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Whistler, SLC or Summit County in early December?

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

Hi,

 

I am planning an early season ski/snowboard trip around the first week or the second week of December. We are thinking about either Whistler, SLC (Snowbird or Brighton) or Breckenridge/Summit county area.  We are flying out from the east coast (Washington, DC) and will have about 5 days. What do you guys recommend? Where will be have the best chance of having great condition? (Any other options are welcome)

 

Thanks!

post #2 of 21


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by snowglobe View Post

Hi,

 

I am planning an early season ski/snowboard trip around the first week or the second week of December. We are thinking about either Whistler, SLC (Snowbird or Brighton) or Breckenridge/Summit county area.  We are flying out from the east coast (Washington, DC) and will have about 5 days. What do you guys recommend? Where will be have the best chance of having great condition? (Any other options are welcome)

 

Thanks!

If you come to Whistler in early December you might want to bring your rock skis. Sometimes the rocks are well covered by that time. More often than not I usually wait until after Christmas (or even later) to bring out my favorite skis.
 

post #3 of 21

This is a recurring topic. Best to wait and see who gets the snow. If you have to book, Whistler may be the better bet given the long range forecast. But, you never know and so best to wait if at all possible. if early December, usually not a time that lodging is an issue or flights. 

post #4 of 21

I agree with Maui Steve on the need to check the conditions beforehand, but there is still a problem. The Whistler snow reports can be absurdly inaccurate in the early season. It's not unheard of to see grass and rocks sticking up on the side of runs at the top of the mountain when the official report indicates there are 80-90 cm at mid mountain. It's also common to have accurate measures of snow depth higher on the mountain which leave the impression there is skiable snow, top to bottom. In early December the bottom half of the mountain may be unskiable and downloading the only option at the end of the day. If there is a way to get a sense of the 'unofficial' snow depths from someone trustworthy that's what I'd recommend.

post #5 of 21

You can't check the conditions beforehand, because you could get skunked out with the airline flights going up in price or even sold out.  If you have more than one travelers the odds are high that someone needs to schedule vacation time at work and get settled with your plans.

 

Just book for SLC, but don't stay in Park City, for the second week of December.  There will be good skiing at the Cottonwood Caynons then, 90% chance of it at least.  With a good chance most everything will be open and in full winter conditions.  I wouldn't chance Co. or Whistler at that time.

 

Book your air to SLC and don't worry about it!

post #6 of 21

You could get skunked anywhere at that time of year.  But if I had to roll the dice on one of those, would opt for Whistler too. 

 

Worst case if the snow gods frown on you the village and/or Vancouver should keep you entertained for a few days.  Besides the seafood should be a lot fresher  .

post #7 of 21

http://webpages.charter.net/tcrocker818/

 

Scroll down to the link for the Inside Tracks page, then scroll down to Top 18 Early Season resorts (I couldn't link the page directly for some reason).

post #8 of 21

 Here's the direct link: http://www.letstalkweather.com/bskiwx/entry.php?w=bestsnow&e_id=1819

 

Quote:
There will be good skiing at the Cottonwood Canyons then, 90% chance of it at least.

 

No, those are the odds at Christmas.  A destination skier would not have been happy in the Cottonwood Canyons in early December of 2007 or 2009.   Second week of December is probably the average point where you get a good amount of the expert terrain open at either Alta/Snowbird or Whistler.  So I would venture a guess of ~40% first week of December and ~60% second week of December if you are expert skiers.  I personally would not bet advance booked airfare $ at those odds and thus agree with MauiSteve to "wait and see who gets the snow."  Advice that he ignored last year I might add.  

 

If you're intermediates and mostly skiing groomed runs you don't need as much coverage and might be more satisfied on the typical 3-4 foot bases of early December in Whistler or the Cottonwoods.  Summit County CO gets much less natural snow on average, particularly early season.  Those places are much more intermediate friendly, but a lot of those groomed runs are snowmaking dependent early on.   Again, if I lived in the East I wouldn't be that excited about flying west to ski manmade.

post #9 of 21

Tony is correct. I did ignore my own advice. However, I try to learn from my mistakes. This year, I will wait. Crossing fingers.

post #10 of 21

2nd week of december has not been amazing the last 3 or 4 years in UT. Take a wait and see approach. Thats my advice.

