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Planning for a trip out west with my sons - early Jan 2016

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 

I'm planning a trip out west with my sons, age 19 and 22.  They have only skied in the east.  By eastern standards they are expert skiers, choosing to ski bumps and trees over groomers.  They easily handle anything at Killington for example, including the Canyons, Bear Mountain and the associated glades.  Not a lot of experience with cliffs etc.  Tentative thought is to fly on a Sunday and return the following Saturday, skiing Monday - Friday.  It will likely be either the 1st or 2nd week in January.

 

I'm thinking of flying either to Denver or SLC, as they seem to be the most cost effective options and there are a lot of ski areas within a reasonable drive.  What I'm hoping for advice on is which area to head to, lodging advice, what areas to hit etc.  Some of my concerns - It seems like it would be a little better to have lodging below 8000 ft or so to avoid altitude problems for the short trip.  I'd like to have some challenging skiing - stuff that you don't see every day on the east coast (but doesn't kill us).  Where is the best snow likely to be give current trends?  It looks like Seattle and Crystal are near the epicenter of the current snow, but I'm not sure it's worth the extra time to get there, and there is really only the one resort that I am aware of in that immediate vicinity (the boys don't have passports). 

 

I'm sure that there are a lot of deals out there, but the liftopia deals seem a lot more attractive for the Utah areas than for Colorado.  Any thoughts on deals for just 5 days of skiing?

 

Finally - advice on skis?  It looks like it will cost an extra $200 pp to bring our own skis with the baggage fees.  I'm assuming that you can get high end rentals for less than the shipping costs.  We would likely bring our own boots/ helmets etc.  Any particularly great shops in either Denver or SLC to work with on this? 

 

I appreciate any advice!  Thanks -

 

John

post #2 of 25

Easy call. SLC. Cottonwood Canyons. Cheaper to stay in SLC, but that is  a relatively slow time of year and you might find some deals at Snowbird or Alta. If you stay there, i recommend sking both. If you stay in SLC, I would recommend both BCC and LCC areas. The boys should be able to find plenty of challenge at any of the areas. 

post #3 of 25

Are you close enough to Boston to fly Southwest?  No baggage fee for 1 or 2 checked bags, which means could take skis if you have ski bags.

 

If you want to check out several places fly to SLC, rent a car, stay in Sandy/Midvale, get a SuperPass for 5 days, and then you can go to Alta, Snowbird, Solitude, and Brighton.  A SuperPass includes a UTA transit pass so if it's snowing too much to drive up the canyon, just park in a ParkNRide lot and take the bus.  Then only need a 2WD car.

 

Brighton has night skiing if your sons have the energy for another round after lifts close at other places around 4:30.

 

One advantage of SLC over Denver is that the drive to destination ski resorts is a lot shorter from SLC airport.  Also rarely have flight delays due to weather.  The lower elevation is also an advantage for many people.

 

Look under Topics Discussed for links to list of relevant threads.

 

When I take trips to SLC, I probably end up renting powder skis 10% of the ski days.  My all-mountain skis are fine most of the time.

post #4 of 25

Check out Snowbird's website.  They have the Ski Free 5th Night Free package.  I like it there.  Nice lodging close to the lifts.  Awesome terrain.  You can upgrade the free lift tickets to AltaBird tickets, and cross over to ski Alta.  They have a large selection of Demo skis at Snowbird and I think the Creekside shop has a 40% off special coupon.  And you don't need to rent a car if you stay at Snowbird.

Or check out the Ski City Super Pass.  It's a great deal and you can ski Alta, Brighton, Snowbird, or Solitude for those 5 days and stay anywhere.

I will be staying at Snowbird in the middle of January.

post #5 of 25

For an introduction to Snowbird and Alta, check out the EpicSki Unofficial Guides.  They are written by volunteers who know the resorts well, not paid writers.

