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Where to go for Christmas?

post #1 of 36
Thread Starter 

My family has just decided that we are skiing out West this Christmas (about 8 ski days), but we have only skied in the West in February and March.  What areas would have the best snow over Christmas, and the fewest people.  Everyone is at least an intermediate, and there are two experts.  We are thinking about Colorado, to try something new because we ski Utah in Feb.  So far Aspen Snowmass looks good, and so does steamboat.  However, I have heard great things about Grand Targhee

post #2 of 36

Hard to beat Aspen/Snowmass if you have the budget for it.  I think Steamboat would meet your needs too.  Maybe Big Sky or even Jackson Hole.  Grand Targhee would probably be a good crowd beater, if smallish for 8 days, but not if you combined it with a Jackson Hole visit. If you can include the days leading up to Dec 25th then you'll have moderate to low crowds just about everywhere and possibly some bargain prices.

post #3 of 36

How about try a Breckenridge/Keystone/Copper Mountain stint?  All three of those places are 16/6/10 minutes from my place.  If you don't want to drive the free shuttle has a stop 200 feet away. I also have a guest pass that will ski one person free every day you're here.  Here's my place: Silverthorne Vacation Rental

And check out the view on my Silverthorne webcam

post #4 of 36

What is the mix of your group? Adults? Kids? How many? Other activities desired? Slopeside or in town? Would everyone be happy with one mountain for 8 days? How important is ease of air travel, are connecting flights OK (as I type this sitting in a LA hotel after missing a connecting flight) or do you want a direct flight? 

post #5 of 36
Thread Starter 

We are two possibly three adults and four kids.  We def want to go to an area with a few hills to have some variation.  We  do not want a connecting flight if possible.  Does Targhee/JH require a connecting flight, what about big sky?  In terms of apres god food is appreciated by everyone, and if there are other kids activities like snowmobiling and ice skating that would be great.  My only concern with keystone/brek/copper is that they won't have that much terrain open.  December of this season those resorts were seriously snow deprived.  Two people going with us have been to Steamboat and suggested taking the 3 hour drive over Hayden with a lot of kids/luggage.  Any advice?    

post #6 of 36
Thread Starter 

We will be flying out of the NYC area airports

post #7 of 36

 I can't speak for Bozeman Big Sky) and Jackson (Jackson Hole/Targhee). While Targhee is a great mountian, it is isolated for a week of skiing (think "The Shining"). I would suggest Jackson Hole and then do a day trip over to Targhee to experience it. There is much more to do on JH and be able to hit Targhee than to just to Targhee. I know you can fly direct to Steamboat from Newark. There IS a lot to do in Steamboat too, while it doesn't have the extensive expert terrain that JH or BS can have, it is a fun mountain. Also, most of that serious terrain tends not to have enough snow to be able to access this early. 

post #8 of 36
Thread Starter 

Steamboat I know would be a transfer in Denver or SLC.  We could also transfer in Chicago and fly into Jackson.

post #9 of 36

I think you can get a direct into Eagle(EGE) from NY.  It's about an 1:15 drive/shuttle from there to Aspen and I think about the same to Steamboat.

post #10 of 36

No crowds, Christmas, terrain variety .... Aspen/Snowmass.  I've spent many a Christmas there. 


This video from Pitkin County Government is pretty funny too.

post #11 of 36
Originally Posted by bjc8714 View Post

 My only concern with keystone/brek/copper is that they won't have that much terrain open.  December of this season those resorts were seriously snow deprived.     


Just as an FYI, Christmas is a crapshoot *anywhere* you go.  You are only five days past the official start of winter at that point.  Most resorts don't start approaching 100% terrain opening until mid January or later.  All you can really do is go with historical averages and keep smiling if there is no snow.  The fact that the Summit County resorts got skunked last year is proof of that.  A season such as last year's is a historical rarity, but they do happen and no resort is immune (though glaciers and snowmaking mean some resorts handle bad seasons better than others).  Christmas is a fun time to be at a ski resort for a variety of reasons, but you need to lower your expectations and assume that conditions will reflect the fact that the season is still very young.

post #12 of 36
Thread Starter 

I checked and their are direct flights fromJFK and Newark to Eagle so we most likely will go to Aspen/Snowmass.  Anyone who has been there, which mountain would you stay at?  we like to stay ski in/ ski out and are leaning towards snowmass because of its size and variety 

post #13 of 36

90% of Snowmass is ski in /out.  The terrain is nice and so are the people.  There's terrain for everyone. 


