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Fernie/KickingHorse/Castle vs Utah

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 

This might be a no brainer but I'm thinking ahead...way ahead to next year's trip and thinking about these two regions.

 

I'm looking primarily for good conditions and hopefully powder but I've been skunked so many times I'll settle for "hasn't turned to crust".  I have been to Whitewater, Revelstoke, Whistler, Big White, and Mustang.  Enjoyed good conditions at Big White, amazing conditions this year at Mustang, and total garbage at Revy and Whistler.  I have never been to Utah yet and live in Ontario so the exchange rate is a bummer if I go to the States.  However, Flights to SLC from Toronto are just as cheap as flights to Calgary, and cheaper than flights to Kelowna.  Plus I don't NEED a car rental in Utah, I'd use shuttles like Canyon Hop.  Day to day expenditure would be cheaper in BC, but then again, I've never been to Utah yet.

 

Also, based on my bad luck with conditions, I'm starting to think the odds of getting crust in BC are much higher than most Canadians want to believe due to the lower elevations.  There aren't really any good defensive elevations in BC other than Banff area resorts with lower snowfall.  Colorado has great defensive elevations with decent snow stats, ie Wolf Creek, Winter Park, Vail.  Utah has snowbird with a higher elevation and lots of North facing terrain.  

 

Other than being cheaper, is there any reason I shouldn't go to Utah?  Are they prone thaw refreeze conditions as well? Is a lot of their snow hype just hype?

 

If I went to BC it would likely be Fernie/KH or potentially Red/Whitewater.  I only get one week per year so I don't want to spend much time in the car missioning around so will likely keep to a contained area.  Thanks in advance to anyone who responds.

post #2 of 22

What time of year are you thinking about?  Big difference in Utah between February and April.  While a warm spell can happen for a few days in LCC (Alta/Snowbird) mid-season, it's not that common.

post #3 of 22

Pick a week in Feb, if you can, and head to Grand Targhee. Odds will be in your favor for no crust :)

post #4 of 22
Thread Starter 
Last week of February/first week of March
post #5 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by agreen View Post

Pick a week in Feb, if you can, and head to Grand Targhee. Odds will be in your favor for no crust smile.gif
That's another option that I've given good consideration and it's not off the table. Too bad there's not a day shuttle from targhee the JH like there is the other way. I've also considered wolf creek Colorado, not much vert though. Targhee doesn't have much vert either but Jackson is nearby. Snow is the primary concern though. Vert is secondary.
post #6 of 22

last week of Feb/1st week of March is prime time for just about anywhere.  Whether you get fresh snow will be dependent upon a higher authority but you should be fine just about anywhere in the Western US/CA.  Just pick a place you want to go and book the trip!.

post #7 of 22
I go last week of February to Utah usually. U can get great or good or OK conditions. If u stick to Alta and snowbird, 9 out of 10 times you'll have good or great conditions. Ok maybe 7or 8 times out of 10. Ok I haven't actually done the math smile.gif
post #8 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mpskier View Post

I go last week of February to Utah usually. U can get great or good or OK conditions. If u stick to Alta and snowbird, 9 out of 10 times you'll have good or great conditions. Ok maybe 7or 8 times out of 10. Ok I haven't actually done the math smile.gif

That was a rapid decline :cool

post #9 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by DanH View Post
is there any reason I shouldn't go to Utah?  Are they prone thaw refreeze conditions as well? Is a lot of their snow hype just hype?

If you want the prime time in the Cottonwoods go from 3rd week of Jan thru 3rd week of Feb.  Earlier would be trouble if full coverage snowfall is late 

I have skied 3rd week of Feb on about 15 trips.  The sun is just getting high enough to stray away from Mid-winter conditions.  The odds are very high if you stick with those 4 weeks, AltaBird will be primo, depending of course on recent snowfall.  Though they too can get a dry spell for 1-2 weeks, not unuusual.  By March 1st spring is full on with the wrong weather pattern.  Guarantee it won't be "total garbage" for those 4 weeks.  Alta turns bad before Snowbird because they have more East or West faces than Bird. 

