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Late March Ski Trip

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
Yes! I just got the spousal green light to take my 14-year-old son skiing for half of his Spring Break:
3/20 -- travel day
3/21-23 -- ski days
3/24 -- return home.

My first thought, being an East coaster, was either Sugarbush or Sugarloaf. There are some great air fare deals from DC area to Burlington and Portland.

Second thought: there are also lots of flights, for not bad prices, to Denver.

Third thought: there are even some decent fares to SLC.

I know I can be at Sugarbush in less than an hour from Burlington (and Burlington's only a 1.5 hour flight from here), and Sugarloaf is probably less than three hours from Portland (2 hour flight from DC area). But what about the snow at either place in late March?

Colorado resorts:
(a) Which one? Copper? Snowmass? Others?
(b) Given the shortness of time for this trip, is it worth it to fly there and then drive a long time to the resort?
(c) Would he and I even have time to adjust to the altitude before we have to return home?

Utah/SLC resorts?
(a) Which one? (I don't need a valet, etc., and don't want to pay Deer Valley prices)
(b) Will altitude be an issue?

I haven't been to any of the above resorts, so any advice would be welcome. Thanks very much.
post #2 of 28
My son and I used to take ski trips in mid-March. We found that the north country, Sugarbush, Whiteface, Jay Peak, etc. were still basically mid-winter conditions while southern VT. was beautiful spring sking. Although if you're flying anyway why not head west?

One year we flew to Denver - less than $400 for 2 round trip tickets. It's about a 2 hour drive to Summit County from DIA. We stayed in Frisco and skied Breck, Copper and Vail. My son was 13 that year and we had a great time. It takes something like 6 months to adjust to the altitude. I have heard of people getting altitude sickness there but have never experienced it myself. Just been out of breath when hiking for turns.

Utah is easy to get to. A bit lower altitude wise. I think it costs more to fly there though. If you guys are good then Snowbird and Alta. You can't go too wrong in Utah although I steer people away from Snowbird if they are lower level skiers. not that they don't have intermediate terrain, it's just a very steep and intimidating looking area from the bottom.
post #3 of 28
For reliable snow conditions, I'd always go to SLC. Tickets are reasonable @ Alta, solitude, snowbird. PC and Deer valley are much more pricey and approach Vail rates. Anyone will tell you that PC , canyons, and Deer Valley do not approach cottonwodd canyon conditions and typically only get 2/3 the snowfall of Big/Little cottonwood canyon You can get discount lifts at the Grocery stores in SLC or ski shops. stay in SLC for about 70.00 bucks, at Midvale or off of fort Union Blvd.

post #4 of 28
As loyal as I am to Eastern skiing, if you're getting in an airplane, it's hard not to go west when price differential is something like $150 vs 250 per. Especially since there is a chance for a slush fest in late March even in Northern VT. Places like Summit County, CO or the Cottonwood Canyons of UT will be at or close to primo conditions. Three's better than two, but I'd try to wrangle four ski days for any trip involving significant distance, plus it is true that you may only be firing on half cylinders the first day at altitude.
post #5 of 28
What kind of skiers are you? What types of terrain do you like skiing?

Lots of options in CO, and the conditions will likely be good at that time.

post #6 of 28
Thread Starter 
Mike -- I'm only two-years new to skiing, so for me blue slopes with some interest and challenge would be fine. My son does East coast blues and blacks, including glades and moguls. But he is usually content to ski with me. Neither of us have skied in the West.

Jamesj -- if I could get another day I'd take it. Problem is my son and daughter have Spring breaks on different weeks. So my wife and I have decided to do the Solomon thing: we're each going to take half of each kid's week. In fact, after nailing down my son's half week, I've got to figure out where to take my 8-year-old daughter skiing the first week of April! (Canada? Alaska?)
post #7 of 28
The following are great potentials (delete least coast option - too much fun to be had out west and about the same price)

SLC - pull the 'ol maximize your time gig - book the early flight to SLC, get the "Quick Start" pass at the PC areas (free ticket for day of arrival at PC, DV or The Canyons), then take the late flight (5+pm) home on day of departure, and get almost a whole day in again. So instead of the 20th and 24th being travel days, they become skis days.

You can stay in Sandy and do the Cottonwoods, PC and do PC, DV or The Canyons, or up in Layton and hit Snowbasin. Really decent prices on hotels at that time too.

No altitude problems.

Denver is more problematic, as it's 2++ hours on I-70 to Flail or the other resorts although you could go into Eagle apt (EGE) and save some time - tends to be pricy however.

You could also fly into Hayden (Steamboat), but that's via connection in Atlanta (on Delta in any case), so it'll take longer. If your son likes glades and such, Steamboat will bring a big smile to his face.