 

http://www.epicski.com/a/snowbird-unofficial-guide

 

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

post #6 of 25
I would suggest utah. Mainly the reason i've come here is the uta ski bus which means i don't have to rent a car to get to the mountains from downtown slc, but it usually means i have to get ready before 6am to be at the resorts at opening. I don't think altitude should be a concern i live on the west coast near the ocean and its never been an issue with trips to co and utah. The superpass is a good deal, but in my case when i'm doing early season its been cheaper to buy thru liftopia. The advantage if you rent a car in slc is that you can visit the other mtns easily like park city, snow basin, etc
post #7 of 25
Thread Starter 
Thanks everyone.

Marznc, as I read the rules on SW, any luggage over 62" H+W+L is oversized and you have to pay $100 for. I guess I could always put them all in a box and ship them for a lot cheaper than paying the airline fees. Any other thoughts on getting luggage shipped for free?

I remember reading in another discussion that it makes sense to book the lodging at the last minute, especially in a slower time of year. I'll keep my eyes open for deals.

Thanks again - John
post #8 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by xcskier61 View Post

Thanks everyone.

Marznc, as I read the rules on SW, any luggage over 62" H+W+L is oversized and you have to pay $100 for. I guess I could always put them all in a box and ship them for a lot cheaper than paying the airline fees. Any other thoughts on getting luggage shipped for free?

I remember reading in another discussion that it makes sense to book the lodging at the last minute, especially in a slower time of year. I'll keep my eyes open for deals.

Thanks again - John

I flew to slc with a double ski bag and a large roller duffel bag and there was no extra charges using swa
post #9 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by xcskier61 View Post

Thanks everyone.

Marznc, as I read the rules on SW, any luggage over 62" H+W+L is oversized and you have to pay $100 for. I guess I could always put them all in a box and ship them for a lot cheaper than paying the airline fees. Any other thoughts on getting luggage shipped for free?

I remember reading in another discussion that it makes sense to book the lodging at the last minute, especially in a slower time of year. I'll keep my eyes open for deals.

Thanks again - John


Ski bags and golf bags are exceptions to oversize rules.  Look for "sporting equipment" on an airline's website.  I've been flying with a soft ski bag or Sportube from North Carolina for years.  Mostly on Southwest but also on Delta or American.  Same for golf bags for vacations in FL.  Never had anyone say anything about paying an oversize fee.

post #10 of 25

Definitely echo the recommendations above as to your destination.  My family has been to Colorado and Utah.  For cost and convenience we have settled on SLC for our trips out west.  We stay in hotels in the Murray/Draper/Sandy area which is not a bad drive from the airport or the mountains.  We pick a mountain each day, grab discount lift tickets from one of the ski shops in the morning and head out.

 

If you go this route and don't want to ride the bus to the mountains, make sure you rent a 4 WHEEL DRIVE VEHICLE!!!  The canyon roads will sometimes be closed to 2WD.  I made the mistake of driving to Solitude once with a Chevy Malibu rental when I had no business being on that road in that car.  It was pretty frightening, especially the looks I got from my wife in the back seat.

 

Alta and Snowbird are great.  Mineral Basin at Snowbird on a good day is a nice intro to bowl skiing.  One of my personal favorites at Snowbird is skiing from the Gad 2 chair.  STH, Gadzooks, dropping into the trees here and there.  Oh, man I wish I was there right now instead of at work!

 

Alta is beautiful.  Lots of fun places to explore.  Supreme, Wildcat, the gully on the left as you come down under the Sugarloaf chair.  Ahhhhh!

 

I like Solitude a lot.  I recommend going there on the weekend when the lift lines might be longer at the other mountains.  Honeycomb Canyon (or Hideout as my son and I like to call it) makes for a good adventure.  I usually end my day wearing my legs out on the bump runs under the Eagle Express chair.

 

I've only been to Brighton once and didn't find anything there that would be bring me back, especially with Solitude right next door.

 

Have fun!!!

post #11 of 25

One thing to note is if airfare is a lot cheaper to Denver, which it often is from many cities, you could look into that save likely save quite a bit of $$.  You can stay in Dillon/Frisco area and have many resort options, some of which have fairly inexpensive passes available.

