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Decision '17: Whistler or Alta/Bird?

post #1 of 44
Thread Starter 

I've got two trips out West already planned for this coming season and am planning a third in the first week of February and have narrowed it down to Whistler or Alta/Snowbird.  I have never been to Whistler before but have spent time the last two seasons at Alta and Snowbird and know that I love it there.  I have the Mountain Collective and am thinking that "it's now or never" to take advantage of the favorable exchange rate and at least see what all the fuss is about at the biggest and baddest resort on the continent.  Presently, I am leaning 75/25 in favor of Whistler mainly because I've never been there before.  Due to the weaker Canadian dollar, I can make a 5-day trip to Whistler for the same cost as a 4-day trip staying at Goldminer's Daughter at Alta.

 

Advantages of Whistler:

1) I've never been there before.

2) #1 resort in NA according to SKI magazine (surely that counts for something, right?)

3) U.S. dollars go a little farther (supposedly)

4) Over 8,000 acres of skiable terrain

 

Advantages of Alta/Snowbird:

1) No chance of rain there in February

2) Love staying at Goldminer's Daughter and having all of my meals included

3) Easier travel (but might be tempted to rent a car to visit Snowbasin or Park City for a day)

 

What would you do if you were me?

post #2 of 44
Everybody should go to Whistler once, especially since it's on the MCP this year.
Only problem, you'll blow a day getting there.
post #3 of 44

Whistler for sure  Save Alta/Bird for a long weekend getaway. 

post #4 of 44
Go to WB! Last chance at s bargain price.
Been to both. Can't go wrong.
post #5 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lofcaudio View Post
 

I have never been to Whistler before but have spent time the last two seasons at Alta and Snowbird and know that I love it there.  I have the Mountain Collective and am thinking that "it's now or never" to take advantage of the favorable exchange rate and at least see what all the fuss is about at the biggest and baddest resort on the continent.

You seem to have answered your own question for yourself.  However you asked what others would do.  I would go to Alta/Bird since I've never been there and I've been to Whistler lots of times.  I think you, however, should go to W/B.

post #6 of 44

I would opt for WB, too.

 

I visited WB + Banff (in one trip) last year and I enjoyed the Banff portion more than WB.  However, I decided to go back to WB the coming season because of the same reasons you stated (am a MCP holder myself).  Plan to combine Banff + WB in 1 trip again this year.  

 

Originally, I was only planning to visit Banff again the coming season.  Then I found out WB will be off the MCP list after next year.  Since I am not sure I will visit WB again after it is off the MCP list, I decided to add WB to my Banff trip.  

 

Also, there are couple areas @ WB that I want to see again (e.g. Symphony area - Ode to Joy run, 7th heaven, burnt stew),  I will take advantage of this last opportunity,  plus I can attend Epic gathering for the 1st time to ski with other intermediate bears.  So, why not?  

post #7 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by SHREDHEAD View Post

Only problem, you'll blow a day getting there.

What do you mean blow a day getting there? 

post #8 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by at_nyc View Post
 

What do you mean blow a day getting there? 

 

You can get to Alta quick enough that you can ski on your travel days. With Whistler, you'd have to have a non-ski day to get there, because it takes longer. So you waste, or blow, that day. 

 

That's of course dependent on how long it would take you to get to each, and whether you'd ski on your travel day anyway.

post #9 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by dbostedo View Post
 

 

You can get to Alta quick enough that you can ski on your travel days. With Whistler, you'd have to have a non-ski day to get there, because it takes longer. So you waste, or blow, that day. 

 

That's of course dependent on how long it would take you to get to each, and whether you'd ski on your travel day anyway.

I agree it depends on where you're leaving from.

 

But for you and me who are leaving from the east coast, one can always fly to Vancouver in an evening flight after leaving work. So there's no need to blow a vacation day.

 

It's no different from skiing in Tahoe. 

 

And if you're leaving from the west coast, you're no worse off travelling to Whistler than travelling to Alta/Bird. 

post #10 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by at_nyc View Post
 
And if you're leaving from the west coast, you're no worse off travelling to Whistler than travelling to Alta/Bird. 

The west coast isn't just California.  It's a lot closer for this west coaster to get to Whistler, since it's on the west coast.

post #11 of 44

Definitely WB this year. Otherwise, will need a Epic pass for 17/18. 

post #12 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by at_nyc View Post
 

But for you and me who are leaving from the east coast, one can always fly to Vancouver in an evening flight after leaving work. So there's no need to blow a vacation day.

 

Well perhaps... but that's also highly dependent on flight times and how late you're willing to get there. Last time I flew to Seattle, the cheaper flights were pretty limited in choice. Plus you've got the commute from either Vancouver or Seattle to Whistler. My understanding is that Alta is much easier to get to from the airport.

