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Ski School recommendations? Taos? Alta? Whiteface?

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
My fiancee and I are looking to head west for a week(or less) of ski instruction next week - and are looking at Taos and Alta. Whiteface is also a possibility.

We need feedback on the schools to help us decide where to go. We're novices and really hope to get away from crowds and get serious learning in! The strength of the school's approach is really going to be the deciding factor for us. Please feel free to post on other places too!

ps - I've got a similar thread running in Resorts: (http://www.epicski.com/cgi-bin/ultim...=002203#000004)
but thought I'd post here too...

[ December 07, 2003, 07:33 PM: Message edited by: Tigerpaw ]
post #2 of 26
My wife and I are going to Treblant and Whiteface looked like a great place to stop for a day. I looked at the school and told her she had to try it. I too would like to know if anyone has an insight on it.
post #3 of 26
Check out Grand Targhee. The ski school is a fantastic value. Great beginner and intermediate terrain. Snow as good as anywhere. The beginner area is full of well crafted features and glades to help novices progress. Despite the "adults must be accompanied by someone 12 or under" signs, areas like the "eyeball forest " and the "bat cave" etc. are fantastic learning areas for big kids too. No crowds. No glitz. Just skiing on great snow. Call the ski school & they'll give you the straight scoop.

The rates at the ski school, like the rest of Targhee, are way reasonable compared to just about anywhere else. You can do a couple or three hour private or semi-private each day for what lots of areas would charge you for a big group lesson. I don't see how they do it. Especially since there is no compromise on quality. The lessons I got at Targhee were best I've had (including privates at Deer Valley and Sun Valley). As far as I'm concerned, failure to tip generously in such a situation is verging on theft - especially since you still come out with a deal. Just my opinion...

Use the trusty search feature to find recent more general threads about Grand Targhee.

Enjoy!
post #4 of 26
If you're going next week, there will be no crowds whereever you go since it's pre-Christmas. As far as snow goes, Alta has had a banner early season so coverage should be very good. I think Taos has had a pretty average early season for snow so conditions will probably not be as good as Alta. It might not make that much difference since you will be spending most of your time on beginner terrain and it take less snow to cover less steep terrain.

As far as ski schools go, Taos and Alta both have excellent reputations and are probably both considered in the top 10 of all US ski schools. I don't think you can go wrong with either. However, the terrain you'll be spending your time on should be an important consideration. Since you are novices, ideally you would like the beginner areas to be separated from more advanced areas and served by it's own separate lift. There's nothing more unnerving for a beginner than to get buzzed by a very fast moving skier or boarder. You also want wide trails and preferable a number of different beginner trails. I've never been to Taos, but it's reputation is that it is a very steep and advanced/extreme mountain. From looking at the trail map it doesn't look like there's too much beginner terrain and the beginner terrain is not separated from the more advanced terrain. Maybe someone more familiar with Taos can comment on this. Alta also has the reputation as being a more advanced mountain but it does have really good beginner areas (Cecret, Sunnyside and Albion lifts). Both areas do not allow snowboarding which, for most beginners is a plus.

Other options you might not have considered are those mountains which excel at customer service. These areas bend over backwards to make sure you're having a good time. They often will make a special effort with novices or beginners in order to build a loyal customer base. While they may be a bit more expensive, you do get pampered and treated well. Think about areas like Deer Valley and Beaver Creek. They both have excellent beginner terrain and excellent ski schools as well.

A couple of other factors to think about are beginner programs and length of lessons. A number of ski schools have programs for beginners to encourage them to continue taking lessons early on in their skiing career and may package 2-3 days of lessons with a discount for intermediate lessons. I know that Vail and Beaver Creek have these programs and there are probably more out there that do. Check out the resort websites for info. Vail, however, doesn't have the best novice terrain as much of it consists of narrow cat tracks (horrible for learning on). Virtually all resorts offer a lift, lesson and rental package for beginners which is a pretty good deal if you don't have your own equipment. Also look into whether the group lessons are 2 hours, half day or full day. Different people prefer different lesson lengths. Make sure you go somewhere that offers what you prefer.

