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Planning 2017 MCP trip. [family trip in Jan (was March)]

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 

I'm in the exciting research/planning stage of my families trip to Nth America next March. Whilst I won't be locking anything in until closer (to get an idea of what snow conditions might be in each region) I would like some pointers on a few questions please.

1. We prefer hotel style accommodation as we don't 'eat in' often. We want to be close to bars restaurants etc. Which area of Aspen would suit best for us - Snowmass or Aspen itself? Is there lodging at the base of Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands?

2. I will try to make ski days during the week to avoid crowds. In the event we choose/have to do a ski day on a weekend which mountain at Aspen would be least crowded?

3. In between SLC and Aspen we intend to visit Arches NP. We will stay somewhere at Moab I guess. Can the main features of the park be experienced in a 'fly by' visit? Or is extensive hiking required to see the best bits?

 

I'm sure I'll have more questions in the coming weeks/months. 

 

Moderator note: info added to thread title

 

Travel dates changed to Janurary, instead of March

 

Quote: Post #9 by OP

Originally Posted by sbooker View Post

 

Slight change of plans due to schooling commitments for my eldest. We'll now be heading across the Pacific in January. Planning on starting in SLC (Alta and Snowbird and maybe even a day in Brighton or Solitude), Moab, Aspen (got the bonus day for Aspen so will ski Aspen, Snowmass and Buttermilk due to my wife's preference for blue groomers), train ride back to Salt Lake to catch my wife's relatives for a day, grab a car and drive to Sun Valley for the last few days. Direct cheap flight from Hailey to LAX is gold.

 

We would have liked to squeeze in a couple of days in Mammoth for old times sake but it probably won't work perfectly.

 

Should we be concerned with the driving north of Salt Lake? We will be sure to drive in the daylight at all times and obviously won't drive in a storm. I'm guessing it isn't highly likely to get caught in heavy snow in Idaho? Roads pretty good? Any similarity between that road and i15 coming to Salt Lake from the south?

 
post #2 of 28

I know you've mentioned this in other planning threads, but please remind us about the ages of your kids and the type of terrain the family likes to ski.

 

My guess is that you would prefer Snowmass.  Here's a really good TR by a father who took his wife and young sons to Snowmass.

 

http://www.epicski.com/t/133555/snowmass-trip-report-family-with-young-kids-2-27-15-3-8-15

post #3 of 28

Arches is definitely fly-by friendly, as you can see many fantastic sights and impressive arches from the car or hiking less than 10 minutes. But if you are interested in longer hikes, the potential is definitely there. Next March should likely be a pretty good choice for Arches/Moab, as the March weather tends to be nice (although both too hot and too cold are very real possibilities), and it should be less crowded than usual with the late Easter and the Jeep Safari not scheduled until April. I think the town of Moab is pretty touristy and short on charm, but unless you dip farther south (Ouray or Telluride) there's nothing particularly charming on the Aspen-Salt Lake drive. But definitely amazing scenery to be had all over the area! 

post #4 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by marznc View Post
 

I know you've mentioned this in other planning threads, but please remind us about the ages of your kids and the type of terrain the family likes to ski.

 

My guess is that you would prefer Snowmass.  Here's a really good TR by a father who took his wife and young sons to Snowmass.

 

http://www.epicski.com/t/133555/snowmass-trip-report-family-with-young-kids-2-27-15-3-8-15

Thanks for the link. Kids will be 9 and 11. We normally ski as a group and my wife loves the fast wide groomers. Would be great to have something a little more challenging that myself and my son can have a crack at while the girls have a break. Also the kids love a terrain park.

I understand we can stay anywhere on the shuttle route and have the ability to ski any mountain so the spot for lodging will be determined by proximity to restaurants/shops etc.

post #5 of 28

Town of Aspen is better for proximity to restaurants and shops, but either would work. Very limited lodging at Buttermilk and Highlands.

No problem with crowds on weekends. Traditionally, Saturday has been less crowded since it is changeover day.

Should be no problem with snow conditions in March.

post #6 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by sbooker View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by marznc View Post
 

I know you've mentioned this in other planning threads, but please remind us about the ages of your kids and the type of terrain the family likes to ski.

