I know that Ski Magzine will tell you that Vail is the best of the West as far as resorts are concerned. Because I would trust a DCSkier's advice before Ski Magizine's I want to know what you think the best ski resort to visit in the winter is. With price not at a worry, which resort would you most want to spend a week at???
My favorite is Fernie, BC and it will cost you less than half of Vail for far better skiing, and snow, and far fewer skiers.
David, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Most large ski areas (greater than 2 or 3 thousand vertical feet) can provide a nice destination. Denis is amazingly hardcore for a veteran guy and seems to most want: good snow, challenging terrain, and few other humans to get in the way. My interests are a little softer. I like a lot of terrain variety, but for a one week vacation I also enjoy some off slope diversions. Also, "price not a worry" is a huge qualifier. As a family guy I spend a lot of time scheming about how to get us to great skiing at low cost and subsequently often consider second tier resorts for ski trips. With an unlimited budget and seeking a complete vacation I would look at first tier giants such as Aspen, Vail, the Park City area of Utah (Deer Valley being prime budget buster), Lake Tahoe (perhaps Heavenly), and Whistler. Each pretty much has it all, on and off the slopes.
I like the ski mag reviews of ski areas as a rankings starting point. I compare my interests with what they say are strengths of various areas, then do my own internal ranking of destinations based on my preferences.
Of the places I've been:
I'd have to say the Aspen area is my favorite. I have not seen a better combination of three really significant and beautiful ski mountains (Ajax, Snowmass and Aspen Highlands) within 10 miles of each other; plus there is the outrageously interesting (and pricey) shops, restaurants, bars and ambiance of the town of Aspen.
Of the places I haven't been, I'd most like to go to the Three Valleys in France.
More discussion of my favs:
Just a brief reply:
Breckenridge, Squaw Valley, Whistler BC (Personally my Fav in North America), Utah (Snowbird/ Alta)
But to spend a week at -- either Lake Tahoe (and I strongly disagree w/ any recommendation of Heavenly as a place to visit) or most certainly Whistler BC. Whistler is like no place else in the skiing world. Over 7500 acres, 1 mile vert, and a village to die for.
For a ski trip with a diverse group of serious and non-serious skiers, it's tough to beat Whistler/Blackcomb, Aspen and even Vail. If you spend some time at Beaver Creek and Copper, there is enough challenging skiing for most people on a Vail vacation. For all of the above, you have to be willing to spend some bucks and know how to ski the mountains to avoid the crowds.
Tahoe and Utah are up there, but you have to do a lot more driving to get the same combination of nightlife and terrain variety.
I'm with Denis, in that I currently prefer off-the-beaten track, uncrowded, challenging mountains. The Powder Triangle in in-land BC (including Red, Fernie, Kicking Horse, cat skiing, heli skiing, other smaller areas) is right up that alley. Haven't been there yet. Wolf Creek and Kirkwood are two others on my short list.
Similar places that I have been to include Snowbasin, Powder Mountain, Brighton, Solitude in Utah; Taos, NM (though a bit small and not much snow recently); Aspen Highlands and A-Basin, CO. Jackson Hole is starting to get pretty crowded, though you can escape to Targhee (at the sacrifice of challenge.)
I have a soft spot for Big Mountain, Montana. Grand Targhee Wyoming is the best snow I've ever skied and great intermediate terrain. Whistler is the best all-around resort experience. North Tahoe and Utah rock if you're into off-piste terrain. Good intermediate resorts: Northstar at Tahoe, Stemaboat, and Grand Targhee. Lake Louise has some of the nastiest expert skiing I've ever done and views that are to-die-for. It all depends on what you're looking for, I guess.
Now, all that said, I'd like to really start a controversy. The most disappointing place I've been is Jackson Hole. Overhyped and frickin' cold. Snow is about the same quality as the Pacific Northwest, but you're paying Colorado $$$. Most of the advanced terrain isn't much steeper than their intermediate terrain, with a couple of obvious exceptions (Corbetts). Backcountry is supposed to be great but what's the point of going somewhere if your only goal is to get beyond the ski area boundary? Might as well go heliskiing in BC if that's your gig... and money is no object.
