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Ski Road Trip - Thoughts?

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
So, I have this idea for what I think will be a really neat road trip to northern New Mexico and parts of Colorado, and wondered if anyone had any comments/suggestions. My thought is to take 2 full weeks, and sample the following ski areas:

Ski Santa Fe
Wolf Creek
Winter Park

Two of the resorts, we would be able to do twice, but haven't picked which (will probably pick once we are out there based on conditions and if we fall in love with any of the areas). My husband and I love ungroomed slopes, bumps, trees, powder. We ski just about exclusively black, and often double-black - REALLY steep can make me a bit nervous (particularly groomed steep - ick), but I usually ski it all anyway. I would like to know, based on this, if there are any resorts on the list we should take off - or any good ones in the vicinity of these that we have missed. We are purposely avoiding any places we have already skied, as we want to explore new terrain - so, this EXCLUDES: Telluride, the Aspen group, Keystone, Vail, Breckenridge, Copper and Beaver Creek. I also think Crested Butte is out, but only because of location, unless I'm misreading my maps.

So, my questions, basically:
1. Suggestions/comments on my resort selections.
2. When to go? (We are thinking Feb. 26 - Mar. 13 - is this a good time with respect to snow/crowds, or would another time be better?)
3. Any cheap but clean lodging suggestions very welcome! We are thinking of moving our 'base' a few times - I have in mind Taos, Pagosa Springs, Steamboat, and Georgetown as places to find lodging, so open to recommendations in those towns - or even alternate towns I may not have thought of.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!!!!

post #2 of 21
Sounds like a nice plan, but I do wonder why you have a couple of ski areas on your list.

Ski Santa Fe and Eldora don't seem to fit your agenda or abilities. I would suggest you look at replacing Ski Santa Fe with Pajarito. Based on your stated abilities, I would say that a day at Pajarito will set a real standard for the rest of your trip. They are open on weekends, and are sometimes snow challenged, so you will have to do your homework on whether they fit the trip at the time.

Eldora is a nice hill, but not in the same league as what you will be skiing. It is a bit hard to get to, and doesn't have the snow preservation characteristics of the other resorts you will be visiting. I would think an additional day in 'the high country' would be more desirable.

For a nice trip like that, you might want to include a day of cat skiing on Chicago Ridge beside Ski Cooper. It would definitely be a change of pace!

Good Luck!

P.S. - I like your timing, but I think I would look at moving it a week earlier to avoid problems with Spring Breakers from the Texas/Oklahoma region.
post #3 of 21
Considering the terrain you're looking for you may want to explore Silverton MT in CO. It's and experts only area (and right now I believe also guided only as well). Would be an awesome challenge and they have already been skiing this year! May want to take a peek at their site.
post #4 of 21
ditto the thoughts on ski santa fe. it's smallish and, more to your question, very tame where terrain is concerned.
post #5 of 21
Thread Starter 
Hey feallen - re: moving the trip up a week. Trying to find optimal snow conditions - moving it up a week probably wouldn't impact that much, right? My other concern was the earlier week has President's Day - would that likely ONLY impact the one day and leave that week overall better than the week of Mar. 7?...I do notice a few places raise their prices around Mar. 5, so is that an indication they are expecting crowds then? If I move it earlier, do you think Taos would still be relatively uncrowded on President's Day? - since I'm trying to do a loop (& I have to start from Ohio!) - I can either do the trip starting with the Denver area resorts or Taos....

Silverton looks intriguing - but, am I too big of a wimp? At the beginning of the season last year, I took a lesson at Snowmass, where they told me I was a level 8+. I skiied Highland Bowl at Aspen Highlands, Jackpot & Hyrup at Aspen, Baby Ruth & KT Gully at Snowmass. Later in the season skiied everything off of the Plunge lift at Telluride - Kant-Make-M, Spiral Stairs, Plunge, LogPile, East & West Drain, as well as other blacks/double blacks. I can't say I always looked pretty, and sometimes I felt a bit scared, but I think I was always competent (my husband says I am a better skier than I think I am.) So, I guess what I am asking is, am I likely decent enough to ski at Silverton? I have my Pocket Rockets for the powder! Having to carry avi gear makes me nervous, but am I worried too much about that? - I've never done any backcountry skiing - is this a reasonable introduction, and am I ready to take the plunge?

Hmm, so far everyone thinks I would be bored with Santa Fe & Eldora? Everything else look ok? If I'm looping around to Silverton and giving up those two, maybe I can add Crested Butte (ugh, you're making this more expensive - these would be pricier substitutions!)