So, between Alta and Taos, I'd probably say that Alta would be a better choice give current snow conditions and learning terrain. Other areas that are known to have good beginner terrain and good ski schools to consider are Beaver Creek, Deer Valley, Buttermilk, Copper Mountain, Keystone, Breckenridge, Steamboat, Whistler/Blackcomb and Solitude. There are others that I'm sure will be added to the list by other Bears. I hope this is helpful.
post #5 of 26
I forgot to mention that if you're not taking private lessons, get to the lesson corral about 10 minutes early. Talk to the person who is responsible for assigning the instructors to the lessons. Tell him or her you're skiing ability (be as truthful as possible), how you like to learn and what you expect from your lesson. Also, request a PSIA Level 3 (or CSIA Level 3 or 4 if in Canada) instructor if one is available. Since you'll be there early season, you probably won't have any problems getting one. Have fun!
post #6 of 26
I would like to make another suggestion. Just a bit South of Temblant (in PQ Canada) is a small area called Gray Rocks that specializes in week-long lesson packages that would be ideal for you. Everybody I know who has gone there has raved about it.

Here is the URL http://www.grayrocks.com/

You could save a bundle on the exchange rate and hit a larger Western Area sometime later or even next year after you have gotten your ski legs under you, so to speak.
post #7 of 26
I am partial to Alta, but have not been to Taos. The Alta Ski School is a good one, from what I can tell. Both of my kids learned to ski there, and one actually went back as an apprentice instructor for a while before going to college. My wife has taken private lessons on occasion, and felt they were very helpful. I have done the telemark workshop, also quite helpful. The ski school has specialized in teaching how to ski in powder and soft snow, and emphasizes balance and rhythm.

http://www.altaskiarea.com/school.html

The conditions at Alta should be quite good next week. They had a lot of November snow, and have just had another 2 feet. It can be very cold at this time of year, so be prepared.
post #8 of 26
As the deals fly by, just have to add a few more thoughts...

Prosper had some great comments. Really captured a bunch of important considerations for starting out. Even for athletic/coordinated types. Both the availability of appropriate terrain & lack of speeding crowds matter. Which leads me to a counter-intutive suggestion. While it is not my all time favorite place, you might consider Sun Valley. Reasonable condos can be had for reasonable $$$ - which can save you some money if you do some of your own food. The free community shuttle system(s) get you anywhere you want to go for free. Plus, they have an entire beginners' mountain. If you make quick progress, you have access to huge, huge groomed vertical on the big mountain (if you are really novices, off-piste seems unlikely for week 1). Snow quality can be sketchy - but it is always there since they have enough snow-making cpacity to cover half the planet. And they groom the heck out of the mountain every night. During peak season, it helps to have a name like "Ahnold" if you want a decent instructor. Early season, you are more likely to get what you want (again - I second Prosper's comments).

All that said, I still think you couldn't go wrong at Grand Targhee
post #9 of 26
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the great replies guys -

It's true, I've only taken a cursory glance at the Taos trail map. :

However, after speaking by phone with the ski school there, I'd been thinking that 6 days of skiing with 2 lessons a day would give us the tools to get comfortable on more challenging blues. We've both been skiing before (maybe 20 days between us over the last 5 years), but without a solid set of skills to rely on, my focus really is on once and for all learning the right way to get down the hill. With that said, we're taking a closer look at Alta now.

Spindrift - Thanks for the input on Grand Targhee and Sun Valley. I noticed that you're posting from WA and that makes me think those places may be similar to Whiteface in that they are frequently passed over by more well known places nearby. The trouble for us is that they simply aren't feasible destinations given our NYC location and the cheap direct flights we can get to SLC and Denver. Although all the qualities you mention about those two places are what we're looking for.

NE1 - thanks for the link to greyrocks! It's funny, the last time my fiancee went skiing was in Quebec, and I hate to say she found the cold and the conditions unbearable! She'd only been powder skiing in French blue sky weather, and well...I've only just barely been able to convince her that Whiteface is an option because of it's accessibility and the beauty of the Adirondacks! And the great ski school deal we get if we choose an intro to skiing package there.

Prosper & Stan from PA - thanks for the info on Alta. I'm diving into an avalanche of fantastic info on the place, and any additional feedback you may have would be welcome, including more on the school philosophy and the terrain layout. The fact that the beginner area is served by multiple lifts with varied terrain is a plus, if only we could find a good deal on lessons!

BTW - Any input on Snowbird ski school?

Prosper -
Quote:
A number of ski schools have programs for beginners to encourage them to continue taking lessons early on in their skiing career and may package 2-3 days of lessons with a discount for intermediate lessons. I know that Vail and Beaver Creek have these programs and there are probably more out there that do.
We'd consider Beaver Creek as a few deals seem to be popping up and getting there might not be that difficult, but I can't find any info on their site about the lesson packages you mention. Any ideas where to look?