 

Could be a less expensive trip, and you'd avoid the worst thing about CO skiing, the crowds.   Could easily do a day at Loveland, Copper, Breck, A Basin, etc.)

post #12 of 25

Regarding taking your skis flying Southwest.  I've flown Southwest more that a dozen times to both SLC and Denver with the large Sportube (allegedly could hold three pairs of skis, we just take two - I ordered the 2 pair box but received the 3-pair box, didn't bother returning it) filled with stuff and other ski bags including double.  Never has anyone with SW said boo about length or weight of ski bags.  (Use the skycaps and tip well.)  And for all those trips we've hauled those gigantic trapezoid boot bags, stuffed just about solid, as carryons.  

 

YMMV but I'd strongly consider taking your skis with the possible exception that if they are eastern ice skis running 65 or so underfoot, you may want to rent something a bit wider for western skiing.  As others of us who mostly skied the east can attest, you stand a good chance of finding powder out west and it can be a challenge to get some float going with your eastern ice skis.  But that all depends on conditions.  Members of our party have rented very good skis for $35/day out in Summit.  Can't imagine you wouldn't find similar prices around the SLC resorts.

 

Don't know if SW has any direct flights to SLC from wherever you are flying from.  It took most of a day to get out there when I went which kind of made the "be at you ski destination an hour after landing" stuff moot.  By the time we got there it didn't matter much that the resorts are so close, it was too late in the day.  Denver is very easy and relatively inexpensive to fly to, at least for us (NYC metro area, can use Philly for the right price).

 

Regarding lodging, I suggest at least checking out VRBO for wherever you decide to go.  If the weather is right for skiing SLC is not a bad choice.  Summit and Eagle in CO are doing OK weatherwise.  

 

BTW...  for rental cars, if you happen to be a Costco member, I've saved a fait bit of money (roughly $200 for a weekly SUV rental) using Costco's travel service.  You pick the car up at Budget or whatever.  Better than AAA prices.


Edited by Knucklehead - 12/10/15 at 9:57am
post #13 of 25

If the kids are experts at Killington they will be experts anywhere and will love skiing out west no matter where.

 

Denver, cheaper flights, 2 hour drive to ski country.

 

SLC a bit more for airfare and ski areas are maybe an easy half hour drive.

 

Took my son to Utah season before last in January and found lots of people renting timeshares up at Snowbird for really good prices on Craigslist.   We rented a studio in Iron Blossam building for $600 for entire week. (studio would be too small for the 3 of you though).  Had really nice pool/ hot tub area.  Did not rent a car, but with 3 I would consider getting one...less money saved taking shuttle and your dining and grocery options are severely limited being stuck at Snowbird.  We took the free bus up to Alta a few days so did not buy the Alta/bird pass.   You can ski back to Snowbird from Alta at the end of the day off the Wildcat lift.

 

Snowbird base elevation is 8,100.

 

Frisco, CO elevation is a tad over 9,000 (just chose Frisco as a centralized place to sleep in Summit County with easy access to Copper, A Basin, Breck, Vail...)

post #14 of 25

Can't argue with SLC for all the reasons given.  Done it many times staying at a chain hotel/motel in the suburbs near the base of LCC/BCC.  However in recent years I've been going to Summit County CO.  Main reason I am now retired and go for three weeks and the Epic passes are too good to pass up.  Another is I like being able to stay in the mountains (Dillon, Frisco, etc.) not in the suburb of a big city at a reasonable rate.  Vail Resorts lift tickets are expensive, so that's a big negative though there are options.  Ski A-Basin, Loveland, Copper or get a multi-day Keystone ticket online in advance which will give you several days at Breck, Vail or Beaver Creek. 

 

Can't go wrong either way.

post #15 of 25

Do you want lodging in the middle of suburban strip malls?  That's what many are suggesting in SLC.  It's a great cheap way to do a ski trip but I'd much rather be in the mountains.  Another word of caution, if it snows hard that "quick" trip to/from your hotel can take several hours or be closed entirely.  And when you get to the hotel, you'll likely get rained on.

 

I'd recommend staying at altitude which is much more convenient and relaxing.  I think you're overthinking the altitude issue.  Everyone is different but most people do just fine if they drink lots of water.  There are whole threads on this topic if you want to read more. 