Thanks for the feedback so far, keep it coming!

post #6 of 21
Sounds fun, if a bit ambitious.

Any down days planned to let the quads catch up?
post #7 of 21
Moving the trip up shouldn't be a problem. President's Day shouldn't be near the headache of Spring Break if you start the trip in New Mexico. The Presidents day crush is much worse near major population areas. ..You might look at skiing Pajarito on President's day. If the snow is good, you will certainly enjoy the balance and challenge they offer.

The Silverton/Crested Butte option sounds nice but be warned that the 3 passes into and out of Silverton can be either closed; or in poor winter condtions, that time of the year. The road from Chama, New Mexico to Pagosa Springs is not well maintained on the Colorado side either. I would reccomend that you try to stay on the most heavily used roads you can. The road service tries hard, and has to put their efforts into the most heavily used roadways. ...Do be warned that a good storm at altitude can close the road to Silverton for a day or two, and even when it is opened, the conditons will likely be icy for numerous miles.(The last time I did it in Februrary, I swore I wouldn't do it again.)

As far as your skill level and Silverton; I think you should do it if the weather permits. ...You don't sound like a very timid skier!

Good Luck with your trip!
post #8 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the road condition warnings, I'll try to take that into account and see if I can't figure out the best routing, plus try to build in some flexibility (although I'm probably too paranoid to not make lodging reservations, so that can be limiting....)

I know it is a bit ambitious of a trip - we are known for exhausting ourselves on vacation! But, we do have one down day planned in the middle - we'll use that as a long driving day to 'reposition' ourselves. And, when skiing we will usually quit by 2 or 3pm if we find we are getting tired. My husband also rarely lets me ski a blue run (well, I could, but I'd have to do it by myself!); his philosophy is, we want to make every run count, don't want to waste our legs on anything that's not fun! Plus, we will get plenty of warm-up 'blues' and 'greens' skiing here in Ohio/W. Pa/W. N.Y. - that's just about all we've got!

I notice some of these places I'm thinking of going are close to hot springs - never tried anything like that, maybe I should!

post #9 of 21
I'd pick a more Northern route myself and hit the Steamboat, Jackson Hole, Grand Targhee, Sun Valley, Big Mtn, Big Sky, Red Lodge and bridger route.....

If I was going to venture that far south, I wouldn't let Telluride escape my list at any cost.
post #10 of 21
If you end up coming through Durango and Silverton think about staying in Ouray. Ouray is about 1.75 hours from Silverton and I would recommend the Box Canyon Lodge. They have their own hot springs and are very close to the Ice Park. It is pretty cool to watch the ice climbers do their thing.

If you can ski the East Drain at Telluride Silverton should be no problem for you. I have not skied Silverton but have friends who have and I know what kind of skiers they are.

Powderhorn would be another prospect. Not big but has some great snow and is rarely crowded!

Purgatory --> Silverton --> (Ouray - Soak/Recover!) --> PowderHorn --> Crested Butte ????

What a combo. You couldn't ask for more variety in 5 days.

post #11 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thanks - loving the feedback!

Hey K2Rider - I just need MORE time and I can do a northern AND southern route...but, had to pick something, I only have 2 weeks! Logistically, I think the southern route works best for us coming from Ohio, and since we hope to be moving sometime within the year, our new location will make that southern route the least viable of our western ski options for future trips, so it seems best to do that now. Actually, have already done Jackson Hole and Targhee - and 4 days at T-ride last year, so I'm looking to sample new resorts - I love the exploring. Steamboat is on my list definitely, though, as well as Taos - for some reason, those are places I've always wanted to try.

Clayton, thanks for the feedback on Silverton and other info on the area. I'm definitely intrigued. Just have to build some flexibility into my schedule, as it seems that is an area where the driving/weather might make it difficult to adhere to a strict schedule. My husband seems keen on the Silverton idea, and I do think I would be tempted to add Crested Butte if I'm that close, as I kind of hated omitting it from the initial list.

Is Durango/Purgatory a decent ski area? I've had that on my list all along, and haven't received any negative feedback on it, but some reviews seem to indicate it doesn't have a ton of expert terrain - but perhaps it has fun stuff to keep us entertained for a day?