Thanks again!
post #10 of 26
Tigerpaw, if you're looking for a week long school of instruction I would highly recommend the Taos Ski School. I have attended the ski school 6 out of 7 years in a row and have found the experience to be highly valuable and fun.
It starts on a Sunday with a ski off on the hill. Don't worry, this decides which class you will ski with for the week. The instructor that quickly evaluates your skill for this short ski-off does a remarkable job of placing you in a class with others of the same ability. The week is 6 days of lessons from 10am to noon with the same group of skiers all week. The classes range from beginner to expert. You can find terrain on the mountain for all levels of skiers.
If your looking for an all inclusive ski week/lodging and meals, I would look at the St.Bernard Hotel or the Thunderbird lodge. Both do a wonderful job for the week. All the information can be found at their websites.
Have fun skiing. [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]
post #11 of 26
Quote:
We'd consider Beaver Creek as a few deals seem to be popping up and getting there might not be that difficult, but I can't find any info on their site about the lesson packages you mention. Any ideas where to look?[/QB]
Here are the links for Vail's and Beaver Creek's beginner programs
vail.snow.com/info/mtn.adult.skiing.asp
beavercreek.snow.com/info/winter/mtn.adult.ski.asp#3peat
Copy and paste the address into you address bar.

[ December 08, 2003, 08:41 PM: Message edited by: Prosper ]
post #12 of 26
More on Alta-

Alta is laid out in two basins on the north side of Little Cottonwood Canyon. It is at the head of the canyon, which makes for a spectacular drive up from SLC. There are base facilities in each basin, and the two are linked by a horizontal transfer tow- sort of a hybrid rope tow where the rope is hung from an overhead cable.

The first basin (Wildcat base)is largely expert and intermediate terrain. Some of the area's most spectacular runs drop into Wildcat, including High Rustler.

If you go about 1/3 of a mile past Wildcat, you come to Albion base. There is parking here, as well as at Wildcat. Albion has an extensive area of beginners terrain, with three lifts serving about 1000 vertical feet. One of these lifts is a high speed triple, often just loaded as a double (in typical Alta understatement, it was originally labelled as a double). An older lift runs parallel to the triple, and there is a relatively short double chair off to the right, above the mid-mountain resturant, which also served beginner terrain.

This whole area is well-groomed (although there are ungroomed powder pitches and kids' tree tracks running between the groomed trails) and provides a lot of area for beginners to spread out in. For brand new skiers, there are also a handful of surface tows at Albion base, next to the kids ski school and ticket office. Some of the lodges also have short lifts or tows running up from the transfer tow.

Immediately above the Albion beginners area are two lifts serving intermediate and expert terrain. Alta has never used the double black diamond label, but it is safe to say that all black diamonds there are not created equal. This terrain makes a spectacular backdrop to the Albion basin.

The ski school was founded by a guy named Alf Engen, who was a ski racer, ski jumper, and just incredible powder skier. He died a few years back, but skied well into his eighties. Alf Engen really put his stamp on both the ski school and the mountain as a whole. His son now runs the ski school. I would say that they are somewhat conservative (after all, the mountain still does not allow snowboarding), but that this conservatism has insulated them from faddish approaches to instruction. The Alta style, which seems to be reflected in the ski school, is solid, non-flashy, but fluid. Because deep fresh powder is a regular feature there, they teach techniques that work well in soft snow. They are conscious of on-snow safety and etiquette, and teach this to the kids.

The employees there tend to be friendly. Many of them have been there for a long time. Because my daughter worked there for a winter, and has also worked with many of them as a river guide in Moab, I have gotten to ski with some of them as well as to know some of the kids ski school staff. I would say that most people there are proud of the mountain, and enjoy being there. This attitude is contagious.

This may be more information than you want or need, but I hope it is useful.
post #13 of 26
Go to Vail. Great early season snow. Not a lot of people. And, the class lessons are ALL DAY. You spend all day with the same instructor and if you return for several days you will have the same instructor every day (unless he/she has a scheduled day off). Big advantage with consistency of instruction.

Bob
post #14 of 26
Quote:
Originally posted by WVSkier:
Go to Vail. Great early season snow. Not a lot of people. And, the class lessons are ALL DAY. You spend all day with the same instructor and if you return for several days you will have the same instructor every day (unless he/she has a scheduled day off). Big advantage with consistency of instruction.

Bob
I disagree about Vail. There is not a very large amount of beginner terrain. Most of the green rated terrain is narrow catwalks criscrossing the mountain. While I am a big fan of the all day lesson, I think the better place to do it probably would be Beaver Creek.

