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USA/Canada New Year 17/18

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hi,

Just looking for some advice for a trip to USA/Canada over New Year. Mainly looking for recommendations and what to expect with conditions?

Resorts we have come across are:

Heavenly, Tahoe
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Stowe, Vermont
Banff, Canada

I snowboard and would be a solid intermediate and my fiance (wife at time of skiing) is a advanced skier

Thanks in advance
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Banff isn't a ski resort, it is a town with 1 very small ski hill. Two areas within easy driving distance are Sunshine Village, 20-30 minutes in a car, longer by bus. Lake louise is a good 45=55 minutes away.
Heavenly is part of the South Lake Tahoe area with several different ski hills within easy reach.
Steamboat resort is small and a good 3-4 hours from Denver airport.
Stowe, never been.
There are lots more places to go but be aware that most American ski areas are very small by European standards. Canada has the biggest with Whistler/Blackcomb and is relatively easy to get to with direct flights to Vancouver and an hours transfer.
Do a lot more research to find the area you want to go.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
@hammy050, I've skied first 3, not Banff. Difficulty with conditions is they're so variable year to year. For example, west coast (Heavenly) often has huge dumps but have also had drought years recently. Colorado has very high altitude and reputation for most frequent powder conditions. It was March when I skied Steamboat so not really comparable. East coast (eg Stowe) my experience is snow tends to be on the hard icy boneshaking side of ideal. I suspect Banff likely to be bitterly cold midwinter. I'm sure you can find average snow depth/temperature figures for each.

Personally I'd choose depending how time would be spent. If mainly snow sports, probably Colorado, driving to different areas if possible. If a few days snow sport as part of sightseeing, then Heavenly (near San Francisco, Yosemite etc) and Stowe (Boston, Vermont, New York etc) are good.

Have either of you boarded/skied in N. America before?
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Park City, Utah is hard to beat.

Easy access from Salt Lake City airport.
Plenty of accommodation, dining and off-snow entertainment at all price levels.
The Canyons and Park City for you and your wife. Deer Valley just for your wife.
Snowbird, Solitude, Brighton, Powder Mountain, Snowbasin for you and your wife all within 60 mins.
Alta too but ski only.
Great snow record.
Plenty of terrain.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
From your list

Stowe - big fat no. Not worth travelling transatlantic to ski the ice coast.

Heavenly - while Tahoe is great droughts in recent years ( not last) have made Xmas skiing dubious.

Banff and Steamboat probably reliable for snow. As above Steamboat is a longish transfer from Denver.
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Thanks for the replies - that's a great start. To be honest we haven't skied North America before. Size doesn't really matter too much - I have boarded in smaller resorts in Europe due to costs (student life). Now before family life we want to do a bigger, longer holiday possibly combining it with a city break at the beginning to acclimatise. Transfers aren't an issue really. In the past we have driven to our European destinations, often through the night so prepared for that.

I appreciate the advice on the icy side of things - would rather avoid that where possible (impossible to predict I know but it's good to prepare).

Heavenly seems to be Mrs hammy050's preferred choice.

Will look at park city - I've heard good things. Thanks so much for the advice so far - I will feed back to her tonight
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Condition-wise, of the mountains in your list Steamboat has the best snow record for the New Year period.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@hammy050, Tahoe is good not least because with a car you can ski a lot of different areas around the lake BUT I would seriously advise looking later in the season if you don't want to run the risk of another Cali drought.

Park City is ok but about the worst resort (crowds and uninspiring terrain) and snowfall in Utah. Plus as a baorder you wouldn't be able to go to Deer Valley.

For Colorado you could consider a split - Copper or Winter Park plus Steamboat. Wouldn't recommend the Vail resorts that time of year unless you are buying an Epic pass on cost and crowds basis.
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Quote:

longer holiday possibly combining it with a city break at the beginning to acclimatise

Quote:

Heavenly seems to be Mrs hammy050's preferred choice.

I think Lake Tahoe would be my choice. About a dozen winter resorts around the lake in addition to Heavenly, eg Squaw Valley, Northstar. San Francisco a great city to visit for a few days. Yosemite National Park justifies the overworked word 'awesome' IMO. Lots more to see in that part of California if wanted.
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 Ski the Net with snowHeads
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MikePow - on a previous thread, you mention that Whitefish, Montana is a good place to go. Could you shed any further light on this?
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abc wrote:
Condition-wise, of the mountains in your list Steamboat has the best snow record for the New Year period.


