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best in the West for Family Spring ski vacation?

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
Realizing that's a large question, I'm looking for guidance on our first trip West in March. We are intermediates not big off-piste skiers. Will probably be traveling with another family. The kids are 11 and younger. It's a splurge, so not needing to pinch pennies. Our skiing is limited to the small hills of the Berkshires in Mass. and 2 trips to Europe (Cortina, Italy and Lech, Austria) the last 2 Springbreaks.
post #2 of 22
I'm only familiar with resorts in Tahoe and Colorado, so that being said, I would recommend Vail or Breckenridge. They both offer a bunch of intermediate terrain. I tend to lean more towards Breck for the nightlife/restaurants, but I like to ski Vail more.

BTW, there is a resort/travel section near the bottom of the page that will have a ton of info there for you. Mods will probably move it there.
post #3 of 22
We make trips out West every year with our 10 yr old son, and we keep gravitating back towards Park City. All 3 resorts (Deer Valley, Park City & The Canyons) have a great selection of intermediate runs. Deer Valley especially is groomed to perfection; and their skier services, including mountain valets, free overnight ski check, ski school and a plethora of high speed lifts make for an extremely pleasant experience for the father who usually serves as pack-mule and child-wrangler.

The free shuttle gets you to all 3 mountains without hassle, and into and out of downtown. Plus, the kids will totally dig the town lift.

We've also done family trips to Tahoe and Breckinridge/Copper and have been very happy. Tahoe can be a good choice if you focus on Sierra-at-Tahoe and Kirkwood, which have more family-friendly layouts than Heavenly.
post #4 of 22
After Lech, nothing will be spectacular. I second the Copper recommendation. Throw in a day at Vail (mid-week) and maybe one day at Breck and you'll be happy. Still, not blown away after Lech.
post #5 of 22
Thread Starter 

let me be more specific

We did love Lech (Oberlech to be precise). Hope to share that sometime. Here are places being suggested by friends:
Alta (looks fanatastic but afraid it's too much mountain not enough diversion)
Jackson Hole (will the snow be good there in late March?)
Big Sky (not sure what to make of it yet, it's so out there).
Park City does seem great for the number of good areas close by, but will it be a zoo of swarming families (like us) at Springbreak. What we found in Europe and are looking for here is good snow, good mountain, and the 'getting away from it all.' Thanks for your replies, more please.
post #6 of 22
CO and UT are both good choices but I agree with mrothenberg that Park City gets the nod for a couple of reasons. Accessibility and elevation. In UT the trip from the airport to the mountains is about 30 minutes while in CO it can be up to 2 hrs. Peaks in CO top out around 12K feet while those around Park City top out at about 10K feet and lodging can be found around 6K feet. I know it does not sound like much of a difference but if anyone in the family is sensitive to altitude the extra elevation can make for an unpleasant trip. Also if you are really concerned about the crowds Deer Valley limits ticket sales so even on Feb or Mar breaks the crowds will not overwhelm. Park City itself is a really cool town with lots of great restaurants and if you get the itch Alta is only one canyon over.
post #7 of 22
That being said, Big Sky and Whistler both look like a heck of a lot of fun and are on the to-do list.
post #8 of 22
Thread Starter 

more about Park City

I take your point about altitude sickness, I've heard it can be nasty from a couple of people who otherwise like Aspen, et al. What would anyone recommend as far as where to stay in Park City both for creature comforts and for good access to the other areas. I love the range of skiing available. maybe send my other halves to cruise at Deer valley one day and take plunge at Alta myself. Can you realy get around so easily without spending too much time on the road? Do you need a car? Have to do more research on it.
post #9 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by pookie View Post
We did love Lech (Oberlech to be precise). Hope to share that sometime. Here are places being suggested by friends:
Alta (looks fanatastic but afraid it's too much mountain not enough diversion)
Jackson Hole (will the snow be good there in late March?)
Big Sky (not sure what to make of it yet, it's so out there).
Park City does seem great for the number of good areas close by, but will it be a zoo of swarming families (like us) at Springbreak. What we found in Europe and are looking for here is good snow, good mountain, and the 'getting away from it all.' Thanks for your replies, more please.
You want to make this easy on yourself, your friends and your kids. You want to go to Snowmass. You can stay in a wide variety of beautiful ski in ski out properties, the terrain is unbeatable for your skill level. They have a great kids program. In the evening you have the town of Aspen for great dinners and shopping and a great vibe of an old real western town and you have www.ultimatetaxi.com which your kids will love. You can fly direct into Aspen but a safer bet is to fly into Eagle or fly to Denver ( lots of cheap flights from the east including Jet Blue) and drive up. If you begin to really get your ski legs, you can also hit Ajax and Highlands, they are literally just down the road. Trust me on this your family and wife will love it.

