New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Where to Go for Xmas Break?

post #1 of 45
Thread Starter 

OK, it's May again -- only 8 months til Christmas! -- so time for my annual "where should we go?" posting.  The last two years we've skied at Smugglers Notch over the Xmas break but have all decided we want to try someplace else this year.  We are a family of four who, by next Xmas, will be:

me:  age 56    ski level 6-7

son: age 15    ski level 7-8

daughter: age 9   ski level 5-6

wife:  age (confidential)  ski level (non-skier) 


Please rate the resorts by these criteria:


1.  Quality of snow for that time of year.  Doesn't matter if East or West, as long as good.


2.  Variety/challenge of slopes.  We (the three skiers) have all graduated from greens; have all skied 1BDs; the kids like moguls, dad not as much (yet); we all love terrain parks; we're all open to more glade and ungroomed skiing; none of us has done backcountry skiing (yet).    


3.  Slopeside lodging that doesn't cost an arm and a leg.  Aspen and Deer Valley are out (too $$$).  Whiteface is out (no slopeside lodging).


4.  An interesting (or semi-interesting) nearby town for non-skiing wife.  She keeps threatening to stay home, but we don't want to leave her because (a) it's Xmas break, and (b) she puts on the soup and stuff for lunch.


5.  Ease of trip from DC.  We don't mind flying (non-stop a plus), but would prefer not a long drive (e.g., over three hours) after arriving at the destination airport. 


6.  Altitude.  My daughter and I have skied in Utah (The Canyons) with no real altitude issues.  My son and I have skied at Sugarloaf (4400 ft) and camped/hiked in Yosemite with no problems.  But other than that, we're untested.  (OK, I camped in the Rockies when I was a kid and was fine...)


I am grateful for any and all thoughts and advice.




post #2 of 45



Return to a different Utah resort, e.g. Solitude, would score well on criteria 1, 5 and 3 and a very important one you didn't explicitly mention - moderate Holiday crowds. Throw in nearby Brighton and scores well for 2, would have to commute to SLC for 4. Elev in the 8-10.5k range.

For Add'l early season suggestions google:  TONY CROCKER EARLY SKI SEASON

post #3 of 45

Park City. Nice town nearby, easy access, fairly reliable snow, (if not, Cottonwood canyons will definitely have snow) great variety.

post #4 of 45

Steamboat fits all the categories.  Good early season snow, great terrain variety, lots of slopeside in all budgets, nice town, altitude not an issue, the only issue would be flights.  Odds are you'd have to make a connection in Denver or Salt Lake City.


Steamboat is a great early season destination.

post #5 of 45

Steamboat? I heard it tend to get a lot of early season snow...


You can fly in with one stop, or fly to Denver and drive in (~3 hr).

post #6 of 45

I know everyone will say go West, but you could try the other side of the notch. Just sayin'....


If I was going to get on a plane from DC, I'd be thinking about flying into Zurich and going to a "snow-sure" resort in Austria or Switzerland. The Alps are low-altitude compared to most western resorts, btw.

post #7 of 45

You need to hear from Tony Crocker on where the best early season snow is in the US/Canada; just Google Tony Crocker/early-season snow and you'll find what you want, or send him a PM here.


I'm not a big fan of early-season skiing in the Alps in general, as it can be very dry or very grey that time of year, neither of which is ideal. Some years though -- this past season, for example -- are phenomenal early. If you can book last minute, it's a good way to go. And it's a nice time of year to come atmosphere-wise.


We've had the early-snow-in-the-Alps discussion before (search it), so I don't want to go down that path again. Some resorts to consider: Tignes, Zermatt, Saas Fe. The Austrian resorts with glaciers, I guess. Some years St Anton/Lech/Zurs gets a lot of early snow. Andermatt. Engelberg maybe. Cervinia, to throw in an Italian name.

post #8 of 45


Originally Posted by epic View Post

If I was going to get on a plane from DC, I'd be thinking about flying into Zurich and going to a "snow-sure" resort in Austria or Switzerland. The Alps are low-altitude compared to most western resorts, btw.

While flights to Europe tend to be inexpensive in winter, X'mas isn't it. It's one of the time frame when transatlantic tickets can get quite pricy.