Uh, I'd like to see your evidence for that. Anecdotally it all depends - recently I've seen many refugees from down there up in BC, because of their snow conditions.

But snow varies: if you know where it's going to be good, you're wrong.

From your list...

  • Vermont? You need to know that the reason it's worth flying over there is for the good snow - the powder. And Vermont is on the wrong side of the continent for it, so whilst it's a wonderful place, you would probably find the skiing not significantly better than at home.
  • Colorado. Well it's flat, but the snow is almost as good as it gets, and it's very civilized.
  • California. Not really a destination ski place for Americans, because the snow's wet. But if you're in the area then there it is, and lots of Brits go there for whatever reason.
  • Banff. Not a bad introduction to Canada.


Conditions? Well it depends on where you go and which season. Last season Snowbird had epic early season conditions - record snowpack, but the end of the season was dry and warm. Whistler had an excellent start - plenty of snow and colder than normal. The interior (of BC) had piles of snow, making driving a challenge, but stability was good so we were riding steep and deep. Next season... anyone's guess.

Probably it doesn't really matter : it's all good. Just don't go to the right hand side unless you know what you're doing. And look up what "sierra cement" is first if you have some of the other places in mind.
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Sierra Cement is great for the same reason Whistler snow is. It sticks to lines that would largely be unskiable in Utah and Colorado.

But I'd still head to the interior for reliable early season snow.
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philwig wrote:
abc wrote:
Condition-wise, of the mountains in your list Steamboat has the best snow record for the New Year period.

[*]Colorado. Well it's flat...


Best joke I've heard today.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
hammy050 wrote:
MikePow - on a previous thread, you mention that Whitefish, Montana is a good place to go. Could you shed any further light on this?


Was going to suggest it, but not really near a city for the city break part of your trip.

However you could travel via Seattle.

Whitefish is both the lakeside town and the ski resort. Picture postcard pretty with a real downtown and a normal feel for a US ski town - as in not Disney. Great eating and drinking and FUN.

Glacier National Park can be seen from the top of the resort and makes a great day trip. Majestic alpine peaks and lakes. You can even take the train.

The resort has more than enough terrain for a week as long as you're happy skiing trees and tree lined runs. A few open bowls but it's the trees are what people go for.

Has a very good snow record, but that also means you may not see the views.

My first visit it snowed 27 of the 28 days.

Around the New Year period you'll get to meet a great bunch of people who are there to ski and party, not pose.

Spent one holiday, two full seasons and started and finished 3 other US winters there.

Never got bored of the people, terrain and vibe.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
@hammy050, I'm with Mike Pow on Whitefish, it's a great little town and hill with lots to explore if you venture into the trees and was deserted during the week whilst I were there. Fernie is easily accessible over the border if you fancy a 2 centre trip. I'll try and dig out a link to my TR.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Whitefish TR January 2008:

http://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewpost.php?p=846286
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Whitefish is a long way from an international hub airport. Calgary is arguably the best but you would literally be driving through Fernie plus another 90 mins and border crossing. Seattle is doable but a long haul across the plains of Washington
and maybe better to break the journey at Lookout or Silver.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
philwig wrote:
abc wrote:
Condition-wise, of the mountains in your list Steamboat has the best snow record for the New Year period.


Uh, I'd like to see your evidence for that.

Unfortunately, when epicski.com shuts down, a lot of those records went back into private.

(there's a guy who collected detail snow records for many of the "major" resorts in the US. He occasionally post a subset of his data on epicski.com, which is now gone)

Steamboat had particularly good early season snow, which is help further by its relatively "gentle" terrain where you don't have to worry too much about hitting thinly covered rocks. The extensive trees makes the skiing interesting despite lack of any super steep slopes)
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google Tony Crocker for the detailed snow records, including a subset of where it's most reliable over the holidays in North America. Weather is still a crap shoot, but following his records will up your odds.

Personally, I would go with Mike's suggestion of Salt Lake. There are enough resorts within reasonable driving distance that you have multiple microclimates represented, and at least one of them is likely to have reasonable coverage on at least most non-expert slopes by then.
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
I've skiied Heavenly Lake Tahoe out of San Francisco and Vail out of Denver a number of times. But in each case I've already been in either the Bay Area (and driven after business trip) or New York (flown, ditto). I was in Banff in September last year, on a summer holiday from Vancouver to Calgary.

