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February Vacation Crowd Avoidance

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
We have the week of President's day (Feb 18) off as a school vacation. My son and I are going skiing. Unfortunately, much of the Northeast has that week off too, so getting flights isn't that easy. And most of the country has President's day itself off, so the early part of the week is probably really croweded. (In past years we've left home on Monday, going against traffic as it were.)

After scouring the internet for Frequent Flyer tickets or cheap fares, it turns out we are going back to Colorado this year.

To make a virtue of necessity, I've decided to go to some out-of-the-way places I've been to never or years ago. So here is the baseline plan -- feel free to throw brickbats or offer advice and alternatives. (Also, if anyone wants to do a few turns together, great..)

Saturday - fly to Denver. Very late arrival, so stay there.
Sunday - drive to Monarch and ski there. Afterwards, drive to South Fork or Pagosa Springs for Wolf Creek. Ski two days at Wolf Creek.

Then comes the killer drive -- up to Summit County. Looks long and painful, especially after a full day of skiing, but doable.

Ski three days at one or more of the areas there. Saturday fly home from Denver.

Variations:
-- break the drive to Summit in half by skiing Monarch on the return, too.
-- substitute Crested Butte for Wolf Creek. The drive times are about the same, though in a completely different direction.
-- only two days (or even just one) in Summit County, skiing ??? instead.

We are looking for powder if we get lucky, steeps (within reason) if not.

The big unknown is what level my son will be at -- last year he skied some pretty hard stuff, but not all day every day. We may need to throw an easy day in here and there. On the other hand, if he improves as much this year as last, he may wind up pushing me!

Thoughts, anyone?
post #2 of 27
I am also thinking about crested butte, maybe in march, anyone know anything about it? It looks ungodly good.
post #3 of 27
mdf,

Last winter our school system switched vacation weeks to the ever crowded President's day week. My son and I took an off the beaten path ski safari here in the NE. We drove from CT to ME skied Saddleback for a couple of days. Crowded for Saddleback, maybe, but no lines and plenty of trails to ourselves. Then we hit Sugarloaf which had the masses you would expect. Next, we took a day off and drove to Mont Sainte Anne. No crowds, no jacked up holiday rates, really nice mountain. We didn't hit Le Massif, (mainly because my son was tired) but plan to soon. After a couple of days there, we drove south of the border to Jay Peak, skied another day and a half there and then headed home.

It was a great trip, an adventure really, but a lot of driving. If I were to do it again I would skip either Maine or Canada. Both were awesome and it would be a hard choice, but both in one trip from southern CT was a bit too much travel time.

I guess what I'm saying is - if you go out west be careful about the amount of driving you commit to, and that there are plenty of good options within reach right near home.
post #4 of 27
Thread Starter 
Crank -
I hear you about too much driving. We usually go one place and stay there. (Last year we did Breck exclusively excpt one day at A-basin, ignoring all the other wonderful choices within an easy drive.)

I'm tempted to go several places not because I think I will "use up" the terrain at one area, but there are so many places I want to ski and I may not get a chance to go back to that neck of the woods.
And I'm feeling that with just the two of us we will travel lighter and make moving around easier.

For those who haven't been there or looked at a map, the reason for Monarch is that it is on the way to either WC or CB and therefore breaks the long drive into two shorter ones.

There are two reasons for Summit County -- one is that there is terrain at the top of Breck that I didn't get to which I really regret. (We did Horseshoe Bowl, Whales Tale & the runs under it, but nothing else. I want to climb to the top, and I want to see why so many people were taking a high traverse over towards Peak 7.) The other reason is that I have to go back to Denver, anyway, so it is closer.

I've committed to the air tickets, so Denver is definitely it. I actually was trying to go somewhere else, since we just did Colorado last year, but nothing else worked as well.


To anyone else planning frequent flyer Feb vacations -- they are going fast. Even between a week or so ago, when I put the tickets on hold, and yesterday, when I did a last re-check before committing, the number of choices went way, way down. (And that is using the "give us more miles to go when you really want to" option. The base rate is pretty much completely gone, or maybe never existed.)
post #5 of 27
Sounds like Breck and Monarch are definite, but which do you prefer CB or WC? All but Breck should be pretty good for crowd avoidance. Maybe do two days at Breck first, then drive on Tues AM to Monarch for a half day of skiing, and do a second day there if you like it, then go to CB for last two (or three) days, and then make the 4.5 hr drive from CB to Denver either Friday night or Sat AM. When does flight leave on Sat? On fun, but ambitious road trips like that I try to stay in the same motel at least two nights in a row whenever possible. I'm also thinking CB might be better a better destination for two or three days then WC?
post #6 of 27
Wolf Creek is a good little mountain.