Thanks again everybody. Additional thoughts and suggestions are definitely welcome!

post #12 of 21
You might want to change your lodging lcation from Pagosa Springs to Durango, now that there is some focus on getting into Silverton for a day of skiing. - If you schedule your skiing in such a way that you ski Pajarito on a Saturday or Sunday following your skiing at Taos, you would be able to take NM4 over to San Ysidro and take US 550 into Durango. It is a desert route after you get out of the mountains there around Pajarito and you should make good time. The drive from Durango to Pagosa Springs is an hour each way added to you day when you ski Wolf Creek, but Durango is more of a 'tourist' town, and you would be located a bit better to take advantage of Silverton should you want to head up there after your day of skiing at DMR. I wouldn't reccomend skipping DMR, but it isn't exactly what you described as wanting in your opening post. ..It should give you plenty to do for a day though.

I do hope you get to do the Silverton/Crested Butte addition, but realize about all you can do is position yourself to take advantage of it if possible, and then wait to see what Mother Nature serves up.
post #13 of 21
Skip Loveland, Eldora and Durango. Add in Teluride, Crested Butte and Silverton.

post #14 of 21

Couple other ideas

Yeah, I'll echo what others have said about Santa Fe and Eldora - nice idea, but both are a little out of the way and not quite up to the level of the others. I'll also agree that Silverton might be a nice addition to the trip. To confuse you more, I'll offer some other ideas no one else has proposed.

With regards to that, DMR is a nice place. There's some really neat terrain there. What I would do is take it easy and then hit Silverton - it's literally right down the road over Molas Pass. You'll need to make reservations early for Silverton, within the next few months. Try to hit it on a Thursday - typically they close on Mon/Tues/Wed. So if it snows any of those days you're guaranteed fresh tracks on Thursday. They'll try to group people by ability, and generally I would say all of your runs will be similar to Highland Bowl (if you're looking for comparison), specifically anything from G2 to Ozone (which is pretty much every level of Highland Bowl's difficulty.) Silverton is worth it just for the experience... these guys aren't out to build the next mega-resort, they just wanna ski. So, no fancy lodge but there is a heated yurt. You won't find a bartender for apres-ski, but your guide (and likely even the owner of the place) will be pouring beers and shots.

From there, here's some other options.. you could head to Glenwood Springs and ski Sunlight if you're tired after Silverton. Or, head over to Crested Butte, it's not really out of the way. Or, rather than turning off to go to Crested Butte, go to Monarch. If Monarch itself doesn't sounds interesting, go on their cat skiing trip.

Also, rather than having a "base", I would highly recommend jumping from town to town. Ski early in the morning and end early in the afternoon. With that in mind, I would stay in these towns:
Taos, Pagosa Springs (for Wolf Creek), Durango (for DMR.. maybe Silverton too), Silverton (maybe.. not as much fun as Durango unless you enjoy dive bars), Glenwood Springs (if you ski Sunlight), or Gunnison (for either Crested Butte or Monarch), Steamboat (for Steamboat), Hot Sulphur Springs (for WP), Georgetown (for Loveland.. maybe A Basin too), or stay somewhere like the Best Western in Dillon for A Basin.

All in all, I would say you've put together a nice itinerary. One final piece of advice - keep it loose and follow the weather reports. All these mountains get different flows, so if you find Taos got dumped on.. stay an extra day. Or if Steamboat got snow and Winter Park didn't, go to Steamboat.
post #15 of 21
I've heard there's a good snow cat skiing operation in Durango. Might be a better bet than DMR.
post #16 of 21
Thread Starter 
vinn, Thanks for all that detailed info. Now I just can't wait for it to snow!

Very much tempted by the 'intro to backcountry' possibilities that everyone has brought up, with Silverton and various snowcat operations. Probably will take the plunge with one or both of those options. I get very nervous trying new things - I was SO apprehensive when my husband and I hiked up Highland Bowl last year - but guess what? It was fun! And it really wasn't all that hard...well, except for the hiking at altitude for us flatlanders! It was just fun!

