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1st time out of the midwest: where to go?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Hey everyone! It's my first year skiing and it's easily the best activity I've ever engaged in...well, maybe it ties with motorcycling. Anyways, it's my first year on the slopes and I already have been about 8 times at various places in Wisconsin, and have a 4 day trip planned for the end of March at Granite Peak in Wisconsin as well.

I'm curious about heading elsewhere, but sort of nervous about ability level. I'm an athletic guy (former Marine) and while I'm risk shy, I'm not averse to a good time. I can do all the blue runs as well as a couple black runs, but they're all Midwest so I know that doesn't mean much other than I'm ready to go green in the West or East. So where do I go?

I'm a student so money is tight. I will likely be going next year over Christmas or Spring Break (late March here). I'm thinking Bridger Bowl with my brother and a couple other guys, or Steamboat Springs if I go on my own, but where would you all advise? I'm a laid back guy, a bar is good enough for apres, and I like the feel of the west...I really enjoyed South Dakota and Wyoming when I was out there on my Harley. I'll probably drive but nonstop flights are a possibility, as I am in Chicago.

Thanks in advance for all your advice!
post #2 of 17
 You're going to love skiing in the mountains!

I see that your looking at Bridger Bowl and Steamboat as your first experience skiing outside the midwest.  I have not been to Steamboat but I understand that it has a variety of family oriented slopes that would help you find your way around without getting you into trouble.  
Bridger is one of my favourite places to ski!! It has great variety of conditions and slopes that will help you venture off but you need to know where you're going because they have some terrain that can be a bit tricky.

No matter where you go, think about getting a lesson.  A good ski instructor will know the mountain, help you get your skills fine tuned and you'll benefit from better skills and some mountain knowledge.
post #3 of 17
 Utah and Colorado (Denver not Steamboat) will be the cheapest for flights. Tahoe is another option. Check your options. You will have a great time at any of the major destinations. Christmas is an expensive time to go but sometimes you have to deal with what you got. Check back in the fall and in hte meantime look around and make yourself at home (but keep the feet off the furniture), You are not old enough to remember but.... Savoir faire is EVERYWHERE!!!
post #4 of 17
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Philpug View Post

 Utah and Colorado (Denver not Steamboat) will be the cheapest for flights. Tahoe is another option. Check your options. You will have a great time at any of the major destinations. Christmas is an expensive time to go but sometimes you have to deal with what you got. Check back in the fall and in hte meantime look around and make yourself at home (but keep the feet off the furniture), You are not old enough to remember but.... Savoir faire is EVERYWHERE!!!

I may be in college, but I'm 31...lulz. The Marine Corps will do that to you, heheh. That being said, I barely recall it because I liked Underdog when I was little...

post #5 of 17
 Steamboat is a nice town. Can be a little expensive. I've never been to the other place you mentioned. Personally, in ways of saving money, I would look at going to somewhere around the I70 Resorts. Breckenridg, Keystone or Copper or maybe even Winter Park. You can stay in Dillion or Frisco which are only 15 to 30 min drives to any of the resorts with multiple free shuttles to each outside of Winter Park.

I know this season I stopped at a Kings Sooper in Denver and picked up their coupon book and got Buy one get one Lift Tickets are Copper or Winter Park. Along with $55 lift tickets to both. There are also coupons for rentals if you need those as well. (I actually just got back from Copper today, I'm from Missouri)

All four of those resorts will give you a good look at what the west has to offer, IMO. I love Copper because its typically not as busy as Keystone or Breck but just as good. If you don't go until Spring, look for the best snow conditions and decide based on that. Also by staying in Dillion or Frisco, you can move around from mountain to mountain until you find one you like. 

Let me know if you need any other information. :)
post #6 of 17
Agree with CO for a first time out.  Bridger is a really cool laid back place, but you will find it more limited for terrain that works for you than Winter Park or Steamboat in CO.  If you were to add Big Sky to the mix in MT it is a whole nuther story.  If you are talking driving, Bozman is a very long ways, you are going to burn another day driving each way pretty much. 