[ December 09, 2003, 03:47 PM: Message edited by: Prosper ]
post #15 of 26
My vote is for Taos. Take a lesson from Deb Armstrong -she'll rock your socks off! Your can also spend time in Taos which is very interesting.
post #16 of 26
I am big fan of Taos and have posted about it here often. The ski school is great and all I know that have been to the ski week rave about it. But if you are going soon save your money and go somewhere there is snow. Taos received 12 inches in last 24 hours and still reports base of around 20 inches. More snow is expected saturday but you never know. I love Taos but can not honestly reccommend it if you are going real soon. Taos web site is hard to find because it is .org. skitaos.org for info
post #17 of 26
Thread Starter 
Stan from PA --

Outstanding info Stan. Certainly not too much, but very much appreciated! That reads like well written prose as a matter of fact, and I acn't wait to see what it looks like after your description. I've actually printed out a copy of your post to take with us, so I know what to look for! [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]

Thing is, Snowbird has some incredible lodging/lift deals right now that unfortunately preclude Alta lifts, and so if we book there, it looks like we'll at best be able to only take advantage of Alta's ski free after 3 program, rather than the full ski school. You wouldn't happen to have a photographic memory of the novice terrain at neighboring Snowboard would you?

Thanks powdermama and anotherskidad for the Taos posts. I've actually driven through Taos, a while ago now, and always wanted to go back. So gorgeous, great people and sunny to boot. We were driving and I had to pull the car over when we hit the top of a ridge that revealed the Sangre de Cristo range with the sun setting on them. So incredible. But it looks like it won't happen this time.

I've just been deluged with great info on Utah, cost, access, and snow-wise, and we're very close now to making up our minds on a great deal at Snowbird, with hopefully a little time at Deer Valley first. There's actually more info to dig up tomorrow on Deer Valley. Ski school time at either will be a priority -

Has anyone had any experience at Snowbird ski school? How about at Deer Valley ski school?

spindrift brings up a good point -
Quote:
The lessons I got at Targhee were best I've had (including privates at Deer Valley and Sun Valley). As far as I'm concerned, failure to tip generously in such a situation is verging on theft - especially since you still come out with a deal. Just my opinion...
-- Sincerely, somebody, please pm me on protocol and the going rate on tips to instructors at private/group lessons, etc... I'd hate for spindrift to catch wind of my bad manners :

[ December 10, 2003, 01:17 AM: Message edited by: Tigerpaw ]
post #18 of 26
I have not spent nearly as much time at Snowbird, although I did spend a little over a week there in the early 70's, and have skied there a couple of times in the last decade. The week I spent there was in March, and featured the best continuous week of powder skiing I can remember...6" to 12" of light snow every night, usually sunny days, and few people to track it all up!

Snowbird is beginner terrain "challenged". There is one fairly wide slope, "Big Emma", if I recall right, that is rated green, but would probably be rated as a black diamond or blue at most ski areas in the east. Snowbird has great expert terrain, some good intermediate terrain, but because it is lower down in Little Cottonwood canyon, which is quite narrow, the pitch averages out considerably steeper than at Alta. The bottom portion of Snowbird is best characterized by trails which funnel into the base, and get chewed up pretty quickly. The gentlist area at Snowbird is a short chair that runs back from the base towards one of the lodges.

I do not have experience with Snowbird's ski school.

Snowbird is always pushing to fill its lodges. Historically, the area has carried a high debt load, and this seems to me to influence the way they do business. My understanding is that they borrow, build, and then try to fill the facilities. I believe that the ski area company owns the Cliff Lodge. They are always offering lodging deals in the hope of getting people to ski at Snowbird. I have been in the Cliff lodge, but have never stayed there. It is a large concrete structure, designed to withstand avalanches. Aesthetically, it leaves something to be desired, but it is functional, and has amenities...shops, restaurants, etc.

There are significant advantages to staying up in the canyon, chief among them avoiding the drive up and down the canyon road. The road is often closed, usually for short periods of time, for avalanche control work (blasting the ridges above the road). Avalanche control is serious business in the canyon, and the ski patrols who do control work (blasting) at both areas are the top dogs in the employee hierarchy.

On the other hand, the drive up from the valley is not that long, and there are some good deals to be had at hotels in the Mid-Vale/Sandy area, not all that far from the bottom of the canyon road. Some of the hotels are convenient to bus routes that serve the two ski areas (as well as Big Cottonwood Canyon, with Solitude and Brighton).

There are also free buses that shuttle between Alta and Snowbird, pretty much continuously. This is the best way to get to Alta from Snowbird, because there is no way for a beginner to ski back and forth between the two areas, even though they adjoin each other. The principal connection is via Snowbird's Mineral Basin area, which is south-facing, on the back side of Snowbird. This is expert and intermediate terrain. The ridge separating Alta and Snowbird on the front side is generally precipitous. I think there are two chutes from Alta to Snowbird which are skiable, but only in good coverage, and not by anyone who is not an expert skier.