However, Crested Butte is a very cool town with an awesome mountain. The steeps at Crested Butte are a lot better than anything Wolf Creek can offer. Super great terrain that Wolf Creek cannot match.

I would do Monarch - Crested Butte easily over Wolf Creek.

Trust me. The crowding is not an issue at places like Telluride, Crested Butte, etc.....even in mid-Feb.

I try to do -very long- daytrips to Crested Butte from Telluride because its skiing is really good.
post #7 of 27
Don't know what fares are like, but a great way to miss US holiday crowds is to fly to Calgary and ski from there.
post #8 of 27
Thread Starter 
Jamesj - On Breck, I'm thinking that the crowds will thin out towards the end of the week. And the only real crowding issue was the long lifts from the bottom. The T-bar never seems to get crowded.

Chris -
Crested Butte does look like a good place. Originally, WC was definite, and I wasn't really aware of CB. But references to it started showing up in the searches I was doing on Monarch. So now I'm uncertain.

The references I'm seeing to CB needing a lot of snow to cover the rocks are making me a little nervous, tho... Of course, any steep mountain has occaissional pointy-things that show through the snow, so maybe the posts were just people with unrealistic expectations.

Also -- looks like there are plenty of cheap motels in Pagosa Springs. What about Gunnison? Don't really want to spend a lot on lodging -- it's not that kind of trip.

I'd rather spend my money on the hill. I have to go back through the websites, but I seem to recall there was a guided tour of Extreme Limits @ CB and one of Mirkwood @ Monarch. And the "big mountain experience" at Breck appeals to me too. Anybody have experience with any of these?
post #9 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by crank View Post
After a couple of days there, we drove south of the border to Jay Peak, skied another day and a half there and then headed home.
I think I would second Jay. It's not known for the kid crowd. While the rest of the NE may be packed, Jay should be relatively quiet.
post #10 of 27
fly to SLC go ski powder mountain and or solitude. easier access than colorado in either case, better snow better terrain, cheaper, and less crowds.

you would dumb not too.
post #11 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by BushwackerinPA View Post
fly to SLC go ski powder mountain and or solitude. easier access than colorado in either case, better snow better terrain, cheaper, and less crowds.

you would dumb not too.
I disagree, the terrain is not better at Powder Mountain and Solitude. Breck ain't my favorite, but there is some decent skiing there and CB has some really nice lines.

More often than not the snow will be better in UT, but CO doesn't suck in that regard either.

I know that airfares are much cheaper from east coast to Denver and there may be more availability for ff miles as well. In any case, he's comitted to Denver.
post #12 of 27
If you never been to Monarch, it's nice but , short. Could have some good snow if your timing is right. Bottom 1/3 of the Mt is flat & rough on snowboarders.
Wolf Creek used to be my Home town Mt. & Yes they get better snow then any where else in the USA! (the Uturds will debate this, most have never been there when a 90" storm rolls through). If you catch a storm you will want more then 1 day at the Creek.
I would put other Mts higher on the list then Monarch. We have skiied Loveland on most of the past Pres. days with little crowds.
Beaver Creek, Steamboat would also be a good choice that week as they seem to handle the crowds if you know the right lifts to avoid.
post #13 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by BushwackerinPA View Post
fly to SLC go ski powder mountain and or solitude. easier access than colorado in either case, better snow better terrain, cheaper, and less crowds.

you would dumb not too.
Well, the SLC and stay in Sandy approach was my original plan, but I could not get frequent flyer tickets (for vaca week). I also looked into Reno, Sacramento, Bozeman, Jackson. Even tried to figure out if non-ski airports like Las Vegas, San Franscisco (not available anyway), or Spokane were drivable.

I'm not saying anything yet, but I will still have miles left on a different airline, so maybe later I could sneak in a non-vacation week trip to SLC.

Of course, I'm not travelling nearly as much for work so the FF accounts are not getting replenished -- I'm spending my nest egg miles here.
post #14 of 27
Thread Starter 
As for the East coast suggestions -- thanks, but those are within weekend or skip-work-for-a-day distance, so not really in the vacation mix. Well, some of them are a bit on the long distance side...