Stonebridge is nice.  Crestwood is nice too but a step down and more affordable- kinda off the main route but is on the shuttle line. Pokolodi is the most affordable but I really wouldn't recommend it for someone with small kids. The rooms are a bit cramped. Nice location though.  Just below the Snowmass Mall and right next to a watering hole and the shuttle bus station.

post #14 of 36
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the help

post #15 of 36

Steamboat has a better record of snow over Christmas than Aspen/Snowmass.  Check out Tony Crocker for historical information regarding snow levels over Christmas.  We have been to both resorts.  Did Steamboat last Christmas and had good conditions in an overall mediocre snow year there.  Steamboat is a cool town with lots to keep the group entertained.  Have been to Aspen/Snowmass for spring break.  I think it is a better spring break bet than a Christmas bet.  Loved the resort and the ski in, ski out convenience.


When you are booking in June I think you have to play the averages for good snow.  That is no guarantee, but I think it is the smart play. 


I hope it works no matter what you choose.

post #16 of 36

I agree that Aspen and Targhee are an apples to oranges comparison. Breck and Copper have an elevation advantage that might give you more snow in the early season. Steamboat is great but 1,000 - 2,000 feet lower than other Colorado resorts. Big sky and Jackson are farther north which also might help a little in the early season.

Bottom line is December snow is not quite as good or as reliable as Feb-Mar but it sure is FUN!

Our family has skied the last week of December for about 15 years at Big Sky and we've never had a bad trip. Already bought my tickets for this year too. Some years the mountain is 90% open and other years it's 99% but there was always enough snow and enough variety for a good trip. Also NO LIFT LINES unless one of the major chairs breaks down.

One advantage of BS for families is that there is only one base area. Everything works its way back to the same spot so if someone gets separated from the group it's easier for them to find their way home. Good ski school - good nursery.

You will need to change planes unless you live in Salt Lake City, Denver or Minneapolis. An easy 45 to 50 min drive from Bozeman.

post #17 of 36

Snowmass has the most ski-in ski-out options. That said, I always stay in Aspen. The shuttles to all of the mountains stop everywhere & I prefer being close to downtown for apres & dinner. Plus, you'll want to ski Ajax & Highlands at least once each for sure, so you'll be shuttling from Snowmass to Aspen. My first trip there, I skied each mountain once & then decided where to go for the remaining days.  Personally, I like Highlands the best, followed by Ajax (Aspen Mountain), then Snowmass. Of course, others will differ in their opinions....

post #18 of 36

....actually, with 4 kids, Snowmass makes the most sense.  If they ski green slopes, Snowmass and Buttermilk are your best bets.  If they are intermediates or above, then Aspen & Highlands offer some good options.

post #19 of 36

My often referenced article on this subject here: http://bestsnow.net/fam_ski.htm

As also noted before I am not a fan of destination trips at Christmas. I raised 2 kids (both adults now) and most destination trips during family years were at spring breaks around the first of April. 


Of the areas discussed here Steamboat offers the best combination for snow odds and a family destination.  You will need considerable luck for expert terrain to be open at Aspen/Snowmass or Summit County CO.  The latter destination also has crowd/congestion issues and should be avoided during Christmas holidays IMHO. 