 

Total travel time from DC to Whistler is on the order of 10 hours. Add in airport time on each end, and you're probably at 12 hours. Total travel time from DC to Alta is about 6 hours. Add in airport time and you're at about 8. 

 

All that said, I think it's fair to say that you're more likely to blow a day with travel going to Whistler than you are to Alta, but you might be able to work it out either way. 

 

And all THAT said... the OP is coming from Missouri I think, so a different trade.

post #13 of 44

Why would you not go do WBC? 

You have done Alta/Bird and will again.

Canada is the biggest bargain it has been for a while.

Don't you want to judge for yourself what all the stir is about?

 

Sure, it could rain in the village which probably means it is dumping up high. Go for it.

post #14 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by dbostedo View Post

 

Well perhaps... but that's also highly dependent on flight times and how late you're willing to get there. Last time I flew to Seattle, the cheaper flights were pretty limited in choice. Plus you've got the commute from either Vancouver or Seattle to Whistler. 

Unless you're travelling with family and small children, how late to arrive is irrelevant, because you have a chance to take a nap on the long flight. 

 

As for the price of flights, late evening flights are often the less expensive flights. Granted, flights to Canada in general are often more expensive than flights within the US. But that's regardless of the hour of the day. 

 

(if you're pressed for time, like in trying to squeeze in a long weekend of skiing, I wouldn't consider Seattle as an airport at all! It's like flying to Jackson airport to ski Alta!!! )

 

Quote:
 My understanding is that Alta is much easier to get to from the airport.

I don't know where you get that understanding! 

 

Alta is up a long winding road that can close depending on weather. The road from Vancouver to Whistler only goes up 1800' to the elevation of ... about 2000'!

 

Quote:

Total travel time from DC to Whistler is on the order of 10 hours. Add in airport time on each end, and you're probably at 12 hours. Total travel time from DC to Alta is about 6 hours. Add in airport time and you're at about 8. 

 

How did you get the 10hr figure? Direct flight from NYC to Vancouver is only 6hr. Add 2 hrs to get to Whslter makes that a 8 hr journey. How does that get to 10 hrs?

 

Flight to SLC at around 5 hr, is only an hour shorter. And you still have to add another hour from the airport to the mountain. So the difference is about 2 hrs, not 4. There's no difference in airport time either way. 

 

There's only one difference in travel time, which is actually in the return leg. You have to allow extra time to clear immigration/custom in Vancouver BEFORE you can get on the plane! That pretty much precludes flying back in the afternoon. Limiting you to overnight redeye flight on the return leg.

 

Off the OP's "for" list for Alta, the only point I agree with is cost. Whistler is NOT a cheap place, favorable exchange rate or not. It'll be hard to beat Alta, which is one of the cheapest of top tier mountains. 

 

The "ease of travel" is only because the OP knows how to get to Alta but never done so for Whistler. It's really just "uncertainty" of travel arrangements. 

post #15 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by at_nyc View Post
 

Unless you're travelling with family and small children, how late to arrive is irrelevant, because you have a chance to take a nap on the long flight. 

 

As for the price of flights, late evening flights are often the less expensive flights. Granted, flights to Canada in general are often more expensive than flights within the US. But that's regardless of the hour of the day. 

 

(if you're pressed for time, like in trying to squeeze in a long weekend of skiing, I wouldn't consider Seattle as an airport at all! It's like flying to Jackson airport to ski Alta!!! )

 

I don't know where you get that understanding! 

 

Alta is up a long winding road that can close depending on weather. The road from Vancouver to Whistler only goes up 1800' to the elevation of ... about 2000'!

 

 

How did you get the 10hr figure? Direct flight from NYC to Vancouver is only 6hr. Add 2 hrs to get to Whslter makes that a 8 hr journey. How does that get to 10 hrs?

 

Flight to SLC at around 5 hr, is only an hour shorter. And you still have to add another hour from the airport to the mountain. So the difference is about 2 hrs, not 4. There's no difference in airport time either way. 

 

There's only one difference in travel time, which is actually in the return leg. You have to allow extra time to clear immigration/custom in Vancouver BEFORE you can get on the plane! That pretty much precludes flying back in the afternoon. Limiting you to overnight redeye flight on the return leg.

 

Off the OP's "for" list for Alta, the only point I agree with is cost. Whistler is NOT a cheap place, favorable exchange rate or not. It'll be hard to beat Alta, which is one of the cheapest of top tier mountains. 

 

The "ease of travel" is only because the OP knows how to get to Alta but never done so for Whistler. It's really just "uncertainty" of travel arrangements. 

 

A couple of things :

 

-- I've driven from SLC airport to Brighton, and assumed Alta would be similar. Granted it was very good weather, so if given that, it's certainly much shorter than the ~2 hour drive from Vancouver to Whistler.