 

The skiing is much better later with greater base depths -- even if the runs are "open". $.02.

post #11 of 21

Early December snow in Summit County WILL be manmade, but it'll be there.  No downloading required, but probably little you'd call "expert" available either.

post #12 of 21

I was out in Utah the first weekend last year, snow was very sparse. We were staying in Park City, but I drove over to Alta to ski. My take is that they open a lot more terrain under low snow than they do in Summit County. Admittedly, it's the only time I've been there in early season like that (although we did ski Alta and Snowbird the second week in Jan, also, and still there wasn't much new snow). But I've skied in Summit a lot in early season.

 

I didn't mind the occasional rocks and branches and bushes, because I was just glad to have more than two groomers to ski on. If you agree, go to Utah. But if you are averse to that sort of thing, go to Colorado. (I can't say anything for Whistler ... though there is the glacier, and I've been to Whistler in downloading conditions, and there was still a lot more terrain open than Utah or Summit combined. But it wasn't early season.)

 

(Let it be hear, oh Ullr, please spare us such decisions and conditions this season!)

post #13 of 21

I would recommend Copper, Keystone, Loveland and A Basin in that order.

post #14 of 21

You don't have to tell work where your going, just that you won't be there.  All resort associations and tour companies get bulk fares to package with tickets, lodging, cars, etc.  Booking at the last minute in low season is easy and can even cost less than in advance.  

 

Schralping the pow instead of the WROD is priceless. 

post #15 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by segbrown View Post

I was out in Utah the first weekend last year, snow was very sparse. We were staying in Park City, but I drove over to Alta to ski. My take is that they open a lot more terrain under low snow than they do in Summit County. Admittedly, it's the only time I've been there in early season like that (although we did ski Alta and Snowbird the second week in Jan, also, and still there wasn't much new snow). But I've skied in Summit a lot in early season.

 

I didn't mind the occasional rocks and branches and bushes, because I was just glad to have more than two groomers to ski on. If you agree, go to Utah. But if you are averse to that sort of thing, go to Colorado. (I can't say anything for Whistler ... though there is the glacier, and I've been to Whistler in downloading conditions, and there was still a lot more terrain open than Utah or Summit combined. But it wasn't early season.)

 

(Let it be hear, oh Ullr, please spare us such decisions and conditions this season!)


Last season in N. UT stank until February when the snow cranked up nicely. April was so much better than January. I am told that pattern is typical of el nino years in UT.

post #16 of 21

 

Quote:
I am told that pattern is typical of el nino years in UT.

A little bit.  Based upon about 12 seasons, Alta snowfall as percent of normal in El Nino years:

December 77%

January 90%

February 98%

March 110%

 

Somewhat the other way with La Nina, but only 8 seasons:

December 118%

January 107%

February 101%

March 95%

 

I would caution all that is a marginal amount of data for fine breakdowns like that.  Nonetheless there is gut feeling among some longtime skiers that La Nina tends to favor early season and El Nino late season.

post #17 of 21

So Tony, I should go ahead and buy my ticket to SLC for early December? ........................Just kidding. I'm pretty sure I know the correct answer. nevertheless, I hope it's true for December.

post #18 of 21

I would just like to say that you do some damn fine work, Mr. Crocker.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post

 

A little bit.  Based upon about 12 seasons, Alta snowfall as percent of normal in El Nino years:

December 77%

January 90%

February 98%

March 110%

 

Somewhat the other way with La Nina, but only 8 seasons:

December 118%

January 107%

February 101%

March 95%

 

I would caution all that is a marginal amount of data for fine breakdowns like that.  Nonetheless there is gut feeling among some longtime skiers that La Nina tends to favor early season and El Nino late season.

post #19 of 21

We should have an Ask Tony Crocker forum here.

post #20 of 21

If you want to ski in early December it is always going to be a little chancey.  Book your air, don't worry about the hotel until the last minute, because if you are going to ski SLC, the best choice, there will be plenty of rooms no worry.  If it turns out to be a terrible year, then you can simply cancel and reschedule at the last minute for $150 on Delta. 

