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Quick trip coming up - Lots of Questions about Alta, Brighton, Taos

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
Hey bears -

Well, looks like my fiancee and I may have gone utterly insane and decided to go to Utah for as much novice skiing as we can afford leaving about a week from now. I say *may* have, because we need to budget this out, and I need some planning tips! We're trying to keep the whole thing as close to a grand (under,under) as possible. 4 days/4 nights, or more if we can swing it.

We had planned to ski east (we're in NYC), but the numbers kept coming up so much higher than we expected because of having to rent a car and the ski school prices. When you throw in the fact that she wasn't looking forward to eastern conditions (she skied in Quebec once and found it too icy) and had skied only once before that, a powder day in the Alps (she's French), it became clear we needed to look west.

Our first choice is Taos for a ski week, but the added expense/time of renting a car from Denver to drive 4 hours down is a real hang up. (Anybody know a cheap/easy way to get to Taos from the Denver airport other than renting a car please fire away!!!)

Jet blue has sweet low fares of $99 each way to SLC and Denver.

Aspen/Snowmass seems to have a walkable village but the cost is outrageous, with no ski school deals at all.

So far, Utah looks the cheapest and easiest. But we need to make it cheaper.

There seem to be a bazillion ways to do a trip out there, but I'm getting cross eyed trying to figure it all out.

We were looking at Alta and Brighton, but we're open to any place easy to get to from SLC airport via a shuttle or free bus with a strong ski school. (Or ANY place out west you may know of for that matter, as long as we spend the trip skiing and not commuting in a car [img]tongue.gif[/img]

Ski School
I keep seeing ski/stay packages -- but we're novices looking to buckle in and improve. We don't need full lifts. We need lessons that package rentals and lower lifts. Ski school is a must. We want lessons every day we're there. We want strong instruction with low instructor/skier ratio. Do you guys have strong feelings about any schools? Know of any with good multi-day deals that emphasize learning proper technique and that communicate it well? Brighton has a reasonable rate, any word on their school and mountain? I just read a great thread on Solitude, but I know next to nada about the school... I've read that Alta and Taos have great schools, any specific feedback?

Equipment Coupons everywhere, but...

I see coupons online for equipment rentals (and I've read here about lift pass coupons), but where are these shops in relation to the ski areas? Easy to get to via the ski bus? Or at the areas? www.skinsee.com seems everywhere, cheap enough? Shop recommendations, please!

There's a thread here about the Utah epicski gathering coming up, where there's a link to a rentals in Midvale that's right on the bus line. (Thanks snowant!) That looks good to us. Does anyone know if there's any grocery shopping around this place?

Anybody know of any good deals on lodging that's on or walking distance to the hill? We plan on cooking, a kitchen would be easier than making a fire out front. Any favorite crashpads?

We'd like to go out a couple times - Any good tips on restaurants? (And what is the deal with wine in Utah?) Are there cabs to get home at night? How much do they cost?

The utah bus site is a bit wacky right now, none of the links work. Can anyone confirm or post the route numbers contact info for the shuttle/bus from the SLC airport? How much should it be? Also, where can I purchase a pass for the uta ski bus? And how much is it per ride?

Long post, thanks for slogging through. We're hoping to have a great time - Any help would be appreciated!!! Feel free to send me PMs, post links, whatever you may think of!
post #2 of 24
Hmmm, my math ain't great, but here's what I come up with;

Flights- approx. $450 with taxes

Daily lift/lesson pkg., 2 pers./4 days- min. $400 @ $50 pp/pd (if this can be done cheaper, than well done!)

Rental car or R/T shuttle transportation- $120

To stay under 1k, this leaves you $30 to pay for 4 nights lodging, rental equipment, and all meals.

Good luck with that! [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]

You may want to revise your budget, firm up your destination, then check back in.
post #3 of 24
I can't help you out with the ski school info but I can tell you what we were able to find.
Expedia rnd trip air from Cinn to SLC + 4 nights at Wyndham for $375 each over New Years. That does not include lift tx. Shuttles from airport are not too expensive. I've taken them to Park City the last 2 years d/t that is where we always stayed before. I think about 22 pp each way, free bus in Park City around town.