 

Areas you could consider listed below:

SLC

Alta/Snowbird:  pro: great snow, great expert terrain con: expensive lodging

Park City/Deer Valley: pro: huge area with all types of skiing, great mountain town con: expensive lift, expensive lodging, less snow, small % of expert runs

 

DEN

Winter Park: pro: good lift ticket deals, big area con: limited expert terrain (but tons of bumps)

Breck: pro: big ski area, nice town con: expensive

Copper/Loveland/Abasin: pro: cheaper con: expert terrain more likely to be closed in Jan.

 

DEN (with drive)  Each of these requires a 3+ hour drive from the airport.  The payoff is that these ski area are much less crowded.

Aspen Mountain/Snowmass/Aspen Highlands: pro: big ski areas, lots of expert terrain con: 4 hour drive, cost  (if you want to keep costs down you can stay in Carbondale or Glenwood Springs which is low altitude and more convenient than SLC IMO.)

Crested Butte pro: great expert terrain, low crowds, great town con: 4.5 hour drive

 

My personal recommendation would be Alta/Snowbird (lodging at either) in UT or Aspen in CO.

post #16 of 25
Thread Starter 
Thanks so much for the advice everyone. It looks like I could fly all of us to Denver for about $400 cheaper than SLC. But, then the 5th night ski free deal at Snowbird is pretty compelling as well. Although, I'm still trying to figure out how 4 nights at $270 comes to $1450? Maybe a lot of lodging tax or something. Looking at Liftopia the deals are a lot better in Utah. Cost isn't everything though...

So I guess another question that I'm interested in getting feedback on is how many days to plan at each mountain? It probably took us a week to get the hang of Killington and know where the best skiing was. I'm figuring that these are bigger hills and might take a while to really get to appreciate the place.

And then the question that my oldest is most likely interested in - how does the beer compare between Utah and CO? Does Utah still do the 3.2 beer? We know from experience that there are a lot of good microbrews in CO.

Finally, specific to the question of the early season - which area do you think will have more expert terrain open the 2nd week of January. I know it's always a bit of a crap shoot, but it would be great to have more extensive terrain open. Looking at the westher map today, it looks like it is snowing in Colorado.

Thanks again everyone! - John
post #17 of 25

If you guys are really looking for expert terrain, you really should go to Snowbird/Alta. The beer is good. I suspect that Colorado has more selection, but the local Utah microbrews are very good. Epic, Wasatch and Uinta are a few. You do have to buy them at State liquor stores. Or at bars/restaurants. I think draft beer in Utah is 3.2 , but if in bottles, it's whatever it is.  But really hard to beat the terrain of Alta/Snowbird for expert skiers. At Snowbird, it might almost be worth taking some clinic or lesson where they take you to some good expert terrain, a lot of which is accessed through gates. 

post #18 of 25

If you have sufficient days for doing something different you could consider a beer tour someplace, and CO is really good for that kind of thing.  Places like Fort Collins (New Belgium, Odell, and many others...), Longmont (Dales, Left Hand, and many others...), Boulder (Avery, Upslope, and many others), and Denver (Breckenridge, Great Divide, and many others... too many to list or even count) have great beer in tap rooms that have great vibes.  I used to live in Fort Collins and loved the beer scene there.  The New Belgium tour of the brewery is really interesting and includes quite a bit of free beer (but reserve tickets ahead of time if you do).

 

You could make a weeks vacation in CO just to check out the beer if you really wanted, but doing it for a day might be a fun addition if your sons are game.  That said, I've enjoyed beer from Utah and you would find plenty to keep you interested.  Cheers!

post #19 of 25

There is an advanced/expert tour/powder clinic at Alta every afternoon from 1 - 3:30 I think.  They will tour you all over the hill and show you some sweet spots.  If there is any pow to be found they will find it and will give you some instruction, if needed, along the way.  Cost was $60 per person and was well worth it.  They had a ski off and divided the skiers up into groups of 4 based on ability.  I strongly recommend this as it will really add to our enjoyment of the mountain.

