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Please Recommend Resort for Hopeful Intermediate (1st Time to Ski in 14 Years)

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
First let me say - great forum here, I've been lurking and searching and I've learned a lot. I hope y'all don't get tired of all the - "please recommend resort" threads, but everyone's situation is a little different.

My wife and I are planning a trip for Mar. 14 - 20 and we're leaving our 3-year old at home. I've skied twice before - 2 seasons in a row in college at Snowshoe Mtn. in West Virginia, but as the thread title says, that was 14 years ago. Pretty much skied parallel from the start and skied a lot of blues both years. My wife skied with me the second time (her only time to ski) and pretty well matched my ability level. We plan to take a full day or half day lesson our first day, and I hope to be able to ski easier blue runs wherever we end up going.

We are using frequent flyer miles and so can go almost anywhere (except we can't get in to Aspen/Snowmass) including WhistlerBlackcomb (although it is a much longer flight for us than Denver or SLC). Here are some of the factors and their importance to us:

1. Terrain - definitely want as wide a variety of skiable trails for our ability level as possible (I'm thinking nice wide blue cruisers or greens with decent slope will be our sweet spot -- please let me know if you think I'm being too ambitious planning to ski blues again after 14 years).

2. Accommodations - definitely want ski-in/ski-out. Doesn't have to be 5 star, but I'm not looking for absolute bargain basement either. We'd like to not rent a car, so shuttle service from the airport and walking distance of restuarants and other services is important.

3. Apres Ski - not looking for a party scene at all, but we would like good places to eat. While less important than the above 2 factors, it would be nice for the village/town to have a nice feel to it -- e.g., I'm envisioning a place where you could take a romantic sleigh ride one night.

Places that are high on my list now include Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Steamboat Springs, Vail, and Deer Valley.

What do you recommend? Are there any that you suggest I avoid or rule out?

Any help is greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
Cliff
post #2 of 28
My husband and I haven't travelled that much but we did go to Park City/Deer Valley (also close to the Canyons)....3 resorts easily accessible. Definitely don't need a car. Lots of restaurants. Didn't look for a romantic sleigh ride so can't comment on that.
If it were me, I would probably narrow it down to Utah or Colorado, as you have..........

Hope you and your wife have a great time!!!
post #3 of 28
Keystone has wonderful green and blue runs. And it has everything else you are looking for--including, I am pretty sure, the sleigh ride. However, in the middle of March it can be quite crowded due to spring break skiers.
post #4 of 28
I would vote for Vail or Beaver Creek. You can easily shuttle to the other one than where you're staying. They are expensive. When you see the price premium for ski-in ski-out you might want to relax that requirement. But the public transit is good so I would not let that be a deterrent.

Steamboat has sunny SW exposure and will have spring conditions within a few sunny hours in March. Breck has east exposure and congestion issues on the blue terrain you will be skiing.

Deer Valley you would probably like, but it skis a lot smaller than Beaver Creek IMHO, and Vail is in another league entirely. Park City and the Canyons will likely have spring conditions on blue runs with mostly east exposure.
post #5 of 28
Copious intermediate terrain, slopeside lodgings and apres ski is easy. Making a ski trip without renting a car is a little harder. The most convenient gateway cities with many flights and easy shuttle services to good skiing are SLC (1hr or less), Reno(1-2hrs), and Denver(2-3hrs or more). Between those three regions you really can't lose. Mid-March in the US West is typically great, with maybe a chance for slightly softer spring conditions, fine for intermediates. For your situation Park City/Deer Valley might be most easily accessible, but Vail/Beaver Creek is a fine suggestion too. If you decide a longer flight and longer ground transfer is ok, then maybe this is the time to try Whistler sans children? If your frequent flier miles can get you there another possibility is Big Sky, Montana, which has great intermediate terrain and will likely be less crowded than many places.
If you were comfortable skiing most of Snowshoe you will have a great time at any of the resorts mentioned in this thread. If you skied Cup Run at Snowshoe you will be able to ski the majority of available inbounds terrain.
post #6 of 28
Thread Starter 
Thanks so much for all of the help so far.

Resonate11, thanks for the heads up on Keystone. I had been looking hard at Keystone, but kind of backed off when I saw a few comments about the snow conditions being a little more icy there. Also, they don't really have that many greens, but they do have a lot of blues. Do you (and others) agree with these comments about the conditions there?