Another reason for not going to the "old world" was, apart from the ski resorts, a lot of business in towns and cities close during the period between Christmas and New Year. With a non-skiing wife, the OP need to be careful about that part.


Furthermore, you'll also be exposed to the notorious problem of crowded slopes when a lot of Europeans goes skiing. 

post #9 of 45

This is all pretty spot-on. Not trying to discourage anyone from coming. I really like Christmas time in Italy, for example, and there is a nice, magical feel in ski resort towns that time of year. It's less than a homerun from the purely skiing point of view, though.

post #10 of 45

My wife and I have spent the Xmas/New Years week in Utah probably 7 or 8 times.  Many non-stop flights from the east coast, reliable snow, inexpensive accomodations (if you stay in SLC or the suburbs near LCC and BCC), etc.  Hard to beat.

post #11 of 45
Thread Starter 

Thanks to all who have responded so far.  Before I sent the post, I jotted down a preliminary, first-cut list of places that I thought might be contenders.  Here it is -- not in any particular order -- along with Tony Crocker's grades for Xmas snow (don't know if these are his most recent):

Park City  3

Steamboat  5

Breckenridge  3

Mammoth  4

Stowe  3

Sugarbush  3

Sugarloaf   3

Sunday River  3


None of these get top scores in all my criteria -- and I've personally skied only one of the above -- which is why I value hearing from Epic members.


Jamesj -- you suggested Solitude.  It's definitely in my "Bucket list", but I'm thinking of it more for a Spring break trip with one of the kids.  I'm not sure my wife would buy the 48 minutes into SLC.  At Smuggs, we were about the same time to drive to Burlington, and she never went there.   


Epic -- "the other side of the notch" -- Stowe?  It's on my lists (Xmas and Bucket).  But I don't want to pay the $$$ to stay at the Spruce Lodge, and I gather that's the only slopeside option.  OTOH, I checked on VRBO: lots of reasonably priced non-slopeside condos and houses available, some right in the town (which my wife would like).  So if we decide to forego staying slopeside, Stowe could be good.  Another advantage: could drive there from DC.   What's the snow like at Xmas?  Is there adequate parking for skiers coming from off-resort?  


Europe -- I don't think we'll do this (this year) as an Xmas skiing vacation.  The skiing doesn't seem that much better given the high ticket price.  (My wife would love to go to Italy in the summer, but that's another matter.)    


Maui Steve -- you mentioned Park City.  The town is great; I've heard it's really decked out at Xmas.  How are the crowds at that time?  How is the snow then (Crocker gives PC a 3)?


Gregmerz -- you suggested Steamboat.  Also on my Xmas and Bucket lists.  Crocker gives it a 5 for Xmas.  Crowds at that time?  Altitude problems?  I can probably get decent tickets from DC to Denver, so what's the drive time to Steamboat?


Sugarloaf -- If it was just the kids and me, I would strongly consider going back to the Loaf.  Probably will have good/great snow then.  But, compared to the other options, not much of a base village for the wife.


I checked lodging options for PC, Steamboat, and Breckenridge.  Despite having a rep as being more expensive, right now there are a lot of reasonable options out there (unemployed investment bankers?).


What about the other options:  Breckenridge? (supposed to have good skiing and a great town)  Sunday River? (Bethel is nearby)  Mammoth? (good snow, great skiing, long drive; how's the base village?)  Sugarbush?  (easier to drive to coming North from DC, supposed to have good snowmaking; are the nearby towns interesting?)  


Thanks very much to all.



Edited by Jimski - 5/7/2009 at 06:14 pm GMT
post #12 of 45

Sorry if repetitive or obvious...

Anywhere in the East at Christmastime is always going to be something of a crapshot conditions-wise. I shouldn't fail to mention Quebec City and Mont Sainte Anne/Le Massif. QC is great for nonskiers, but the ski areas are 25 and 50 minutes away respectively. Stowe and Lake Placid-Whiteface are also top choices for a mixed group of skiers and nonskiers, but LP isn't slopeside. North Conway, NH and Cranmore/Wildcat might satisfy if nonskier likes outlet shopping. Manchester, VT (upscale shopping and dining) and Stratton also a candidate, but they are separated by a few miles.