-- There are no direct flights from DC to Vancouver. They all include a layover. Flight time to Vancouver is then a bit over 8 hours. The early morning flights get you to Whistler in the late afternoon. The evening departures get you to Whistler around 2 or 3 in the morning. There aren't as many options as NYC. 

-- There are a couple of non-stops to SLC, and I was wrong on 6 hours, it is only 5. There is an early morning flight that could have you on the slopes in the afternoon.

 

DC is pretty big, and is still more limited in flight options compared to NYC I'd imagine. I would think those coming from smaller places - Pittsburgh for instance - would have even less choice. So they may choose to take the morning flights, spend the day travelling to Whistler, and ski the following day.

post #16 of 44
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by dbostedo View Post
 

 

I've driven from SLC airport to Brighton, and assumed Alta would be similar.

 

 

 

It is.  LCC actually is not as deep as BCC and thus, if traffic and weather conditions are equal, the drive up to Alta is a little bit quicker than to Brighton.  However, LCC typically has more traffic going up and down it which can cause some slowdown.  There is a reason that the ski areas around SLC are known for being easy to access...it's because they are!  Even though I've personally never experienced the YVR to WB drive, I'm having a hard time believing it's anywhere close to being as easy as from SLC to Alta.

 

Vancouver Metro Area Population: 2.4 Million

Salt Lake City Area Population: 1.2 Million

 

(Denver is 2.8 Million)

 

These numbers are important because they do affect the hustle and bustle of getting in and out of the airport and the metro area.

 

All that to say, I have made my decision and most everyone who responded confirmed what was probably a no-brainer from the start.  Whistler it is!  Interestingly enough, I had budgeted out the cost of both destinations and have determined that a 5-day trip (meaning, 5 days of skiing) to Whistler for my wife and me is about $65 LESS than what a 4-day trip to Alta would cost (assuming that our daily food budget at Whistler is $150 U.S.).  This budget does not consider cost of flight (as I am using miles) and shuttle from airport (assuming that they are both equal).  The cost of slope-side lodging, lift tickets and demo ski rentals is all considerably less at Whistler.

post #17 of 44

We were considering the same 2 mountains for an April trip and went with WB.  We've been to both and liked both a lot.  But WB is a better choice if you have a non-skier.  And the lodging and tickets were cheaper for WB, even though my daughter would get to ski at Alta/Bird for free (she is in 5th grade).  Lodging in particular can be quite a bit cheaper at WB if you do not need to have ski in/ski out access.

post #18 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lofcaudio View Post
 

Whistler it is!

 

I expect a full trip report to prep everyone else who's headed to the Gathering!

post #19 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by at_nyc View Post
 

What do you mean blow a day getting there? 

 

Not being able to work or ski at least part of the day.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by at_nyc View Post
 

Unless you're travelling with family and small children, how late to arrive is irrelevant, because you have a chance to take a nap on the long flight. 

 

 

 

How did you get the 10hr figure? Direct flight from NYC to Vancouver is only 6hr. Add 2 hrs to get to Whslter makes that a 8 hr journey. How does that get to 10 hrs?

 

Flight to SLC at around 5 hr, is only an hour shorter. And you still have to add another hour from the airport to the mountain. So the difference is about 2 hrs, not 4. There's no difference in airport time either way. 

 

The "ease of travel" is only because the OP knows how to get to Alta but never done so for Whistler. It's really just "uncertainty" of travel arrangements. 

 

 

I disagree.   Rolling in at 3am,  makes skiing the next day difficult.   Plus the OP is departing STL, which has no direct flights to YVR.  I'm willing to bet his total travel time, door to door, will be in excess of 12 hours.   I'm also willing to bet there is no way you can get from NYC to Whistler in eight hours.

post #20 of 44

I keep quivers at both Altabird and WB, so have a pretty good handle on your issue, as I even go through it sometimes during a season - "hmmmmm, where should I go next week"

 

So, as you've already made up your mind

 

1) I've never been there before.      Yup, get ready. as much as I love Snowbird, WB is in a class by itself.

 

2) #1 resort in NA according to SKI magazine (surely that counts for something, right?). Actually it doesn't count for much, but it's like Disneyland for skiers. Freaking amazing.

 

3) U.S. dollars go a little farther (supposedly) - A LOT further. 30% further.

 

\4) Over 8,000 acres of skiable terrain - Very true.  And you can go back and forth via the P2P as you like.