 

With 5 days I would do 2 at each area (Alta, Snowbird) and spend the 5th at your favorite.  For us that is Alta.

post #20 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by crank View Post
 

There is an advanced/expert tour/powder clinic at Alta every afternoon from 1 - 3:30 I think.  They will tour you all over the hill and show you some sweet spots.  If there is any pow to be found they will find it and will give you some instruction, if needed, along the way.  Cost was $60 per person and was well worth it.  They had a ski off and divided the skiers up into groups of 4 based on ability.  I strongly recommend this as it will really add to our enjoyment of the mountain.

 

With 5 days I would do 2 at each area (Alta, Snowbird) and spend the 5th at your favorite.  For us that is Alta.


Price has gone up some for the All Mountain Workshop for advanced/expert adults.  It's $85 for 2015-16 and starts at 1:30 at Watson's, which gives parents time to drop off kids for afternoon ski school.  Definitely well worth the money for folks who have never skied at Alta before.  More of a guided experience than a lesson but since the skiers leading are experienced instructors, can ask for tips.

 

I think the number of groups probably depends on how many people show up.  When I did it with a friend several years (his first day ever at Alta), there were three groups.  The two experts and their instructor took off right after the ski off.  My friend was in the middle group.  They skied off the High T with no visibility after a warm up run.  He had no idea where they went but had a very good time.  I was in the least experienced group with four others.  Wasn't up for any more than that for the first day after flying in from the flatlands.  One guy in my group owned a condo in LCC, so not necessarily just tourists.  Another person who was from Australia had taken a day bus over from Park City.  Learned about all sorts of short shots in trees that were essentially next to groomers if you know where to go.  I still go to those places when skiing solo a day or two after a powder storm.

post #21 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by xcskier61 View Post


And then the question that my oldest is most likely interested in - how does the beer compare between Utah and CO? Does Utah still do the 3.2 beer? We know from experience that there are a lot of good microbrews in CO.

Finally, specific to the question of the early season - which area do you think will have more expert terrain open the 2nd week of January. I know it's always a bit of a crap shoot, but it would be great to have more extensive terrain open. Looking at the westher map today, it looks like it is snowing in Colorado.

Thanks again everyone! - John

 

While SLC fits your initial criteria the best (low elevation, cheap rentals, access to a number of different areas, etc.), you have now asked some questions which perhaps make SLC not look quite as good.  While you can get 5% beer in Utah, the whole drinking thing is much different than anywhere else I have ever been...it's weird in that you can't walk into a restaurant and just hang out at the bar for a few drinks (which is how I normally do things).

 

As for places that are going to have their expert terrain open...typically Snowbird and Alta get the most snow but this season that has not really been the case (so far).  Colorado has been getting more snow and usually needs less snow to open up its steeper stuff.  "Early January" is only three weeks away.  Utah needs snow.

post #22 of 25

Doesn't CO still have weird liquor laws too? You can only buy 3.2 in groceries and the liquor stores are closed on Sundays? But if the OP just wants bars with good beer selection, rather than the ability to buy great beer and drink it in the condo or whatnot, then that doesn't matter as much.

post #23 of 25
Fyi co allows sales on Sunday as of 2008. 3.2 in grocery, unregulated in liquor stores
post #24 of 25

It is a little weird that in CO the grocery stores are not allowed to sell beer above 3.2%

 

The flipside of odd grocery store rule is that there are liquor stores EVERYWHERE and they are quite a bit nicer than the typical dive liquor store.  CO liquor stores almost always have an excellent selection of interesting beer.

post #25 of 25

Utah has seriously lagged in snow this season.  The 2+ feet recently was the first big storm.  By early January it is very unlikely there will be much skiable steep terrain outside the Cottonwood Canyons and Alta/Snowbird will have some but maybe not most as they usually would.

 

If this is an important factor, I suggest you look into Reno and consider Mammoth/Tahoe.  I have already skied some steeps at Mammoth, it's now 85% open, and the announced opening of the Mt. Rose Chutes is a sign that some Tahoe steeps will be open too.

 

Oh, and for future reference, get those sons their passports.  Whistler is the clear cut top choice now after 7 feet of snow last week,

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