I will be taking the ski bus from hotel to resorts. May do trax light rail to the ski bus for Brighton one day. Not sure how I will get to Deer Valley to ski one day, I think there is a bus going out there from downtown. These are questions I'll be asking on the board right before I leave the 29th.

You'll get folks on here to respond that know all of this info better than me! I've seen posts advertising cheaper hotels down around Sandy area. I would recommend you check out package deals if you want to stay under $1000, that will probably be hard to do for 4 nights! I have did 3 nights in Park City early season for that though! Including skiing 2 days and one lesson. Good luck!
post #4 of 24
I'm with X on this one!!

Looks like the old champagne tastes on a beer budget scenario.

...Better take your camping gear and a BIG sack lunch!

post #5 of 24
Thread Starter 
- Thanks for the responses so far. LOL, It's true, more like 1200 is a better range at least when you add it all together

Still hoping for feedback on ski schools at Alta, Brighton and Taos, a real priority!

Also wonder if anyone knows the name/names of the airport shuttle into SLC.

feal -
Looks like the old champagne tastes on a beer budget scenario.
LOL! A noble affliction shared by many before me it seems. Didn't I mention my fiancee is French? Champagne SHOULD flow like beer... (Then again, being Utah, isn't it necessary to bring our own champagne anyway..?) [img]smile.gif[/img]

Cheryl - Thanks for the info. I saw around $400/pp for a few days in Deer Valley from NYC on another engine, but the timing is off for us. I hadn't looked at expedia, I'll check there.
May do trax light rail to the ski bus for Brighton one day
What is the trax you mention taking? Sounds like a train alternative to the ski bus? Do you have a link?

Xdog -
Daily lift/lesson pkg., 2 pers./4 days- min. $400 @ $50 pp/pd (if this can be done cheaper, than well done!)
Rental car or R/T shuttle transportation- $120
Do you know somewhere that does $50pp/pd 4 day min lift, lesson, rentals?

Is the shuttle from the airport $60/pp r/t, or is that $120 a ballpark rental car price? If you know the names of any shuttles, please feel free to post.

Coming on strong is Taos:
Taos has a half off ski week that's $90/pp for the week, which includes 6 days of lessons. Not sure if rentals are included, but every single thing in town is half off.
That in mind, if we don't stay the full 6 days, it's only $35/day for lessons, lift, and rentals during the 1/2 off week. I've found cheap lodging at Taos in the $50-$60/night for the room range that includes lifts...
post #6 of 24
Do the ski week in Taos. It is the best lesson value available.
post #7 of 24
Hey Tigerpaw,

Check out the Best Western @ Sandy. They have ski & stay packages although you will have to get transport to Alta or one of the others, (I not sure if the muni bus runs by the hotel).

Also, the Alta private lessons are 2 hrs min. and tho its been a few years, I'm thinking they were pretty reasonable (like $80/lesson). Check their website.

I think Alta is your bet. Tix are real cheap and there's definitely enough easier terrain and NO ice.

I was looking for a plane fare like that but no dice from DC (more like $400 rt), I wish I was going! have fun.
post #8 of 24
I crunched the numbers and can get close to your $1,200 range. If you were happy to spend most of your time at Brighton. Here's the breakdown:

Airfare - JetBlue ...........................$433
Hotel - Priceline (4 nts @ $35 Salt Lake)....$140
Car Rental - Alamo (including taxes).........$150
First Day Deer Valley (no lesson/rentals)..$000
Next three days Brighton ..................$450
Rentals for first day........................$ 30

You could actually spend even less on a hotel. It all depends on what you're looking for in accomodations. Check out www.biddingfortravel.com to get some ideas. For a car rental, use the link http://www.bnm.com/ski.htm and click on Alamo. The price includes a free ski rack. In my opinion, you'll want a car.

I would also recommend spending slightly more and checking out a different resort each day. They're all within an easy day's drive of Salt Lake. A lift/lesson package at Alta will set you back $82 per person. A lift/lesson package at SnowBasin costs $79 per person. The downside to both is that neither comes with the rentals, but those can be had for cheap.