Guess I should weigh in tho since I have been so obnoxious lately maybe it is more like I am throwing my weight around (weight? Heck I only weigh 140 lbs LOL).
To paraphrase the movie Aspen Extreme .... "Vail looks like it was designed by the guy who did Wendy's". Nice hill but damum really too fancy and a bit "rococo".
Utah is very nice and really I think Salt Lake is BS as far as entainment (Park City has better food, but not the clubs, such as they are) but I have to agree Jackson Hole is a "hole" LOL great skiing but that's about it. Anything in BC is great but basically a crap-hole outside of skiing. For Real? Maybe Tahoe .... with the casinos (hey I am a gambler ... I'm drivin' to Vegas for Thanksgiving LOL see not quite the family man LOL) and the lake and nice skiing (tho the traffic is a bit hellish) I think Tahoe is a good place to be. That's more my speed. And unlike Utah you can get a decent mixed drink ... ohhhhh yeah!
Crush what's the deal with Snowbasin? I just checked out their website and they get the most disappointing development of the year award, but you can't say you didn't see it coming. Sun Valley bought them last winter and sure enough, this winter they have: a) significantly raised their lift ticket (to 55 bucks; didn't it used to be 45??); b) put a prominent sign out that there are NO discounts for inclement weather; c) changed all their photo shots to show uber-yuppies sitting with perfectly groomed hair in front of stone fireplaces that could be mistaken for caverns (I think I saw Osama hiding in one of them). Guess if I ever head to Ogden, it will be to go to Powder Mountain, where duct taped gloves still seem to be fashionable...
Re: Snowbasin. The prices were over $50 last winter, so they went up at most a few dollars this past year. Looking at an old trail map, the lift price in the year before the Olympics was $43; given the terrain, lifts, snow, lack of crowds, this was a better bargain than Alta. Knew that wouldn't once the Olympics hit. Still a bargain at $54 and it's my area of choice in Utah. Go there as often as possible in the next few years before things change...
Development and crowds will come to Snowbasin. There is talk of building a tram from Ogden to Snowbasin. This tram would rise over the back side of Snowbasin. This will inevitably increase skier traffic, especially the day trippers. (Beatles flashback.) Technically speaking, every Snowbasin visitor was a day tripper as of last year since there was no lodging at the base. I know there was a controversial land swap given to Earl Holding, the previous owner of Snowbasin. This swap would permit lodging development at the base. Don't know the current status of this development nor of Earl Holding's continued relationship with Snowbasin.
Despite this lack of sleep-over lodging at the base, the ski lodges at Snowbasin have the most garish and ostenateous display of ritziness I have ever seen at any ski area. Blows away Vail, Aspen and Deer Valley. I have never seen more fine carpeting, fancy chandeliers, plush furniture, fancy woodwork, et al in my life. It was a strange situation using the Men's Room. I swear the urinals were made of marble, and there was more chrome in the stalls than at a Bally's Gym.
Hey man, don't sweat the marketing to uber yuppies; they don't climb hike to's, ski agressive chutes, ski trees or do that well in powder. I'd be more worried if Snowbasin was marketing to the Alta crowd; those are the type of people who will be poaching your lines.
Re: the inclement weather, I'd avoid Snowbasin in poor visibility conditions. It has a lot of open bowls. But in poor visibility conditions, hit the trees off the John Paul Express. That's why God invented tree skiing.
Re: Powder Mountain. Skiied there last winter for the first time. I prefer Snowbasin. The lifts at Powder are slower than those at Timberline, WV, and cover more vertical. Imagine the wait on the lift. Plus, a lot of the good lines at Powder require two lifts and a lot of traversing. You just don't get in enough vert in one day. Still worth checking out for a day or two, especially since they have some bus-serviced terrain. Shades of the Partridge Family.
