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Trip to the western US

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

Hello all!


I am helping to plan a trip out west this year for my school spring break, ski club trip. We would like to go somewhere in the western USA. The last two years we have been to Jackson Hole and Whistler so we would like to explore some new territory. We bring with us about 20-60 skiiers with a varying range of abilities, But many of are really interested in the big nmountain backcountry, we were able to find alot of that at whistler and jackson. I was hoping you all could give me some advice for mountains to check out! So far we are considering: Breckenridge, Snowbird, and Snowmass/Aspen. Any pros, cons about these mountains or any other suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thanks guys and girls.

post #2 of 14

I haven't been to Breck or Aspen, so I can't advise you on those, but I can tell you that Snowbird would be fantastic. I think, though others here may be able to correct me, that you might find things cheaper in Utah overall, and Snowbird has some of the best backcountry out there. Add to that it's proximity to SLC and the airport, and you guys will be spending more time on the slopes and less time traveling. That's my $.02!

post #3 of 14

Can't help you on the SLC resorts.  For a school ski club Spring Break trip, I'd advise against Aspen/Snowmass in favor of Summit County.  


Aspen is one of those "you can't get there from here" destinations - your're either going to have to fly into the Aspen airport, which will cost an arm and a leg, or spend a LOT of time driving. And, accomodations are going to be expensive. And if you're not staying slopeside, 82 can turn into a loooonnnnngggggg commute to wherever you want to go, as all of traffic between Glenwood and Aspen gets funneled onto that road (nobody who actually works at any of the hotels, restaurants, shop and resorts in can afford to live there, so they're all on that road, making for traffic jams.)


The Summit County resorts are a reasonable drive from the Denver Airport, there are lots of areas to choose from - Keystone/A-Basin/Loveland/Breckenridge/Copper/Vail/Beaver Creek - all reasonably close together and with most of them having free shuttle service, and you've got a much wider variety of choices for places to stay at some more reasonable price points than your goiing to find in and around Aspen.

post #4 of 14

You are talking Spring 2010, right?


Both Snowbird and Alta should offer what you're looking for.  You can get a dual pass and ski both .  If you're looking for cheaper lodging, you could stay in Sandy, UT, just south of Salt Lake City and directly west from both resorts.  It's a straight shot on 209 which turns into 210/Little Cottonwood Canyon and the drive should only take about 45 minutes.


Another option would be Park City which offers Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley, and The Canyons.  They may not offer the big mountain back country that you're looking for, but they have all opened much more off-trail skiing in the last few years.  There's free city buses that will take you to all three resorts and just about anywhere you'd want to go in Park City.


The downside is the liquor laws in Utah, if that is a big concern to you.  You can drink, but the laws vary from county to county and beer may be only 2%.  Wine and liquor by the bottle are available but only at state stores and are available in many restaurants and bars.  It's not that big a deal to us, but in Park City we've enjoyed wine and liquor with most evening meals.  I think that the state of Utah passed a major liquor reform law earlier this year which was supposed to make it easier to buy all forms of liquor.


If you go to Breckenridge, there's also Keystone and Copper Mountain nearby.  Vail and Beaver creek are a short bus ride down I-80, but it's possible to get stranded by a snowstorm if it closes the freeway.  It's happened to us.


As goblue indicated, Aspen is difficult to get to and tends to be on the expensive side.  I skied Aspen/Snowmass for a week one year and have enjoyed most other resorts a lot more.



post #5 of 14

You can't beat Snowbird/Alta. Try to stay at the one of the base hotels if you can, especially with a large group.

post #6 of 14

If you go to Summit County, there's free bus service called the Summit Stage to Copper, Keystone and Breckenridge.  You can stay in Frisco and take a bus directly to each of these resorts.  There's a motel almost across the street from the Frisco bus hub that has meals, meeting rooms and frequently hosts groups.


If you stay in Breck, there's free bus service to Vail provided by Vail resorts.  There is the possibility of the highways to Vail being closed by weather/accidents.  That's also possible in the Utah canyons. 


If you select Utah, I'd stay on-property at Snowbird rather than down in the city.  That would let individual group members decide for themselves when they want to hit the slopes and not have to worry about transportation.


You might also consider the Lake Tahoe area.  Many, many choices there for terrain.  You'd have more transportation issues, but a really great selection.


I'd bet that if you book your reservations soon, you'll be able to get pretty good rates for next season.  All ski areas ended up offering great last-minute deals last season because of the slump in business and they probably are on the lookout to line up as much business as possible for the next season.

post #7 of 14


Little Cottonwood Canyon - Alta/Snowbird - Great terrain and snow

Big Cottonwood Canyon - Solitude, Brighton - Not as severe terrain as Altabird, but also great snow

Park City= The Canyons, Park City, Deer Valley - Mellower terrain and lower (not as geat snow)

Layton - Snowbasin, Powder Mountain. Snowbasin is just great fun, PowMow, not so much, but it's big.


