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last minute trips

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
I'm thinking of heading out west this season for just a few days at the last minute (from Boston) and was wondering if anyone has had any success finding cheap flights, being able to get to the mountain, and any other advice. My plan is to track a storm, look for tickets when an area is about to get a consistant dumping, and then pounce.

Reason being I can't rationalize/afford a big week-long vacation to a ski destination without the proimise of decent powder. Last year we planned a great trip to Alta in the middle of powder season and it ended up being about a 3 week drought. I don't want to fly across the country to relax or get some rest, I want some great snow. I'd even fly in that morning ski, stay one night, and then fly out after day 2. I'm looking at it more like getting my fix than a vacation, and I want the sure thing.

I know SLC would be a good airport to go into, how far is Denver from the major resorts? 1-2 hours? Can cheap airfare be found or are these really cheap last-minute flights a myth?

Please share your stories or shoot me some advice.

Gotta love the constraints of financial responsibility. :
post #2 of 20
I have heard that one 'trick' to cheap last minute air fare is to get it 'bundled' in a package/'last minute vacation' deal - airfare, hotel, and/or rental car. You can try this through the mainstream online travel sites - expedia, travelocity, orbitz. Possibly through some of the ski package companies like ski.com as well.
post #3 of 20
Frontier Airlines have last minute deals to Denver.
post #4 of 20
FWIW, do some checking to see which month gets the most snow in the various areas your interested in. Watch the weather patterns. Seems like each year certain areas get favored due to weather patterns peculiar to that year. Last year, is a good example with the sierras in Ca. getting tons of snow with other areas not so lucky. Based on those 2 considerations, it should be easier to plan air fare, etc. after you have narrowed things down a bit. Good luck. Sounds like fun chasing storms.
post #5 of 20
i'd find an airline(ie southwest) and book a flight that will refund your tickets for a later flight in case there is not any early snow at a decent charge(southwest is $8). then, if its hard-packed w/ no storm insight, just rebook for a month later. most car rentals will just take a reservation.
i would go SLC as denver+tahoe are both at least an hour to most hills. cant help w/ lodging as my last minutes are usually late season when lodging is not a problem anywhere.
post #6 of 20
kayak.com or jetblue.com
post #7 of 20

Trips.

The best way to do that would be to drive. I've done it quite often. You can be in Denver in three days and Salt Lake in another. I also checked out Jet Blue. You can book a flight at a low price last minute with them. With a change in Newark, you can fly to Denver. Colorado would be more expensive than Utah. I have found it is easy to find cheap motel rooms in Salt Lake, but after all my experience I would spend a little more and optain a better room. The bus service to the mtn.'s is superb. However, on powder days you might arrive at the little Cottonwood too late. If you can find a room at the Rustler or Alta Peruvian, you will be ready for powder days. Another one to look into would be Steamboat or Jackson Hole in January. Both have decent airports and aren't as pricey as Aspen. The Hole can be quite frigid at that time which keeps their bookings down. You also have an option of booking a flight to Montrose and taking the bus to Telluride. Most winter travellers have to do that anyway as the Telluride airport is often closed. Finally, I would look into Wolf Creek. Fly to Denver and rent ground transportation. They get a ton of snow, don't advertise and might have open rooms near by.
post #8 of 20
Skierdon,

There are quite a few people that watch for the pattern where the storms hit California first, then hit Utah. When they come in pulses, you can see the storm form off the CA coast. At that point you've got a 2-3 day head start before Utah gets hit. Salt Lake is great for last minute trips because you can get an extra 1/2 day of skiing in (slopes are 45 minutes from the airport) coming and going, you can always find (cheap) rooms in town, car rentals are no problem and access to the resorts in bad conditions is usually a piece of cake (buses run up the canyon roads and you can usually get to Park City when the Cottonwood canyons are closed).

