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Budget Trip Out West

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
I guess budget and skiing should never be used in the same sentence, but here it goes. I have never skied out west before and I want to take my family. I will not be able to go until around March 15 of 2008. I am looking for suggestions on where to go. I want it to be fun and memorable, but I don't have a ton to spend. Actually I am not worried to much about the fun and memorable as we have fun where ever we go and we have only skied the northeast, so anything will be a big change.

Thanks in advance for any tips or suggestions.
post #2 of 23
I was about to post the same thing, so I'll piggyback on this thread (if that's not bad form). I'm from the Midwest, and would like for the kids (5,8,15) to experience something beyond the local small hill. Wife can take or leave skiing, but the rest of us really enjoy skiing. I'm more flexible on my dates (pretty much anything is fair game), but Colorado would be the first choice as we could drive it in a long day. Is it cheaper to do a ski/stay package or should I locate a local motel and buy the lift tickets? Thanks for any help you can offer . . .
post #3 of 23
Fly to Reno. Rent car. Reserve cheap motel in Kings Beach or the Tahoe Biltmore in Crystal Bay. Ski at Northstar which is a fabulous family area. For spectacular scenery, go one day to Squaw or Alpine Meadows or Heavenly. The Tahoe basin is the world's best blue-collar ski area.
post #4 of 23
I think you will be hard pressed to find a better destination then Utah. When you factor in price, snow, and accessibility. I doubt it can be beat. Delta has a hub at SLC Int'l and I think you can fly non-stop from over 90 destinations.

You'll be able to ski for free on the day you fly in, over in Park City (be aware that their are black out dates.)

You can stay CHEAP and less then 30 mins away from 4 class resorts (Alta, Snowbird, Solitude, and Brighton) by staying at one of the many cheap hotels in either Sandy or Midvale. I myself am staying at the La Quinta for only $53 a night w/ my AAA discount.

You can get cheap lift tickets (less then $40) to the 4 resorts above here: pass&WA5=IM

I also got an SUV from Alamo for only $189 ($247 after taxes) by using one of their special rates, found under their hot deals page: Advantage is usually pretty cheap too:
post #5 of 23
Last time I skied out west, season before last, we found that flights to Denver were signifigantly less than Salt Lake. To the tune of about $225.00 each. If you're taking a family the savings add up pretty quick right there. Rental cars are reasonable and you can find discounted lift tix for most of the Summit County areas. Check VBRO for condos and think about staying in Dillon, Frisco or Silverthorne to save more buckage.

I do agree with Blizzboy, above, Utah is a great option, lower altitude too. But if your experience is like mine, you may find the airfare to be a deal killer.
post #6 of 23
I agree that if you want the best skiing for the lowest cost (exclusive of airfare) you can't beat Salt Lake City. It is the only place with multiple world class resorts where you don't have to stay at a resort and suffer the monopoly pricing for food and lodging, plus the competition keeps the lift ticket prices down. You can stay at a Motel 6 and eat at McDonalds, or upgrade as far as your buget allows. You don't have the romace factor of staying in the mountains right at the resort, but you still get fantastic ski options at cheap prices. Tons of motel and restaurant options within a short drive or cheap/free shuttle to the Little or Big Cottonwood Canyon resorts (Alta, Snowbird, Brighton, Solitude).
post #7 of 23
Thread Starter 
Thank you guys for the advice. I am really looking forward to my first trip out west.
post #8 of 23
question for all the SLC extollers: How's the snow after March 15 (when the OP will be going)? if it tends towards the corn/mashed potato/ice cycle, perhaps Summit County, CO (with the higher altitude) might be better.
post #9 of 23
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by icanseeformiles(andmiles) View Post
question for all the SLC extollers: How's the snow after March 15 (when the OP will be going)? if it tends towards the corn/mashed potato/ice cycle, perhaps Summit County, CO (with the higher altitude) might be better.
That is a good question. Since it will be after 3/15, I should be concerned with the snow. What is the OP?
post #10 of 23
if it hasn't snowed, the snow won't hold up well at the park city resorts, in fact don't be surprised by the amt of slop you might find. but if it stays at least seasonably cool in March, the snow will be just fine in the Cottonwoods. However, snowfall second half of March is as good as it gets and you have a good chance of new snow, or at least recent snow everywhere in salt lake.

re: plane costs. i work, i Always ski half days on my travel days both to and from Utah, cuts down on number of days i need to take off to get my turns in. You can't do that in Colorado. Full day of travel from the East Coast. Colorado is nice though, your in the Mountains.
post #11 of 23
I've got a great picture of my wife getting major face shots at Snowbird on April 19th last year. All you can see is her hat and her hand. Mid-March is definitely not too late for good skiing.
post #12 of 23
Originally Posted by River Hill View Post
That is a good question. Since it will be after 3/15, I should be concerned with the snow. What is the OP?

