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Skiing Out West in Late April

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
We're a family of 3: I ski about 7 or 8, pretty strong on the groomed, ok in the bumps. My daughter (13) is a 6 or 7, my wife moving from a 3 to a 4. We're Eastern skiiers (condo at Sugarbush; Berkshires/Hunter for a day trip; no real powder experience yet.

Here's the deal: we have a school break coming April 17 for 10 days or so. I want to go west (have reservations to Salt Lake already) BUT... where are we most likely to find conditions all of us can ski? If the snow's just at the peaks that will leave my wife in the lodge (unh uh). We need a pretty full range of trail types to keep us happy. Any thoughts on April skiing?

Thanks.
post #2 of 25
mdimen, Welcome to EpicSki!! [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]
I was in Utah this past April from 4/8 - 4/13. We skied the Canyons, Alta and Snowbird.

After April 14th, even with plenty of snow, the only area that remained open was Snowbird. Alta still had plenty of coverage with no bare spots anywhere, but the Canyons and Park City were in pretty bad shape on the lower half, although they still had very good coverage up top.

If you decide to stick with SLC, then Snowbird will probably be the only option for you after mid April. I'm pretty sure Alta was closing on April 14th last year, but I just looked back at their Picture of the Day Archive and it looks like they may have gotten a storm right after we left : and they may have been open later.

If you look at the photos you'll see how good the skiing was there in late April. Conditions at Snowbird were identical to Alta.

You'll probably be able to find very good conditions somewhere every day as long as you know how to work the sun, which is very tricky if you don't know the mountain.

Depending on the day and night time temperatures, be prepared for the likelyhood of both very icy conditions and/or 10 inches of crud if you don't time it right. But if you know how to time it, you should be able to find some excellent skiing. Mid fat skis are an absolute must.

BTW, I just re-read your post about your daughter and wife's skiing abilities. Unfortunately, much of what I said won't apply to them unless the weather keeps the conditions from getting difficult, which I wouldn't count on. You have to expect some spring skiing, just like at Sugarbush in April, only thicker. Your daughter can find some good skiing, if you know where to go, but your wife might want to spend most of her time in the spa or rooftop pool at the Cliff Lodge. Maybe you should consider staying there to keep her happy in case the conditions get rough.

[ November 12, 2002, 05:39 PM: Message edited by: Carvemeister ]
post #3 of 25
You sure seem to be on the outside of the ski season in Utah. Some of the same reasons that give them their famous snow also lead to a quick reversal of fortunes once the weather patterns start to warm up.

Mid April skiing is probably best in the Banff area. It has the highest lift served skiing in Canada, and is in a sheltered mountain region far enough north to maintain skiing conditions longer than most any other areas. You may get Spring conditions, or something that looks like the best mid-winter snow you have ever seen. Their terrain is geared to what you stated and the prices up there that time of year are very reasonable.

Hope you have a REALLY good trip!! [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #4 of 25
The best spring skiing is at either Mt. Bachelor in Bend, Oregon, or at Mammoth Mountain, in California. Both of these mountains will have snow and terrain in abundance for the abilities you indicate. My advice is to rent a motorhome and stay right in the Bachelor parking lot. We will likely be there in our motorhome, that is assuming that our kids’ spring break is at that time.

Mark
post #5 of 25
April in Utah CAN be some of best sking, but can also be too warm and soft for many people's tastes. If you live here and can pick your days, it's great. Otherwise, it's a gamble.
post #6 of 25
We skied in western Canada last year at Lake Louise and Banff/Sunshine. Sunshine is often open into May and even has powder days in May according to the locals. (The mens Canadian ski team trained at this resort a couple of years ago in June) Also, in April the lift lines are non-existent. The snow here is all natural with terrain to match any and all in your family.

The difference in the dollar - U.S. to Cdn. - won't hurt you pocketbook either. Try ultimate ski vacations. Easy to deal with and they offer some awesome deals. Hope this helps. Have fun and remember................

