Advice on western ski resorts
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k_alice
October 3, 2007
Member since 11/22/2005 🔗
92 posts
Hi - I'm planning a January ski trip to the rockies with my family, including two boys, very solid skiers ages 9 and 11. We've skied in the Alps a lot but I've actually never been to western ski resorts (my husband has, but years ago). There are so many choices, and I've been reading posts on Goski.com, but I could use some advice from the DCski crowd. We're likely to travel with another family with kids - they're all enthusiastic, but pretty novice skiers, so we need a place with enough beginner trails to make our friends feel confident on the slopes. We don't care much about a raging nightlife, but a little atmosphere would be nice - easy slope access makes a big difference with kids too. We don't mind driving a while from a major airport. Reliable snow also desirable \:\)

Also, any advice about deals on lift tickets would be welcome.

thanks!
JimK - DCSki Columnist
October 3, 2007
Member since 01/14/2004 🔗
2,697 posts
You are an early planner. Have you started to track airfares and look at http://www.vrbo.com for condos? After Jan 5 should be crowd free for the most part. There are a bunch of almost equally good areas within 2 hrs drive of Denver Airport: Copper, Breck, Keystone, Winter Park, depending on what catches your fancy. Vail is another hour west, Aspen another two hours. Both generally more expensive, but with nicest resort towns and great terrain.
From SLC Airport you have the trio of great areas around Park City Resort or the challenge of Alta/Snowbird, all within 1 hr drive.
I hope to have a story published next month on DCSki about a fine experience my family had at Keystone last season. It might fit your situation very, very well. Here's a little teaser: http://www.dcski.com/ubbthreads33/ubbthr...=true#Post35078
comprex
October 3, 2007
Member since 04/11/2003 🔗
1,326 posts
k_alice, to add to JimK's post, one thing to be aware of is that not all beginner trail labels are the same. For example, a green at Snowbird is not the same as a green at Breckenridge or Vail and can be quite scary to some novices. I find it the overall mountain a bit closer to Alpine steepness, but that's me.

You are an early planner, but that is fully justified IMHO, as I expect you will be competing with an extraordinary crush of vacationers from both here and abroad, based on the recent dollar ah, disparity.
crunchy
October 3, 2007
Member since 02/22/2007 🔗
596 posts
 Originally Posted By: comprex
one thing to be aware of is that not all beginner trail labels are the same. For example, a green at Snowbird is not the same as a green at Breckenridge or Vail and can be quite scary to some novices.


and some of the double blacks can be scary to experts \:\)


 Quote:
I find it the overall mountain a bit closer to Alpine steepness, but that's me.


i think snowbird definitely has some steep terrain, and kinda looks intimidating when you drive up the canyon and see it for the first time.

but alta/snowbird should have the best snowpack out of the other SLC areas because their base elevation is close to the peak elevation of the others.


Anyone ever been to SnowBasin? I've heard its a great place for the family and very plush since it was spiffed up for the '02 olympics, yet doesn't draw the huge crowds like more well known named resorts.
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The Colonel - DCSki Supporter
October 3, 2007
Member since 03/5/2004 🔗
3,098 posts
k_Alice,
This will be a quick note and I'll be more specific later.
I have skied most of the Utah resorts many times, and many of the Colorado resorts, especially along I-70. I have gone alone and with my family.
In Colorado I would probably suggest Copper or Breckenridge, with Vail almost equal. Copper has an amazing trail layout, with the numerous green trails well separated from the blues and the blues from the blacks. It has a nice base area, but it is not as diverse as Vail or Breckenridge. Breck has a good trail layout, numerous greens and blues, etc. and a vintage town to enjoy after skiing.
In Utah you would probably be best off, at least initially, in the Park City area...another vintage mining town. Park City Ski Area has plenty of terrain to suit all skier types. Deer Valley is the Cadilac of ski areas with tremendous blue-green terrain and a fantastic ski school...it sould be since the price is steep, but you get what you pay for.
All have wonderful children's ski schools. Park City is convenient to the other Utah resorts should any of you want to escape to the legendary Alta/Snowbird, or elsewhere. And, of course Salt Lake City has professional sports, and many other big city ammenities that your family could enjoy. Watching the Mormon Tabernacle Choir practice on Thursday night is a must!
More later...hope this whets your appetite.
The Colonel \:\)
k_alice
October 4, 2007
Member since 11/22/2005 🔗
92 posts
Thanks for all the responses! I guess I am planning early, but I have too much fun checking out all the resort/travel websites, and I thought I might get some "early booking" deals. I had looked at vrbo.com but there were so many choices it seemed a little hard to navigate. I'll check it out again. It seems you can get decent plane+lodging+car packages on Expedia. But they don't include lift tix.