(I wrote some more stuff about the East, but decided that is really another thread and deleted it.)
post #15 of 27
Thread Starter 
I've never been to Monarch or CB. I was in WC for a weekend in early season 2002 -- they went from bare ground to 100% open in one storm.

We were working south of Albuquerque and our boss told us Friday afternoon that we were taking the weekend off. A buddy and I checked around, discovered WC was the only "nearby" place open, jumped in the car and drove.

Oh yeah, we stopped at REI in Albuquerque to buy ski pants and socks.

We rented equipment at the mountain (me skis, he boarding). I walked down to find him and realized there was no way the boots were going to work, so I went back, thinking they'd give me a smaller size. Instead they rummaged around in the back and came up with with a pair of translucent Langes. Somehow I doubt that would happen at a mega-resort.

Those Langes were great, except for two things -- they had way more forward lean than I was used to, which was not a problem skiing but made standing around painful on the leg muscles. And, I literally could not get them off by myself at the end of the day.

My memory of WC may be skewed by the deep snow that lasted all day.
post #16 of 27
My wife and I live 20 minutes from Beaver Creek, but we travel the entire state of Colorado for skiing. Here's my take...

Monarch - generally great snow, nice small mountain but really shorts runs and slow lifts.

Crested Butte - if you're an extreme skier and they have lot's of snow, it's one of the best. If you are an intermemdiate, or if the coverage is bad, you'll be stuck on the lower part of the mountain and may get bored. The town of Crested Butte is great place!

Wolf Creek - one of our favorites. All natural snow, fab tree skiing. Be careful after a big dump beacuse Wolf Creek dosen't have many continuous steeps and you can get bogged down in the snow. For heavens sakes, don't spend your evening in South Fork - go to Pagosa Springs! Try the Springs Motel. The hot springs are awesome!

Driving the speed limit, Wolf Creek to Beaver Creek is about 4 hours.
post #17 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skicrazy View Post
My wife and I live 20 minutes from Beaver Creek, but we travel the entire state of Colorado for skiing. Here's my take...

Monarch - generally great snow, nice small mountain but really shorts runs and slow lifts.

Crested Butte - if you're an extreme skier and they have lot's of snow, it's one of the best. If you are an intermemdiate, or if the coverage is bad, you'll be stuck on the lower part of the mountain and may get bored. The town of Crested Butte is great place!

Wolf Creek - one of our favorites. All natural snow, fab tree skiing. Be careful after a big dump beacuse Wolf Creek dosen't have many continuous steeps and you can get bogged down in the snow. For heavens sakes, don't spend your evening in South Fork - go to Pagosa Springs! Try the Springs Motel. The hot springs are awesome!

Driving the speed limit, Wolf Creek to Beaver Creek is about 4 hours.
Great post, voice of experience speaking. Maybe mdf's initial instincts, Monarch/Wolf Creek/Breck, is right for him even if route is a little circuitous. Either way, I applaud/envy the great father-son bonding time the trip will bring.
post #18 of 27
I would also be inclined to Skicrazy's local advice. You might want to leave some flexibility in the schedule, because Crested Butte is very impressive if it has the snow.
post #19 of 27
Thread Starter 

Backup plan - Northern alternative?

Some of the other discussion of CB and the way that who gets snow depends on the direction of the storm track have me thinking --
What should my backup plan be if the southern part of Colorado has a bad year?

How crowded will A-basin or Loveland be on Sunday (Feb 17, Pres day weekend)? I figure the crowds at the big Summit County places will be dying down later in the week, but what about M and T? Is it worth driving all the way to Steamboat?

Also, anybody have a feel for how long I can wait to make motel reservations (towns, not on the mountains). For example, at one place I looked at I could make a non-refundable reservation now for $70 ro 80 /night (I didn't write it down, so details...), or make a first-night-only non-refundable for about $15 more, or a fully cancellable for an additional $20 more over the 15. That is starting to be a significant flexibility premium.
post #20 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by mdf View Post
Crank -
To anyone else planning frequent flyer Feb vacations -- they are going fast. Even between a week or so ago, when I put the tickets on hold, and yesterday, when I did a last re-check before committing, the number of choices went way, way down. (And that is using the "give us more miles to go when you really want to" option. The base rate is pretty much completely gone, or maybe never existed.)
That's one of the reasons JetBlue is so good. If the flight has seats and you have a free flight, you're in. Regardless of the cost or how full the plane is. Add in the extra leg room and the satellite TV in front of every seat and it's much better than anything else I've flown (coach of course). Now if they only had more flights out of Newark..
post #21 of 27
My experience is that Loveland will probably have lighter crowds than A-Basin because of it's layout and that fact that it's not part of the Colorado Pass group. Colorado Passes are restricted at Vail and Beaver Creek that Sunday, so pass holders will be hitting Breck, Keystone and A-Basin. The secret (as always) is to get there EARLY and head for the back of the mountain and work you way back to the lodge as the day goes on. Sunday will be a busy day any way you look at it.