If this sounds as if I don't like Snowbird, it is only partially right. As I said, Snowbird has great expert and upper intermediate terrain, and speads out as you get above the base area. The snow is usually very good, and they do make some snow to cover high-traffic areas near the base. On the other hand, I believe that it also tries to market itself to skiers for whom it is not best suited. However, I freely confess to being an Alta snob.
post #19 of 26
[quote]Originally posted by Tigerpaw:
[QB]Stan from PA --

<< You wouldn't happen to have a photographic memory of the novice terrain at neighboring Snowboard would you? >>

No photographic memory, but an opinion on this:
From a Green skier perspective:
</font>
  • Many narrow cat tracks.
    No Green from the top.</font>
From a Blue skier perspective:
</font>
  • Chip's run: Requires some turns at the top. But after that it is not hard for a blue. Just follow the trail so you don't get on a Black!
    Runs off Gad lift - Can be mogully. But wide.
    Regulator Johnson off Little Clould lift - Usually very mogully. But very wide. You MAY be able to do this on a powder day.</font>
In conclusion, I recommend Snowbird if you have already been a few days on Blue terrain.

[ December 11, 2003, 12:51 PM: Message edited by: andyr ]
post #20 of 26
Thread Starter 
Stan from PA -

Thanks once again for the great info! You know, it's coming down to cost. If our lodging deal comes with Alta passes, we'd be thrilled! But they don't without an extra charge (pretty sure but have to call in) and every $ counts on this one...

I'm thinking that we can skip over to Alta to check it out after 3pm when (is it the Albion lift?) is free - and then ask for upgrades to dual access passes if we can...Again, have to call about that...
Time is running out! We should fly away on Saturday! :

andyr -

Thanks for the post!

I've had a great correspondence with fellow bear Iain Mannix on Snowbird terrain - and our feeling now is we can handle it, esp, with lessons -- lessons being the primary focus of the trip! Plus, we've got some coupons on the way for dicounts on Snowbird lessons, thanks to another bear cbrowns .

As I said to Iain, if we don't make it out there, it's not through lack of anybody's help - you guys have all been great! [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]

Couple quick ones andyr:
How long ago were you there? Time of year?
Did you take any lessons from the Mountain School?
Did you lodge at Snowbird?
Did you ski anywhere else?

Thanks -
post #21 of 26
Quote:
Originally posted by powdermama:
My vote is for Taos. Take a lesson from Deb Armstrong -she'll rock your socks off! THE
By the way-that is THE Deb Armstrong of Olympic Gold fame.
post #22 of 26
[quote]Originally posted by Tigerpaw:
[QB]Stan from PA -

Couple quick ones andyr:

How long ago were you there? Time of year?
&nbsp; &nbsp Early Dec. or early Apr. - up to 1998.
&nbsp; &nbsp I am going back this year.
Did you take any lessons from the Mountain School?
&nbsp; &nbsp;No.
Did you lodge at Snowbird?
&nbsp; &nbsp;At Alta.
Did you ski anywhere else?
</font>
  • Alta - I found easier Blues off the backside.</font>
  • Solitude - I found the Blues there challenging.</font>
  • Brighton - I found a variety of Blues there.</font>
If you have a car, you may want to try the last two.
But it was (is?) inconvienient to get from Alta to those by public transportation.
I hope it snow a lot for you,
Andy R.
post #23 of 26
Taos: one of the best ski school's in the world. IMHO
post #24 of 26
I think you will find Some excellent Instrutors and some not so good Instrutors at just about any Ski School. You might do better by going over to the Instrutors forums and asking them to recommend an Instrutor at a place you want to ski. One thing I have to say about Snowbird is that many low level skiers can be intimidated by that place. Deer Valley does a lot of lessions for Low level skiers. We have a member here who teaches at Deer Vally his user name is Yadnar. he is a vary good instrutor. I also Know Genne Guitarie at Park City he has been namesd as one of The top 100 instrutors in the US two times. He is a great guy. But he books up early. Like I said go to the Instrutors forum and ask for someone over there.
post #25 of 26
Quote:
Originally posted by NE1:

Here is the URL http://www.grayrocks.com/

You could save a bundle on the exchange rate and hit a larger Western Area sometime later or even next year after you have gotten your ski legs under you, so to speak.
Mont Sutton is quite a bit bigger and has Guy Duquette. Check out the 16 hours of lessons prices (in CDN$):
Sutton
post #26 of 26
Thread Starter 
Thanks to everyone for all your input! [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]

I've just posted a report here
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