Weighing your various criteria another top western contender besides Park City would be Steamboat. Most would fly into Hayden (20 miles, no rental car needed) rather than drive from Denver (3.5-4 hrs). Ski elev is about same as PC. If nonskier likes gambling and night life then South Lake Tahoe and Heavenly might be a consideration.

post #13 of 45

I strongly discourage paying top $ for skiing in the East at Christmas. It has rained during Christmas week every one of the last 6 years.


Slopeside during Christmas week = big $$$ almost anywhere.  I encourage the more out-of-the-way places, as the more tedious access helps cut down both crowds and prices.


Steamboat is an excellent choice by your parameters, but someone who went there last Christmas (and had excellent skiing) did complain that it there were no bargains for anything that week.


Mammoth: my home territory, great mountain but not ideal for the non-skiing spouse.  The village has issues (not popular with the SoCal drive-ups that are 90% of the market).  In the current economy they may be cutting some deals on lodging there, but Christmas is sure to be an exception.


If you were thinking about Mammoth, you should also think about Mt. Bachelor.  Cheaper, even better early snow record.  Downside is that lodging in Bend or Sunriver is 25 miles from the hill.


Breckenridge: Can be good skiing, but has bad reputation when it's crowded, so I wouldn't go near it at Christmas.


Park City:  Crowds should be manageable, as there are lots of Utah ski areas to spread people around.  Way more expensive than staying in SLC, and that difference will be greatest Christmas week.  Lower mountain terrain that doesn't get much natural snow is beginner/intermediate and does have snowmaking. Upper mountain advanced gets 2-3x more natural. So conditions are usually OK by Christmas. 


As you can surmise from my comments, I don't like to ski Christmas week.  While raising kids I only did it twice, both times not the greatest.  Destination trips (at least 15 of them) were usually around a first-of-April spring break week,  consistently good (choosing the right places of course) and often great deals too.

post #14 of 45
Thread Starter 

Jamesj -- Thanks much.  Don't worry about being repetitive or obvious -- sometimes I need that.


Steamboat and Park City are same altitude?  I guess I've been lumping together all the Colorado places and thinking they're all higher altitude than the Utah places.  I'll check out cost of flights to Hayden. 


Wife's not into either outlets or gambling -- she's more into quaint bookstores, art galleries, coffee shops, historic architecture, interesting food.  But if I could find a place with indoor tennis she'd be hooked --although then she'd want me to play instead of ski.    I've been to Stowe (drove through it on return from Smuggs) and Park City (ate dinner there twice during my ski trip to The Canyons), so I know that both would fit the bill.


How does Breckenridge rate?  Heard that the town at B-ridge is historically interesting.


Thanks again.    


Edit 1:  Tony, thanks, we were writing at the same time.  Lots of good insight.  I agree that Spring break is the time for great deals, although I hate to give up on Xmas.  Also, the reason I posted now, eight months in advance, is that the good lodging deals are still out there. By Oct./Nov., after the President has saved us from the recession, the lodging rates will have come up. 


I agree with both you and jamesj that planning a ski trip in the East over Xmas break is like playing the lottery with the weather.  This past year, before heading out to Smuggs we spent the night in Burlington and were going to spend a whole day there, mostly for my wife.  But it rained hard all day -- kids bouncing off the walls in the hotel -- so we drove out early and pleaded for early check-in at Smuggs.  Snow conditions did not get semi-decent until our third day there.  OTOH, I heard that Sugarloaf was good around that time, IIRC.  And Sunday River and Sugarbush supposedly have good snow-making capacity (hard to make snow in the rain, though).


From your description, sounds like Mammoth is out for this trip -- I'll save it for a Spring Break trip.  I can't remember what you said about PC and Steamboat, so I'll post again, re-read what you said, then edit again.


Edit 2:  Tony, OK from your comments, it sounds like Steamboat could work if we find reasonably priced lodging.  Do you agree with jamesj about altitude there being similar to PC?  Also, sounds like PC and Breckenridge could both work if we get up away from the crowds -- which is fine, none of us need greens now.  Crowded skiing sucks, but is still better than not skiing.


Edit 3:  Re your comments on B-ridge and the crowds: are you talking about the lower slopes or the town as well?