You want to plan your skiing in the Cottownwoods and venture over to PC or Snowbasin if the conditions warrant. 

post #10 of 22

I always thought Canada would be better, but I'm pretty ignorant about up there.

 

In the past few years, there have been times when Utah got bypassed in favor of Colo. higher elevations and Southwest storms stalling in Southern Colorado and spinning Gulf and Pacific moisture up into Colorado generally.  But overall, Utah has usually been deeper (except for Wolf Creek).   

 

My brother is a powder hound/back country guy (who goes to Wolf Creek a few dozen times a year), and he says it's the back country there that's special, not the area itself as much; and, yes, the vertical is disappointing.   

 

He also goes to Utah, and says it's Alta/Snowbird there, if you are traveling in for a week.   It's more expensive, but that mostly effects locals and season passholders, not people whose one week/year is more valuable than the cost difference.   

post #11 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SnowbirdDevotee View Post

If you want the prime time in the Cottonwoods go from 3rd week of Jan thru 3rd week of Feb.  Earlier would be trouble if full coverage snowfall is late 
I have skied 3rd week of Feb on about 15 trips.  The sun is just getting high enough to stray away from Mid-winter conditions.  The odds are very high if you stick with those 4 weeks, AltaBird will be primo, depending of course on recent snowfall.  Though they too can get a dry spell for 1-2 weeks, not unuusual.  By March 1st spring is full on with the wrong weather pattern.  Guarantee it won't be "total garbage" for those 4 weeks.  Alta turns bad before Snowbird because they have more East or West faces than Bird. 
You want to plan your skiing in the Cottownwoods and venture over to PC or Snowbasin if the conditions warrant. 

Thanks for the advice. I might be forced into going the 4th week feb or later though.
post #12 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by DanH View Post

This might be a no brainer but I'm thinking ahead...way ahead to next year's trip and thinking about these two regions.

 I have never been to Utah yet and live in Ontario so the exchange rate is a bummer if I go to the States.

 However, Flights to SLC from Toronto are just as cheap as flights to Calgary, and cheaper than flights to Kelowna.  Plus I don't NEED a car rental in Utah, I'd use shuttles like Canyon Hop.  Day to day expenditure would be cheaper in BC, but then again, I've never been to Utah yet.



Other than being cheaper, is there any reason I shouldn't go to Utah?  Are they prone thaw refreeze conditions as well? Is a lot of their snow hype just hype?


Point blank- with the CN dollar approaching 80 cents you can do Utah for MUCH cheaper than BC. IMO 80 cents is the breakeven point where the US dollar doesn't hurt as much. Reason being is that everything in the US is on average 15-20% cheaper than here in Canada, and the sales tax rates are lower.

But if you really want to save $$$ ask yourself- are you a skier or a ski vacationer. If it's the former you can save a lot of $$$ by staying in a cheap (but decent) SLC area hotel and drive to the resorts. From a ski perspective this gives you so many resort options.

In the SLC valley, you have so many cheap eating options. What you don't get is the pretty mountain village. You will need a car, but this its CHEAPER to rent a 2WD car at SLC than any shuttle options. If the weather is bad, take the city bus for a couple of $$.

In my group of friends... The SLC trip is the number one favourite. I'd say go for it.

Late February, you'll have the best odds of good snow anywhere. If you ski trees, you can be 90-95% guaranteed to not have crust. Brighton will have powder in the trees a week after the last snow.
post #13 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeSchmoe View Post

Point blank- with the CN dollar approaching 80 cents you can do Utah for MUCH cheaper than BC. IMO 80 cents is the breakeven point where the US dollar doesn't hurt as much. Reason being is that everything in the US is on average 15-20% cheaper than here in Canada, and the sales tax rates are lower.

But if you really want to save $$$ ask yourself- are you a skier or a ski vacationer. If it's the former you can save a lot of $$$ by staying in a cheap (but decent) SLC area hotel and drive to the resorts. From a ski perspective this gives you so many resort options.