Monday and Tuesday should be much lighter days that Sunday.
post #22 of 27
Thread Starter 

Made my decision

... and my motel reservations.

For our (my son & me) trip to Colorado on Pres. Day week (Feb 17-23).
We will be skiing Monarch Sunday, then Crested Butte M-T-W (staying in town in Crested Butte), then Breck Th-F (staying in Frisco). Staying in Denver or suburbs (Golden, maybe -- didnt make those res's yet) for the travel days.

If anybody is on an intersecting path (NOT literally!) and wants to say hi, give a holler.
post #23 of 27
Wow, i really don't understand all this jumping around on these short (week-long) trips. I'm all for coming back from a ski vac totally exhausted, but from skiing itself, not schlepping around for a week. Why not stay at one large (or medium) mtn, and really get to know the place? I love that feeling of having skiied somewhere for a week, and really feeling like a local at the end because I've learned it so well. If you jump around so much, you end up missing the best spots at all those mountains.
post #24 of 27
You really should really trade a breck day for loveland. Almost no crowds and your best shot at skiing powder along i-70. Cheap also.


good call on crested butte.
post #25 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bszekely View Post
Wow, i really don't understand all this jumping around on these short (week-long) trips. I'm all for coming back from a ski vac totally exhausted, but from skiing itself, not schlepping around for a week. Why not stay at one large (or medium) mtn, and really get to know the place? I love that feeling of having skiied somewhere for a week, and really feeling like a local at the end because I've learned it so well. If you jump around so much, you end up missing the best spots at all those mountains.
Well, I was motivated by by what seemed (to me) to be good reasons.
a) S-M I did not want to be on I-70 cause of President's day.
b) Our incoming flight is to late to drive to a ski area that night, so I wanted a fairly close area. Getting up early, with the time change, I think we can get to Monarch by 1st chair. I know I can't get up early enough to get all the way to CB.
c) Breck - we were there last year, so it is a long visit - just with a 12 month break in between. There were a few things I did not get to last year I want to go back for. Plus that will put us most of the way back to Denver, breaking up the drive.

So the only real choice is one day or two at Breck. (Either stay an extra day in CB, or do another Frisco resort.)

I guess the real solution would be to ski for two weeks
post #26 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by crank View Post
mdf,

Last winter our school system switched vacation weeks to the ever crowded President's day week. My son and I took an off the beaten path ski safari here in the NE. We drove from CT to ME skied Saddleback for a couple of days. Crowded for Saddleback, maybe, but no lines and plenty of trails to ourselves. Then we hit Sugarloaf which had the masses you would expect. Next, we took a day off and drove to Mont Sainte Anne. No crowds, no jacked up holiday rates, really nice mountain. We didn't hit Le Massif, (mainly because my son was tired) but plan to soon. After a couple of days there, we drove south of the border to Jay Peak, skied another day and a half there and then headed home.

It was a great trip, an adventure really, but a lot of driving. If I were to do it again I would skip either Maine or Canada. Both were awesome and it would be a hard choice, but both in one trip from southern CT was a bit too much travel time.

I guess what I'm saying is - if you go out west be careful about the amount of driving you commit to, and that there are plenty of good options within reach right near home.


Quoting myself here. This year we are staying put. Just booked a condo right on 242 next to Jay Peak for Feb 17-23. After 4 years on a row of skiing safaris, 3 in NE, 1 in CO, we are staying put in one place.
post #27 of 27
Everyone has his/her own tolerance for ski safaris vs. staying put. Mine is quite high. If you know how your family handles the pack up and move process, you can plan accordingly.

This trip sounds very reasonable to me. I too would try to get off the I-70 corridor for President's week. Plus you have a WAY better than normal start at Crested Butte. It's 82% open now including some of the North Face. The North Face lift opens by Christmas in only 15% of seasons. CB has major issues in terms of snow coverage/steep terrain. When it looks like a good year, it's worth making the effort to get there.
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