 

NOW - what you need to know. Take a mountain tour on both hills that start at 11:30 at the top. You'll spend 2-3 hours getting to know the hill from someone that (usually) lives there, and knows it cold. 4 different levels available. Most of the tour guides are excellent, but sometimes you get some stinker that stops every 20 feet. Tell them you're leaving and carry on. I still usually take the tours to meet new people, and often, after it's over, if I find someone promising, I'll take them more places, or places they aren't allowed to go on the tour (like trees).

 

I usually have a car, but my buds at the hotel hide it for me so I don't have to pay parking - BUT, you don't need a car. I've stayed for 10 day stints and never left the village, so you can get a bus or shuttle from the airport and be there in two hours. If it's during daylight stay on the left side of the bus to get some of the most magnificent views in NA.

 

Stay in the Village, not Creekside. The village is really something, whether you're into apres or not. I alwasy stay at the Hilton, and just walk out and there's the Whistler gonjola staring at me.

 

 

Like I said, I absolutely love Snowbird and it's terrain, but WB is absolutely not to be missed.

post #21 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by SHREDHEAD View Post

 

  I'm also willing to bet there is no way you can get from NYC to Whistler in eight hours.

I've been to Whistler, though only in summer (mtn biking). So I know the routine. I expect winter will make for a slightly slower drive but unless there's a storm, not that different.

 

Quote:
 Not being able to work or ski at least part of the day.

Even with Alta, you only get to ski part of the day on arrival. To ski the full day, you need to fly in the night before. 

 

Quote:
I disagree.   Rolling in at 3am,  makes skiing the next day difficult.  

I never found that a problem. Maybe not first chair. But no problem skiing a good part of the day. 

post #22 of 44
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by snofun3 View Post
 

Take a mountain tour on both hills that start at 11:30 at the top.

 

 

When you say "on the top", where exactly do you mean on both mountains?    Top of the Peak Express on Whistler and the top of 7th Heaven on Blackcomb?

post #23 of 44
No, at Rendevous and Roundhouse, basically at each end of Peak to Peak. Whistler is kind of an upside down resort. The full service lodges, demo rentals, meeting spots for mountain tours, and even groomer machines are all located at the top. Above that is considered the Alpine.
post #24 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by DesiredUsername View Post

No, at Rendevous and Roundhouse, basically at each end of Peak to Peak. Whistler is kind of an upside down resort. The full service lodges, demo rentals, meeting spots for mountain tours, and even groomer machines are all located at the top. Above that is considered the Alpine.

 

To be even more specific - On Whistler it's down from the Red chair and above Rendevous, and on Blackcomb, its up above Roundhouse, just to the left of the end of the Solar Coaster lift.

 

In both cases it's at the "Customer Satisfaction Center" - see the folks in the the green jackets and they'll direct you.

post #25 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by snofun3 View Post

To be even more specific - On Whistler it's down from the Red chair and above Rendevous, and on Blackcomb, its up above Roundhouse, just to the left of the end of the Solar Coaster lift.

In both cases it's at the "Customer Satisfaction Center" - see the folks in the the green jackets and they'll direct you.
OK, but you got your Roundhouse and Rendevous on the wrong mountains. But we get the idea.
post #26 of 44
Thread Starter 

Anyone have a feel for the ordeal of clearing customs at YVR for U.S. travelers?

post #27 of 44
1/2 hour arriving on a 777 from ORD with a clean record.
post #28 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lofcaudio View Post
 

Anyone have a feel for the ordeal of clearing customs at YVR for U.S. travelers?

 

Depends on how many flights are coming in. If you get a 380 from China (around mid-afternoon) it could take 1.5 hours, so pick your incoming time wisely.

 

I have both Canadian and US passports :) so I get through a little faster.

post #29 of 44
Thread Starter 

As I make travel plans, there really is no comparison to "accessibility" when comparing Whistler vs. Alta/Snowbird.  I would think that this would apply to all non-Canadians, except for maybe those in the state of Washington.  However, that's not the point of this particular post.  I am curious about some other things...

 

Crowding...both on the runs and in the lift lines...is one of the things that most affect my fun factor while skiing.  I will be skiing Sunday through Thursday in the first week of February.  What do I need to know in order to beat the crowds (or steer clear of them) while navigating the vast expanse of Whistler-Blackcomb?

 

Both my wife and I are advanced intermediates.  My wife skis almost exclusively groomed terrain (though she has done well in deep powder and low-angle bumps, she just doesn't particularly enjoy it).  I will ski anything that won't kill me.  Where will we have fun and are there any places we should definitely avoid?

post #30 of 44

 By first week of Feb I'm assuming you mean starting on the 5th, the week before that will be busier as it is Chinese New Year.  If that is your week Sunday will be busy mid week will be relatively quite. Best way to beat any crowds is to get out early, officially the lifts open at 8.30 but they will usually let people upload 10-15 mins before that. Blackcomb is usually not as busy as Whistler.

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