Keep skiing faster! :

[ November 15, 2002, 03:21 AM: Message edited by: FlipFlopFly ]
post #7 of 25
Thread Starter 
You guys are great. Thanks for the ideas; keep 'em coming. I've made reservations for a flight to Calgary on April 17. More details, please: should I concentrate on Lake Louise, or spread myself around? Where to stay: seems there are some condos up there (that's our style); any thoughts? I've got narrow waisted Volants; should I rent mid-fats for the trip?

Oboy, oboy, can't wait!!!
post #8 of 25
Quote:
I've made reservations for a flight to Calgary on April 17.
That wouldn't have been my first choice for April skiing. Interior Canada, like the Rockies, has a Continental snowpack. It's dry and powdery in the Winter, but it has poor cohesion when the weather warms up. The snowpack also tends to be shallow. These factors add up to poor spring conditions.

If you want to experience the best in spring skiing, you need to be in a coastal resort. Ticking off the areas with the best spring conditions:

Mt. Bachelor, OR
Whistler, BC
Sugar Bowl, CA
Alpine Meadows, CA
Kirkwood, CA
Mammoth, CA

These areas have deep snowpacks, high water content snow, and daily freeze-thaw cycles. This produces some of the sweetest spring corn snow conditions you'll find. But be sure to check for scheduled closing dates. Even though there may be 10+ feet of snow on the ground, some of these resorts will still close in late April.
post #9 of 25
Louise is a long haul each day from Banff and does not have great beginner/intermediate terrain. I wouldn't want to have to make the haul every day to Louise,Sunshine,or Norquay with a family. It's a thirty minute drive at the very least.

I guess I would have to make the argument for Loveland/A-Basin at that time of year. There is superb terrain for all and great quality snow. Thw snowfall this year is well ahead of prior years so the season at Loveland/A-Basin should last a long time.

These are no frills resorts however they have better amenities than Louise, Sunshine or Norquay.
post #10 of 25
Please remember that skiing that time of year is a roll of the dice anywhere you go. There just are better chances that you will get in on some mid-winter skiing that time of year in the Banff area. As for other reccomendations, I get the idea that people think you are headed out to ski spring conditions. ...My sentiment is that you would prefer to ski winter conditions during the spring, and Banff is your best bet.

Don't plan on concentrating on either of the two resorts before you get there. The only two that will be open will be Lake Louise and Sunshine Village. They ski very differently and have very different personalities. Weather will probably wind up being your guiding factor. If the weather is stormy and snowing, you will likely find Lake Louise is the better choice. Quite a lot of their ski terrain is below tree line and the back side of the ski area has pretty good snow preservation qualities. If the weather is bright and sunny, you probably want to make sure that you give Sunshine Village a try. It has better snow preservation characteristics on a sunny spring day, and the views and that 'top of the world' feeling are to die for.

You probably will want to stay in the town of Banff. There are many options and you can probably get a good idea of your choices at skibanff.com. Another good group to check into would be either skilouise.com or skibanfflakelouise.com. Don't worry about driving since the roads are better than 95% of the roads in U.S. ski country, and icy road conditions down at the valley levels is only slight that time of year. I have found that driving times are about 20 minutes from doorstep to lift at Sunshine Village and about 50 minutes from doorstep to lift at Lake Louise. Food on the mountains is good and cheap compared to similar resorts in the U.S.. As for infrastructure, both of these resorts rank with the best around in getting you around the mountain efficiently. The high speed lifts at Sunshine are some of the fastest in the world and hook up logically. .. Just remember that they are Big ski areas and the lifts are spread out quite a bit to cover all the terrain.(This translates to a lower skier density on most of the runs even when the lifts are crowded)

I sure hope everything works out for you. I have only been there twice in April, and about a week earlier than you are going; but that one morning when we hit first tracks in about 2 or 3 inches of talcum powder light snow is the best experience I have ever had skiing!! [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #11 of 25
Thread Starter 
[quote]Originally posted by feal:
...I get the idea that people think you are headed out to ski spring conditions. ...My sentiment is that you would prefer to ski winter conditions during the spring, and Banff is your best bet.