CO would give you another day of skiing ipo driving.  Over a holiday Steamboat would probably give you smaller crowds because of the distance to Denver.  Personal recommendation would be: ski day 1 Winter Park,  day 2 Steamboat (same road), last day either one.  Have a really good time and welcome to Epic.
post #7 of 17
Personally, I would avoid Summit County at Christmas.  Check out some of the 2ND tier resorts like Ski Sunlight/Cooper, Monarch, Wolf Creek or Powderhorn for packages. They all offer plenty of skiing for your 1st time out west. 

Glenwood Springs, Leadville or Salida are much cheaper than Summit and they are all close enough for a day trip to one of the majors after you get your ski legs. 

Nice thing about driving, you don't have to book months in advance.   From Chicago you can drive to any of these towns in about 16 hours with dry roads. If you go to Steamboat, go through Laramie instead of Denver.   

PS:  Dump Granite.   Go out west now!
post #8 of 17
Steamboat would be a great choice as your first out west experience given your parameters.
First of all, it's a pretty easy drive.  16 hours or so from Chicago with decent roads, take the Laramie route for sure.  We've done it 3 times and would do it again.  Steamboat's not an intimidating mountain, tons of fun stuff for all but not high on the difficulty scale.  Good lifts, nice runs, decent ammenities, cool town and low crowds.  Steamboat will give you a great out west ski experience while giving you the opportunity to assess your skills and analyze what else you may be looking for.  Ski it for 4 days, it's not too many...you'll come away with a lot.

Bridger's another animal, very very cool.  More of a core skiers mountain, more difficult, plus a huge drive.  Probably not the 1st place I'd send you but you'll end up there someday when the time is right and love it.

No place is really cheap and there are trade offs everywhere.  My family and I save by driving, packing our lunch, cooking in, goin' lean on lodging and looking for lift deals.  We've actually been pretty lucky and ended up in some nice places.  We're probably not the best consumers from the resort standpoint but we make it up in volume as we NEED to ski.  Telluride next week, can't wat.

Granite Peak will be fun, go, I've been there and haven't been back.  It's all part of this incurable illness you have, glad you're into it.
post #9 of 17
Hmmm.... Driving is cheaper than flying, but you lose two days to the drive each way .   With a non-stop flight you can sometimes do a half day of skiing on travel days. 

The obvious drive-to from Chicago is Colorado 'cause it's closest.  But Colorado has a tendency to be crowded and accommodations within driving distance of the slopes is pricy.   SLC has abundant cheap motels in town and an airport within 40 minutes of the slopes.  Lake Tahoe is really a summer resort, so there are off season discounts to be had as long as you're not trying to stay slopeside.

With only a few exceptions (Snowbird, Taos come to mind) destination ski resorts have terrain for all abilities, so no matter where you go you should find some terrain to match your ability.
post #10 of 17
It kind of depends on whether you're planning to drive or fly, and if you fly if you want the expense of a rental vehicle.  I prefer to fly to my skiing and if a rental car is necessary, I rent a SUV or 4WD, but that can be pricey.

If you want to fly, avoid the expense of a rental car, and ski at more than one resort, try Park City.  You can get to SLC from anywhere, it's a 45 minute, relatively inexpensive shuttle trip to get to Park City, and once you're there you can use the free bus transportation to get around town and get to Park City Mountain Resort, The Canyons, and Deer Valley.  You can even get shuttles to Alta, Snowbird, and Snowbasin.  Discount lift tickets are available from Costco in SLC.

You could also go to Colorado and rent a vehicle, stay in Breckenridge (cheaper than Vail) and within less than an hour's drive, ski Breckenridge, Keystone, Copper Mountain, Vail, Beaver Creek, and Arapahoe Basin.  Not to knock Steamboat, but if you go there, you're going to be skiing the same mountain the entire trip.  Maybe not a bad idea for a relative beginner, but it can get boring.

I also second the suggestion for lessons.  Take at least three days of lessons at the same resort.  Taking lessons early in your skiing career will teach you the right way to ski and not develop bad habits that will be harder to break later.
post #11 of 17
I haven't been at Christmas. I can imagine it would be a zoo. But ignoring that factor for the moment:

Go to Breckenridge, stay in the town if you can, and ski at least one night at Keystone.

Breckenridge has a great combo of cool village, good terrain that's very friendly for beginners and intermediates, proximity to other good ski places. It's underrated in general. It's also a short drive from Denver (which may make it a zoo at Christmas, like I said, I've never gone then).