Altitude could be a problem if you're suseptiable to it (Breck has a big base elevation, A Basin is 13k+ at the top, etc)

For you SLC is a no-brainer.

Same with your duaghter trip - SLC is excellent in early April - at least for the past 3 years when I've done it.
post #8 of 28
SLC is no brainer as others have said. Too far from DIA to ski resorts and altitude is an issue, especially for sleeping. In Colo you'd probably be sleeping above 9K. SLC, you sleep at 4500 and ski at 8K to 11K. Ski resorts are w/in half hour from airport. Rent cars are at terminal as opposed to shuttle etc. I like colorado, but wouldn't do it for only 3 days.
post #9 of 28
I like the SLC options myself. I happen to like staying up at Alta at one of the slopeside lodges (it's worth the modest extra $$ for the experience and convenience). But there are many easy options in and around SLC for any budget.

I skied Alta in March and April last year, and it was great both times. In fact, during the April trip, I had better powder skiing than my Jan trip!

Coming from an elevation of 80 feet in Virginia, I was always worried about altitude sickness when going out west, but it's never been worse than minor headaches and some restlessness the first night (you sleep at around 8500 feet at Alta). My wife did fine on her first trip out there last March. Drink a lot of water and be sure to eat well. Ski sensibly and don't overdo it, especially the first day.
post #10 of 28
I agree with the thought that if you are getting on a plane...go west. I would just look to see what flights are cheapest and go there. If thinking about CO see if you can fly into Eagle direct rather than DEN. That's what we are doing in February and its actually a cheaper fare from EWR. As noted altitudes in CO are higher than UT and it might take a day to acclimate depending on where you are staying. You could always stay in or near Eagle, CO which is right around 6500 feet I think. Sandy/Midvale/Cottonwood, UT is probably about the same.

Again I would do flight price comparisons and look to fly direct wherever you go.

As for resorts
post #11 of 28
Whistler-Blackcomb. Favorable exchange rate again!

Mammoth, CA !!!!
post #12 of 28
Originally Posted by Atomicman View Post
Whistler-Blackcomb. Favorable exchange rate again!

Mammoth, CA !!!!
Too long to travel to from the east coast, IMO, for this short a trip. Especially for first timers to the west. I agree with all the SLC advice -- anywhere you ski out of SLC will be great (although I agree that Snowbird is not best for intermediates). Don't rule out flying into Eagle/Vail -- the rates vary a lot -- if you keep an eye on Orbitz, you can often find very decent deals. If I was to fly into Vail, I would probably rent a car and stay at Copper (great first time western mountain) or at either Breck or Keystone.
post #13 of 28
Here's what I would suggest.

1. Steamboat
2. Snowmass
3. Utah.

I'd avoid Summit County, Vail, and Beaver Creek because of a combination of 1) altitude and 2) crowds for spring break.

post #14 of 28


Consider Grand Targhee in Wyoming. I did Park City in March 2 years ago (when they had record warmth) and hated the slush. Went to GT for my 2nd West Coast trip with my 18 yr old son last December (2007) for 3 days and had a blast (and we're probably comparable skiing level as you). Not a big mountain, but was natural and beautiful. Nothing to do but ski and hot tub. Great time for Dad/son bonding. Fly into Jackson, and rent car for 90 minute drive. Altitude is also lower (about 8,000 ft base, 10k summit) so adjusting is easier. Can also stay right at base for pretty cheap price.

BTW, where in Maryland do you live? I'm originally from that area.
post #15 of 28
If you are going to fly, definitely go west. The Utah ski areas are much closer to the airport than the Colorado areas, so that makes sense. Staying in one of the many chain motels near the bottom of BCC or LCC is an inexpensive option compared to staying right at one of the areas and gives you the option to try a few different ones.
post #16 of 28
Thread Starter 
Thanks to all. Mike, in that order? I noticed that on Tony Crocker's report he gives Steamboat only a 3 for Spring. Snowmass, Copper and a few others get a 5. Some of the Utah resorts (PC, DV) only get 3s. I realize that his is only one viewpoint.

Bamaman, I'll check out Grand Targhee this weekend -- I'm heading home! (Chevy Chase, MD)
post #17 of 28
Late march in PC can be as much deep winter as spring - i.e. lots o new snow. But it is also true that the PC resorts don't tolerate a warm sunny spring all that well. However, even in this case you can be pretty sure there will be good skiing at LCC - 45 minutes easy driving.
post #18 of 28
Yep, I'd put them in that order. While Tony dings Steamboat for its exposure, I think you would enjoy the spring skiing there. For an intermediate, it is a great mountain, and while it could wind up being warm, you just shift to skiing spring conditions. Very nice.

Snowmass is a very nice place, but it is Aspen, and still is a bit pricey.