Edited by Jimski - 5/7/2009 at 08:01 pm GMT

Edited by Jimski - 5/7/2009 at 08:10 pm GMT

Edited by Jimski - 5/7/2009 at 08:13 pm GMT
post #15 of 45

You've asked several time about the altitude of Steamboat. You can easily get that information by going to the resorts website. or better yet, google it.


You seem very fixiated at B-ridge. But if you google it, you'll find it's one of the highest base village!

post #16 of 45

havent been out west but Sugarloaf is great. By Christmas this year, we already have a powder day and great skiing. No lines on Xmas day. Not much village for your wife as you said but the fittness center has a pool, hot tubs, etc. for her. A bunch of good bars and resturants. Outdoors center has ice skating, XC skiing, snowshoeing.

post #17 of 45

Steamboat is a great choice for X-mas week snow.  Take the connection to Hayden rather than driving from Denver.  As others have indicated, for two weeks around X-mas you're looking at the highest prices of the ski season for everything.  Crowds are probably a little better than other places.  No real altitude problems that I've ever seen.  I regularly go to Steamboat in December but it's usually in the 12th - 20th time frame, getting out of there just when the prices rocket up.


There are some really nice properties at Steamboat that are not slopeside but are within literally about a two to four minute shuttle ride to the Gondola.  You can achieve some real savings using some of these places.  Ski-in ski-out at X-mas is not an expense it's an investment...

post #18 of 45
Thread Starter 


Originally Posted by gregmerz View Post

There are some really nice properties at Steamboat that are not slopeside but are within literally about a two to four minute shuttle ride to the Gondola.  You can achieve some real savings using some of these places. 

Gregmerz -- thanks.  Could you PM me with the names (or VRBO #s) of those properties, if you have them.  Thanks!   BTW, I'm finding the same thing with Park City -- places that are close, but not literally slopeside, are a lot cheaper.

post #19 of 45

PM sent

post #20 of 45

I've stayed in Utah week between Xmas and New Years last 4 years. Like Tony said, Park City crowds are manageable. Never had problems with the snow either. May not be epic, but usually good. The town seems to fit the bill pretty well re your wife's interests. Both PC and Steamboat are about 6800 feet. Breck is 9600. I've styed in Summit county colorado many times and to me the altitude is an issue. At least for 3-4 days. I've been to Steamboat which is also great. Main difference would be 1 ski resort as opposed to 3-7 and longer drive unless you fly into Steamboat. Good luck. I'm ready for ski season to come back.

post #21 of 45


Originally Posted by Jimski View Post

Epic -- "the other side of the notch" -- Stowe?  It's on my lists (Xmas and Bucket).  But I don't want to pay the $$$ to stay at the Spruce Lodge, and I gather that's the only slopeside option.  OTOH, I checked on VRBO: lots of reasonably priced non-slopeside condos and houses available, some right in the town (which my wife would like).  So if we decide to forego staying slopeside, Stowe could be good.  Another advantage: could drive there from DC.   What's the snow like at Xmas?  Is there adequate parking for skiers coming from off-resort? 


There is other slopeside lodging, but it is not ski-in/ski-out at Xmas unless we get lots of early season snow. Skiing can be as hit or miss as anywhere else, but lets just say that last year during christmas time I rode the lift with a number of people that also had Smuggs tickets and had driven around to Stowe to "save" their vacation. Snow making and grooming is quite a bit more extensive on this side of the Notch. Parking would not be a problem. In all honesty, Ithink you might be better off staying in town and driving to the hill.


Slightly off-topic - why does your wife not ski? Can we change that?


I think from the rest of your list, ParkCity may be your best bet.

post #22 of 45
Thread Starter 

Thanks guys.   Maui Steve, I'll respond to your PM shortly.  I also researched (i.e., googled) base altitudes over the weekend:

Park City = 6900 ft.

Steamboat = 6695 ft.

Breckenridge = 9600 ft.


FWIW, a guy at the office -- avid skier -- went to B-ridge last January.  His report: great slopes, nice town, but he "strongly advised" me not to go there during Xmas / January timeframe due to the windchill.  That, coupled with the higher altitude, is enough for me to scratch it for next Xmas.  So, the two remaining West resorts on my list are Park City and Steamboat.