Keystone has arguably the best night skiing in North America and is ~30 minutes from Breck.
post #12 of 17
I think it depends a lot on what you're looking for.  I tend to want to ski, and only ski.  I could care less about apres.  I think about the total cost of the trip in terms of how much I'm paying per minute that the lifts are open, and this makes me want to avoid places that have long lines.
Consequently I really liked Monarch, Wolf Creek, and Telluride.  Telluride doesn't have a whole lot of greens, but I'd bet that if you're doing midwest blacks you'll be okay on a Colorado blue.  I say that as someone who has skied in Michigan but not Wisconsin.
post #13 of 17
I specialize in low budget trips :-), so if you drive with buddies I would recommend making Loveland an integral part of the itinerary. It's almost never real crowded (including Xmas and Spring Break) and has some fine terrain for novices up to single black diamond skiers. Buy some of their four pack tickets online in advance of your trip (~$125 for four days), share with buddies and do a couple days there. Stay at mom and pop motels in Georgetown or Frisco. Or if there are 3, 4 or more in group look for cheap condo in Dillon/Frisco on www.vrbo.com so you can cook some meals and save more. Look for deals from Arapahoe Basin, Copper, Winter Park to fill out ski days for an extended stay. If you bring your own car this works out well, with only 15-30 minute drives to ski several excellent ski areas, none more than about 90 minutes west of Denver.
post #14 of 17
Another random thought is Jackson Hole and stay at Hostel X.

Room rental is crazy-cheap if you're with a group of guys (or any group willing to sleep in the same room in bunk beds). Google it and you'll see what I mean. And it's ski in/ski out.

But flying to Jackson may eliminate your savings, and the terrain there can be pretty intense, which may not be what you're looking for in this trip.
post #15 of 17
Dont overlook Lutsen and the UP you could do all of the powderhorn - Blackjack - indianhead and still go up to lutsen for cheap. Mt Bohemia is one I would wait until you really enjoy the blacks and have good powder conditions.

You can also do Amtrack and head out to whitefish - never as crowded as CO -WY and way less expensive. Get on in Chicago and sleep halfway there.
post #16 of 17
Hi -welcome..
Someone else here mentioned Tahoe.
I agree - there are 16 places ( literally) to choose from while there to ski. It's a beautiful place - all sorts of places to stay, from cheaper (mom & pop) to houses of the rich & famous..
There's a deal that Ski Lake Tahoe does in the Spring, 6 tix to the bigger name areas for about 260.00 - that's about 44.00/day to ski at the best spots.
EZ to get there - Reno is your airport, there are shuttles up to NO. & So. Lake for you, and shuttles from almost all housing to many areas. The TART is good, too - gets you around pretty well.
Don't go anywhere on a holiday week! If you have to, play hooky and take off when nobody's out skiing!
You will find terrain in every category - Heavenly is a very 'blue' mtn., as is Sierra @ Tahoe. Steeps at Kirkwood, everywhere else you go there's SO much great stuff for intermediates you'll never be bored.
Go do your research and have fun!
post #17 of 17

On a budget with a plan of flying I would go Salt Lake 1st, Tahoe 2nd. Here's why.
Salt Lake - Even during the "busy season" you will be able to find relatively uncrowded skiing. You have 4 resorts within 1/2 drive, & 5 more within an hour. Cheap hotels in SLC rather than paying expensive on mountain lodging. Lift ticket prices are less expensive than many Colorado resorts. Snow is typically better & they will have more of it than the average Colorado resort. Plenty of areas for you to ski at your ablility.

Tahoe - Cheap lodging in Reno with the ability to drive to many resorts within an hour. I booked the Grand Sierra Resort & Casino for $34 per night through Hotwire for Jan 2nd & 3rd this year. Again, lift tickets are priced well compared to Colorado. Plenty of areas for you to ski at your ablility. Usually you can get a cheap flight to Vegas & then get a flight from Vegas to Reno. I got $100 round trip from Vegas to Reno on Southwest, & flew Airtran to Vegas cheap.

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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Mountain/Resort Related Forums › Resorts, Conditions & Travel › 1st time out of the midwest: where to go?