In the SLC valley, you have so many cheap eating options. What you don't get is the pretty mountain village. You will need a car, but this its CHEAPER to rent a 2WD car at SLC than any shuttle options. If the weather is bad, take the city bus for a couple of $$.

In my group of friends... The SLC trip is the number one favourite. I'd say go for it.

Late February, you'll have the best odds of good snow anywhere. If you ski trees, you can be 90-95% guaranteed to not have crust. Brighton will have powder in the trees a week after the last snow.

Love the trees. I was looking more at park city airbnb likely. Some good deals. Hotels there seem pretty steep. Have you taken the ski buses there? i will likely be agonizing over this decision for a good 6 months but I'm leaning strongly toward Utah.
post #14 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by DanH View Post
 

Is a lot of their snow hype just hype?

 

Absolutely...at least when it comes to Park City and Deer Valley.  The Cottonwoods really do get a lot of snow (Solitude, Brighton, Alta and Snowbird) and the ease of access from Salt Lake City is shockingly good.  I think you might be surprised by how affordable skiing in Utah is.  It's considerably cheaper than Colorado and even Wyoming.

post #15 of 22
Ha, yes, a rapid decline. It's amazing how fickle the weather can be, even at primo condition resorts. Oh well, it is a weather-dependent sport.

As far as grand targhee, it was amazing how good its snow quality was compared to Jackson hole when I was there in 2015. But it certainly doesn't have the terrain of Altabird. And maybe Altabird and GT often have similar snow quality in general anyway?
post #16 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by DanH View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeSchmoe View Post

Point blank- with the CN dollar approaching 80 cents you can do Utah for MUCH cheaper than BC. IMO 80 cents is the breakeven point where the US dollar doesn't hurt as much. Reason being is that everything in the US is on average 15-20% cheaper than here in Canada, and the sales tax rates are lower.

But if you really want to save $$$ ask yourself- are you a skier or a ski vacationer. If it's the former you can save a lot of $$$ by staying in a cheap (but decent) SLC area hotel and drive to the resorts. From a ski perspective this gives you so many resort options.

In the SLC valley, you have so many cheap eating options. What you don't get is the pretty mountain village. You will need a car, but this its CHEAPER to rent a 2WD car at SLC than any shuttle options. If the weather is bad, take the city bus for a couple of $$.

In my group of friends... The SLC trip is the number one favourite. I'd say go for it.

Late February, you'll have the best odds of good snow anywhere. If you ski trees, you can be 90-95% guaranteed to not have crust. Brighton will have powder in the trees a week after the last snow.

Love the trees. I was looking more at park city airbnb likely. Some good deals. Hotels there seem pretty steep. Have you taken the ski buses there? i will likely be agonizing over this decision for a good 6 months but I'm leaning strongly toward Utah.

Now that SLC is of greater interest, I added "SLC travel" under Topics Discussed (right hand column).  It's a tag link to threads related to traveling to SLC.  Pretty sure there are threads that have info about the UTA transit system.

 

Many folks stay in Sandy/Midvale for a budget trip that is mainly for skiing in LCC/BCC.  Check out the price for the La Quinta, which includes hot breakfast.

post #17 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by DanH View Post

Love the trees. I was looking more at park city airbnb likely. Some good deals. Hotels there seem pretty steep. Have you taken the ski buses there? i will likely be agonizing over this decision for a good 6 months but I'm leaning strongly toward Utah.

For the true SLC powder experience, don't stay in Park City. You're too far from the Cottonwoods where the real snow is.

Despite the large vertical, the Park City and Deer Valley runs aren't really much longer than what you're used to in Ontario (1000-1500ft). The snow isn't all that great either relative to the Cottonwoods.