If you do choose the Cottonwood canyon resorts during fresh snow, it's smart to get to the resort by 8AM because the morning slides tend to occur after that time. If avie danger is high, it's better to hit Alta over Snowbird. It's a real treat to be on the snow at Alta when Snowbird is locked down for avie control and the canyon roads are closed due to slides.

Personally, I've found that the ultimate guarantee for fresh snow is helicopter/ cat skiing.
post #9 of 20
I know this may sound stupid but why not kept you eye on your local forecast. Sure the East doesn't have the big vertical or western powder but 1500' of powder, three hours away, in your own car, and tons of cheap accommodations is the real cheap way to go!

Last year the West was a disaster and Vermont had one of the best years ever. I think a lot people in your neck of the woods overlook what's right under their noises. You've got some great skiing right on your doorstep. A foot and half of new snow at Mad River is what I would consider a major rush. And if I lived in Boston, like you do, I could have a sure thing three or four times for the price of one chance out West.

I agree with therusty if you want guaranteed powder heli or cat is the way to go. Just get out your checkbook!
post #10 of 20
United just sent me an email saying that you get a free lift ticket to Vail for flying them into Denver... See United.com/ski

Not sure what they're charging for flights, but that at least puts you ahead of the game.

I seem to remember that if you flew Delta to SLC, they would give you a voucher to ski that same day?
post #11 of 20
I don't know about the particulars, but I have run into many people on powder days at Alta that took an early flight from Boston and were skiing that afternoon. Because of the time difference you can leave Boston at 5:00 and be skiing Alta or Snowbird by about 12:30. I believe some of the Salt Lake areas even have a first 1/2 day free deal for people who fly in on morning flights. My wife and I will do the 6 hr. drive from Durango when we see a big one heading for SLC, and there appear to may Altaholics from Boston and NY City doing the same thing by air.

I would think what you are proposing would work better in SLC because getting from the airport to the skiing would be much easier and faster than from Denver
post #12 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by skierdon
I'm thinking of heading out west this season for just a few days at the last minute (from Boston) and was wondering if anyone has had any success finding cheap flights, being able to get to the mountain, and any other advice. My plan is to track a storm, look for tickets when an area is about to get a consistant dumping, and then pounce.

Reason
I'm going to be doing the same thing this year, though my focus will be solely on Utah. Maybe I'll see you out there in the thigh-deep powder.
post #13 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tedski1
Last year the West was a disaster and Vermont had one of the best years ever. I think a lot people in your neck of the woods overlook what's right under their noises. You've got some great skiing right on your doorstep. A foot and half of new snow at Mad River is what I would consider a major rush. And if I lived in Boston, like you do, I could have a sure thing three or four times for the price of one chance out West.

I agree with therusty if you want guaranteed powder heli or cat is the way to go. Just get out your checkbook!
I live in central NY close to Gore Mountian. Last winter sucked bad at the begining including in VT. Not till a little past mid winter did we really start getting snow. Then it snowed almost every day and it gets really damn cold in the northeast in winter. When it is cold and dry like that, it is of thee tastiest quality of thee pow pow. Much of our snow is lake effect snows, which can dump massive amounts very quickly. We did not get nearly as much lake effect last year as most. Usually keeps us going all winter long!
But when winters are good here; they are real good! We get deep, cold, and pretty dry powder quite often in a good winter. A few real good powder days at end of last winter too.
I agree with Tedski1 completely. There is some great skiing to be found in the Northeast. I am praying every night we get a "good winter" and i'm not even a believer!
post #14 of 20
How do people go from sea level to skiing at high altitude in less than half a day?

Sounds rough
post #15 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scalce
How do people go from sea level to skiing at high altitude in less than half a day?
I hear drinking lots of alcohol on the plane helps.
post #16 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scalce
How do people go from sea level to skiing at high altitude in less than half a day?