 

I always jot down a few notes after my trips.

12/3/06 - ONLY 40" base but skied just fine.  Want to know the truth about how the Bird skis on a 40" base, check out these pictures from post after early Dec 06. 

              http://www.epicski.com/forum/thread/49115/snowbird-pic-s-12-9

              SNOWBIRD IS AMAZING!!!!  Scroll down and look at all the 40" base pictures in that thread.

              Scroll to bottom to see snowfall that resulted in those pics  http://www.alta.com/pages/snowhistory_past.php?pastseason=20062007

               Looking at these snowfall total number, i think you need 100" of snowfall to produce a 40" base to make it worthwhile.  Much of the hill will be open then, with a few rocks to watch out for.  

12/7/07  2nd worst start in 42 yrs.  Only had a 30" base befure until it started snowing 5pm day before, they reported 7" but there was 24" new off Wildcat and Collins.  Snowed all day.

12/8/07 Snowbasin - only Needles open, but new snow made it all nice with gullies skiable

12/9/07 - 12" fresh on Gadzoom.

 

For that 07 trip, I was oh so close to canceling it, but we had a 4 ft falling as we came in that made our trip very, very nice.   From my personal experience, I would say if you have a 40" base at Snowbird/Alta you will be happy with your early season trip, 30" is too low.  Don't schedule the 1st weekend, but the 2nd weekend, better yet the 3rd weekend.  A 3 ft snow will change everything. 

 

The same thing happened happened at Aspen in 08 for our 2nd week of December trip.  It was slim pickings but a last minute big storm made the skiing just fine.  But I wouldn't schedule Co. before Xmas.  I did because I had freq flyer tickets I used for my group and the room were much cheaper.  But I am 4 for 4 with good conditions in December.  2 SLC, 1 Aspen, 1 Zermatt.  There is something very, very enjoyable about getting that first trip in before xmas!!!  Plus freq flyer tixs are much easier and rooms are cheaper (except for SLC where they are always cheap).

 

Now Check out the Alta Snowfall History   http://www.alta.com/pages/snowhistory.php#pastseasons

Also, if this is your only trip of the year, then December is a dumb choice.  Best is January/Feb.  Here we sit waiting for winter, it's oh so nice to be packing that ski bag in December, instead of waiting another month, after the holidays.   March i don't trust, because warm weather and sunny days ruins everything quickly.   We have this same thread every year and the last couple have been nailbiters!!


Edited by SnowbirdDevotee - 10/1/10 at 8:04am
post #21 of 21

 

Quote:
Also, if this is your only trip of the year, then December is a dumb choice.  Best is January/Feb.  Here we sit waiting for winter, it's oh so nice to be packing that ski bag in December, instead of waiting another month, after the holidays.   March i don't trust, because warm weather and sunny days ruins everything quickly. 

Snowbird Devotee and I have expressed our opposing views on the above subject before.  My Snowbird timeshare is second week of March and I've experienced a disproportionate share of spring conditions.  But the base is always deep, so you can ski the signature runs in Upper Cirque, Baldy, Bookends, Tigertail, etc.  And on those north facing steeps it's still winter snow in March even on T-shirt days.  If the base is not at least 70 inches, some of the expert stuff isn't going to be open yet, as I noted MLK weekend last season.  As far as powder is concerned, average snowfall incidence is remarkable smooth by month in LCC; see the comparison to Niseko in the "Most Snow in the World" thread.  So your odds for powder don't vary by month that much.  In my March timeframe the powder usually holds up for at least a day, which is how long it's going to last anyway with the avid locals.  A month later there are some aspects where the sun will get at the powder within a couple of hours.

 

Quote:
Looking at these snowfall total number, i think you need 100" of snowfall to produce a 40" base to make it worthwhile.  Much of the hill will be open then, with a few rocks to watch out for. 

I think 50 inch base is the benchmark for decent coverage at Snowbird.  Alta is far better if the depth is only 40 inches.  10% more snowfall at Alta and more importantly the base elevation is 700 feet higher and much easier to get covered adequately.  70 inch base is the point at which I think Snowbird's terrain quality starts to exceed Alta's.

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