If you did Deer Valley, Alta, Snowbasin, and Brighton and rented skis for three of the four days, your total package price would increase to about $1,286.
post #9 of 24
If I was you I would take Jet Blue to SLC. Lots of skiing options, plenty of hotels, heck you can even take busses up into Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons. Taos is beautiful, but as novices you won't be able to ski most of it. Same for Alta but there are many more options within easy striking distance of SLC. Also I think JB's schedule is a little more user friendly in and out of SLC than Denver.
post #10 of 24
We were at the Best Western in Sandy last week - wasn't impressed. Suggest the Country Suites (across the street) or Extended Stay next door.

Country Suites: Continental brkfst, indoor hot tub/pool, microwave and small fridge. Ski package to Alta/Snowbird/Brighton/Solitude including bus pass.

Extended Stay: not sure but lower prices

Lift Tickets/rentals: Canyon Sports (near the Best Western in Sandy)

Lift tickets: Although terrain may not fit, Jordan School District has Snowbird coupon books (for $5). Includes 50% Tram Lift tickets and 50% of lessons. I have a couple of extra coupon books (free)if you are interested, but must be used by 12/24/03.

Resturants: Lot to choose from in immediate area, but mostly chains.
If you don't mind a drive - Red Iguana is a good Mexican resturant north of downtown SLC.
Grocery: Albertsons 5 minutes by car south on State Street (from 10600 Sout)

Good luck [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #11 of 24
Also wonder if anyone knows the name/names of the airport shuttle into SLC.


other good links:

May do trax light rail to the ski bus for Brighton one day
What is the trax you mention taking? Sounds like a train alternative to the ski bus? Do you have a link?

is the link to the train with ski routes noted. I think it works like this:
If you stay downtown you can ride the train (if you are close to it) to the ski bus stop to go on the Solitude/Brighten or Park City resorts. Or a ski bus will pick you up at most downtown hotels for Alta/Snowbird without changing buses. Other resorts you can take the ski bus from the hotel and then change buses. Hopefully if I'm wrong someone will point this out! I'm planning on doing this later this month. Would like to do Alta, Solitude or Brighton, and Deer Valley.

Is the shuttle from the airport $60/pp r/t, or is that $120 a ballpark rental car price?

If you are staying in Park City then it is about $25pp each way. Most hotels in downtown SLC have free or cheap shuttles from the airport.

Something else I'll throw out there, You may want to try and book your trip on priceline. I went to Aruba for about 50% less that what the charter packages were going for and I get hotels on there all the time really cheap but I don't like the fact that I can't choose the flight I'm on unless it is one of their long weekend getaways. My upcoming trip is during the week. Also, I have used priceline for rental car.

Whatever you decide, have fun!
post #12 of 24
Thread Starter 
Roger, snowflier, milesb., crank and cjbrowns -
You guys are fantastic! Great info!
Milesb - I've just spoken to the ski school at Taos, they sound great. It was snowing as we spoke, about 8 inches expected. A lot of the discounted lodging for the 1/2 off week is getting snatched up while I research this stuff, but I'm on it. They say the instructorer ratio is 1:7, which was more than I expected, I was hoping for 1:4 or so, but the video analysis, 2 lessons a day and total value of 6 solid days skiing is unapproachable. I do have a slight concern about terrain after reading a couple posts, including crank's . My fiancee is a good inline skater, and I've had a enough days to feel comfortable on easy blues, but that's not on Western runs and certainly not anything steep. I don't want her to be on her butt too much, and neither of us intimidated or worse, out of places to ski. But it is six days skiing with 12 lessons....

Roger [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]
Wow! Thanks for crunching that out - I'd been using other engines like cheaptickets.com and have never used priceline, what a great rate!
Also, I had no idea skiing can be free at times at Deer Valley - I'll check out their site for info... and thanks for the other links to check out. I'll be busy looking up all this great stuff -

snowflier: Thanks for the tip on Sandy Best Western, I'll check it out when I'm done here.