I wouldn't stay at Altabird since there's so much diversity you'll lose by not hitting the other hills, and with the number of people you'll have, you'll want to keep the opportunities open. I usually stay in Kimball Junction which gets you to any of the non PC areas within about 45 minutes, and the PC areas are up the street.


CO (I-70)

Breckenridge - my absolute last choice of the bunch due to its terminally intermediate (my terminally intermediate friend called it beginner) terrain.

A-Basin - the gnar of the I-70 areas. Great vibe. Everyone needs to go there at least once.

Vail (aka Flail) - will remind you of WB for size (it's only 5000 acres vs WB 8100 but it meanders everywhere), another somewhat marginally challenging place, but there's something for everyone except if you're going to be in the next Matchstick movie.

Beaver Creek - high end ambiance and good terrain

Keystone - doesn't get much respect but I really like the trees and the snowcat terrain on the Outback side.

Steamboat -1.5 hours away, but worth trying for the trees everyone's heard about. Intermediate style hill, but great snow, and the trees MUST be skiied to be believed.

Copper - Went once and didn't like it, but I think that was the company and the fact it was the 8th or 8 days. Gets a lot miore respect that Keystone - go figure.


If you stay in Breck you can get to the other areas fairly quickly.


Tahoe -


Squaw - fairly legendary terrain, with great potential for Sierra Cement

Heavenly - some challenge but you sort of have to look.

Plenty of other areas around.

Good chance for a lot of bluebird days.



Asspen is great - 4 areas in close proximity, but it's a pain to get to, and pretty pricy.


If I had 60 people, it would be SLC and staying in the Kimball Junction area, or CO, I-70 in the Breck region. If I HAD to make a decision - SLC - no brainer.

post #8 of 14


"Breckenridge - my absolute last choice of the bunch due to its terminally intermediate (my terminally intermediate friend called it beginner) terrain."


Have you skied the south side of Peak 10, the North side of Peak 9, the terrain available off the Imperial Chair or the T-Bar?

post #9 of 14

Whistler and Jackson Hole are not exactly top of the list for convenience and low budget, so that tells me your group might be fine for slopeside condos at Snowmass.  That's what I would recommend.  Town of Aspen is fun and easy shuttle trip away.  Snowmass is hugh and nearby Aspen Highlands is also on shuttle route and great for steeps/backcountry.  Ajax has challenging skiing too. 

Low budget alternative is stay in Sandy UT and commute to Alta/Bird, but that's more for the ski til you drop crowd who make their own apres ski fun.

post #10 of 14

The Utah resorts obviously bring a lot to the table, including proximity to the airport and the potential to home base in town for cheap and choose from multiple resorts within a reasonable drive.  (The resorts themselves too, of course.)  You might look for a place that has convenient shuttles to multiple ski areas.


In Tahoe, I can suggest staying at Granlibakken, which is just outside of Tahoe City (good restaurants and bars), reasonably priced (especially in the multi-bedroom condos), and has shuttles to at least Squaw, Alpine, and Homewood.  They also have ticket deals with most of the North Lake Tahoe resorts.  And the West Shore of Tahoe has some of the best true backcountry around.


One general warning is to stay in a place (like SLC, Tahoe, Whistler) where you can sleep at under 7,000 feet.  I did a trip to Snowbird with my daughter last spring, and although she had never had a problem when sleeping at 6600 ft in Tahoe, she got pretty sick sleeping at 7800.  When you throw in the fact that alcohol consumption increases the frequency and severity of altitude sickness, it's something to be aware of with college students.

post #11 of 14


Originally Posted by Kneale Brownson View Post


"Breckenridge - my absolute last choice of the bunch due to its terminally intermediate (my terminally intermediate friend called it beginner) terrain."


Have you skied the south side of Peak 10, the North side of Peak 9, the terrain available off the Imperial Chair or the T-Bar?


Yes, yes, yes and yes. And yes?. Such a big area, so little challenging terrain. Okey Doke, it's gnar . Pali must give you cold sweats....


post #12 of 14

Alta/Snowbird is a good choice for most groups, but if your group contains lower intermediate snowboarders, it is one of the worst options.

post #13 of 14
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all your advice guys! I will pass on your comments to the others helping to plan. As always more advice is appreciated. Thanks again

post #14 of 14

I'll throw in my two cents for the lower altitude resorts like Steamboat, Big Sky and Park City. With a group that size you are going to have some folks with altitude sensitivity issues. Whistler and Jackson base areas are below the altitude that begins to cause most problems. Summit County with their 9,000 base and 12,000 peaks may be a problem for some of your group.

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