One of the drivers at Snowbird told me that March was their best month of the year, on average.
post #13 of 23
Originally Posted by River Hill View Post
What is the OP?
Original poster, so you.
post #14 of 23
March 15 is usually good just about everywhere in N America ...
post #15 of 23
March 15 is usually good just about everywhere in N America
Dangerous generalization overall, but pretty accurate for Colorado. SnowbirdDevotee's analysis for Utah is correct.
post #16 of 23
If it's earlier than March 15, Big Mountain would be nice for family skiing. Nice little town, access to dog sledding, horse drawn sleighs, cross country, etc. Lodging and lifts are LOW LOW LOW compared to other 3000 acre ski areas. It takes a bit more airfare to get here, but if you look at the length of stay and factor in the lodging, eats, and tickets, I think you'll find plenty to do and a much lower stress level here.

Now I'll get off my soapbox for the rest of the season, because I really don't want more than one extra family showing up and getting on the lift ahead of me. I hate waiting behind anyone.

And there's no real NEED for a rental car here. Many of the hotels will pick you up at the airport (or train station) if you ask and once you're here, there's the Snow Bus. But, me, I'd get the rental car just because if there's kids it's a problem getting everyone ready on time.
post #17 of 23
Thread Starter 
Where is Big Mountain?
post #18 of 23
Originally Posted by River Hill View Post
Where is Big Mountain?
I love it! That's why we have no lift lines.

Just re-named Whitefish Mountain Resort. But we're resisting the name change. In lovely laid back Montana.
post #19 of 23
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post
Just re-named Whitefish Mountain Resort. But we're resisting the name change. In lovely laid back Montana.
I'd do the same. They tried to rename Buttermilk as "Tiehack" a few years back. That didn't last. Funny thing happened on April's Fool's Day-a new sign appeared over the Tiehack sign. They left the "I can't believe it's not Buttermilk" sign up for a week. The following season they gave up and put the Buttermilk sign back up.

I do miss the Montana-bahn.
post #20 of 23
River Hill, our first "out west" trip was from Raleigh NC to Wolf Creek, Colorado. We flew Southwest airlines into Albuquerque and drove up into Co. ... about 200 mile drive and very pretty. Airfare and car rental are both cheaper by comparison than a trip to SLC ... ticks and car rental from RDU to ABQ were ~ $330 & $350 vs $500 and $600 respectively. Since this 1st trip, we've made 3-4 trips to SLC and I still wonder why same car in one place costs so much more in another

Lift tickets at Wolf Creek run @ $45-$48 depending on the number of days you ski.

We stayed in some time-share condos in Pagosa Springs, which are about 25 miles from the ski resort. That's a big downside to going here as there's no slopeside lodging, or really any lodging to speak of that's close to the resort ... it's cheaper but you have to work a bit harder for the conveniences from going here.

If you've a connection with timeshare properties, you can usually get a weekly 2BR condo rate of around $500, via the RCI Extra Vacation program:

Wolf Creek's not a particularly spectacular resort, though it is very family oriented, has fantastic views, a good teaching program, great snow ...
post #21 of 23
If my memory is correct Alta and Snowbird average something like 500 inches of snow a year. Very few other ski areas get close to that amount of snow. Snowbird is usually open (on weekends) into May!

The Park City areas in March are "iffy". We sometimes get good storms and the skiing is spectacular. On the other hand, lately we have had above normal temps in March and no new snow storms. The conditions at the base are slush and even at the summit it's heavy and wet.

Salt Lake City has a huge number of lodging options at various price points. If you stay there and rent a car, you can ski at Alta, Snowbird, Brighton and Solitude. Four outstanding ski areas that are close by. If you want to drive further you can go to Park City Mountain Resort, The Canyons, or Deer Valley. A bit further still is Snowbasin, or in the other direction, Sundance.

It amazes me how many people focus on the cost of their airplane tickets in their planning. Yes, they represent a significant chunk of the total budget, but vacation is about enjoyment and eliminating stress.

Suppose you go on "el cheapo" airlines and save $100.00 a ticket. Great, but instead of a non-stop flight and arriving in late morning (with the option of skiing that afternoon) You change airplanes twice and arrive (exhausted) at 10pm only to discover your skis didn't make it.

Was it worth it? Remember every time you change aircraft the chances of lost luggage go up, as does the chance of a mechanical (or other) delay. What may be "the least expensive" is not necessarily "the best value".
post #22 of 23
Yeah I always go for less stops when planning flights for a ski trip. Usually Delta for SLC since they have that great non-stop that lands early morning and you can ski that day easily. I think United was the one for Aspen. Many airlnes fly into Denver ... dunno about Reno for Tahoe because I usually fly to SF or SJC (since I have friends in that area) and drive up.
post #23 of 23
Originally Posted by River Hill View Post
Where is Big Mountain?
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post
I love it! That's why we have no lift lines.

