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Advice: Low Altitude Trip in March [family trip, intermediate, first big mountain]

post #1 of 49
Thread Starter 

I've been reading this forum for a while, but this is my first post and I hope you ski enthusiasts can give me some advice. 

 
This year's ski trip has a constraint: my wife and I will have a newborn baby, and the baby needs to stay at low altitude -- less than 4000 feet. We're trying to time this trip with the end of my wife's maternity leave, so it needs to occur sometime in March. 
 
Here are the profiles of the skiers going on the trip. They range from Beginner to Advanced Intermediate. The kids have never skied a big mountain:
 
  • 13 year old -- blue cruisers
  • 13 year old -- blue cruisers
  • 16 year old -- blue cruisers
  • 17 year old -- blues and easy blacks
  • 18 year old -- greens and easy blues
  • Adult 1 -- greens and easy blues
  • Adult 2 -- blues and easy blacks
  • Adult 3 -- blues and easy blacks
 
 
Here is what we're looking for:
 
  • The sleeping elevation MUST be at or below 4000 feet. 
  • The location MUST be in North America
  • The trip MUST take place in March (preferably avoiding Spring Break -- so early or late March?)
  • We're skiing 3 or 4 days -- probably staying 5-6 nights
  • We would prefer a "big-mountain feel", but this isn't a deal-breaker
  • We're not too concerned about Snow quality/quantity (we're from the midwest, so everything out West is heaven to us)
  • The destination must be reasonably easy to get to (nothing super remote -- we'll have a baby)
  • We're mainly looking to ski -- any nightlife or town activities are secondary
 
Given these constraints/wishes, my tentative plan is to take everyone to Whistler/Blackcomb (altitude 2k feet) during the first week of March. Can anyone else recommend resorts that I should be looking at that might better fit our needs? Colorado seems like it's out because every major resort there has a base elevation of 5k feet or more. Without the altitude constraint we'd probably be going to Copper Mountain (which I've skied before).
 
Any advice would be appreciated.
 
Thanks.
 
 
post #2 of 49

If you're serious about a strict rule of less than 4K feet, then Salt Lake is out too.

How does Bend / Mt. Bachelor strike you?

post #3 of 49
Where in the Midwest? There's a bunch of people hop on a train on Minneapolis, and get off at Whitefish. Longish journey each way, but the kids can walk around, and once you're on the train, luggage is a non-issue. Town is at 3000 feet. @SlowObstacle and others can probably comment.

The mountain is a cruisers mountain. I'd recommend early March.

One caveat. The base is at over 4000 feet, so a ski in/out condo is not in the cards. But you can rent houses or condos in town, and the Snow Bus should be fine for all the teens. Just make sure if you use VRBO that you check how close it is to the route.

Trip report for last year from @focker: http://www.epicski.com/t/146328/whitefish-mt-march-12-17/0_10
post #4 of 49
Thread Starter 

Mt. Bachelor sounds interesting. Is it normal to stay/sleep in Bend and commute to the mountain? How much of a hassle is that? What is Bend like?

 

Yes, Salt Lake City is borderline. I've considered it, but with 8 people it seems like logistically it could be hard to get to/from the mountains. Maybe I'm overthinking it.

post #5 of 49
Thread Starter 

Some of us are out of Chicago, others are from St. Louis. Unfortunately, a long train ride is probably not viable. 

post #6 of 49

Yep, perfectly normal, not much of a hassle at all.   Bend is fun, totally walkable, totally driveable, great food, good beer, good wine.

And no, if you're staying in SLC getting to Solitude or Brighton or Alta or Snowbird is super easy, esp if you have a full size SUV.    Park City/DV is a bit more of a hassle but not at all terrible.   Snowbasin is an easy day trip.   The big limit is that 4K altitude constraint.

post #7 of 49
There's a few non-stops out of Chicago, but I doubt whether there are from St. Louis. On the other hand, the airport here only has three gates, so landing is pretty stress free. Walk five minutes to get your luggage, another three to get in your rental car. Twenty minute drive to town.
post #8 of 49

Whistler base elevation in 2,214 feet

post #9 of 49

I think Whistler is your best bet. Beyond that, the only possibility to fit everyone's abilities and the altitude constraint in Canada would be a place like Fernie. The base is at 3500 feet, and lots and lots of snow in early March!

post #10 of 49

If you aren't constrained to the west - there's also mt tremblant!

post #11 of 49
Schweitzer is another suggestion. Sandpoint is around 2000' elevation on a gorgeous lake, 20 minute drive or shuttle to the base at Schweitzer at 4700', easy drive from Spokane airport. Lots of intermediate terrain, long wide groomers, not a lot of people. Inexpensive tickets, food and accommodations, especially in town.
post #12 of 49

Well, I'd be happy to sing the praises of the train, but apparently that's a non-starter.   Different strokes (or different constraints)...