 

My guess is that you would prefer Snowmass.  Here's a really good TR by a father who took his wife and young sons to Snowmass.

 

http://www.epicski.com/t/133555/snowmass-trip-report-family-with-young-kids-2-27-15-3-8-15

Thanks for the link. Kids will be 9 and 11. We normally ski as a group and my wife loves the fast wide groomers. Would be great to have something a little more challenging that myself and my son can have a crack at while the girls have a break. Also the kids love a terrain park.

I understand we can stay anywhere on the shuttle route and have the ability to ski any mountain so the spot for lodging will be determined by proximity to restaurants/shops etc.


That helps.  Your lodging choices to avoid needing a car on ski days are Snowmass or the town of Aspen.  When I'm planning a trip that does not include a few days to acclimate to high altitude (over 8000 ft), I take into account the elevation where I'm going to sleep.  Snowmass is only a few hundred feet higher than Aspen.

 

In addition to the regional bus system that connects all four ski mountains, Snowmass also has a separate free bus system for that resort alone.  As for challenging terrain, plenty of that at the Snowmass, Ajax, and Highlands.  For that matter, the ungroomed blacks at Buttermilk off the Tiehack lift are not for cautious intermediates.  Buttermilk is the place to go for park skiing.

 

I added more links under Topics Discussed (right hand column).

 

Trip Reports from the 2016 Aspen Gathering:

 

http://www.epicski.com/t/145306/2016-aspen-gathering-trip-report

 

http://www.epicski.com/t/145582/the-2016-aspen-gathering-an-intermediate-skiers-first-gathering

post #7 of 28
Based on your preference to stay near shops and restaurants, I suggest staying in Aspen.
You can easily get to any of the mountains from Aspen for skiing.

There is plenty of terrain at Snowmass to please everyone.
post #8 of 28

I normally recommend families with young kids to stay in Snowmass.   But it sounds like you would enjoy town. 

Crowds aren't really an issue very often.

post #9 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:

 

Slight change of plans due to schooling commitments for my eldest. We'll now be heading across the Pacific in January. Planning on starting in SLC (Alta and Snowbird and maybe even a day in Brighton or Solitude), Moab, Aspen (got the bonus day for Aspen so will ski Aspen, Snowmass and Buttermilk due to my wife's preference for blue groomers), train ride back to Salt Lake to catch my wife's relatives for a day, grab a car and drive to Sun Valley for the last few days. Direct cheap flight from Hailey to LAX is gold.

 

We would have liked to squeeze in a couple of days in Mammoth for old times sake but it probably won't work perfectly.

 

Should we be concerned with the driving north of Salt Lake? We will be sure to drive in the daylight at all times and obviously won't drive in a storm. I'm guessing it isn't highly likely to get caught in heavy snow in Idaho? Roads pretty good? Any similarity between that road and i15 coming to Salt Lake from the south?

post #10 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by sbooker View Post
 
Quote:

 

Slight change of plans due to schooling commitments for my eldest. We'll now be heading across the Pacific in January. Planning on starting in SLC (Alta and Snowbird and maybe even a day in Brighton or Solitude), Moab, Aspen (got the bonus day for Aspen so will ski Aspen, Snowmass and Buttermilk due to my wife's preference for blue groomers), train ride back to Salt Lake to catch my wife's relatives for a day, grab a car and drive to Sun Valley for the last few days. Direct cheap flight from Hailey to LAX is gold.

 

We would have liked to squeeze in a couple of days in Mammoth for old times sake but it probably won't work perfectly.

 

Should we be concerned with the driving north of Salt Lake? We will be sure to drive in the daylight at all times and obviously won't drive in a storm. I'm guessing it isn't highly likely to get caught in heavy snow in Idaho? Roads pretty good? Any similarity between that road and i15 coming to Salt Lake from the south?


The driving from SLC to Sun Valley is easy.  Mostly 4-lane Interstate.  The speed limit on the 2-lane towards the end is 65 MPH I think.  It took us 4 hours from the airport in clear weather last Jan.  Good idea to leave SLC with a full tank of gas.

