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Denver area ski trip for noobs?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Hi all!

looking for some advice on a short ski vacation over New Years.

I am in Miami but my 10-year old son is staying with his mom in Golden this year. We are taking the Amtrak from CHI to San Fran for fun in early Jan and I will be flying in to Denver to pick him up and then both of us fly to CHI. I would love to get a little skiing in on the cheap. I am not much of a skier but enoyed it when I was younger and he has never skied at all. I could use some help is planning my trip. Here are the particulars:

  • Looking to save $$ as I am already about $1500 into this with just the airfares and train tix and I am a working stiff :)
  • 3 - 4 nights and 3 - 4 days of skiing.
  • Within two hours or so of Denver.
  • Will rent a car so do not have to stay at pricey lodge.
  • Will need to rent all equipment.
  • Might want a group class for him and one for me.

I am looking at some other related threads but what do y'all think is my best way to go here. Remember that we are just noobs and will have fun on just about any slope.

Thanks
alfadog
post #2 of 17
I guess both of you staying at mom's place for entire visit is not an option?  From there it would be easy commute to inexpensive skiing at Loveland ski area each day. Great day-area type place for beg-int skiers, but with 1300 acres.
Otherwise, good resorts w/in 2 hours of Denver are Copper, Keystone, Breckenridge, Winter Park.  Check www.vrbo.com for deals on small condos.
post #3 of 17
Why don't you just take Amtrak from Denver to San Fran.   From Chicago is a really, really, really long trip.  

Then just listen to James and go to Loveland.  
post #4 of 17
Why don't you make it easy.

You're obviously taking the California Zephyr from CHI to SF.   Take it from Chicago to Fraser, CO.  Get off the train.  Walk or take the free town shuttle to a hotel.  Check in and change into ski gear.  Take the free town shuttle to the Winter Park Resort base.   Ski.  Go back to hotel.  Do as many days as you have.  In the morning, catch the California Zephyr for the rest of the leg to San Fran.

The Rocky Mountain Inn and Hostel is within walking distance of the train station and is inexpensive.  There are many other inexpensive choices as well.

- no car rental needed.
post #5 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the advice so far. It is all appreciated - please keep it coming.

The train ride is kinda the heart of this trip. My boy really loves to ride on the train and asked to make the longest trip Amtrak makes. The Zephyr is not quite the longest but it is right up there at 52 hours. The tix for us both was under $500 and that incudes a roomette and all meals so it is really not a bad deal if you consider the train ride itself to BE the vacation.

The ski trip is more the treat for me :)

We won't be staying at the mom's for a number of reasons none of which have much to do with her personally. She is a sweet gal and a great mom.

Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to not spend money, I just want good value for my money and cannot afford extravagance.

All train/air tix are purchased and the rental car is reserved. I just need to decide on hotels and skiing.

I called Ski Cooper because I found them via the lift ticket site linked from this site. That sort of place might be perfect for us IF there is reasonably-priced accomodations in Leadville or nearby. My concern there is that they have only natural snow though the (very friendly) lady on the phone said she has never seen them not have good snow by New Years.

What do y'all think of Ski Cooper. Any other sites?

Update:  The Super 8 in Leadville has availability at $80 per night so that looks good. Should I just plan on Ski Cooper? If they have bad conditions then are there other slopes nearby with man-made snow? Or is this not really an issue?

Thanks
post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 
@ James and Shredhead. Loveland looks fine. Do y'all recommend that over Ski Cooper?
post #7 of 17
Couple things you might consider:
     Colorado Gems card- for $10 you get discounts and restricted free tickets to a number of smaller CO mountains like Echo, Sol Vista, etc. 
     Is your son in 5th grade?  There is a CO Passport program for 5th & 6th graders that includes a bunch of free ski days at a number of CO resorts.
     Often times there are beginner lift tix (if the above does not work for you)
     First time skier deals sometimes include lesson & rental at a pretty fair price.
     Loveland currently sells 4 pack online for $119- these are transferable so you & your son could use a single 4 pack to cover 2 days for both of you (or 3 days for yourself and 1 for him after he does 2 days on the carpet and/or beginner lift)

I haven't skied Loveland or Cooper yet, but Loveland is closer with more potential lodging options (in Idaho Springs or Georgetown).  There is a fish hatchery near Leadville, but I forget if they offer tours in the winter. 
post #8 of 17
Cooper may be a little less money but it will be another hour plus down the road.  It is also way up in the sky if you are coming from Florida (what do you think about breathing?). 

If I were a 10 year old kid out of Denver, Loveland would be a whole lot cooler.   Should be able to find a fair motel deal in the Georgetown area. 

If it is going to be another hundred or two spend it, this is your sons' time and neither of you will get it back.
post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stranger View Post

Cooper may be a little less money but it will be another hour plus down the road.  It is also way up in the sky if you are coming from Florida (what do you think about breathing?). 

