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Jackson Hole and Big Sky or Alta?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

Hi all!  I'm looking for some insight for a last-minute ski trip my husband and I are planning just after Christmas.  We should have 7, maybe 8 ski days.  We are in love with France and were originally planning to go back to the French Alps to ski the 3 Vallees, but given the current world situation, our families are making a big deal about traveling abroad.  So, enter Jackson Hole.  Neither of has skied here, and there's a certain allure about it, but we can't decide whether to stay only in JH or whether to venture out to Big Sky or Alta (or another Utah resort).  We've only skied Tahoe and Denver area in the West, so all of these would be new destinations for us.  We are both advanced skiers and really love tree skiing and of course, powder.  We will have a rental car.

 

I've heard mixed information about how easy (or not) it is to drive between JH and Big Sky.  It sounds like driving from JH to Alta might be more doable, albeit a bit longer.  Any thoughts on what we should do?  Any favorites out of these resorts?  Also, feel free to share if you think we should bag JH altogether and go to another resort.

 

We are thinking about taking a day off and doing a tour of Yellowstone.  Have any of you done that from JH?  It's hard to tell whether that's easier done from Big Sky or JH.

 

Also, we're trying to determine whether we need to rent skis.  I ski on the Blizzard Viva 8.1 IQ Max, which are 121.81.106.  My husband's Volkls are slightly wider underfoot.  I would think we should be fine unless there's a big storm.  Thoughts?

 

THANKS IN ADVANCE!!!

post #2 of 19
Personally, I'd want something wider underfoot for off piste, but then I'm lazy. Certainly people would have thought those were wide enough fifteen years ago.
post #3 of 19

Alta is a lot safer than Big Sky in that time frame as Alta gets about twice as much snow.  If you have have either liftline or coverage issues at Jackson, don't forget Targhee, the most reliable mountain in North America at Christmas with surprisingly low crowds.

 

Yellowstone tours can be done from either JH (Flagg Ranch) or Big Sky (West Yellowstone).  I preferred West Yellowstone, but that doesn't override the snow consideration above.

post #4 of 19

I've toured Yellowstone from West Yellowstone, which is a better entrance than the south end (Flagg Ranch).  You don't spend so much time getting to the good stuff since it's more of a central location.  Far more tour operators running out of there, so you can find the tour that interests you the most.  Everything from riding snowmobiles to plush snowcoaches.  One tip if you do the individual snowmobile tour - use their equipment (gloves, helmets, boots, coveralls) instead of your ski clothing.  They know what works best, since it will be extremely cold.

 

Driving to Big Sky from JH is not that hard, just a bit time consuming.  The Tetonia-Driggs section isn't very well marked, and can be pretty bleak in a storm or in the dark.  You have to drive past an excellent resort in Grand Targhee, which is worth a day at least.  You mention loving powder, so that is your best bet for it by far.  It's only an hour away from Jackson, so you don't even need to change hotels if you want.

 

I don't see the reason to go from Alta to JH, unless that's on your bucket list.  Plenty of other ski areas in Salt Lake City area rather than drive 5 hours to JH or 7 to Big Sky.

 

Skis should be fine.

post #5 of 19

Both Jackson Hole and Alta are great ski mountains.  Jackson Hole is big, steep, and has great expert terrain everywhere.  It also has the best side and backcountry skiing in the country.  The town of Jackson has an authentic upscale Western motif and has a touristy kitsch which visitors enjoy. Some of the most beautiful and rugged country scenery you will find anywhere.

 

Alta has nice intermediate groomers with excellent advanced terrain off of traverses.  Alta is also connected to Snowbird which has expert terrain equivalent to Jackson Hole.  There is no real town at Alta but if you stay at one of the 5 lodges at the base, the ambience and convenience is nothing short of excellent.  It is equivalent to staying at a European ski resort chalet with breakfast and dinner included with a great level of intimacy and comfort.  The town of Park City is an hour away which is an upscale, authentic old mining town with some of the best ski town restaurants and shops that you'll find anywhere in the country.  

 

Moreover, the SLC airport is only 45 minutes from Alta and is very convenient.  Clearly, flying into a large city like SLC means that you lose the remote, Western feel of flying into Jackson but you gain alot of convenience.

 

You really cannot go wrong with either destination and both should be on your ski bucket list.

 

For myself, here is why I prefer Alta over Jackson Hole

1.  Alta + Snowbird is twice the ski acreage than Jackson Hole

2.  It is much more convenient for me to fly into Salt Lake than Jackson

3.  I love the chalet-style Alta lodging

4.  Snow frequency and preservation is better at Alta over Jackson

 

You could do both over 8 days since Alta is 4 hours away from Jackson Hole but it is not a drive I would do if the weather is very inclement.

post #6 of 19
Quote:
just after Christmas.....