Hey crank, regarding DMR and snowcats at DMR - I noticed on the DMR website, they have a 3 day/3 night package that includes lodging, 1 day snowcat, 1 day Silverton, 1 day DMR. Now that might be the way to go! I'll have to check it out - seems like a reasonable deal.

post #17 of 21
Concur with too ambitious. In general I'd pick a couple fewer places and stay an extra day at each. Of the areas mentioned in your initial post I've been to Taos, Santa Fe, Winter Park, Loveland and Eldora. Amazing snow at SF, believe it or not. Relentless steeps at Taos. Lots of variety at WP and inspiring disabled skiers. Great atmosphere at crowd-free Eldora, and for a lesser known place I really enjoyed Loveland's expansive above treeline terrain
Are you driving from Ohio or flying in and out of a gateway city, which one, same one? Even with two weeks it's tough to incorporate NM and northern CO in the same road trip with lots of stops in between, especially if circling back to same start point.
Hmm, guess I missed something in Parajito, stayed next to it on business trip, but opted to try Taos and Santa Fe on the free days I had before work. Did think of weekday afternoon excursion, but it wasn't open. That Durango/Silverton combo sounds good.
post #18 of 21

My buddies skied Silverton and went cat skiing out of DMR then hit Wolf Creek when a storm came in. This was just last year. I wanted to go, but couldn't work it out. Thier report on the cat sking was that it was very much fun and worth it. Nothing super steep, just lots of consistant pitched runs all untracked. The cat service there has a very large piece of backcountry to roam in.

They loved Wolf Creek, but, of course the hit it during a dump so they would have loved anything.
post #19 of 21
Thread Starter 

Too Ambitious?

'Too Ambitious' could be the description of about 3/4 of my trips, skiing or otherwise! I'm always way more tired when I'm done than when I started!

Oh, we are driving the whole trip, so the starting and end point is Ohio - no airport involved. We have a less-than-year old 4wd SUV, and, while we're not all that used to mountains necessarily (*sigh - wish it were otherwise!*), we live in a snowbelt, so we are definitely used to driving in snow and ice.

I saw someplace about cars from lower elevations having difficulty if you take them to a high altitude location - is there any truth to that, or anything I should have adjusted or be aware of? Or does the change in the octane level of the gas when you get to high altitude locations compensate for that? My best friend drives out west at least yearly and never mentioned anything, or had any problems, so I wonder if this is actually true, or if maybe it was a problem in years past.

Anyway, thanks everyone for all your advice, you've given me a lot to think about! I am usually an obsessive planner, but a lot of your advice is telling me to 'play it by ear' and follow the good snow conditions - but, that would mean not making hotel reservations in advance in some cases - is that wise? Would I be able to get accomodations if I just show up - or is it best to centrally locate myself at various points in the trip with pre-arranged accomodations?

Thanks again - and think snow!

post #20 of 21
Despite my too ambitious comment, I love the adventure of big road trips like that and have done a number of them myself. Insane, but fun. If you worked from south to north the following wild suggestions might be worth considering; 1 day at Ski Santa Fe be sure to stroll and eat dinner in old town SF, 2 days at Taos (once I tried the super cheap and semi clean Abominable Snowmansion Hostel nearby), 3 day combo out of Durango/Silverton sounds good, Steamboat for 2 days, Winter Park/Loveland/A-Basin from a central location like Georgetown for 3 days. If you stay in city/town lodging (rather than slopeside) I wouldn't think you'd have too much trouble finding last second motel rooms. Late Feb-early March will be primo for good snow and sun. Flatlander cars definitely lose some zip in CO, but not a big problem for vehicles with decent size engines.
post #21 of 21
I don't think it is that ambitious. You just need to stick to the agenda.

I did three of those road trips through NM and Co back in '01. The first one was 6 areas in 10 days, the second was 11 areas in about 20 days, and the last one was 18 areas in 21 days(it included Utah, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming). That was all done without ironclad reservations set up, and I must admit I had to do some resourceful work at a couple of areas; but I found it very interesting how helpful certain people could be while others might be oblivious to your plight. ...In most cases the helpful ones seemed to become something of 'instant friends', and definitely made the trip more interesting. My personal feeling at this time is that too much preplanning can make a trip a bit boring. I like the feeling of being able to change plans in midstream based on things like new information or weather. ..I also return home entirely 'whipped', and feel as though I left something out if I don't.

Don't sweat the vehicle thing. Newer vehicles used computerized programs with air and fuel sensors that adjust your engine as necessary. The programing of high altitude vehicles is a bit different when sold, and makes some differences in performance, economy, and emissions at altitude, but that probably won't even be noticable to you. ..But, do try your best to maintain the same octane level in your vehicle throughout the entire trip. The computer continually monitors the 'tune' of the engine, and changing octanes puts the system into a transitional mode. As it retunes the settings for an octane change, you might notice a few differences. ...It might wind up doing that anyway because there are many different blends around the country using blend components thought to enhance emissions performance.

You will undoubtedly have a wonderfully unique trip!
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