Sounds rough
Not exactly a half day, but I think he means leaving East coast at 8am, arriving in Rockies around 11 or 12 (with time change that's about 5-6hrs total), then skiing at nearby hill from 1pm to 4pm local time.
I've have mild to moderate trouble with altitude sickness in the past. In recent years I've done a lot better by following conventional wisdom about fluid intake, going easy, sleeping low, aspirin, etc. The worst case I had, some yrs ago, involved traveling from sea level on a Sat morning and skiing at Ski Santa Fe in the pm. That place has a high base around 10K. I felt ok, but winded at Ski Santa Fe, but then sick and restless overnight and had a lousy day of skiing at Taos next day due to low energy. Was better by that evening though.
post #17 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scalce
How do people go from sea level to skiing at high altitude in less than half a day?

Sounds rough
For my trips out west, I take the recommended dosage of Ginko Biloba (It is supposed to increase the oxygen in your blood). I start taking it about 2 or 3 weeks out. Have never had a problem with altitude and I live in MD.
post #18 of 20
I do three or four wild card, last minute trips a year. Finding out the current conditions and having good local skiers to show you the goods were my main motivation to come online to epic and tgr. I’ve had many resort days that were “as good as it gets” and you can’t always say that about a heli or a cat.

Lodging is generally not a problem, even high season; you can almost always find rooms. Sometimes you might have to pay a premium, but most of the time you can get a discount, if you’re flexible. I’ve gotten $99 rooms at Teton Village during the biggest storm of the year just by calling from the bank of phones at the airport at 11 PM. If I booked from home, before I left, they wanted $300.

Airlines are a different story; generally they penalize you for waiting. But here are a few strategies.

If you can get buddy passes from an airline employee, they are worth their weight in gold. You fly standby, at a huge discount, cheaper than anything I have seen published, but you can get stranded for days. But I can decide were, I want to go with as little as an hour notice.

Package from tour operators. As BD40 mentions, tour operators negotiate fares and room rates well before the season. Generally they are not the absolute lowest fares, but much lower than the listed fares. Usually you have to book at least one other item, rooms, car rental or lift tickets. This is probably the best bet for most people because it is a one stop shop. Usually takes at least a days notice.

Last minute E fares from the airline web sites. These usually leave on a Saturday and return Monday or Tuesday. I like smarter travel because it searches most airlines at once.

http://www.smartertravel.com/air/search/,

Book multiple itineraries on Southwest, well in advance and just take the ones you want. Southwest has the best refund policy in the business. Just bank the credit for future travel within a year.

If you book a trip with frequent flyer miles, sometimes you can move the departure up or back.

Check with the local ski club council. The Chicago Metropolitan Ski Council publishes a list of every ski clubs trips. Sometimes you can join the club and get on a trip at the last minute. Once I was able to piggy back a ski club trip by calling the tour operator that sold the club and he just gave me the same deal.

When planning last minute trips I take into consideration current conditions, weather forecasts, resort elevation and orientation. With careful planning and some luck I have about an 85% if having at least one good powder day.
post #19 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamesj
The worst case I had, some yrs ago, involved traveling from sea level on a Sat morning and skiing at Ski Santa Fe in the pm. That place has a high base around 10K. I felt ok, but winded at Ski Santa Fe, but then sick and restless overnight and had a lousy day of skiing at Taos next day due to low energy. Was better by that evening though.
My thoughts exactly.

Why ski for a half a day when all it does is possibly ruin your next full day.

I think I'll rest for the first afternoon.
post #20 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scalce
...

Why ski for a half a day when all it does is possibly ruin your next full day.

...
What if that half-day was two feet of 5% snow with nobody on the hill?

While high-altitude symptoms are a serious matter for those who suffer from them, I think it's fairly important to remember that the majority of people *don't* suffer from them.

If I've read DP's posts correctly (he should know, it's his job), only about 25% of the population suffers symptoms of some kind. That means the other 75% probably shouldn't have a problem.

Maybe first-timers should concern themselves with acclimatizing through a layover, but don't forget that there probably are millions of skiers who leave sea level in the morning, ski at altitude in the afternoon, and suffer no ill effects whatever (other than sore quads ).

I don't mean to minimize the issue, but let's not overblow it either.
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