As usual this is another consideration, as it's the most congested and expensive time to ski. Since I don't see school vacations mentioned by the OP, the first suggestion is to wait a week or two into January for a better value ski experience.  I heartily endorse Jackson Hole if you can do that.

 

If you really are stuck with that week, I agree with Marathoner above.

1) Salt Lake is a more competitive airport to book flights on short notice than a resort airport like Jackson, or Bozeman for Big Sky.

2) Lodging in Salt Lake City will be much less subject to jacked up holiday pricing than in a resort.

3) Jackson's lift system is not all that efficient and can have some big lift lines during peak holidays.

4) From Salt Lake you have multiple resorts to escape crowds if necessary.  If there's enough snow, Solitude, Powder Mt. and Snowbasin are almost crowd-proof.


Edited by Tony Crocker - 11/26/15 at 10:57am
post #7 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skichamonix View Post

Hi all!  I'm looking for some insight for a last-minute ski trip my husband and I are planning just after Christmas.  We should have 7, maybe 8 ski days.  We are in love with France and were originally planning to go back to the French Alps to ski the 3 Vallees, but given the current world situation, our families are making a big deal about traveling abroad.  So, enter Jackson Hole.  Neither of has skied here, and there's a certain allure about it, but we can't decide whether to stay only in JH or whether to venture out to Big Sky or Alta (or another Utah resort).  We've only skied Tahoe and Denver area in the West, so all of these would be new destinations for us.  We are both advanced skiers and really love tree skiing and of course, powder.  We will have a rental car.

I've heard mixed information about how easy (or not) it is to drive between JH and Big Sky.  It sounds like driving from JH to Alta might be more doable, albeit a bit longer.  Any thoughts on what we should do?  Any favorites out of these resorts?  Also, feel free to share if you think we should bag JH altogether and go to another resort.

We are thinking about taking a day off and doing a tour of Yellowstone.  Have any of you done that from JH?  It's hard to tell whether that's easier done from Big Sky or JH.

Also, we're trying to determine whether we need to rent skis.  I ski on the Blizzard Viva 8.1 IQ Max, which are 121.81.106.  My husband's Volkls are slightly wider underfoot.  I would think we should be fine unless there's a big storm.  Thoughts?

THANKS IN ADVANCE!!!
It's totally doable but you would need to monitor/adapt to the weather as needed. I don't recommend hopping between resorts during peak times because you would need advance hotel reservations--unexpected snow storms can throw a wrench on your itinerary.

My wife and I booked hotels as we were traveling...on our UT/WY/MT road trip a couple of years ago. We went from Alta to JH, from JH to BS, and several other places afterwards. We skied during the day and drove at night when possible. For example, we left JH early to ski at Grand Targhee on the way to BS, etc.

Of the three, JH is my personal favorite. It offers a nice terrain variety in addition to some truly fantastic long constant grade blue+ groomer runs. Although it was good, two days of skiing at BS ultimately was a check-the-box experience for me. Alta isn't much without a lot of snow--it does get a lot of snow.
post #8 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skichamonix View Post
 

Hi all!  I'm looking for some insight for a last-minute ski trip my husband and I are planning just after Christmas.  We should have 7, maybe 8 ski days.  We are in love with France and were originally planning to go back to the French Alps to ski the 3 Vallees, but given the current world situation, our families are making a big deal about traveling abroad.  So, enter Jackson Hole.  Neither of has skied here, and there's a certain allure about it, but we can't decide whether to stay only in JH or whether to venture out to Big Sky or Alta (or another Utah resort).  We've only skied Tahoe and Denver area in the West, so all of these would be new destinations for us.  We are both advanced skiers and really love tree skiing and of course, powder.  We will have a rental car.

 

I've heard mixed information about how easy (or not) it is to drive between JH and Big Sky.  It sounds like driving from JH to Alta might be more doable, albeit a bit longer.  Any thoughts on what we should do?  Any favorites out of these resorts?  Also, feel free to share if you think we should bag JH altogether and go to another resort.

 

We are thinking about taking a day off and doing a tour of Yellowstone.  Have any of you done that from JH?  It's hard to tell whether that's easier done from Big Sky or JH.

 

Also, we're trying to determine whether we need to rent skis.  I ski on the Blizzard Viva 8.1 IQ Max, which are 121.81.106.  My husband's Volkls are slightly wider underfoot.  I would think we should be fine unless there's a big storm.  Thoughts?

 

THANKS IN ADVANCE!!!