I'll check out Copper, Breckenridge, Keystone - initially, it looked like I could get better airfare into Denver than SLC.

I'm wondering if the ski schools are worth it for the kids - they seem really pricey. When I was in Switzerland last year, I paid about $150 for a week of (half day) lessons, which seems to be close to the one day rate in the rockies!

Other folks have suggested Tahoe and Crested Butte...
therusty
October 4, 2007
Member since 01/17/2005 🔗
422 posts
Alice,

You should add Steamboat to your list:
-Lots of slopeside access
-Huge amount of beginner terrain
-Reliable snow
-Fantastic glade skiing for all abilities
-Free shuttle to a real town with some nightlife
-Great ski school
comprex
October 4, 2007
Member since 04/11/2003 🔗
1,326 posts
 Originally Posted By: crunchy

Anyone ever been to SnowBasin? I've heard its a great place for the family


True. There is a ton of blue-level terrain including wide open powder fields that one can quite easily learn to ski pow on. Green terrain is, well, not enormously extensive, and is generally accessed by different lifts than any of the rest of it. Which is a good thing for beginners can find the top, particularly the top of Strawberry, quite an eyeful. Assuming it isn't socked in, that is.

Sorry to be a wet blanket here; I've taken several beginners there with 2-8weeks local and Mass/NH/VT experience, only to see them freeze up and never even get to those easy pow fields for fear.

 Quote:

and very plush since it was spiffed up for the '02 olympics,


Yes, true. I usually save up going to the bathroom until we get to the hill, it's nicer ;\)

 Quote:
yet doesn't draw the huge crowds like more well known named resorts.


That's less the case now. When the basin is good, I think you'll see locals turn out. I've had waits up to 45 mins at the main gondola (and 25mins at Strawberry on a TUESDAY!!!). When it's an ice sheet they won't, but... The other drawback is far fewer nearby lodging options, so she's facing an hour drive from the Lift House, say.
comprex
October 4, 2007
Member since 04/11/2003 🔗
1,326 posts
rusty do us a favor some time and share your standards of what makes a good, indifferent, great ski school, separate thread maybe?
SCWVA
October 4, 2007
Member since 07/13/2004 🔗
1,051 posts
I'm a fan of Steamboat for several reasons.

- Fly straight into Steamboat and take a 15min. shuttle to your place. No rentacar is needed. Once you're there, a free shuttle will take you everywhere you need/want to go in SB.
- Lots of ski in/short walk condos/TH's.
- Your kids will have a blast. Lots of things to do.
- Great Town. Very friendly people (unlike other places in CO.) \:\(
- Great snow. The rest of CO wished they got SB's snow.

Great for a 4-5 day trip.
Roger Z
October 5, 2007
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
I'm glad some folks mentioned Steamboat, it has a great ski school. I've taken two newbies there and they've both been low intermediate by the time we left. The snow is consistent, and Utah-light. The Sunnyside skiing will keep intermediates and novices entertained for days. Overall a good experience.

I also am liking Park City more and more with each trip there- not just the resort town but the Park City ski area in general. There are a LOT of long runs to enjoy, and the intermediate terrain is some of the most uncrowded slopes I've seen for a western resort. The week after Sundance is apparently the week to be there- the town empties out as do the ski areas.

