. And I didn't realize until just now that my original description had a typo -- I'm 49 not 59. Yikes, didn't mean to age myself a decade...
post #9 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by SierraLamb View Post

Thanks everyone, got all the info I need. We'll be at Alta. And I didn't realize until just now that my original description had a typo -- I'm 49 not 59. Yikes, didn't mean to age myself a decade...


Hey, age is just a number. :)  I'm 59 but skiing way better than I did at 49 because now I have the time and money for both fitness-related expenses and ski trips that include private lessons.

 

P.S. I'll fix Post #1 for you.

post #10 of 25

Can I make a recommendation? Honestly, Alta is almost just like Kirkwood--even down to the vibe. And Squaw is pretty much just like Snowbird-down again to the vibe.


And BOTH suck for the intermediate--just like Kirkwood does. Squaw sucks as well unless it's a BIG snow year and the groomers down to squaw creek are open, there is a couple of nice groomers cut into KT, solitude is open, etc. Honestly not much else there for groomers. Siberia blows as a groomed run, all the green stuff melds together, and shirley lake is so short it's a joke.

 

if you're going to utah--I'm going to recommend something silly.

 

1. if there's good snow, do yourself a favor and go to deer valley. For someone that's your age and skiing ability, it will be AWESOME. 

 

2. If you are opposed to fighting the Highway 80 traffic (there really isn't any though) and want to do the Cottonwood Canyons, do yourself a favor and go to Solitude. 

post #11 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jed Peters View Post
 

Can I make a recommendation? Honestly, Alta is almost just like Kirkwood--even down to the vibe. And Squaw is pretty much just like Snowbird-down again to the vibe.


And BOTH suck for the intermediate--just like Kirkwood does. Squaw sucks as well unless it's a BIG snow year and the groomers down to squaw creek are open, there is a couple of nice groomers cut into KT, solitude is open, etc. Honestly not much else there for groomers. Siberia blows as a groomed run, all the green stuff melds together, and shirley lake is so short it's a joke.

 

if you're going to utah--I'm going to recommend something silly.

 

1. if there's good snow, do yourself a favor and go to deer valley. For someone that's your age and skiing ability, it will be AWESOME. 

 

2. If you are opposed to fighting the Highway 80 traffic (there really isn't any though) and want to do the Cottonwood Canyons, do yourself a favor and go to Solitude. 


I would definitely agree with Jed that Snowbird sucks for intermediates.  I wouldn't say Alta SUCKS, exactly.  There's a fair bit of easIER terrain there than Snowbird and the snow should be good in December.

 

I would second the suggestions about Solitude and Snowbasin, although Snowbasin might be a little more iffy for snow cover that early in the season.

 

Solitude has some nice terrain you should be able to handle and it's typically not very crowded.  Snowbasin is a wonderful mountain for the skill level you're describing but the availability of the terrain you would want to ski is a little more dependent on natural snow or cold temps for artificial.

 

Anyway, welcome to EpicSki and I hope you're give us a report on wherever you end up going.

 

I would also second the Deer Valley idea if that fits with where your husband will be.  That mountain is right in your wheelhouse and they know how to provide a great customer experience.

post #12 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Peters View Post
 


I would definitely agree with Jed that Snowbird sucks for intermediates.  I wouldn't say Alta SUCKS, exactly.  There's a fair bit of easIER terrain there than Snowbird and the snow should be good in December.

 

 

I would also contend that Alta has the best beginner runs I've ever been on of any mountain in the west. There are some INCREDIBLE beginner/lower intermediate runs.

 

And Bob's right about Snowbasin, but I was thinking that it's lack of proximity to downtown salt lake (and  is probably it's downfall.

post #13 of 25

I wouldn't say that Kirkwood sucks for intermediate skiers either.  Haven't been since the '80s but I doubt they closed their intermediate terrain and they seemed to have a good amount of it back then.

post #14 of 25

Kirkwood is just like Alta, except there are fewer beards and prettier girls. :D

post #15 of 25

Snowbasin is an outstanding fit for you terrain-wise but December is on the early side because it only gets ~2/3 the snow of Alta/Snowbird.  Presumably you will have a car and can decide where to ski last minute. Be sure to hit the Salt Lake ski shop each day for discount tickets. 

Quote:

 

The one thing I like about the bird as an intermediates is you can see the terrain you'll be skiing.

This is true at Snowbasin also, but a vastly higher proportion of what you see will be in your comfort zone.

 

You will enjoy Alta, but if the season gets an above average start (check to see if Strawberry at Snowbasin is running), then you should check out Snowbasin.

 

Solitude falls in between Alta and Snowbasin in terms of early season coverage.  You want the high speed Eagle quad to be running with most of its trails open if you go there.

Quote:
I would also second the Deer Valley idea if that fits with where your husband will be.  That mountain is right in your wheelhouse and they know how to provide a great customer experience.

This may be but in December you're going to be skiing mostly manmade snow there, and that's not why most people come to Utah.   It will take at least as strong a start for Deer Valley to be a good December choice as Snowbasin.  

 

You didn't say how many days you will have, hopefully more than one to try both and Alta and Solitude in a normal December.

post #16 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by SierraLamb View Post

Thanks everyone, got all the info I need. We'll be at Alta. And I didn't realize until just now that my original description had a typo -- I'm 49 not 59. Yikes, didn't mean to age myself a decade...