The only advantage of going to Big Sky after Christmas is to avoid lift lines.  It's a full day's drive from SLC but not difficult assuming not driving through a blowing snowstorm.  Very easy to visit Yellowstone from Big Sky, maybe about an hour's drive to the West Yellowstone entrance.  Or can join a day trip from Big Sky that includes bus transportation.  Once up at Big Sky, worth consider a day or two at Bridger.  But I don't know how crowded Bridger gets during the holidays.  A mixed bag since the university students are more likely to be gone but locals are on vacation.

 

I would suggest taking the skis.  Can always rent for a day or two if you get lucky on weather.

 

During a holiday period, after flying to SLC don't see much reason to drive to JH.  If Alta/Snowbird is feeling too crowded than can easily check out Snowbasin or Powder Mountain for a day trip from SLC or Park City.  Flying to JH and driving to Alta makes no sense at all.

post #9 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thank you all so much for the input!  After careful consideration, we've decided to stick to Jackson Hole with a day or two at Grand Targhee.  Let's hope for some snow!

post #10 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skichamonix View Post
 

Thank you all so much for the input!  After careful consideration, we've decided to stick to Jackson Hole with a day or two at Grand Targhee.  Let's hope for some snow!


If you haven't already, check out the EpicSki Unofficial Guide for JH by @Bob Peters .

 

http://www.epicski.com/a/jackson-hole-mountain-resort-an-unofficial-guide-to-skiing-jackson-hole

 

Chances are that if you create a thread with your dates closer to the trip, someone else will be at JH/GT too.

post #11 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skichamonix View Post
 

Thank you all so much for the input!  After careful consideration, we've decided to stick to Jackson Hole with a day or two at Grand Targhee.  Let's hope for some snow!

good choice... I love Alta and Snowbird, but JH is unbeatable! The city is cool, has a good vibe. if you can afford to stay in the village it's a great experience with good food and great ski in/out accommodation!

post #12 of 19
Thread Starter 

MarzNC -  Thanks so much for the suggestion!  I'll definitely take a look at it and create a thread closer to the trip.  We are SO excited!!

 

mfa81 - We are staying in Jackson as opposed to Teton Village.  Because we did this so last-minute, there weren't any decent rooms left for less than $400 in Teton Village.  We cannot wait!!w

post #13 of 19

Jackson is a fun town.  Hope you'll take a few pics for a Trip Report. <hint, hint>

 

I added a tag for JH under Topics Discussed (right hand column).  Can scroll down to the bottom of the JH Resort Page to find a list of related threads.  Might find a few with useful info if you look around.

post #14 of 19

Thanks for the update.  We often get people who start a thread like this who never let us know what they've decided.  I'll be at Grand Targhee for a week (Dec 14-18) so I'll probably miss you unless I come up for a day at Jackson after Christmas.  I don't head up until the tram opens, however.

post #15 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skichamonix View Post

Thank you all so much for the input!  After careful consideration, we've decided to stick to Jackson Hole with a day or two at Grand Targhee.  Let's hope for some snow!
JH is a fantastic choice. GT gets a lot of snow and got good terrains but nothing spectacular about it. A day trip out there on a busy JH day will probably do.

EDIT: no offense or disrespect to GT or GT lovers...I was relatively speaking of course. That is, I have great mountains in CA so wouldn't make efforts/long travels just to ski at GT. If GT was nearby, I'd ski there everyday... smile.gif
Edited by nochaser - 12/3/15 at 9:21am
post #16 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by nochaser View Post


JH is a fantastic choice. GT gets a lot of snow and got good terrains but nothing spectacular about it. A day trip out there on a busy JH day will probably do.

 

Thanks for the input!!  I think we're going to do a day of cat skiing at GT, which should be a blast.  I'm just hoping there's enough snow by the time our trip rolls around, but perhaps I'm worrying for nothing.  :-)

post #17 of 19
Staying in Jackson is fun! U get to walk to the restaurants and bars. And surprisingly cheap in the winter. If Jackson Hole has bad snow, go to GT for sure. It's way smaller, but often great snow quality. Like the snow quality difference can be night and day vs Jackson hole. And some great views there. Most people enjoy GT much more than they think they will
post #18 of 19
Grand Targhee is powder heaven this week. Jackson is probably rolling into shape too, with several inches of snow every day.
post #19 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skichamonix View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by nochaser View Post


JH is a fantastic choice. GT gets a lot of snow and got good terrains but nothing spectacular about it. A day trip out there on a busy JH day will probably do.

 

Thanks for the input!!  I think we're going to do a day of cat skiing at GT, which should be a blast.  I'm just hoping there's enough snow by the time our trip rolls around, but perhaps I'm worrying for nothing.  :-)

By the way, there is now an on-going meetup thread for JH/GT, which also includes comments from locals about current conditions.

 

http://www.epicski.com/t/144126/2015-2016-jackson-hole-grand-targhee-meetup-thread

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