The Little Cottonwood Canyon (LCC) resorts are Snowbird and Alta. The Big Cottonwood Canyon (BCC) resorts are Brighton and Solitude. All of these resorts get the "Greatest Snow on Earth" and are about 15-20 minute drive from suburban SLC. The reason the snow is so good, is those mountains rise so sharply past the Utah desert and Great Salt Lake. They get all the orographic lift from the Utah plains, and some lake effect from the Great Salt Lake. The LCC resorts are bigger, but also get bigger crowds. BCC resorts are smaller, and the powder last longer. All are awesome!

Park City is on the leeward side of the Cottonwoods so there's less snow, and are lower in elevation, so its warmer and have a higher potential for crust. Its about 45 minutes or more from Park City to the Cottonwoods.

If you stay in Sandy, Midvale, or Cottonwood Heights, its about 20 minutes to the mountains. You're probably looking at $80/night for a hotel including a hot breakfast.

This map, though not to scale puts the driving into perspective. To get from PC to LCC or BCC, you have to drive all the way around the mountains on I-80, through SLC.

The other resort you may want to hit is Snowbasin. That's where they had the Olympic Downhill in 2002, though its about an hour from SLC.

post #18 of 22

After the 3rd week of Feb

Quote:
Originally Posted by DanH View Post
Thanks for the advice. I might be forced into going the 4th week feb or later though.

4th week of Feb is by no means too late.  It's just that at about that week the chances of warm weather with no snow increase.  The snowfall and chance of powder is the same(through about April 10th), but the chance of warm and sunny weather that could affect the snow goes from not much of a worry to gradually increasing week by week.  Even so, everything will be covered and open and likely you will find the skiing just fine.

 

Park City is a little different.  I haven't skied there a lot, but often enough in my 3rd week of Feb (always Thurs-Sunday after President Day).  It's amazing how you can have slush there on the lower 1/2 of the mtn when there isn't even a hint of it in the Cottonwoods.  One time we booked a house there that week and ended up commuting every day.   But a PC resort is still worth a day or 1/2 day to check them out and put them on your list.  They are big and have plenty of good skiing.

 

You should rent a cheap 2WD car for $25/day and if it snows then worry about the bus.  Stay in MidVale/Sandy and make sure your hotel is on the route. 

 

I skied CO very end of April a few weeks ago.  The melt freeze made it difficult to ski the moguls in the am and even the cruisers were tough(except for directly north faces).  But it all loosened up a little after noon and skiing was good. This is the transition that all ski resorts move to starting end of Feb but it is all weather dependent.

 

Last yr on my 3rd wk feb trip we arrived to TERRIBLE skiing in the Cottonwoods on the first day.  But an unexpected 6" dump that night completely changed everything for the better.  That's what so good about the Cottonwoods, they average 2 feet of snow per week mid-Dec through March.  So when poor weather comes as it does, the change back to good skiing comes quick.  Snowbird esp, because so much of it faces North.

post #19 of 22
Quote = DanH:
 Plus I don't NEED a car rental in Utah

Yes you do, especially since you're putting high priority on snow conditions and powder potential. Besides,

Quote = Joe Schmoe:

But if you really want to save $$$ ask yourself- are you a skier or a ski vacationer. If it's the former you can save a lot of $$$ by staying in a cheap (but decent) SLC area hotel and drive to the resorts. From a ski perspective this gives you so many resort options.

In the SLC valley, you have so many cheap eating options. What you don't get is the pretty mountain village. You will need a car, but this its CHEAPER to rent a 2WD car at SLC than any shuttle options. If the weather is bad, take the city bus for a couple of $$.

Quote = DanH:
I was looking more at park city airbnb likely.

Absolutely not, again since you're putting high priority on snow conditions and powder potential.  The case for the Cottonwoods over Park City has been detailed above but boils down to:

1) Twice as much snow

2) Higher elevation AND primary north vs. east exposure for less of the "crust" you're trying to avoid.

3) Terrain quality/longer fall lines etc. as noted by JoeSchmoe above
 

Quote = DanH:

That's another option that I've given good consideration and it's not off the table. Too bad there's not a day shuttle from targhee the JH like there is the other way. I've also considered wolf creek Colorado, not much vert though. Targhee doesn't have much vert either but Jackson is nearby. Snow is the primary concern though. Vert is secondary.