I was looking for a plane fare like that but no dice from DC (more like $400 rt), I wish I was going!
Just in case you ever get the bug to take advantage of one of those jetblue.com fares you can for an extra $35. Have you heard of the www.washny.com bus? It's $35 R/T, from DC chinatown to NYC chinatown. It's just like the www.fungwahbus.com that runs from NYC- Boston, which I've taken, and it puts Greyhound, Amtrak, and most of the airlines to shame for efficiency, speed, cleanliness and price. If you don't mind tacking on the extra couple hours to travel to NYC, you could hop that DC bus direct to NYC Chinatown, then take the A train at the Canal Street station direct to JFK for $2.

crank --

Would you mind too much following up? Sounds like you've been to Taos (I've only passed through, never skied there.) I've read elsewhere that the mountain is limited to anyone below advanced or expert level. The focus of the trip would be on the ski school with 2 lessons a day and even apres ski analysis/workshops. Do you think Taos would still run out of appropriate terrain for us?

cjbrowns -
Great list! [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img] Thanks for the first hand report. I'll follow up into it now, and am sending you a PM re: coupons. The dates of our trip will be between12/14-12/19 so they'd be of great value to us if we go there!

Thanks again everyone, I'm back to looking....
post #13 of 24
Thread Starter 
Cheryl -
Thanks for the links and the priceline tip! I'm going to have to put another pot of coffee on for sure!
post #14 of 24
Another way to save $$ if you go to Utah: http://www.utahskigolf.com/main.htm . Cheaper rentals than at the resorts, also discounted lift tix. They have a branch at the SLC airport too so it's convenient but when I was there mid-Nov. it was closed sounds like temporary for renovations.
post #15 of 24

Here's the link to the free tickets at Park City/Deer Valley/Canyons (QuickStart program).

post #16 of 24
If you've never been to Alta, it's arguably the prettiest spot in Utah, a very pretty state. (minus dugway proving grounds) The group lessions are about $25 for 1/2 day if memory serves- correct me bears- But it's a magic place- In spite of the black diamond rep, there's plenty of intermediate terrain and great beginner stuff too. I visited from NYC almost twenty years ago, just learning to ski, came back and made it my home. R.

Caveat; Brighton is a nice place; but it's boarder turf -the boarder hill in UT.- Alta and Taos are two plank only.

[ December 08, 2003, 05:50 PM: Message edited by: Rubob ]
post #17 of 24
Taos is a neat place and the experience of staying and skiing there can be memorable. I feel much the same about Alta. Both places are more or less shrines of skiing and their ski schools are legendary, but they can also be pretty intimidating for a novice. Maybe I just wasn't looking for it, but I didn't see much novice terrain at either place, mostly just huge steep mountains.

I think of Buttermilk at Aspen as some kind of paradise for novices, combined with everything Aspen has to offer. I'm sure other areas like Vail and Breckenridge must a have substantial novice/intermediate offerings as well as off slope amenities.

Park City?

[ December 08, 2003, 06:56 PM: Message edited by: arcadie ]
post #18 of 24
I've only a total of 3 days at Taos but from what I saw there was not a lot of novice or intermediate terrain. Lots of great steeps and the legendary Al's Run, which is a mile of moguls. Another factor there is altitude. Taos base is over 9000 ft high and the lift served skiing tops out well over 11,000. I believe it is higher than anything in Utah. This may or may not effect you, but wherever you go in the rockies drink lots of water, before you get thirsty. It will help - I speak from experience.
post #19 of 24
Thread Starter 
Down to two now: Snowbird and Deer Valley. A surprise based on deals out there.

Thanks guys for all the continued input -

Rubob -
I visited from NYC almost twenty years ago, just learning to ski, came back and made it my home. R.
Hearing from you that it's possible is no help at all. None! ...but if my landlord breaks down our door in a few months to find a deserted apartment with only the ski gear missing, they'll know who gave me the idea. [img]smile.gif[/img]

Thanks for the hydration reminder crank, I remember the first time I was in Colorado having to sit down and catch my breath. We're runners so I'm hoping we'll be okay as we hydrate pretty well already. And always increase when we fly. I will try to lay off the caffeine, but I don't know how easy that will be...

Does anyone have feedback on Snowbird's ski school, or Deer Valley's?

Also, any good advanced beginner runs, low intermediates to look forward to at either place? I looked at a trail map of Mineral Basin and noticed what looks like a tricky unnamed traverse to the Baldy quad, then a few green runs down. Are these really novice level runs?

After all the searching and fantastic posts from everyone here, it's getting verry close to decision time, and we've found good deals at both the above places. We should have a good idea of where we're headed tomorrow, and I'll make sure to follow up before we head off!

Any further feedback from you guys in the meantime on DV and Snowbird would help a ton!