As for the choices you mentioned above.

Park City: Great town but if your splurging stay on mountain at Deer Valley and visit the town on evenings.

Alta: Forget Alta and Snowbird. There is nothing at the base and better skiign can be had for your level elsewhere. PCMR/Deer Valley is a better Utah choice.

Jackson Hole: Harder to get to but it is a lot of fun and there are some amazing snowmobile trips you can take into the national parks. This is the one place that I will take a day off from skiing to do some other activities. For you I don't think the terrain is as good as Snowmass. The town of Jackson is fun though and the whole vibe is still very western and cowboy. There are a number of luxury accomodations right at the mountain as well as condos in teton village
post #10 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by pookie View Post
I take your point about altitude sickness, I've heard it can be nasty from a couple of people who otherwise like Aspen, et al. What would anyone recommend as far as where to stay in Park City both for creature comforts and for good access to the other areas. I love the range of skiing available. maybe send my other halves to cruise at Deer valley one day and take plunge at Alta myself. Can you realy get around so easily without spending too much time on the road? Do you need a car? Have to do more research on it.
You shouldn't have much of a problem with altitude with a little common sense, take it easy your first couple of days, stay off the alcohol until you've acclimated adn drink lots of water. You wont have a problem until you go over 8K and even "high" resorts in the US dont have villages above that. If the peak tops out t 12K dont worry you'll be heading down quick enough
post #11 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cabinfever View Post
That being said, Big Sky and Whistler both look like a heck of a lot of fun and are on the to-do list.
Both great areas. Whistler has great skiing and of course the village rocks! Problem is the weather. Many days of rain or rain on the bottom snow/sun on top. A better west coast choice for you would be Squaw Valley, great weather especially in the spring, new intrawest base village ( designed by the same folks that brought you Whistler and Tremblant) High Camp sports complex and pool at the top of the cable car is great in the spring! You wil return from Squaw with a wicked tan or a big grin because it either snows or is sunny.
post #12 of 22
I heartily second the Snowmass recommendation. I have a similar situation to you. Last year my wife and I and 11 and 7 year old sons stayed at Snowmass during our March spring vacation. We are from the east, but have skiied many places out west, and Snowmass is our favorite. The mountain is huge with the best cruising terrain. My kids, who fight ski school sometimes, love the Snowmass ski school. The accomodations are right on the hill so you don't have to drive anywhere, unless you want to ski at one of the other mountains, then you can easily take a shuttle bus. You have the town of Aspen nearby for lots of great eating options. Also, there is a fabulous swim center with a lazy river and a large slide that the kids will love. We have been to Park City, and I like it, but it is no Snowmass.
post #13 of 22
Just joined these forums...my 2cents...

I'm a bit biased having a condo there, but another vote for big sky area (BS & moonlight). No crowds, good family area (little night life), under 11 ski free, unpretentious, great scenery. I think it's a bit expensive flying there from the east coast, but otherwise not too bad. My 2 boys grew up skiing there (now 13 & 16).

I 2nd the Whistler comments above - awesome terrain, but west coast weather (I live in Seattle).
post #14 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by volklskier1 View Post
..You wont have a problem until you go over 8K and even "high" resorts in the US dont have villages above that...
unless you count any place in Summit County, Co, Winter Park, Telluride (and I'm sure many more).
post #15 of 22
I'l again refer you to my spring break article http://webpages.charter.net/tcrocker818/fam_ski.htm .

Given the parameters of your group I would strongly agree with Snowmass of the recommendations above.