If I were a 10 year old kid out of Denver, Loveland would be a whole lot cooler.   Should be able to find a fair motel deal in the Georgetown area. 

If it is going to be another hundred or two spend it, this is your sons' time and neither of you will get it back.

Hey thanks. The hour down the road is not a problem and certainly I am not skimping where an extra Benjamin or two will making a relevant difference, it is the extra Clevelands that are beyond me

@MEfree. Thanks, I will check those out. He IS in the 5th grade in a Golden public school.

So it looks like Loveland so far. I will start looking for the lodging. I reserved a room in Leadville with easy and free cancellation and will see if I can find something near Loveland to reserve while I see about the stuff MEfree mentions and anything else that comes up on this thread.

Thanks guys. Please keep it coming!
post #10 of 17
Just wanted to add that you should be prepared for lots of delays on the Amtrak ride. I've done the Martinez (CA) to Denver and the reverse (Denver>Martinez), and also up and down the west coast, and I've never once had a train arrive on time. Also, if there's bad weather, there is a chance the Donner Pass could be shut down, which happened to me once, stranding me in Reno for the night (which turned out to be fun, but I wasn't on a strict schedule).

The main problem with Amtrak is that they basically rent the tracks to use, so they always have to yield to the freight trains (and there are lots of 'em).

On the flip side, there are some awfully beautiful areas on the CA Zephyr route. Parts of Utah and the Donner Pass were gourgeous. Good luck on that train ride. I had to chuckle at the idea of riding Amtrak for fun though.
post #11 of 17
Yo, dog!

I don't see a problem with the Ski Cooper / Leadville Motel 8 plan.

It's a good place for noobs and is way less expensive than most.

Leadville does have a lot of altitude.

I think this exactly matches your stated goals.

Have fun!
post #12 of 17
Thread Starter 
@StopGo - Thanks for the heads-up on the delays. What kind of delays are you talking about, time-wise? We are flying home from SF the day after the train arrives so we are a bit flexible. Worst case, I pay some change fees for the flights home and another hotel night. As far as your chuckle, well you seem to have a nice memory or two of the ride. It is simply another experience and I see it as a worthwhile one. We have taken local trips on the Amtrak and enjoyed it.

@Bear - Hey, thanks for the feedback on Ski Cooper. I like the prices there and the altitude is the same as Loveland (10 - 11,000) so six of one . . .

Oh, I told my boy of the plan and he is really excited to learn to snowboard.

Any other feedback on Ski Cooper? Do y'all think I have any worries about conditions? Is Jan 1 at all early in the season for all-natural snow? Thanks.
post #13 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by alfadog View Post

Any other feedback on Ski Cooper? Do y'all think I have any worries about conditions? Is Jan 1 at all early in the season for all-natural snow? Thanks.
Hopefully no worries about snow, but you never know...I imagine that they already have some natural on the ground, especially on the higher north facing slopes.  However, the big storm CO had about 10 days ago hit the front range resorts like Echo much more than West of the divide.
post #14 of 17
alfadog,
            Ski Cooper is a great place for kids! The wind does not blow as hard there as it will at Loveland. 2 days at Cooper, then you could cap it off with a day at the big hill, Copper Mt. about 25 miles away from Leadville. If you decide on Ski Cooper let us know, as were in the area most weekends & would be happy to give the 25 cent tour! 
post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by alfadog View Post

@StopGo - Thanks for the heads-up on the delays. What kind of delays are you talking about, time-wise? We are flying home from SF the day after the train arrives so we are a bit flexible. Worst case, I pay some change fees for the flights home and another hotel night. As far as your chuckle, well you seem to have a nice memory or two of the ride. It is simply another experience and I see it as a worthwhile one. We have taken local trips on the Amtrak and enjoyed it.

 


I would say at least two hours is a definite, with anywhere from 5-6 hours still being reasonable. It can be hard to gauge, as the delays can just start to pile up over the course of the trip. Keep track of when your train leaves, as it may already be late to begin with. It sounds like you planned it out right though with flying out the day after you arrive by train, that does give you a lot of flexibility.

As far as the ride itself goes, stock up on snacks and stuff to keep you and the boy occupied. That kind of trip is an endurance test. But like you said, even I do have some fond memories.   
post #16 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks again for all the great advice. I am going to go with Ski Cooper and the Leadville Super 8 for a low-ball noob holiday :) I will let y'all know how it was next year!
post #17 of 17
I used to go to Cooper a lot when I was teaching my littlest guy.  My two olders could go off and ski without me worrying about them getting lost,  while I only invested $5 in a bunny hill ticket while sliding around with a 3 y.o.

One caution.  Perhaps it's improved,  but the on-mountain ski rental was very inefficient back then.  If you're renting,  I'd suggest renting elsewhere.  Otherwise,  it's a fantastic place to take a family.

AM.
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