So, I'll stick with my suggestions.

post #19 of 28
The past 3 years Sugarloaf has been phenomenal during March and April.
post #20 of 28
Thread Starter 
Thanks to all. This weekend was decision time, so that I could lock in low airfares. Even though I may not have taken the choices that some of you suggested, I am appreciative, and have made notes for my ski file.

March 20 - 24, with 14-yr-old son: Sunday River, Maine. I let him have a say in the choice. He wanted an East coast place -- on the chance that we might be able to get there early enough to get a few runs in on the day of travel. He was also somewhat swayed by a favorable article in the NYT about SR last Friday. (Sugaree, I did suggest Sugarloaf, but he was dissuaded by the five hour drive from Portland).

April 4 - 8, with 8-yr-old daughter: The Canyons, Utah. Biggest factor was that our neighbors had already booked to go here, and they have an 8-yr-old daughter who is one of my daughter's best friends in 3rd grade (and similar level of skiing ability). If TC's snow is too Spring-like, we're not too far from the other SLC resorts.

I'm looking forward to some good skiing with my kids, although of course there's always the "candy store" problem -- what about all those great places I'm not going to ski this season? But I figure I've got at least 25 years more of skiing before my knees give out... and, who knows, by that time medical science may have figured out how to regenerate cartilage.

Thanks again to everyone who offered suggestions. Stayed tuned for my message coming up in May or June about where to go for next Xmas holidays.

post #21 of 28

Go West!

JIm, If you are going to have to fly, spend the extra bucks to go out west. We NE skiers ski here because we are here, but the Rockies are sooo superior (snow, terrain, weather).

For a short trip you can't beat SLC. Usually direct flights and 45 minutes form the airport to several world class mountains. For good prices and great terrain, rent a condo at Solitude and ski there and up the street at Brighton.
post #22 of 28
Originally Posted by healy4 View Post
JIm, If you are going to have to fly, spend the extra bucks to go out west. We NE skiers ski here because we are here, but the Rockies are sooo superior (snow, terrain, weather).

For a short trip you can't beat SLC. Usually direct flights and 45 minutes form the airport to several world class mountains. For good prices and great terrain, rent a condo at Solitude and ski there and up the street at Brighton.
Problem with Brighton is that it is the snowborder Capital of the Utah!

Try to get to Snowbasin!
post #23 of 28
Umm, let's see.....I am 2 hours from Portland and 1 hour from Sugarloaf.

5 hour drive to Sugarloaf??......False.

Other than that...who reads the NYT for ski information?? Or any information for that matter??

You'll have a blast at The Canyons!!.....Sunday River, well????.....
post #24 of 28
I'm sure you will have a great trip. Have to agree with Sugaree though, lots better places than Sunday River.
post #25 of 28
Show your son the articles about SLC here. Get the early morning flight and you'll get plenty of (FREE) runs the same day.

Did it yesterday - I flew in from San Diego, and some friends flew in from Orlando. Met at the airport at 10am, on the hill by 11:00.

Sunday River vs SLC ?
post #26 of 28
1)Sunday River has a good record for snowmaking and should compare favorably with other New England ski areas for trail count and snow conditions in late March.
2)can't underestimate the importance of good ski companions for kids, especially young girls. Could trump all other factors.
post #27 of 28
Thread Starter 
NOTE to Self: Next time, check the driving distances before telling son about same.

After I saw Sugaree's message, I checked on MapQuest (I mean, he can't be right, can he, just because he lives right there?) Here's what I got:
Distance from Portland airport to --
Sunday River: 68.39 miles (1 hr 39 min)
Sugarloaf: 133.99 miles (2 hrs 43 min)
SL is twice the distance, but less than twice the time -- and way short of the 4.5 - 5 hours that I had described to my son!

He and I talked last night -- that SL was only about an hour's more on the road, higher probability of good snow in March, etc. -- and agreed that if it was essentially a wash in expense, to switch to SL. This morning, I called SL and (you can predict where this is heading, right?): for comparable slopeside lodging, factoring in the rest of the package (lift tickets, lessons), SL is actually a better deal -- even including the $50 fee to cancel at SR.

So, guess what, I've just switched it: we're now on for Sugarloaf March 20-24. (Sugaree, if you're up there then, I'm buying the beer -- I won't bring the NYT).

I'm really looking forward to these East vs. West ski trips within a three week span.

Thanks again to all.
post #28 of 28
I skied Sugarloaf only once, for a week in January about a dozen years ago. Temps never went above about 10 degs the whole time and way colder at night. I skied much of the mtn including steep stuff at top like White Nitro, but to be honest my fondest memories are of the hot tub at the end of each day.
With any luck you'll have some beautiful spring ski days there that will rival Utah.
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