I can get a killer deal on a studio ski-in/ski-out at Keystone: http://www.vrbo.com/30712 - $139.00 a night. Has anyone stayed at Mountain Village Slopeside condos?

Are other resorts such as Vail or Beaver Creek that much better than Keystone to justify the additional price for ski-in / ski-out? Tony, you weren't kidding about the price tag of ski-in/ski-out at those places. But I really want ski-in/ski-out. At Snowshoe, my first year we had to drive to the slopes. Then, the next year back we stayed ski-in/ski-out and I liked that much, much better.

Jamesj, I believe Cupp Run is a black trail - I didn't ski any blacks at Snowshoe, but did ski pretty much all the blues.

Again, thanks for the help - please keep the suggestions coming!

-Cliff
post #7 of 28
While I do not think Keystone as "icy", certain runs at Keystone can get icy, Mozart is a good example lots of people on it, some that should not be. But really the front side is often ignored leaving the blues virtually empty, even at the busiest of times. Lots of good cruising runs on the front side! Greens are lacking, There is the famous Schoolmarm, it is long but it can get crowded. I like Spring Dipper better, it starts as a blue turns into a green. There is only one very short portion that warrants the blue label. Other than that it is a fun cruising green run.

Slopeside Condos are at the Mountain House base. I like to ski out of Mountain House. It is much less crowded than River Run. Lines are non-existent, you can take Schoolmarm home and avoid the "River Run" run which can get icy as it is the only way back to River Run. It is a blue run with lots of people on it beyond their abilities.

We have a condo at Mountain House in the Key Condo complex. You might want to see what the price is at Key Condo. They are closer to River Run if you want to walk to dinner / bars, If that is important to you. It is a bit further walk to the lift but not far at all.

Just to satisfy my own curiosity I looked at http://summitcove.com/tour/index.php?PropertyID=44

same price. And no it is not mine
post #8 of 28
take the 3 yr old along - he/she also wants to ski
post #9 of 28
I gotta recommend, South Shore Tahoe, if, the snow is right. Stay slopeside at the base of the Heavenly's gondola, take a lesson and enjoy. Lots to do, don't need a car, can shuttle to other resorts.
post #10 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by cliffk View Post
At Snowshoe, my first year we had to drive to the slopes. Then, the next year back we stayed ski-in/ski-out and I liked that much, much better.
I think that the point that some folks have tried to make is that the world isn't divided into "drive to the slopes" vs. "ski-in/ski-out." Plenty of places have shuttles to get you to nearby slopes, which lets you avoid the hassle of driving and parking, but also manage costs and get some additional variety.

Since you're an aspiring intermediate looking to spend a whole week skiing, I would strongly suggest that you choose a location that will let you mix it up and choose among multiple ski areas. At many or most areas, your desired degree of difficulty will keep you off half the runs anyway. Assuming that this is a gateway trip, you can also use it as an opportunity to get a better sense of what you like and dislike about certain types of terrain, amenities, and the like.

Since you're talking about skiing five months from now, during a non-holiday period (unless there are a bunch of nearby colleges on spring break), I would also encourage you to hold off on committing to a trip for a good 3.5 months or more, when you will have a much better idea (which is to say, a mere inkling) of how the season is shaping up in the various areas from which you might choose. You shouldn't have a problem getting a flight two to three weeks before you plan to leave. Even if it's a slight cost increment, lodging deals typically start to appear after President's Week, so you can expect to make up any transportation difference in lodging prices.

I've never skied in Colorado, so I can't weigh in on those areas.

Personally, I'm a big fan of North Lake Tahoe skiing. You can stay in or around Tahoe City (e.g., Granlibakken) and have shuttle access to Squaw, Alpine, Northstar, and Homewood. You can stay slopeside at at least five different places in Squaw (PlumpJack, the Squaw Valley Lodge, the Resort at Squaw Creek, the condos at the base, and the Olympic Valley Inn) and shuttle to Alpine for a day or two. You can stay slopeside at Northstar. If you're in the mood for a little casino action and the like, stay in South Lake Tahoe walking distance from the Heavenly gondola, and take the Tahoe Queen to Squaw or Alpine one or two days. There are lots of good options, many of which can be found at www.slidingonthecheap.com.