Thanks, feal. Yes, I'd much prefer winter conditions to Spring; I'll probably leave Spring conditions in the Northeast and will love to get back to Winter. Banff sounds great. [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img] A couple of posters mentioned Mammoth and Bachelor Bend; do you have any thoughts on those?
post #12 of 25
Mammoth is TOPS in the spring.
Squaw Valley is good, too.
post #13 of 25
I think that time will overlap with Whistler's big spring festival. Obviously this could be a positive or negative depending on your point of view, but I'm sure your daughter will like it.

Whistler on the whole is probably marginal for you, though. I think Blackcomb closes the last week in April. Whistler stays open another month, but conditions will be soupy low on the mountain. There should still be plenty of terrain your wife can handle, but best conditions will undoubtedly be in the alpine.
post #14 of 25
I think that time will overlap with Whistler's big spring festival. Obviously this could be a positive or negative depending on your point of view, but I'm sure your daughter will like it.

Whistler on the whole is probably marginal for you, though. I think Blackcomb closes the last week in April. Whistler stays open another month, but conditions will be soupy low on the mountain. There should still be plenty of terrain your wife can handle, but best conditions will undoubtedly be in the alpine.
post #15 of 25
Quote:
Mammoth is TOPS in the spring.
Squaw Valley is good, too.
Squaw's not the best Tahoe area in the Spring, since it's base elevation is low. The upper mountain stays fine (Headwall, Siberia, Granite Chief), but the bottom can be a mess. Alpine Meadows is a far better choice for spring skiing than Squaw. A higher base elevation, and the scene is better. Live bands on the deck on weekends.
post #16 of 25
Remeber, Easter is late in 2003 so many resorts may strecth their season to accomodate those with corresponding spring breaks. Whistler, Mammoth, Mt Bachelor, and Tahoe would all be fine choices. Utah would be excellent if a variety of resorts are open. You'll find winter conditions at the tops of Mammoth, Bachelor, and Whistler. April snowstorms are a real possibility at any western resort. I've never skied spring conditions in the east, but the corn in the coastal ranges is some of the best snow of the season.

Since you have 10 days an ideal trip would be to fly into Reno spend a few days at the Tahoe resorts then make the 3 hour drive and enjoy a few days at Mammmoth. 10 days at one resort can get old.
post #17 of 25
Mdimen,

Many of the coastal ski resorts have wonderful Spring skiing due largely to the fact that they get a LOT of snow, and it has a relatively high moisture content that readily translates to a deep, dense snowpack that lasts through the Spring season. The problem with a reccomendation for skiing those conditions is that you are probably going to encounter severe freeze and thaw on your ski days. I don't think a level 3 skier; or for that matter, a level 6 skier, would find the situation nearly so enjoyable as a dose of fresh winter powder. The ski areas recommended are great places, but they just don't seem to fit the bill for what you are looking for.

Hope you have the trip of your lifetime!! [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #18 of 25
Wow. Time to clear up some misinformation. No matter where you go in North America you will have less than a 10 % chance of winter weather during the last half of April. So, unless you feel lucky, you really should choose one of the great spring skiing mountains for your trip.

I have skied throughout the West during the spring and while I think the Rockies have the best winter skiing in the world, the spring skiing is second rate to the Pacific West, particularly Bachelor and Mammoth. The reason these mountains are continually rated the best spring skiing mountains is the deep snow pack they receive and the dense nature of the snow. Don’t worry about freeze/thaw you will have that no matter where you go (unless you are supremely lucky and run into one of those 1 in 10 weeks where the snow is powder). Both of these mountains groom impeccably and by 10:00 am the corn snow will be perfect.

So, do you gamble and hope for good snow or do you go where you will have good snow? Remember the light snow of the Rockies is much more difficult to ski as it softens up.

Mark
post #19 of 25
Thread Starter 
...the Pacific West, particularly Bachelor and Mammoth.

OK. So it's between Mammoth and Banff. Both have slopeside condos available, both ski into May (at least). Banff is 2 hours from Calgary, Mammoth 3 from Reno. Both are equidistant from NYC (that's me!). Having spent an ecstatic week hiking in Yosemite this summer, I'm inclined towards Mammoth. But...

Base area is @ 8000 feet; summit is 11000. Lake Louise runs from 5600 to about 8600. I'm a sea level dweller; Sugarbush is about 2300 ft elevation max! So rarefied air, here I come.