 

We stayed in the Best Western close to the main SV base.  The renovations that began in 2015 should be all completed.  Only one stop from the base on the free bus.  10 min walk downtown for dinner.  Parking is limited in town so driving wasn't necessarily helpful.

post #11 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by marznc View Post
 


The driving from SLC to Sun Valley is easy.  Mostly 4-lane Interstate.  The speed limit on the 2-lane towards the end is 65 MPH I think.  It took us 4 hours from the airport in clear weather last Jan.  Good idea to leave SLC with a full tank of gas.

 

We stayed in the Best Western close to the main SV base.  The renovations that began in 2015 should be all completed.  Only one stop from the base on the free bus.  10 min walk downtown for dinner.  Parking is limited in town so driving wasn't necessarily helpful.


The Best Western looks good. We'll more than likely stay there.

Thanks for the tip on the drive.

post #12 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by sbooker View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by marznc View Post
 


The driving from SLC to Sun Valley is easy.  Mostly 4-lane Interstate.  The speed limit on the 2-lane towards the end is 65 MPH I think.  It took us 4 hours from the airport in clear weather last Jan.  Good idea to leave SLC with a full tank of gas.

 

We stayed in the Best Western close to the main SV base.  The renovations that began in 2015 should be all completed.  Only one stop from the base on the free bus.  10 min walk downtown for dinner.  Parking is limited in town so driving wasn't necessarily helpful.


The Best Western looks good. We'll more than likely stay there.

Thanks for the tip on the drive.


Have heard that it pays to stay close to the speed limit on the 2-lane highway.

post #13 of 28

I think I would just keep your car and skip the train.  Leaving from Glenwood at 2pm and arriving into SLC at 11pm, seems like a logistical hassle for only a few hours of daylight viewing in January.

Plus you've already missed the best part of the whole trip, Glenwood Canyon, Moffet Tunnel and most of the mountains.

 

I would drive up to SLC through Dinosaur National Monument instead.

post #14 of 28
Sounds like a great trip. Agree with keeping the car. I have recently done the drive from Aspen area to SLC via both north/Dinosaur and south/Moab routes. South route is a breeze except for about a 30 minute canyon passage around the town of Helper. The North route is only a little longer, but the roads are lower quality. Much of that entire section of Utah is dry ranch country rather than high snowy mtns, so driving hopefully will not be too hazardous and the train sounds a little boring and overly time consuming. A large group of us converged on Aspen last winter in early Feb and were treated to superb conditions. You can't go wrong there, but just my opinion, if you have only three ski days and you love intermediate skiing I'd base your group at Snowmass and ski there two days and then go to Aspen Highlands one day. Snowmass is the ultimate intermediate paradise and there are plenty of dining choices at the base of the trails if not quite as sophisticated as some of the choices in the town of Aspen (you could drive the ten miles there for dinner too). I'm sure Buttermilk would be fine for intermediates, but Aspen Highlands also has intermediate trails including some from the summit that feature some of the best scenery from any ski area in the US, not to be missed on a clear weather day. And you might be able to sneak away from family for a free cat ride into the black diamond Highland Bowl, one of the great recreational ski opportunities in the US for experts. Aspen Mtn is interesting and adjacent to town, but the intermediate terrain there is limited up near the summit and the mtn is best enjoyed by advanced/expert skiers.
post #15 of 28
Thread Starter 


Thanks for the tips.

The kids love a train ride and I was thinking the train would help stick to a schedule should a big storm roll in preventing car travel for a time. It would be rare for a storm to delay a train wouldn't it? Also a good chance for me to catch up on some sleep. Who knows we may do the drive yet.

I naively assumed because of the name of the mountain that Aspen Highlands would be more expert weighted than Aspen itself. We do have an extra day in Aspen/Snowmass so we can always opt to ski that day. I will ensure we spend a couple of days at Snowmass and then break the rest of the time between Buttermilk and Highlands. My wife will be looking to keep some spare time to cruise Aspen town with the rich and famous - we don't get those opportunities here in Oz.

We also have extra time in SLC so I may send my wife out shopping or similar and grab a day at another of the hills - perhaps Solitude.