 

One question that did occur:  when you're ranking skiers in terms of trail difficulty, that's based on Western trails (e.g., your exp. at Copper Mt)?   The other thing to maybe consider for never-been-on-a-big-mountain skiers is that a slope of a given steepness looks much different when you're looking straight down 800 - 1000' of vertical, vs. something smaller, or at least with multiple pitches interrupted by flatter stuff.   Speaking from personal experience and comments made by others coming from the midwest (MN), where the biggest thing around might be 800' vert and nowhere a single pitch all the way down.    Sorry if all that's too obvious to mention.

 

I hope you find a good compromise, and end up with a trip everybody enjoys!

post #13 of 49

Whistler meets every one of the OP's criteria. 

post #14 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by rfeiner View Post

Mt. Bachelor sounds interesting. Is it normal to stay/sleep in Bend and commute to the mountain? How much of a hassle is that? What is Bend like?

Bend has plenty of places to eat, brewery's everywhere, plenty of shopping and lots to do

You have to drive or take the shuttle to the resort, some accommodations offer their own shuttle

Also a reminder that If anyone in your party has a drunk driving conviction they will not be allowed in Canada
post #15 of 49

Also thinking Whistler.

 

One might find a way to make Crystal in WA work.

post #16 of 49
Crystal makes a great trip, however the base is 4400'. Other than the hotels, the nearest accommodations are at Alta Crystal resort on HWY 410, or 45 minutes away in Enumclaw, other than Enumclaw the dining options for breakfast or dinner are limited and there is nothing else to entertain a group like that.

That all said, Crystal is a fabulous mountain for advanced to expert skiers, but limited beginner terrain, and most blues have challenging sections relative to most ski resort blue trails.
post #17 of 49

Whitefish would work IMO and meets all the needs on your list, as would Whistler.   Whitefish's lodging and lift tickets are VERY cheap compared to other mountains of it''s size.

post #18 of 49

Schweitzer or Whitefish are good choices.  Schweitzer has more north/east facing terrain so is a safer bet later in the season.  Spokane is usually easy and cheap to fly into, there are a couple other decent options for hills close enough if you want to skip around (silver,49degrees,mt spokane). 

 

Whistler is better but it's more travel and for a family from the midwest is probably overkill. The big problem with going to Whistler is it makes most everywhere else anticlimactic. 

post #19 of 49
Thread Starter 

Wow. Tons of good suggestions here. I do plan to respond to all of these, but first I wanted to clarify the question about the skiers' skill level. 

 

The kids have never skied a big mountain, but I feel confident about their ability to ski Western blue runs (not just get down them).  I'm basing this only on their skill level relative to mine, which might not be the best gauge, but until we get them out there it's all guessing. The 18 year old is a strong skier and will be fine on anything not super steep. The adults all have a good gauge of their ability level, including at western resorts.

post #20 of 49
Thread Starter 

What's the lowest elevation place to stay near Whitefish? 4.4k feet might be pushing it. Is the best way to get there to fly into Kalispell? Are there any other good alternatives?

post #21 of 49
Thread Starter 

Schweitzer and Mt. Bachelor both seem like appealing choices. Does Schweitzer have enough beginner terrain for the 2 skiers that would probably prefer that?

post #22 of 49

Some good suggestions so far.  My thoughts:

  • Whistler: a good suggestion, only downside is crowds on the slopes
  • Whitefish: a good suggestion, fly into Kalispell ans stay in Whitefish
  • Fernie or Kimberley: other options vai Kalispell but father drive from airport
  • Schweitzer: a good suggestion, fly into Spokanne.  A bit smaller than the others you're considering

 

Additional suggestions to consider

  • Big White & Silver Star: My top suggestion if you can get there via Kelowna airport.  Stay in Kelowna, drive to either ski area daily.  Almost no one there.  Like Copper with way less people.
  • Sun Peaks via Kelowna or Kamloops airports.  Sun peaks is at 4100 so slightly high but can't beat staying slopeside.  Canada's second largest resort with great intermediate skiing.
post #23 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by rfeiner View Post

What's the lowest elevation place to stay near Whitefish? 4.4k feet might be pushing it. Is the best way to get there to fly into Kalispell? Are there any other good alternatives?

Well, in town, as I said. The town, which is maybe 15 minutes from the resort, is at 3000 feet (valley floor). You could fly into Kalispell. You could also fly into Spokane, but that's a 4-5 hour drive depending on weather. Missoula won't buy you anything, that's a three hour drive and the rates generally are the same. Calgary is six hours, with sort of needless border complications. Spokane at least gives you a Southwest airlines option. But, then you might as well do Schweitzer. It should be a good winter for both mountains. There have been years where one or the other is mysteriously noticeably different, but La Nina is historically good here. Stick to early March.

Personally, I think Whitefish has a cuter town, and it's closer to the mountain, but then I'm biased.

Summer picture, shows valley floor vs mountain.

13938164_10154284741821399_2788615962750375384_o.jpg?efg=eyJpIjoibCJ9

Winter pictures of town:
12486081_10153756531661399_8173968139733766996_o.jpg?efg=eyJpIjoibCJ9
13680324_1217635028268488_1231414959341790429_o.jpg?efg=eyJpIjoibCJ9
post #24 of 49

Whistler or Whitefish would be my choice. 