I also like the Utah resorts. For your purposes, you'd probably want to think about staying in Park City and skiing Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley, and the Canyons, but another good option would be staying at Snowbird or Alta and shuttling between the two.

Depending on snowpack, you might think about Crystal Mountain in Washington too. I took my wife there when she had about the same amount of experience as you, and she absolutely loved it. It might get a little boring for a whole week, though.

And of course, there's Whistler.

But the most important tip is to WAIT.



And just wait until the three-year-old starts. Here are pics of mine at age five:
post #11 of 28

Caution

One word of advice coming from a Snowshoe skiier who's been out West. Though the blue trails out west are generally a little bit steeper than Snowshoes, they are MUCH longer and you are getting back up the mountain faster due to high-speed lifts. IE. You will get in 10 times the skiing and vertical and it WILL wear out your legs much faster than any skiing at Snowshoe.

Start getting your legs in shape now (if they aren't already). Plan on skiing a day, taking a day break, then get back at it. And make sure you take a lesson and learn proper technique. Your quads will thank you.
post #12 of 28
Quote:
I had been looking hard at Keystone, but kind of backed off when I saw a few comments about the snow conditions being a little more icy there.
In my experience, which was way back in the 1980s and 90s, ice was seldom a problem at Keystone or any of the Colorado resorts. During spring skiing the runs can get soft during the day and then freeze overnight creating hard snow conditions for the first part of the morning. However, Keystone usually does a good job of grooming.

At this point in time, there is no way of predicting what the snow conditions will be like in March.
post #13 of 28
If it comes down to intermediates at Deer Valley, Park City or the Canyons, choose Deer Valley. One thing that place has, that is really great for all abilities, is green trails and many blue trails that start at the top of the mountain. Some of the best views you will find at Deer Valley are on a long and winding green run that links two mountains together. It was really enjoyable for me, even though I primarily ski blacks and blues.

I would also probably not recommend The Canyons so much for beginners or near beginners due to how fast people go between the mountains. There is so much distance between chairs that folks just zip up behind people on some of the flatter trails- and it makes for some pretty hairy situations.
post #14 of 28
Thread Starter 
I really appreciate everyone's suggestions. I am taking them all in and researching everything y'all are throwing out.

One thing I did find out today is that I can get in to Aspen airport on f.f. miles. I have a good buddy who has skied all over Colorado and swears by Snowmass. There is a very affordable ski-in/ski-out place there called Snowmass Mtn. Chalet that includes a hot breakfast and a soup lunch for $289/nt. I would save time and money on ground transfers since they offer free shuttle service. And Aspen is the quintessential Colorado ski town.

I really think this setup is more of what I'm looking for - stay at a convenient spot and ski right out of my door. No shuttling to different mountains (though we may want to head over to Aspen Mtn. or Buttermilk since that is included but we certainly wouldn't have to). I'm thinking Snowmass would be less crowded than Copper/Keystone.

Another thing I found out is that I can get into Vail/Eagle airport on a really nice schedule. If only Vail/Beaver Creek weren't so expensive - esp. for ski-in/ski-out. Any suggestions on deals there?

What do y'all think about Snowmass vs. some of these other options?

Take care,
Cliff
post #15 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by cliffk View Post
I really appreciate everyone's suggestions. I am taking them all in and researching everything y'all are throwing out.

One thing I did find out today is that I can get in to Aspen airport on f.f. miles. I have a good buddy who has skied all over Colorado and swears by Snowmass. There is a very affordable ski-in/ski-out place there called Snowmass Mtn. Chalet that includes a hot breakfast and a soup lunch for $289/nt. I would save time and money on ground transfers since they offer free shuttle service. And Aspen is the quintessential Colorado ski town.

I really think this setup is more of what I'm looking for - stay at a convenient spot and ski right out of my door. No shuttling to different mountains (though we may want to head over to Aspen Mtn. or Buttermilk since that is included but we certainly wouldn't have to). I'm thinking Snowmass would be less crowded than Copper/Keystone.

Another thing I found out is that I can get into Vail/Eagle airport on a really nice schedule. If only Vail/Beaver Creek weren't so expensive - esp. for ski-in/ski-out. Any suggestions on deals there?