What do you guys think about acclimatization? Should I opt for Banff, based on the altitude? Or will Mammoth (which is tempting me more just now) be so high as to cause difficulty?

Thanks again for your thoughts.
post #20 of 25
Mdimen:
You might look in the Lake Louise web site for archived ski day pictures/tours that a local photographer posts on their site from last April. Another good source for LL info might be the RSN web site/forum/Lake Louise and ask the guys about spring ski conditions.

I suggest a few nights in Banff, and few nights at the Chateau LL and/or a few nights up at the Sunshine Village Lodge would be an ideal mix that would make the trip very memorable.

Sunshine Village would be fantastic that time of the season. I guarantee that the scenery there is much more awesome than Mammoth Mt.
post #21 of 25
WOW!!!!

A 1 in 10 chance of powder at Sunshine Village during the last half of April. Somebody better check out the statistics before they start spouting technical predictions. I yield to the idea that springtime skiing is better on the coast, but I refuse to tarnish the image of the ski area on the continent with the longest winter season; based on conjecture from the sidelines!

Check it out yourself if you want to know what the record is. Contact anyone at Sunshine Village and they will readily give you firm facts on how many powder days were had during the last half of April last year. -- I don't think it will be even close to 1 in 10!!!

This really isn't worth arguing over. It is obvious that it all boils down to splitting hairs, and you probably will have a wonderful trip at any of the mentioned candidates.

Happy skiing!! [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #22 of 25
Quote:
Contact anyone at Sunshine Village and they will readily give you firm facts on how many powder days were had during the last half of April last year.
For Banff (4540') in April, the average number of days with > 5cm of snowfall: 1.3. Average April days with rain: 4.8.
Average April Snowfall:

Sunshine Village, AB (7028'): 27"
Alpine Meadows, CA (7000'): 31"
Sugar Bowl, CA (7000'): 52"
Mammoth Mt., CA (8900'): 26"
Mt. Bachelor, OR (6250'): 40"
Whistler, BC (6000'): 35"
Alta, UT (8650'): 72"
post #23 of 25
Terry,

I believe that if you threw the Colorado Rockies into your stats people would see that April is acutally one of their snowiest months! Somewhat evidenced by Alta's 72" April average.
post #24 of 25
The point of all this has been terribly eluded!! It isn't about how much snow falls during the last half of April, but more to the point; How much of the snow on the skiing surface is not subjected to melting and refreezing?

I really like Terry's stats on the Banff area. Just proves the point that the Banff area in late April is not subject to a whole lot of freezing temperatures, while 4000 feet higher in the mountains at Sunshine Village winter still has hold. Like most ski areas moving into the Spring season, there will be places that ice up much faster than others, but with the factors of high altitude(relatively speaking), high lattitude, and good positioning for late season preservation; there is a real good chance of finding winter powder well into what most people call the spring skiing season. ...Don't take my word on it, call the ski area and get real facts!!! -They won't look like what is being presented by others here. [img]smile.gif[/img]

On the other hand, there are some big drawbacks up there that time of year. If you aren't the kind of person who likes the feeling of being out all alone in the middle of nowhere, this experience may not be for you. They don't shut down the ski area on the last weekend of May for lack of snow. It usually gets shut down due to lack of interest during a springtime season that most people find hard to resist after a long cold winter. The whole place can feel absolutely deserted to people who are used to being around crowds. It could very well be that a state like California,that has more people in it than the world's largest country, would be a better choice for a 'social' ski vacation.

Whatever the choice, I bet you have a great vacation!!!
post #25 of 25
Quote:
Originally posted by desertdawg:
I believe that if you threw the Colorado Rockies into your stats people would see that April is acutally one of their snowiest months! Somewhat evidenced by Alta's 72" April average.
Not as high as Alta's, but respectable totals. Stats are spotty for April, though, probably because areas tend to close that month:

Copper Mt. (11,000'): 47"
Winter Park (9,265'): 41"
Steamboat (9,200'): 21"
Loveland (11,200'): 63"

Snow totals are pretty variable at this time of year, too.
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