Then 4th week of Feb. is way too late for Jackson's primary SE exposure if "avoiding crust" is a priority.

Quote = mpskier:
As far as grand targhee, it was amazing how good its snow quality was compared to Jackson hole when I was there in 2015.

This is probably a tactful reference to late February/early March 2015 when there were a few Epic people at those resorts.:rolleyes   Some season when the OP gets his week off in Jan/early Feb, I'll be among the first to advocate Jackson as a destination, as I have in the recent thread for the NZ family coming to the USA in January 2017.

 

Quote = DanH:
Also, based on my bad luck with conditions, I'm starting to think the odds of getting crust in BC are much higher than most Canadians want to believe due to the lower elevations.  There aren't really any good defensive elevations in BC other than Banff area resorts with lower snowfall.

Do not draw conclusions based upon your anecdotal experience, as weather is so volatile.  My track record for advance scheduled trips to Utah is 48% of expected snowfall over 100+ days (that's extreme outlier bad) but that does not stop me from returning there or advocating Utah for others when appropriate as in this case. What matters in these decisions are:

1) the snowfall track record, both quantity and consistency, and

2) latitude/altitude/exposure for snow preservation

#2 starts coming into play by at least mid-February, gradually increasing in importance each week. #2 is more important than #1 by mid-March.

 

I've been in interior B.C. nearly every season since 1997.  High latitude and chronic overcast tend to make altitude and exposure nearly irrelevant midwinter, unless you get a lot of rain as in 2014-15.  Thus a lot of places do not have primary north exposure.  But come March it still matters, even in Canada. 

 

A "Calgary loop" trip for a week, choosing among Banff, Fernie/Castle, Panorama and Kicking Horse is not unreasonable in late February/early March. Fernie is the only one of those on the low altitude side in regional context, but it's also the one with the most snowfall and a fair amount of north exposure.  Flying to Calgary, renting a car and keeping the ski destinations flexible until late in the game is a viable strategy for optimizing snow conditions most of the time.


Edited by Tony Crocker - 4/22/16 at 1:19pm
post #20 of 22
Tony- if you were the OP where would you go?

I was under the impression that the Calgary area resorts are kind of dry mid season.
post #21 of 22

I agree with @Tony Crocker about AB/Interior BC.

 

Like anywhere, if OP really is looking for conditions/snow quality, then I would remain flexible until the last possible moment. End of February and beginning of March is usually when the snow really starts to flow around here. If the trend of the big La Nina pans out, then AB/interior BC is where you will want to be next year.

 

Re: dry spells - in my experience, our dry/cold spell is usually from beginning of January to mid-February on the divide. At the end of feb/beginning of March at least several of the ski resorts in this area will have good conditions. If you book a trip to Calgary, one of the resorts within driving distance will have good snow. I would do either Kicking Horse/Lake Louise as one trip, or Castle/Fernie as another. If neither of those have good snow, then Sunshine will almost certainly. 

post #22 of 22

It makes no meteorological sense in any mountain area that there is a real midwinter dip in snow incidence for a couple of specific weeks.  Snowfall is erratic and nearly every winter, even the great ones like 2010-11, will have dry spells.   But the timing of those, like the timing of huge dumps is not predictable.

 

It is true that long term average western Canada and PNW snow is broadly more front-ended (~60% of season snowfall by Jan. 31) vs. Utah/Colorado (low 50's%).  That's a very mild difference far overshadowed by snowfall volatility and other factors affecting snow conditions like altitude/exposure.

 

An example of being flexible is booking vacation time and a flight to Calgary but choosing between Fernie/Castle and Kicking Horse/Lake Louise last minute based upon weather/conditions.

 

The La Nina hype does point to Canada, but for now it's just conjecture.  If it's actually here by October, it's a factor worth considering then.  El Nino/La Nina are irrelevant to Utah, no bias either good or bad.

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