We've spent time in Canada/US in the past but mainly in March - we've had one Christmas time in Tahoe a few years ago which was nothing remarkable when it comes to cold. Should we be prepared for much colder weather? Lake Louise was particularly cold a couple of years ago. Would Aspen (elevation) and Sun Valley get as cold? 

Thanks again.

post #16 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by sbooker View Post
 


Thanks for the tips.

The kids love a train ride and I was thinking the train would help stick to a schedule should a big storm roll in preventing car travel for a time. It would be rare for a storm to delay a train wouldn't it? Also a good chance for me to catch up on some sleep. Who knows we may do the drive yet.

I naively assumed because of the name of the mountain that Aspen Highlands would be more expert weighted than Aspen itself. We do have an extra day in Aspen/Snowmass so we can always opt to ski that day. I will ensure we spend a couple of days at Snowmass and then break the rest of the time between Buttermilk and Highlands. My wife will be looking to keep some spare time to cruise Aspen town with the rich and famous - we don't get those opportunities here in Oz.

We also have extra time in SLC so I may send my wife out shopping or similar and grab a day at another of the hills - perhaps Solitude.

We've spent time in Canada/US in the past but mainly in March - we've had one Christmas time in Tahoe a few years ago which was nothing remarkable when it comes to cold. Should we be prepared for much colder weather? Lake Louise was particularly cold a couple of years ago. Would Aspen (elevation) and Sun Valley get as cold? 

Thanks again.

Did you look at the Aspen Gathering trip report?  Look for the comments and pictures fro dbostedo and Lofcaudio.  They had a great time at Aspen Highlands enjoying the blues and easy blacks.  My friend who is working on getting better at bumps really liked Highlands.  Unlike Aspen Mountain aka Ajax, Highlands is a complete mountain with terrain for all levels from beginner to expert.  Ajax has no green trails for a reason.  Buttermilk is relatively small compared to Snowmass and Highlands, but also has a range of terrain from beginner to advanced.  The Tiehack lift is a fun place a day or two, or every three, after a powder storm.

 

http://www.epicski.com/t/145306/2016-aspen-gathering-trip-report

 

@Bill Miles can answer the question about temps at Sun Valley in March.  He's the EpicSki Ambassador for Sun Valley.

post #17 of 28

Sun Valley won't be cold in March.

post #18 of 28
Flying into SLC, driving to Aspen via Arches, then taking the train back to SLC. Is making the trip much more difficult than it needs to be.

Just fly direct LAX-ASE. You don't need car in Aspen/Snowmass. Pick one up when you leave, then go to Arches-SLC-Sun Valley and fly back out of Sun Valley.

You can easily ski Buttermilk and Highlands, or any of the mountains for that matter, in the same day.
Aspen has a relatively moderate climate for a ski resort, but it can be cold in January.
post #19 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SHREDHEAD View Post

Flying into SLC, driving to Aspen via Arches, then taking the train back to SLC. Is making the trip much more difficult than it needs to be.

Just fly direct LAX-ASE. You don't need car in Aspen/Snowmass. Pick one up when you leave, then go to Arches-SLC-Sun Valley and fly back out of Sun Valley.

You can easily ski Buttermilk and Highlands, or any of the mountains for that matter, in the same day.
Aspen has a relatively moderate climate for a ski resort, but it can be cold in January.


Going to SLC to coincide with a gathering of relatives of my wife. The dates just didn't work out. We're restricted by that gathering and my leave for work and my daughter's need to be back at school at a certain time. Believe me I know it's the long way round...........the things you do. Touring doesn't overly bother me.

Looking forward to it. Hope the snow gods are going to paly ball this year.

post #20 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by sbooker View Post
 

The kids love a train ride and I was thinking the train would help stick to a schedule should a big storm roll in preventing car travel for a time. It would be rare for a storm to delay a train wouldn't it? Also a good chance for me to catch up on some sleep. Who knows we may do the drive yet.

Amtrak is kind of a different beast than the passenger rail in many other countries. The California Zephyr route reported a 31.7% on-time performance (at its endpoints in Chicago and Emeryville) for June 2016; for the last 12 months overall a better, but still not great, 69.2%. And "on-time" here means arriving within 30 minutes of the scheduled time. I don't think they publish station-specific on-time performance, but I doubt Salt Lake's performance is a whole lot better. Which means that there's a pretty good chance that the train would drop you off in a bad neighborhood between 11:00 and 11:30 pm... but also a decent chance that it'd drop you off in the same bad neighborhood at midnight or 1:00 or 2:00 or.... And it'll cost a good chunk more than the rental car. Those are some of the reasons everyone seems to be encouraging you to skip the train.