Epic -- good report re Stowe.  It's still on my East list.  I'm keeping the East on the list for now since some of places have the advantage for us of being driving distance from DC.  Anyone skied at Sugarbush during Xmas?  Of course, it doesn't have a cool town like Stowe, PC, or Steamboat.


"Why doesn't my wife ski?"    I wish I knew.  She skied in high school, and said she was good and had fun.  She's athletic but says she is not interested in outside winter sports anymore -- and, consistent with that, it's not like she's out there snowshoeing or dogsledding while the kids and I are skiing.  Yet I think there's something more, I just can't figure it out.  But, hey, we've only been married 25 years, so there's still a lot I don't know.




Edited by Jimski - 5/11/2009 at 03:32 pm GMT
post #23 of 45
Thread Starter 




Further winnowing.  I read a review about Sunday River: crowded slopes during holidays, with lots of skiers going across while other skiers going down.  Also, if we are flying to Portland, I don't think the town of Bethel is worth that much on the "town" criterion to warrant not going to Sugarloaf -- which I've skied and would love to go back to.  Therefore, Sunday River is off my East list, unless one of you talks me back into it.  So, my East list is down to:

     --  Stowe

     --  Sugarbush

     --  Sugarloaf

The one I know least about is Sugarbush.  Anyone have any thoughts on Sugarbush for the Xmas break, in light of my original criteria?  (I know it would be the easiest to drive to of the three, and about the same as Stowe if we flew to Burlington).



No change in my West list:

    --   Steamboat

    --   Park City

Last Saturday, a skiing mom on the kid soccer car-pool circuit suggested Telluride.  Looks like a good town for non-skiing wife, but harder to get to and higher base altitude than either the Boat or PC.  Any thoughts? 





post #24 of 45

I can tell you that there will be significant crowds at Steamboat between Christmas and New Years.  It will be significantly less either before or after that week.  Otherwise a fairly good choice for you and your non-skiing wife as there is a real town with an increasing number of shops.

post #25 of 45

It's my understanding that Telluride is not as reliable for early season snow as PC or Steamboat.

post #26 of 45

After going to school in Colorado for four years, I feel that the best mountain to go to when taking a trip is Vail. It is a great destination and is only 15 minutes or so from Beaver Creek if you want to mix it up. Both mountains have multiple runs that are suitable for any experience level.

post #27 of 45

vail=$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ spent...

post #28 of 45

skibum is right.  Vail and Beaver Creek are wonderful places to ski but X-mas week  ??  You're not talking expense you're talking investment...

post #29 of 45



Same boat here, my wife no-ski (she knits.....) Anyway, EC'ers here (jersey) and every Christmas break we go up to Lake Placid. The mountain is huge (where else you gonna ski an oly downhill run on the EC?) and the town is increadable. So much so that my wife often makes the reservations without consulting me if we want to change our plans (I can live with that :)


Conditions are as you would suspect on the EC. Last year it rained one day, then 12" of fresh the next....

Don't let the 8 mile ride put you off. They do an awsome job maintaining that road in all conditions and its a beautiful ride. Also, they have a shuttle system too. I garuntee your wife will love this place, so the 8m ride is small price to pay.


Anyway, from a family perspective, and especially for a non-skiing spouse, you can't go wrong at Whiteface. Stay in Lake Stay in Lake Placid for Wifey. Not Wilmington)


By the way, if you never been, get to STOWE!! That place is increadable!!! (But town-wise not nearly what Lake Placid is)

post #30 of 45
Thread Starter 

Vail -- thanks, bschneid.  I'll check out the cost.  Base altitude is higher than PC or Steamboat (8120 ft. vs under 7000 ft.).  On the other hand, I understand the base village at Vail is roughly the size of Akron, so there would be plenty to do for non-skiing wife.


Lake Placid -- thanks, tarponhead.  We've actually been considering Lake Placid as a summer vacation spot; I've heard it's great.  But I have to think about the trade-off of that 8-mile ride out and back every day.  I'm not sure how ideal it would work with kids.  This past season, at least every other day one of the kids had to go back to home base during the day for something.  Also, what about the Whiteface's reputation for ice?  Could my 9-yr-old ski it? 


Thanks again.  

Edited by Jimski - 5/22/2009 at 07:19 pm GMT
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Resorts, Conditions & Travel