If you want something out of the way, and are willing to take a chance with weather (in this case, clouds and fog), Big Mountain in Montana is a pretty neat place. I'd like to get back there someday.
kwillg6
October 5, 2007
Member since 01/18/2005 🔗
2,022 posts
My son at age 4 went to Brek's peak 8 children's ski school and had the BEST experience there. Of course everythign in a ski school depends upon the instructor and the philosophy of the particular director in the school's approach to the number in a group, the terrain used, and overall experience. Children and even teens can benefit from lessons if they are matched to the correct instructor. When I taught kids, I would try to match the skills I taught to the available safe terrain. You would be surprised how many ski schools limit what terrain an instructor can teach on. Also, one last observation. In going to a ski school, you get what you pay for. If you are looking for a bargain in a ski school, what you will get will generally be poor quality instruction, by unmotovated instructors. If reservations are recommended, it's usually a good sign that thye place caps on the number of children they will put in a group which means low student/instructor ratio and a more plesant experience for your child. I have worked at ski schools in the mid atlantic which take as many kids as are parents to pay. Money for the school, headaches for the instructors, and not enough attention to each kid. Sorry about my rant, but one and never play down the importance of a quality experience in kid's ski school.
Prospector
October 5, 2007
Member since 09/15/2007 🔗
15 posts
For our first trip out west, Keystone, Colorado was recommended to us for sking At that time we were not great skiers so we were nervous about this experience. We loved it and went back several times. Keystone has night skiing which I understand is not very common out west. So, you can tour during the day and still get some time in on the mountain. The area is not very commercialized as I remember it.

There aren't a lot of green slopes at Keystone that I remember, but there was one from the top of the mountain that was very long, wide open and well groomed. We were very content to continue to cruise on it and add an occasional blue slope.

I've seen (not skied) both Park City and Breckenridge and they are neat towns.....I lean toward Park City since it is a little smaller and has a great old western town feel. I want to get there some time.

I've also seen (not skied) Snowbird and it looked scary if you are a novice.

Lake Tahoe is a beautiful place, but I haven't skied there.
MadMonk
October 5, 2007
Member since 12/27/2004 🔗
235 posts
I'd really recommend Utah over CO for your first trip. First, the altitude is easier to manage than the Summit County resorts (Breck, Keyston, Copper, A-Basin). Second, they're much easier to get to, which I place a premium on when travelling with kids (though this year will be my daughter's first trip west, she's three).

From what I understand Park City and Alta both have great ski schools for children. If you stay in Park City you can ski any of the three areas there without problem, or you can catch the Canyon Hopper shuttle (or drive if you rent a car) over to Big Cottonwood Canyon (Solitude/Brighton) or Little Cottonwood Canyon (Alta/Snowbird).

As for beginner terrain I'd probably stick with Park City and Deer Valley in the Park City area (I find the many cat tracks at The Canyons to be hard on beginners). Otherwise I'd try Solitude which has been my favorite place to ski out there. You get the same snow as Alta/Snowbird w/out any of the crowds. I've also heard great things about Powder Mountain, but have yet to try it out.
wojo
October 5, 2007
Member since 01/17/2005 🔗
306 posts
Steamboat is GREAT. transport from airport and in town is easy. Mt. is excellent. Recommend a night at the pool in town (fed by hotsprings).

Utah is great to . . . this board has lots of posts singing the praises of each resort in UT. Bus is nice for teens and dads, but little kids and moms may not like it. Staying in town/suburbs is very doable without a rent a car in UT.

Have a great time.


 Originally Posted By: SCWVA
I'm a fan of Steamboat for several reasons.

- Fly straight into Steamboat and take a 15min. shuttle to your place. No rentacar is needed. Once you're there, a free shuttle will take you everywhere you need/want to go in SB.
- Lots of ski in/short walk condos/TH's.
- Your kids will have a blast. Lots of things to do.
- Great Town. Very friendly people (unlike other places in CO.) \:\(
- Great snow. The rest of CO wished they got SB's snow.

Great for a 4-5 day trip.

tromano
October 6, 2007
Member since 12/19/2002 🔗
998 posts
I never skied CO before, but in UT Alta, solitude, and Deer Valley all seem to have pretty good beginner trails. DV also seems to ahve more easy blue and green groomers than the others so it might be a preferred choice. I am not familiar with PCMR, but I recommend against taking beginners to either Snowbird or the Canyons, their just isn't much there for them to ride at the bird and the canyons is really confusing and easy to get lost for newbies. My Wife took an advanced lesson at Alta last season and she liked their instruction. We never tried the other places, I am sure they are great though.
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