 

You're pretty unlikely to face significant storm delays anywhere Aspen-SLC-Sun Valley in March. And if it's snowing heavily enough somewhere along there, do you really want train tickets so you can be sure to escape all that fresh snow and make it to low-snowfall Sun Valley on time? An extra powder day in Colorado or Utah doesn't seem like it would be such a terrible thing :)

post #21 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by New2Utah View Post

Amtrak is kind of a different beast than the passenger rail in many other countries. The California Zephyr route reported a 31.7% on-time performance (at its endpoints in Chicago and Emeryville) for June 2016; for the last 12 months overall a better, but still not great, 69.2%. And "on-time" here means arriving within 30 minutes of the scheduled time. I don't think they publish station-specific on-time performance, but I doubt Salt Lake's performance is a whole lot better. Which means that there's a pretty good chance that the train would drop you off in a bad neighborhood between 11:00 and 11:30 pm... but also a decent chance that it'd drop you off in the same bad neighborhood at midnight or 1:00 or 2:00 or.... And it'll cost a good chunk more than the rental car. Those are some of the reasons everyone seems to be encouraging you to skip the train.

You're pretty unlikely to face significant storm delays anywhere Aspen-SLC-Sun Valley in March. And if it's snowing heavily enough somewhere along there, do you really want train tickets so you can be sure to escape all that fresh snow and make it to low-snowfall Sun Valley on time? An extra powder day in Colorado or Utah doesn't seem like it would be such a terrible thing smile.gif

We're now travelling in January as per a few posts ago. Thanks for the advice anyway.
post #22 of 28

Did a trip to Aspen / Snowmass this spring.  Recommend skipping Buttermilk.  Compared to Snowmass not worth it.  Reading what you are looking for I think you will be quite happy with Snowmass - absolutely huge.  Groomers are spectacular and plentiful, challenging terrain for you and the boy.  I did a day at Aspen - it was ok.  Again, spring conditions, warm, so tree skiing wasn't where it was at - mostly groomers, it was decent, but I thought that Snowmass was much better.  Way more terrain, hardly any folks skiing as there is so much terrain, you will like.

post #23 of 28

I did Arches National Park with my old man in a day - got to see plenty, short "walks" to see a bunch of the arches.  It is easy to do.  There are longer hikes to other arches that we didn't go to.  The place is surreal.  I've heard great things about Bryce Canyon, anyone?

post #24 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Miles View Post
 

Sun Valley won't be cold in March.


OP has to change to January.  I seem to remember you said it can be relatively cold at SV in late Jan when I was planning for my first trip there last season.  My friends and I ended up skiing during classic sunny days and cold was not an issue at all.  Glad that SV was added to the MCP.

 

EpicSki Unofficial Guide for Sun Valley by Ambassador @Bill Miles 

http://www.epicski.com/a/sun-valley-unofficial-guide

post #25 of 28

I am sure you will get plenty of advice regarding the skiing. Let me put an idea in your head regarding visiting Bryce Canyon Utah over Arches. Smaller so you can do it easily and magical in winter with snow on the ground.

post #26 of 28

Bryce and Arches are both cool places. But Bryce adds 3.5 hours to the Aspen-SLC drive in good weather, and the roads (specifically SR 72, 62, and 12) are much more susceptible to weather delays/closures. I'd rather take that extra 3.5 hours and spend it in Arches or along the way at Colorado National Monument and/or Glenwood Canyon, if it were me.

post #27 of 28

Telluride being added to the MCP for next season just gave you some more options.

post #28 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lofcaudio View Post
 

Telluride being added to the MCP for next season just gave you some more options.


I was thinking the same thing.

Living in the Southwest, a driving trip could include Telluride, Aspen, and Taos. There would be some decent options for side trips along the way (Purgatory, Wolf Creek, Crested Butte).

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