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Where to next year?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
It's time to start planning for next season, due to various constraints we have to plan well in advance so snow conditions are always a bit of a lottery.We are looking at the end of Feb begining of March.

The last two years we have been to Jackson Hole and had a great time but snow conditions were not ideal, I think I would like to go there earlier in the year but that is not possible next year, so where to?

Short list is Fernie, Mamoth, Alta/Snowbird, Tahoe. I know Tahoe well but not the other areas so what are they like in this time period?

post #2 of 7
As you may know, typically the best overall ski conditions in North America occur in late Feb to early March. That fact works in your favor for almost any choice made far in advance. Nothing wrong with your short list. Colorado and Utah should be ideal at that time. You don't tell us your specific interests or skill level, but your short list would indicate you like advanced terrain. It's pricey, but Aspen (Ajax), Aspen Highlands, and Snowmass offer very nice samples of advanced American ski terrain beside an interesting town. Alta/Bird would have been the place this year for optimal conditions for the entire winter and you'll never hear anyone say anything bad about them. They might be slightly insular and condensed for someone accustomed to the expanse of a 200 lift European ski circus above a lively Alpine town, but you could say that about many of the best North American ski areas. That might be fine if you like to concentrate on one challenging ski area like Jackson Hole or Mammoth for a week. If the snowgods are smiling Whistler-Blackcomb normally could be great during your timeframe, but this winter caused disappointment for many visitors to WB. If you have two weeks a Banff/Fernie combo trip out of Calgary might be the ticket. Sorry, I offer more questions than answers. It's all good.
post #3 of 7
Personally, I would wait until August to decide where to go. By then the US Weather Service should know if we are in for an El Nino, La Nina or neither. Last year was an El Nino year which meant Tahoe, New Mexico & Utah were in for above average snowfalls while areas north of them (including Jackson Hole) were in unseasonably warm weather.

If they predict another El Nino for the upcoming winter then look at skiing in Utah or the Tahoe area. If they predict a La Nina then look at skiing at Whistler, Fernie, Sun Valley, Big Sky or one of the other PNW resorts.
post #4 of 7
The late February/early March period is the safest part of the season in terms of coverage/conditions at most resorts. Jackson is probably the only one where preservation is a concern this early, and there are a handful of low snowfall areas where "wait until the season starts" is always the best advice. But in general it will take bad luck to produce lousy conditions at this time and you should choose your resort for the terrain/ambience you prefer.

Whistler's conditions this year were an extreme event. It is the only such year in 30 years of records. Even in the widespread drought year of 1976-77 Whistler was in good shape from mid-February onwards, and in nearly all other cases it was well covered before Christmas.

Last year's El Nino was weak, and the consistent southern storm track was coincidental. A meteorologist friend recommends the following site as best tracking of El Nino intensity: http://www.cdc.noaa.gov/people/klaus...MEI/table.html
According the this table 2004-05 ranks only 14th in El Nino bias out of the past 55 years, and more relevantly the strength was only about 1/4 of the strong ones in 1982-83 and 1997-98.

El Nino or La Nina will be strong enough to influence advance ski planning maybe 10-15% each, and not all areas are significantly affected. See updated excerpt from my skiingmag.com article below:

La Niña increases snowfall by about 20 percent at most areas north of Utah and California, so we recommend early season bookings in Canada, the Northwest and northern Rockies during predicted La Niña seasons. Snowfall is reduced substantially in Southern California and Arizona, but only mildly (10 percent or so) at Mammoth, Brian Head, and in New Mexico.

El Niño predictions are less helpful to skiers. The positives are in the same locations that are negative for La Niña (plus Tahoe), but the extra snow tends to be late in the season with negligible impact upon early-season reliability. Only in interior Canada and Montana is El Niño snowfall reduced as much as 10 percent. The Pacific Northwest may see more low altitude rain, but there is no decrease in snow in higher locations such as Mt. Bachelor and the Whistler Alpine.

Long-term data shows no significant El Niño or La Niña trend in Sun Valley, Utah, Colorado, or the Northeast.
post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the advice I will probably hold off till August to make a decision.

I would also like some opinions on the various resorts from skiers who have visited them at that time of year. I have been to Alta once in a huge snow storm so I never saw the place but loved the skiing.

We are two expert guys including an international qualified race coach and two advanced/expert girls group, our interest is in off piste primarily, not groomers, back country opportunities and guiding availability, interesting terrain off the groomed runs, powder, crud we love it all. The only thing I can't manage is big air due to past injuries so we are not interested in hucking cliffs!
post #6 of 7
I think you would like the Calgary/Fernie/Banff loop trip that Jamesj recommends and which I have done twice, late March 1999 and early February 2004. 1999 was a huge year with lots of powder. 2004 was an average year but conditions were pretty good and nearly everything was open.

Don't miss Castle Mt. on the way from Calgary to Fernie, and consider Panorama (if it's a big year and/or for a day heliski with RK) or Kicking Horse between Fernie and Banff/Lake Louise. Most of these areas have a strong emphasis on off-piste.
post #7 of 7
I know this is really stepping out on limb but I have heard from an expert(my wife;-)that next winter will be a good one. Tahoe baby.
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