Alta (looks fantastic but afraid it's too much mountain not enough diversion) Probably true given your description. You will appreciate it much more when you are stronger skiers.
Jackson Hole (will the snow be good there in late March?)
No, unless you are very lucky with a huge powder dump. And Yellowstone is closed in March. The stronger skier comment about Alta applies even more to Jackson.
Big Sky (not sure what to make of it yet, it's so out there). Good for low intermediates and experts. Not so good for upper intermediates.
Park City does seem great for the number of good areas close by, but will it be a zoo of swarming families (like us) at Springbreak. I think Park City is manageable for crowds. But in late March snow will likely be sloppy, particularly on the lower intermediate runs you will likely be skiing.
post #16 of 22
For the family situation you describe, Northstar at Tahoe would be an almost perfect choice. The area has all kinds of attractions for kids and it's almost impossible for them to get lost. Everything funnels back to one base. The best snow-grooming in the Tahoe basin. So, if you are unlucky with the natural conditions, you will still get something decent to ski on. Wide variety of runs for intermediate and advanced skiers. Only real experts would get bored quickly.
post #17 of 22
Pookie,

I think the Salt Lake City area offers you a number of options and some advantages. First of all, getting here is much easier than Colorado or California. You can hop on the first flight of the day (non-stop) from most major east coast cities and be skiing that afternoon in Utah. Also, if you have boarding pass from your flight many ski areas will let you ski free that day.

Solitude is a very family oriented area. They get a lot of snow, crowds are minimal and it isn't really spread out. However, it is somewhat isolated in terms of accomadations restaurants and night life. Those same limitations apply to Alta, Brighton and Snowbird.

The Park City area (Park City Mountain Resort, The Canyons and Deer Valley) has lots of lodging options as well as restaurants, etc.

BUT, skiing in Park City in March is a gamble. Typically we'll get a spring thaw and then it'll get cold and we'll get more snow. Some years though (more frequently with global warming) it will get warm and stay warm. Two years ago it was that way and the skiing was lousy. Slush at the base and heavy wet snow at the summit. If you started early in the morning it would be frozen and icy...Not what you come to Utah for.

Some other posters have raved about Deer Valley. I respectfully disagree. In terms of the total skiing experience it's more crowded and their customer service is not what it used to be. It seems that they are "resting on their laurels" and have developed an attitude of arrogance toward their customers.
post #18 of 22
as other are saying Park City is what fits your needs alot. Dont write off alta its got tons of easy groomers all over the mountain, although even there Spring break will be crowded. The reason why more people like alta than snowbird is because it much easier to ski.

another option that noone is mentioning is Big cottonwood canyon. 2 connect skis resorts Brighton and Solitude. Ski in ski out places to stay. No crowds, great blue cruising at both places, best snow quality in the wasatch and super pretty as well.

what you would lose is night life.
post #19 of 22
Have you thought about some smaller areas? Might I suggest flying into Boise, Idaho and trying the areas around here. Bogus Basin is just 16 miles outside of Boise. Brundage is about 100 miles north, just outside of McCall Idaho. In between you could also try Tamarack. All three of these areas would give you uncrowded skiing.

Kids 7 to 11 at Bogus Basin can get a season pass for just $49 - daily rates are $20 for those 7 to 11. Kids 6 and under ski free. Adult day passes are $46. Brundage rates are adults $48, kids 7 to 11 $22 and those six and under ski free. Brundage is putting in two new lifts for this coming season.

Lodging - either stay in Boise or there are some condos available slope side at Bogus.

Which week in March is your spring break? Normally spring break here is the last week of March, but I'm not 100% sure of that this year.

Idaho usually has great snow conditions for spring break.

If you are interested check out the areas on the web.
post #20 of 22
Steamboat is a good family orientaed resort.
post #21 of 22
I'll pile on the Snowmass recommendation. We've been to Vail/BC Park City, Alta/Snowbird/Solitude/Brighton, Jackson and Whistler, and I think Snowmass tops them all for a family vacation. Lots of housing with good access to the slopes, great transportation (car is not necessary), outstanding ski school for the kids, and a TON of fun intermediate terrain that the whole family can enjoy skiing together. We've been twice, and will be back again this year in late March for our daughter's spring break.
A word of warning from a former Eastern skier... once you've been out to a place like Snowmass the Berkshires will look much smaller!
post #22 of 22
Thread Starter 
I don't want to stop the flow of this conversation, but I'd like to throw in a large thank you to all who've replied for quality of their information and opinions. As first time visitors, it's been really useful in figuring out what's best for us. I'm inclined to go with the suggestion from several here and in my 'real' life that Snowmass maybe all around the area we are best suited for particularly at that time in March.
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