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December Trip? [from FL, 10th anniversary, without kids]

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

Hello, I'm new to EpicSki, so take it easy on me...also I'm a Floridian. Two strikes already? I joined to see if I could get some feedback from the experts.


My wife and I are taking a trip (sans kids) for our 10-year anniversary. It's in October, but we won't be able to travel then since I'll be in the middle of training for an Ironman triathlon (I know, my wife is awesome) and we don't want to get too far away from the actual anniversary date...December also sets up well with our work schedules to be able to take a week or so off.


Since we're both lifelong Floridians and have only been skiing once before (Timberline, Mt. Hood), we don't know much of anything. The obvious question is where to zero in for the best conditions in mid December. Also a big factor is the surrounding town and the "off-mountain" environment: dining, bars, music, etc. We're both pretty laid back and not much into the nightclub scene, but do enjoy finding an interesting place (music, people watching, etc.) to have a few drinks - and conversation - after dinner. We have a decent budget, but don't want to drop huge coin on this trip either. We're both athletic and picked up very quickly on the basic skills needed for almost all the blue runs (I did a couple of the easiest blacks) on Timberline, although I have no idea how that compares to other mountains.


For all of these reasons, I was leaning towards Park City or Keystone. Yay or nay? Other suggestions certainly welcome!



post #2 of 11
The standard answer is that before Christmas, hotels should not be an issue, but snowfall could be. Better to select a region where early snow is likely, but don't book anything until it's time to leave. Fly into a centrally located airport and drive to where the snow is falling. You could visit bestsnow.net and read the best months historically for areas that interest you, but this far out, no one knows, especially at that time of year.
post #3 of 11

If you can postpone your anniversary  trip to December, why not a little longer, if possible.  If you can't wait, then coastal areas often have more snow than others early in the season.  Whistler might be an option, but as sib says above, wait as long as possible before committing and watch the weather for your intended targets.

post #4 of 11
Welcome to EpicSki. I agree with sibhusky that you can get skunked if not careful. If you must commit sooner, rather than later then the following are good bets for decent December snow with a nice town and lots of beg-int terrain: Whistler, Steamboat, Vail, Breckenridge. None should be super crowded pre-Christmas.
post #5 of 11

I agree with keeping an eye on conditions at Whistler. They usually open in mid Nov. so by mid Dec. the runs that are open will mostly be low angle runs (greens and blues) in pretty good shape.


The Canadian dollar is right now worth .77 US and it could drop further by the end of the year. So keep an eye on that as well.


Visiting Canada requires a passport.

post #6 of 11

What is your gateway airport?


Book a direct flight into Denver on Southwest.  You can cancel right up to two hours before your flight, without a penalty.

Wait to book everything else,  till a couple of days before departure.

post #7 of 11

Plenty of good choices and you should wait until last minute to book that time of year.    Matter of fact you should always wait until last minute to book if conditions are a concern - and they always are. However,  I already have 2 or 3 trip locations and dates all but nailed down for next season.  Do as I say not as I do!

post #8 of 11
Best conditions are statistically at Alta at that time of year. You should stay at the Alta Rustler lodge which is quite nice in a rustic way. Alta has a great atmosphere and has some quite nice trails for beginners. Highly recommend getting lessons daily.

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post #9 of 11

All good suggestions above (I'm also based in Floriduh so know your predicament).


As has been said, don't plan too early. 6-7 years ago Whistler (make sure your passports are good) was outrageous, with 18 feet of snow in NOVEMBER!. I have pictures with me getting face-shots during that pre-Thanksgiving trip. A couple of years ago, Steamboat was off-the-hook before Christmas. No one can tell what'll be good, so leave your options open.


The hotels and flights aren't crowded and will be at off-season rates until (probably) the weekend of the 17th of December, so look at the week prior.


You should scope out probably your top 3-5 potential locations, and get to know them so you can make an informed decision not only about conditions, but also where you want to be for the other things you're looking for.


Whistler - furthest, biggest, village with no car required. While it usually opens mid November, it might or might not be good.

Salt Lake - resorts are close, apres aren't a major attraction except got PC. Snowbird and Alta probably best potential for early snow but might be over your skill level - nothing to speak of at those areas for apres

Colorado (I-70) lots of choices, towns with apres (Breck, BC, Steamboat), a drive from Denver apt (but there's Eagle and Hayden (Steamboat) close by but might not yet be flying t that time of the season.


Of the ones you mention, Park City will be blowing snow if it's at all possible, and there's the town that should keep you busy and Keystone is part of the I70 (Vail, BC, Keystone ++) group, that by itself doesn't have much apres attraction, but is a nice area (though it doesn't get a lot of love on most ski sites.)

post #10 of 11

I'm going to go against the crowd.  As you've only skied once before and this is an important anniversary trip, I'm going to say fly to Aspen, stay in town, and ski at Buttermilk.  Opening day will be December 10.  You will find great restaurants, lots of nightlife (although it is pretty low tide), and good snowmaking.  


I really don't think that the snow conditions are going to make much difference for you given the state of your skiing experience.  So pick Aspen, where you will find not only great skiing, but also a bunch of fun adult activities.



post #11 of 11

While Timberline is a flattish mountain, someone who runs Ironmans is likely to have fast learning curve and should be getting around mainstream blues within a few days.  Do take lessons to speed up that learning curve.


All the advice above about flexibility pre-Christmas is correct in terms of snow.  The fly to Denver or Salt Lake but choose resort as late as possible is a solid recommendation. 


In the case of Salt Lake you need to understand that the Cottonwood resorts are the only ones with a good early season reliability record.  Yes Park City has snowmaking, but it's lower and warmer than I-70 Colorado so rates to have less terrain covered with snowmaking in the early season.   Skiing in the Cottonwoods may be great but apres ski in quite minimal.  And Alta/Snowbird is not the greatest fit at your level of ski experience.


Targeting Aspen for its numerous non-ski amenities is not unreasonable.  But I'd incorporate that into the fly to Denver strategy even though the drive to Aspen is 4 hours.  You can always switch the trip last minute to Vail, Steamboat or Summit County if snow conditions are better in those places.

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