Stick to this plan there are two major lifts. I suggest sugarloaf and then collins these are long cruiser runs with offshoots to other runs at alta that you can handle and they are always groomed. As for snowbird if you are low intermediate head over to gadzoom or take the tram to top and do road to provo the trouble with snowbird is there so called long blue runs might as well be cattracks so when crowded its tough

Oh and i buy my tickets ahead of time on the liftopia website
post #17 of 25
Thread Starter 
When I posed the question I did not expect so many responses. I've been skiing the sierras, my 14yo nephew and I love Kirkwood but I hate the drive. When there's enough snow I prefer Squaw and even Sierra-at-Tahoe as it's easy to get to. I don't have a ski "checklist" so have crossed Snowbird off the list. We will definitely check out Alta as my husband's business will take him to Lehi (sp?).

Thanks all, especially marznc, for all the detailed info. Cheers!
post #18 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hoben02 View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SierraLamb View Post

Thanks everyone, got all the info I need. We'll be at Alta. And I didn't realize until just now that my original description had a typo -- I'm 49 not 59. Yikes, didn't mean to age myself a decade...

Stick to this plan there are two major lifts. I suggest sugarloaf and then collins these are long cruiser runs with offshoots to other runs at alta that you can handle and they are always groomed. As for snowbird if you are low intermediate head over to gadzoom or take the tram to top and do road to provo the trouble with snowbird is there so called long blue runs might as well be cattracks so when crowded its tough

Oh and i buy my tickets ahead of time on the liftopia website


@Hoben02 : have you ever gone over to the Supreme lift?  I knew a guy from the southeast who was essentially a terminal intermediate who would happily spend the entire day on the groomers over there.  Really the place to be when the wind is blowing hard at the top of Sugarloaf or Collins, or there is low visibility on that side.  Also a great area for a mixed-ability group because advanced/experts can easily go exploring the steep stuff and tight trees, and then meet up at the base of the lift with intermediates who want to cruise a groomer.

post #19 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by SierraLamb View Post

When I posed the question I did not expect so many responses. I've been skiing the sierras, my 14yo nephew and I love Kirkwood but I hate the drive. When there's enough snow I prefer Squaw and even Sierra-at-Tahoe as it's easy to get to. I don't have a ski "checklist" so have crossed Snowbird off the list. We will definitely check out Alta as my husband's business will take him to Lehi (sp?).

Thanks all, especially marznc, for all the detailed info. Cheers!


Have fun!  Hope you'll stop back by with a little trip report afterwards.

post #20 of 25
Alta is good for beginners/intermediates. And Alta rules. Snowbird is not good for those same skiers.
post #21 of 25

People, shouldn't we be realistic here?  If she is used to skiing Squaw and Kirkwood, she will do just fine a both Alta and Snowbird.  Its not that she is coming from a small hill in Virginia or Midwest.  Yes, the usual rules apply, black diamond means an expert run and if you don't see where you are going, don't go, but that's about it, and she is used to that sort of scale at Squaw and Kirkwood anyway.  The snow in Utah is noticeably better which makes it somewhat easier.  

post #22 of 25

I wouldn't worry about changing skis for your trip.  Even if it snows, if you stay on the blue runs they will be either groomed or the powder skied out very quickly.  And powder is only a concern if if it has snowed in the past 4-6 hrs.  It goes very, very quick!  Why add cost and complicate your life?  Why worry about getting used to a new pair of skis when you very likely will not need them.  Also, everyone used 74mm for decades and decades, why does everyone think you need a wide ski for fresh snow. 

 

There are thousands of intermediates skiing Snowbird every single day.  Every single lift has marked intermediate trails. The problem arises if you don't know your way around.  On some of the routes there are twists and turns so you would really have to pay attention to signs and your map.(unless you are guided by someone familiar with the resort) .  Also, some of the routes require narrow cat tracks - which could be harrowing depending on our ability - to have other skiers whizzing by you while you are navigating down a 8 foot wide trail with a steep slope drop-off on one side.  But, If you are cautious and adventurous you could do it.  There is nothing in Utah like taking the tram to the top and choosing which of the 3 valleys you want to ski down.  The scenery is breathtaking!  But no doubt Alta and Snowbasin would be a better choice for an intermediate skiing alone, with Snowbasin preferred over Alta and worth the trip, but Alta definitely has more beautiful alpine scenery. 

post #23 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by marznc View Post
 


@Hoben02 : have you ever gone over to the Supreme lift?  I knew a guy from the southeast who was essentially a terminal intermediate who would happily spend the entire day on the groomers over there.  Really the place to be when the wind is blowing hard at the top of Sugarloaf or Collins, or there is low visibility on that side.  Also a great area for a mixed-ability group because advanced/experts can easily go exploring the steep stuff and tight trees, and then meet up at the base of the lift with intermediates who want to cruise a groomer.

Yeah that is the weird lift where you have to wait to get on a moving rubber belt that syncs with the chairlifts. yeah they are nice for short roller coaster rides on that side

post #24 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by SnowbirdDevotee View Post
 

There are thousands of intermediates skiing Snowbird every single day.  Every single lift has marked intermediate trails. The problem arises if you don't know your way around.  On some of the routes there are twists and turns so you would really have to pay attention to signs and your map. 

 

I completely agree.  I am an intermediate skier and I love Snowbird.  I had a blast in Mineral Basin, Little Cloud, Gad 2 and Peruvian Express terrain.  I stayed away from the Cirque, but found just about everything else right in my sweet spot.

post #25 of 25
Quote = SnowbirdDevotee:
There are thousands of intermediates skiing Snowbird every single day.  Every single lift has marked intermediate trails.

It depends upon the intermediate.  I've brought a few to my timeshare week and after a couple of days most of them would rather be somewhere else.  Nearly all of them like the intermediate trails at Alta better than at Snowbird.

 

And if they are staying down in Salt Lake and snow is comparable, Snowbasin is vastly superior to either Alta or Snowbird for intermediates.

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