 

You might also consider Big White and Silver Star - stay in Kelowna, so there will be a commute. 

 

Fernie, as mentioned above.

 

Banff isn't super high, at 4,500 feet, but this might be pushing it too much. You will definitely get a big mountain feel in the Banff area resorts though. Can shave a couple hundred feet off the elevation if you stay in Canmore. The town of Field, BC is a surrounded by magnificent peaks and it 15-20 minutes from the Lake Louise ski resort. It sits at 4,100 feet. Nice B&B's there, Cathedral Mountain Lode, Emrald Lake Lodge (add 100 feet).

post #25 of 49

Schweitzer is a pretty cool mountain. I haven't gotten to ski most of it as I went in a terrible year and most the mountain was closed but it had plenty of beginner and intermediate terrain. They were also surprisingly tolerant of shenanigans but I don't think you need to worry about that with your group ;)  

post #26 of 49

Silver Mountain in Idaho seems like it'd be the best bet to me: fly into Spokane, stay at the base of the gondola at 2,300' and don't worry about driving. And there's a giant waterpark for anyone who wants.

 

But my only firsthand experience in that part of the country is from summer. I'm curious to hear from some folks with more experience why Schweitzer or Whitefish is a better bet if you fly to Spokane.

post #27 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by rfeiner View Post

Mt. Bachelor sounds interesting. Is it normal to stay/sleep in Bend and commute to the mountain? How much of a hassle is that? What is Bend like?

Yes, Salt Lake City is borderline. I've considered it, but with 8 people it seems like logistically it could be hard to get to/from the mountains. Maybe I'm overthinking it.

Bend is great! Drive to the area is no big deal.
post #28 of 49
I know @Pete No. Idaho has skied all three. Maybe he can comment. Personally, if the OP flew into Spokane, I'd tell him to go to Schweitzer, assuming equivalent snow conditions. If the OP wasn't the skier and had more flexibility, then I'd say do all of them. But dragging an infant around, you want simple.

Our (Whitefish's) airport (Kalispell) is closer to the resort by far.
Edited by sibhusky - 8/17/16 at 10:08pm
post #29 of 49

Possibilities:

 

Fly to Spokane, rent a car or SUV,  Enterprise is usually the cheapist.  The following choices exist all at the lower elevation and March is very good.  Weather guys predicting 125% of normal snow.  

 

Schweitzer 15mins drive from Sandpoint.  Lots of lodging choices, hit the web.  Schweitzer is the biggest resort in the inland PNW (Whitefish if you consider in PNW is larger) only day Schweitzer is a little crowded in holidays and Saturdays.  Good lodging in village but a llittle expensive, owner rental in the Sandpoint area better for your group.  Great groomer skiing from beginner to upper intermediate.  Some really long fun runs.  Quite a bit of off piste too.  Lift tickets in the 50's range, cheaper for kids and teens chec k their site.  Sandpoint is a cool little town on the Lake with good restaurants etc.

 

 

Silver Mt. in Kellogg Idaho, right on Hwy 90.  Condo's at the base village very reasonab ly priced and there is also a pretty cool water park in the same complex, a good restaurantr Noahs, nice bar at Noahs, separate breakfast place and  two Mex rest in town, one chinese, and a few american foods.  Wallace is 15 min drive away with a very good Amer food restaurnt called City Limits and also is a brewery  Take a look at the trailmaps on their web site.  Good intermediate Mt.   Silver is best known for it's off piste skiing but there are plenty of groomers to keep you busy for at least two full days.  Heres a couple pic's of Silver:

 

The pic was taken end of season 2014, really crowded as you can seen. those tracks are mine about 3 inches of freshies.  The groomed run you see is a fun run and 1 1'/2 miles long.

 

This is Sunrise run on the front side.  Once again really crowded.  This is what Silver looks like midweek.  Believe me you can get a lot of skiing in on a weekday

While staying at the Silver Condos take one day an drive up to Lookout Pass, 25 min drive and ski there. Great snow,. great lodge, bar and the people are really great too.  A couple pic of Lookout:

 

Front side looking up from Lodge Front side of Lookout

 

Bottom of Hercules-chair 3 Chair 3, northside of Lookoutl   and not seen the backside with some really nice, wide intermiediate runs.  Cruise till your legs need a beer.

 

Anyway the pros are:   Cost very inexpensive c ompared to Whistler, Tahoe, Rockies and never crowded except a little on Sat, good snow, friendly people.

 

 

Questions, ask away.  Pm me or whatever.  I will also meet you at Silver or Lookout and be your guide for a few hours if I can.  The real plus for Silver and Lookout is the lack of lift lines and crowds on the slopes.  The run I skied in the pic above where I was in fresh 3 in powder, I skied that run that day and never saw another skier top to bottom.The big difference is the money you will save and the amount of uncrowded skiing you will do.

post #30 of 49
If the OP hasn't noticed the link in my signature yet, he and the whole crew can get a real feel for Whitefish on my site: http://www.wmr-guide.com
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