Targhee is #1 for Christmas reliability, but is as noted small for an 8-day trip.  So best viewed as a combination with Jackson.  Jackson gets a lot of snow but is steep and needs a lot to get covered.  A lot of years they get everything going right about Christmas.  Last year was one where they didn't.   I have not been there at a peak time, but Jackson's lift system is one that I do not think would handle big crowds well.

post #20 of 36
Thread Starter 

We are deciding between Targhee, Big Sky, and Aspen/Snowmass.  Probably not Aspen/Snowmass

post #21 of 36

Agree with Tony & others. Targhee is not a good idea for an 8 day Christmas trip.  If you are set on skiing there, I would go to Jackson & do a day trip or two to Targhee. You could do something similar with Big Sky -- perhaps 5-6 days there and 2-3 at Targhee. I'm not sure how long the drive is from Big Sky to Targhee -- couple of hours maybe?.

post #22 of 36
Originally Posted by bjc8714 View Post

We are deciding between Targhee, Big Sky, and Aspen/Snowmass.  Probably not Aspen/Snowmass

I'm trying to decide between these resorts for my Christmas vacation also.  I think I'm going to go with Aspen/Snowmass... with the 4 mountains I think the crowds will be spread out, and you can never get bored.  I'm having trouble finding a not too expensive hotel or condo though.

post #23 of 36

"Not too Expensive" at Christmas in Aspen may be more difficult to find than Knee Deep Powder.

post #24 of 36


Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post

  You will need considerable luck for expert terrain to be open at Aspen/Snowmass


Tony, I respect your work, but that's just not accurate.  I've skied the last thirty Christmas holidays in Aspen and for the vast majority of years there is plenty of expert skiing open.  

I invite you again to join me for Highland opener December 11th and I will prove to you that Aspen deserves more than a 2 early season!

Originally Posted by eastskier27 View Post

  I'm having trouble finding a not too expensive hotel or condo though.

If you have young kid's stay in Snowmass, no youngins, stay in town.   If you plan on eating out every night, check out some of the older lodges in town.  St. Moritz, Molly Gibson, Skiers Chalet!

post #25 of 36

Unlike the Front Range areas, I only have tracked open terrain at Aspen/Snowmass for 8 years.  Average percent open during those years is 70% just before Christmas and 90% at New Year's.  While I'd like more data than that, it's clearly much better than Taos or Crested Butte.  I've been getting similar input from a Telluride local.  Both Aspen and Telluride should get early season ratings of 3.  Snowfall is in the same ballpark at all 4 locations, but topography at Taos/CB requires deeper base depths to get more terrain open.


This does not change my opinion that March/spring break is a far better time to ski Aspen/Snowmass or Telluride than Christmas.

post #26 of 36

I think 3 is much more accurate and I agree about March.  But many people don't have the option and some, like me, just go both. 


The ASC does a lot of preseason grooming of the slopes and it really pays off in low snow years like last year.  Aspen doesn't get as much snow as a lot of places, but lack of crowds, good exposure and relatively high altitude give it consistently good conditions most of the season. 


I can't think of any major resorts that had better conditions a Christmas last year. Aspen was much better than Vail or Alta.  Whistler had a huge base, but they had a thaw and then it got cold and it was hard at Christmas. 


The offer is still on for Highland's opener, you could drive at the last minute in 11-12 hours?

I'll put you up and we can see if we can get the ski co to throw down some comps, what do you have too loose?

post #27 of 36
Originally Posted by bjc8714 View Post

I checked and their are direct flights fromJFK and Newark to Eagle so we most likely will go to Aspen/Snowmass.  

bjc -- This may just be a typo, or I may be confused, but I think Eagle (EGE) is the airport for Vail and Beaver Creek.  The closest airport for Aspen/Snowmass is Aspen (ASE).  

post #28 of 36

EGE is a viable option for Aspen.  It's about 66 miles to Aspen and 30 to Vail.


I am actually flying into EGE this Christmas for the first time.  The directs from Chicago into ASE  at Christmas this year were rather expensive.


I picked up a 1 way rental car for $75 each way.   Probably add about an hour transit time to our trip, about the same as connecting thru DEN on a good day. 

post #29 of 36

Shred -- Thanks, this is good to know.  I've started looking at air ticket prices for the Xmas break.  Not a lot of great deals out there.

post #30 of 36



IMHO,  EGE is only an option when you can get a direct from your gateway, which I don't think they have from DC.  I would never connect thru DEN to EGE.  By the time you wait for your connection and fly up, you could have just driven, for a lot less.


I think your best best might just be flying into DEN and renting a car.  During off peak hours, the drive isn't that bad 90% of the time.   

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