What do y'all think about Snowmass vs. some of these other options?

Take care,
Cliff

Snowmass will be quite a bit less crowded than the I-70 resorts (Copper, Vail, Keystone, etc). You won't have the influx of Front Range skiers on the weekend. IMO, you can't go wrong with ski-in/out at Snowmass for an intermediate skier in March. They hold the snow well there and March is prime time for snowfall in CO. Perhaps the only downside to Snowmass is the lift layout but it's not that bad. I find Breck is a lot worse.

Aspen is a nice town. Snowmass is a little ways north, though, so you won't actually be in town. However, ski-in/out is sure nice. You'll really appreciate it when you're worn out from the altitude and vertical.

cheers
post #16 of 28
and there's buses from Snowmass into Aspen (free, I believe).
post #17 of 28
Snowmass is a good choice. The bus is free to Aspen until 6 PM. There's plenty of other stuff to do if you find that you've had too much skiing. And you can ski at all 4 Mountains on the same lift ticket.

Given that you've only skied twice, you might consider taking a lesson or two. And you might also consider trying out Buttermilk, which has a considerable variety of green/blue terrain.

Mike
post #18 of 28
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the info on Snowmass. I am a little concerned about the lack of green trails at Snowmass. I would hate to pay for ski-in/ski-out there only to find that we have to shuttle to Buttermilk each day to find comfortable terrain. Also, my flight in is not that good - requiring 12 hours with 2 stops arriving at 10:00 p.m.

I can get into Vail-Eagle at 11:20 a.m., 1 stop, 6 hours travel time. And I'm really starting to think Beaver Creek would be an awesome experience - larger than Snowmass, more greens, perhaps more scenic, and a little more upscale. Plus, if we like it there, it would probably be a better place than Snowmass to bring our daughter when she is 5 or 6 to learn to ski just b/c of the number of green trails.

Now the challenge is to find something affordable there or just bite the bullet and pay for ski-in/ski-out.

I still may do Snowmass, but I'm giving Beaver Creek strong consideration. What do y'all think?

Thanks,
Cliff
post #19 of 28
Quote:
Are other resorts such as Vail or Beaver Creek that much better than Keystone to justify the additional price for ski-in / ski-out
In my opinion the ski quality difference is worth giving up the ski-in-ski-out in a minute.

But at your described level of ability I like the Snowmass suggestion better. Remember that trail markings are relative not absolute (except in my resort guides , shameless plug). Snowmass is a much flatter mountain on average than Vail or Beaver Creek. You and your wife can ski anything marked blue at Snowmass right off the bat IMHO.

If you can get a trail map that shows both length and vertical of the chairs, use that instead of the trail colors to gauge steepness. If the length to vertical ratio is over 4 to 1 (as most of them are at Snowmass) you'll be fine on anything groomed, and you can asess the ungroomed while riding the lift and watching other skiers.

Quote:
And Aspen is the quintessential Colorado ski town...I'm thinking Snowmass would be less crowded than Copper/Keystone.
I agree 100% on both counts.

I agree on the positive comments people make about North Tahoe and Whistler Blackcomb. But you will appreciate those places so much more when you've stepped your ski ability up a notch.
post #20 of 28
Snowmass will be perfect for you. The runs that come down into the village are very easy and there wouldn't be any need to go to Buttermilk. The easiest run is Dawdler and the only obstacles are ankle biters.

The lift layout is much better now that they've put in a high speed six pack to Sam's Nob and a Gondola up to Elk Camp.
post #21 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by cliffk View Post
Also, my flight in is not that good - requiring 12 hours with 2 stops arriving at 10:00 p.m.