Just re-named Whitefish Mountain Resort. But we're resisting the name change. In lovely laid back Montana.
I just came across a great article in our local paper, dated 10/25 (I'm a bit behind in things):

Skiing on Big Mountain still a great value
By RICHARD HANNERS/Whitefish Pilot
Skiing, like many outdoor recreational activities, isn’t cheap — particularly if a median-income family of four in the Flathead wants to go up to the Big Mountain for a day of skiing and snowboarding.
On top of lift tickets, there’s ski equipment, clothing, transportation and meals to consider.
But setting all that aside, Whitefish Mountain Resort continues to be a good value for local — and destination — skiers and snowboarders.
While the cost of everything goes up due to inflation, ski resorts are also affected by higher costs for energy needed to run chairlifts, power groomers and heat buildings. So how have prices increased over the past decade?
According to a survey by Kasey Joyce at KECI-TV, the cost of lift tickets for four people at Big Mountain has increased from $134 in 1997 to $172 today. But corrected for inflation, that is actually 0.001 percent less.
The cost for four skiers spending a day at Snowbowl in Missoula went up from $80 in 1997 to $104 today, a slight 0.01 percent increase.
Big Sky, however, saw a 15 percent increase over the past 10 years, from $174 to $260, while Lost Trail, south of Hamilton, saw a 39 percent increase, from $58 to $104.
Whitefish Mountain Resort this year broke into the top-20 rankings in Ski Magazine’s annual Top 50 Resort Guide and Whitefish Mountain Resort spokesman Donnie Clapp recently compiled price comparisons among the top-20 resorts.
Here’s what he found:
Ski Magazine ranking; resort name; adult full-day ticket price; skiing area; cost per acre:
1 — Vail, Colo.; $84; 5,289 acres; 1.59 cents
2 — Deer Valley, Utah; $79; 2,026 acres; 3.90 cents
3 — Snowmass, Colo.; $87; 3,128 acres; 2.78 cents
4 — Whistler, British Columbia; $75; 8,171 acres; 0.92 cents
5 — Park City, Utah; $79; 3,300 acres; 2.39 cents
6 — Breckenridge, Colo.; $83; 2,358 acres; 3.52 cents
7 — Aspen Mountain, Colo.; $87; 673 acres; 12.93 cents
8 — Beaver Creek, Colo.; $83; 1,805 acres; 4.60 cents
9 — Steamboat, Colo.; $85; 2,939 acres; 2.89 cents
10 — Sun Valley, Idaho; $79; 2,054 acres; 3.85 cents
11 — Keystone, Colo.; $83; 2,870 acres; 2.89 cents
12 — Mammoth, Calif.; $74; 3,500 acres; 2.11 cents
13 — Telluride, Colo.; $85; 1,700 acres; 5.00 cents
14 — Copper Mountain, Colo.; $83; 2,433 acres; 3.41 cents
15 — Jackson Hole, Wyo.; $77; 2,500 acres; 3.08 cents
16 — Aspen Highlands, Colo.; $87; 1,010 acres; 8.61 cents
17 — Heavenly, Calif.; $81; 4,800 acres; 1.69 cents
18 — The Canyons, Utah; $69; 3,700 acres; 1.86 cents
19 — Snowbird, Utah; $69; 2,500 acres; 2.76 cents
20 — Whitefish Mountain Resort; $56; 3,000 acres; 1.87 cents
Whitefish Mountain Resort has the cheapest all-day lift-ticket prices among the top-20 resorts at $56. The Canyons and Snowbird, both in Utah, tied for second at $69.
“So you can ski somewhere in the top-20 for 56 bucks or 87. It’s your choice,” Clapp said.
It should be noted that prices change through the season at some resorts, and discounts are sometimes available for group skiing.
Among the top-20 resorts, Whitefish Mountain Resort ranks eighth in size, with 3,000 acres. The figure includes terrain that is accessible by a chairlift, is in-bounds and is regularly patrolled.
Whistler, B.C., is a monster ski resort, nearly three times the size of Big Mountain. As a result, it ranks lowest in cost per acre. Vail, the second-largest resort among the top-20 resorts, came in next lowest at cost per acre.
Whitefish Mountain Resort ranked fifth in cost per acre at 1.87 cents. This measure should be taken with a grain of salt, however, because there are so many other variables to consider for value — how much snow, quality of snow, visibility, varied terrain, scenic vistas, lodging and other amenities.
“I know that we have fewer skiers per acre than anyone on this list by a large margin, according to Brand Advisors, an outside consultant that did a bunch of research when we were looking into the name change,” Clapp said. “In fact, we like to say that instead of skiers per acre, we have acres per skier.”
Over the past 10 seasons, Big Mountain has seen an average of 251,818 skiers per year, assuming 140 days per season, Clapp said. That works out to 1.67 acres per skier on an average day.
“Skier visits last year were 260,000, so these numbers would pretty much translate to the experience last season,” he said.
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