[ December 10, 2003, 01:44 AM: Message edited by: Tigerpaw ]
post #20 of 24
I'm no expert on this - there are many with far more Utah experience than me. But, for what it is worth, I skied at Snowbird and Deer Valley, each for just one day, a few years back when I was an intermediate.

Snowbird I found challenging and fun - but it was hard, I was stretching my skills at the time to ski anything interesting. One of the people I was with who was about my skill level but less aggressive got very frustrated and quit skiing early in the day, unable to find anything comfortable to cruise. And that green in Mineral Basin (at least when I was there - it looks to me like the map has changed a bit since '99) was a horrible nasty cattrack that I only skied once.

Deer Valley seemed to have a huge variety of wide open, uncrowded blue runs. The blues were pretty easy for us and well-groomed; I remember doing loops on the blues on Jordanelle almost by myself, but as I recall that green that loops around the lift was plenty wide and good to ski on as well.

By reputation alone, I would think you can't go wrong with either ski school. My limited experience says better learner terrain at Deer Valley, but hopefully someone with more experience in Utah can also chime in for you; maybe I just never found the easier stuff at Snowbird.

Have fun - I'm sure whichever you pick you'll have a great time I'd be jealous, but I leave for Aspen in 8 days!
post #21 of 24
Never been to Snowbird, looks way too hard for me! I like to cruise and avoid all steeps. LOL [img]smile.gif[/img]

Here's what I remember about DV. I have been there twice and going back in less than 3 weeks. There are green cruisers from the top of several mountains there. Ontario and Homeward bound are the easiest from the top of Flagstaff, Sunset at the top of Bald Mtn is also fairly easy. But I must say, after only skiing in the East before my trip out there a couple years ago, I found DV to be tough. A ski book for North America I have notes that many of DV greens could really be "turquoise", and I agree. Other than the three I mentioned above, most of the other greens probably should be rated blue but all resorts will change some blues to greens just to be able to advertise some beginner terrain. Banner is a lovely cruiser and no one else around most of the time but only after you get past Mtn Daisy which I think should be rated a blue. Parts of Bandana and Success are "turquoise" in my book.

DV has plenty of high speed lifts and no lines. [img]smile.gif[/img] You truly get to ski for the whole day instead of waiting in long lift lines! If you can do blues without problem, DV will be perfect.

Some folks say DV "dumbs down" their trail ratings, no way do I agree with that. Maybe the black runs would be blues elsewhere (and I don't know this since I've never been on a black), but the blues would probably be black in the east and many of the greens would be blue.

It is truly a great ski experience. Great on mountain food, even breakfast is great in Snow Park Lodge. You will have a great time at DV and partying in Park City. [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #22 of 24
Thread Starter 
Hi Cheryl -
Thanks for posting!
Yeah, our heads are spinning....

I'm trying to work this out so we get 2 free days of skiing in at DV, before heading out to Snowbird/Alta for 3-4...

Might just work...

Either that or a shorter stay, limited to either all DV, or all Snowbird.

I'll be sure to post our final deal, and pass along all the info that we've garnered.

I just sent you a PM on Deer Valley! Do you know how much the max 4 lessons are? Is that $105 rate per person, or to be divided between the group?? :

post #23 of 24
Just back from a week at Snowbird.

Snowbird has a great ski school. The wife and I got a three hour private with Carl Boyer, excellent, for $270. They also have several group lesson options, check out the website.

If your fiance has only skied twice I would ski off the chairs only and save a few bucks. There are several greens and easier, groomed, blues off the chairs. I would not go to Mineral Basin. The traverse from the top of the Little Cloud lift isn't too difficult but can be intimidating with all the experts flying by. The worst part could be getting her back down the front side, the easiest way is Chip's Run.

If you get bored with the greens at Snowbird head up the canyon to Alta. There are some greens off of the Albion lift and some groomed blues off of Wildcat. Don't buy the combined pass, there is free bus service between Alta and Snowbird.

Enjoy your trip!
post #24 of 24
Thread Starter 
We're back from our Utah trip -

Thanks to everyone for all your input! [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]

I've just posted a report here

[ December 24, 2003, 12:35 PM: Message edited by: Tigerpaw ]
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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Mountain/Resort Related Forums › Resorts, Conditions & Travel › Quick trip coming up - Lots of Questions about Alta, Brighton, Taos