It's getting late, so I'll rag on you concerning Jackson Hole tomorrow. (Actually I agree with some of what you said.)
Ok, I'll jump on the controversy.
Jackson Hole is a great mountain for a group that has intermediate and up skiers. There are lots of blues and double blues to keep those intermediates on their toes. As for the steepness, I agree that Jackson is not as steep on some of the blacks. But that is not the allure of the expert skier's Jackson. While Corbett's gets all the publicity, the charm is in runs like Dick's Ditch or the Moran Face. These are expert, rock laden, pick your way down the mountain. Jackson's toughest runs scare the bejesus out of people when they look at them from the top and it scares them from even starting on the path.
While I get real bored on Jackson's groomed runs, that's not why I go there. One day I'll really be in shape to hike the Out of Bounds stuff.
On to Jackson Hole. I do think the expert terrain at Jackson is a bit overhyped compared to the terrain at other areas in North America. It can be an expensive place to stay and ski at, but it is certainly less than Vail, Aspen, etc. (I just checked the ticket prices for JH; the prices have gone up a lot since I was last there.) I don't think Jackson is any colder than any big mountain out west. From my experience, the snow is similar to Colorado snow. I don't see the comparison to the snow of the Pacific Northwest at all. Maybe Roger Z. hit some bad luck and caught some high moisture storms?
Quote: Did that come out as you intended it?
Most of the advanced terrain isn't much steeper than their intermediate terrain, with a couple of obvious exceptions (Corbetts).
Jackson Hole is a bit of a peculiar mountain in that as you are looking up the mountain from left to right, it consists of a series of ridges and gulleys coming straight at you down the mountain. A lot of the steep stuff flows from your right to left (or left to right) instead of straight at you. Hope this description makes sense to those who haven't been there. Some of the steep terrain is hidden in those ridges and may not be obvious that it exists. Jackson Hole Trail Map
That said, I can't see how someone wouldn't consider the following to not be steep: Tower Three Chutes, Alta Chutes, Expert Chutes, Bivouac, the Cirque area, the stuff above the Casper Traverse, the stuff around Cheyenne Bowl. It is certainly much steeper and tougher than the intermediate runs at JH. They certainly hold their own against advanced terrain elsewhere.
For most of the above mentioned trails, there is a lot of steep terrain in the adjacent woods. The Moran Face/Moran Woods area mentioned by Roy had some rocking terrain to play on. IMHO, it's some of the best on the mountain. It's not as steep as the rest of the expert terrain, but there are a couple of very short steep faces.
The Hobacks are certainly over-rated as expert terrain goes. They are nowhere near as steep as the ski mags make them out to be, they get a lot of skier traffic, and the combination of sun exposure and lower altitude makes for frequent challenging snow conditions.
Roger Z., opinions aren't right or wrong, they just are. I was a bit surprised that you didn't like the terrain at Jackson Hole.
Should have mentioned this before... Northstar @ Tahoe gets huge points in my book. One of the best overall resorts I have been to -- great varied terrain for all levels. This year they have started development of the new village... that will really raise the appeal of this Tahoe resort.
Veteran Guy. I love that; thanks Jim K. Will have to use it the next time my kids call me an old fart. As far as apres ski goes, I am very much an old fart. I just need a good dinner, a beer or 3, and a chance to be in bed by 8:30 or 9.
Here are a couple of old farts secrets for western trips;
Keep a full Camelbak on the nightstand and drink some water every time you wake up. Keeps you hydrated which is very important at altitude. When's the last time I slept all night without a trip to the bathroom anyway?
Learn to snowboard. Once past the early stages it is far easier on the body than skiing and is a great way to recover a bit without taking days off on a week long trip. Snowboarding may be the old fart's salvation. I don't understand why the idea hasn't caught on.
Ski early. Get first tracks. Even in late spring there is usually good powder up high in the shade in the morning.
When the body hurts remind yourself that you can recover all summer.