I can get into Vail-Eagle at 11:20 a.m., 1 stop, 6 hours travel time. Thanks,
Cliff

Holy crap... 12 hours of travel?!? : What's it like for you to fly into Denver and rent a car? Snowmass is 3 to 4 hours from Denver and the drive through Glenwood Canyon and the Roaring Fork valley are pretty nice. Also, there are shuttles from DIA to Vail (Home James, Colorado Mountain Express). There might even be some shuttles from DIA all the way to Snowmass.
post #22 of 28
I'd recommend either Keystone or Vail. Keystone has plenty of green runs, as well as 2 gondolas. It may seem wimpy, but if you're out of skiing shape, a gondola ride may be the safest way down at the end of the day. You can also go up the gondolas at night to dinner at Keystone. Not cheap, but a lovely experience. They also offer a sleigh ride dinner. Vail has better ambience and a gondola as well. Since you haven't skied in a long time, please take lessons once you reach the mountains. The instructors will make sure you see a lot of the mountain but they won't take you anywhere beyond your ability. You also get to cut the lift lines (a bit) with an instructor. You'll find that you both improve measurably with lessons and you'll have a much better time!
post #23 of 28
Thread Starter 
Tony, thanks for the great info. Enjoyed your resort guides. Have you done one on Snowmass or Beaver Creek? Maybe I just overlooked it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pufftoad View Post
Holy crap... 12 hours of travel?!? : What's it like for you to fly into Denver and rent a car? Snowmass is 3 to 4 hours from Denver and the drive through Glenwood Canyon and the Roaring Fork valley are pretty nice. Also, there are shuttles from DIA to Vail (Home James, Colorado Mountain Express). There might even be some shuttles from DIA all the way to Snowmass.
The 12 hours was b/c of bad connections and two layovers. But, I didn't realize how close the Eagle-Vail airport is to Snowmass. And as I mentioned in an earlier post, I can get into Eagle-Vail at 11:20 a.m. Friday morning. It's then just 65 miles or so to Snowmass - about an hour and half per Mapquest.

mrm, as I mentioned in my post starting the thread, we are definitely taking lessons the first day we are there. Thanks for the recommendation and insight on Keystone and Vail.

Now that the travel issue isn't as big of a deal, I've got it narrowed down pretty much to Beaver Creek or Snowmass. Keystone is still a consideration, but only because of it costing less. I am most concerned about the crowds there the week of Spring Break. I'm going to price out my whole trip with everything we're wanting to do at all 3 mountains, and then make a decision.

Looks like I've got 4 recommendations for Snowmass already from you guys. Anyone recommend the Beav over Snowmass?

Anybody have any inside info./scoops on deals for lift tickets and/or rentals at Snowmass or BC?

Really appreciate all of your help here.

Take care,
Cliff
post #24 of 28
I love BC, but I still think you would be better off at Snowmass. The bus to Aspen is pretty short, you've got a ton of alternatives to skiing, a great ski school, and good entertainment and restaurants in Aspen. I doubt you will find deals at either resort.

Mike
post #25 of 28
Thread Starter 
Thanks to all of you guys here, plus a few friends not in the forum, my decision is made: Snowmass it is! Just booked my frequent flyer tickets. And I was actually able to book my return trip departing the Aspen airport, so I'll only have to deal with the longer shuttle coming in.

I really appreciate everyone contributing here to help me.

Now I've got to finalize where I want to stay. In addition to Snowmass Mtn. Chalet, I'm also looking at some units in the Aspenwood Condos. Anybody have any experience with either of these two properties or have another recommendation?

I know this is a departure from my original topic, and I may end up posting this somewhere else, but what do you guys recommend as far as lessons? Half-day or Full-day? Private or Group?

I'm really getting excited about the trip now that I know where we're going. There are so many places to choose from, it's kinda overwhelming.

Take care,
Cliff
post #26 of 28
The Snowmass Mt. Chalet is true ski in/out. Aspenwood condo's would be a short walk to the slopes.
post #27 of 28
Sign up for a half day morning private. Gives you the afternoon to consider/practice what you got in the morning session. And you can pace yourselves for what your body can take.

Remember that Snowmass is at quite a high altitude. Saps your energy and makes it difficult to rebound quickly from exertion.
post #28 of 28
Here's a slightly different suggestion. Fly into SLC. Stay at the Rustler Lodge at Alta. Totally first class. Great food in American Plan. The ultimate in ski in/ski out. With folks always talking about the macho terrain at Alta, it is often overlooked that they have one of the best and longest green runs around and a great selection of blues. No lift lines during the week. My wife and I have had fabulous visits there. But you need to reserve early. The Alta lodges book up quickly with returnees making up 70-80% of the guest list. You won't be disappointed. Given the three year old left at home, it's also a very romantic place.
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