Trouble is the flight time and jetlag. My wife flew out from the UK for a Vail trip and she was shattered by transit time and jetlag for at least three days. Didn't help that we had a fairly difficult drive in the snow and dark from Denver to Vail. I wouldn't want to do the long flight to SFR, arriving late afternoon, then US Immigration/Customs, then car hire pickup, then drive to Heavenly. We arrived in Denver late afternoon, similarly.

What you might consider is a few days 'doing' San Francisco, which would give everyone time to acclimatise and be fun. Then do the drive out to Heavenly with a 10am start instead of a 5pm start. Lots of choice of different accommodation in Heavenly. Heavenly is split between California and Nevada with the latter offering Las Vegas type gambling, drinking and accommodation offers. The area also has multiple bases which are spread out, so you will be staying in one of these. We stayed at the California base Tahoe Seasons Resort and just walked across the car park to the lift, rather than have to drive to/from. Upside was reasonable price and 100m from lifts, downside was we had to taxi/shuttle into the main town in the evening if we wanted to go outside the hotel. 14ft of snow base all three times I went to Heavenly, although I haven't gone recently, when they have had a couple of bad years.

Vail was really big ski area but the most expensive $/person skiing (and that includes Verbier at New Year!). Upside is it's right on the Interstate, so although further than other resorts, the transit time wasn't as different as you'd think. It's a large area with the distinctive 'bowl' skiing. We rented an apartment but could use hotel facilities like cinemas, pools etc. Similarly massive snow base to Heavenly.

Bear in mind that massive snow bases in the US and Canada can also mean massive snowfalls. Going all that way and then being unable to ski because of too much snow would be frustrating. Similarly, encountering poor snow or rain would be annoying. Tahoe has has a couple of very bad years recently and the Canadian resorts can vary a lot.

I've only seen Banff in the autumn but as mentioned, it's just a regular 'touristy' town with shuttles/drive to the ski area. Lots of accommodation options but I'm not sure I could be bothered to make the journey. We also stayed at Lake Louise (and had a snowfall one morning in mid-September!). Banff is about 2-1/2 hours drive out of Calgary, and Lake Louise another 1-2 hours from Banff. We agreed that we wouldn't be inclined to pay the extra cost, flight time and jetlag. But you will get a lot of responses from people who've loved the Canadian resorts.
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Just remember that ski brochures always make the distance from airport hub (SFR, Denver etc.) to resort look trivial. But in reality, say, SFR to Tahoe is about as far as from Dijon to Chamonix (over 300 Kms) - probably not a journey that you'd like to do in the dark, in a hire car and jetlagged. Calgary to Banff is a more reasonable 130Kms. Denver to Vail is about 160 Kms but the vertical climb is significant (Vail is at 2,450 metres) - I'd prefer to do all these transfers un-jetlagged and starting in the morning, not late afternoon (which is when most transatlantic flights arrive) which means at least the first night near the airport.

In which case the San Francisco suggestion is attractive, especially if you've not been before and/or you're happy to spend 2-3 nights in SFR sightseeing and then do the 4h 34m drive to South Lake Tahoe refreshed, in the light, with plenty of time to spare. You'll also be 6-7 hours ahead of anyone from Europe landing the same day.

I suppose the same could be said of Vancouver and Whistler? That is, you could stay in Vancouver a few nights and then go up to Whistler at leisure, in the daytime - I'll let someone else comment on that as I've not skiied there .....

Without wishing to insult these cities, I wouldn't say that either Calgary or Denver have enough going for them in the middle of winter to make a multi-night stay as interesting as SFR or Vancouver.
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Dave of the Marmottes wrote:
Whitefish is a long way from an international hub airport. Calgary is arguably the best but you would literally be driving through Fernie plus another 90 mins and border crossing. Seattle is doable but a long haul across the plains of Washington
and maybe better to break the journey at Lookout or Silver.


If you're prepared to fly non-direct then Whitefish has arguably the shortest transfer out there, less than 30 mins.

UK - Chicago or Minneapolis - Kalispell
UK - Seattle - Kalispell

For a very different experience you could fly to Seattle, spend a couple of days exploring the city, then take the Amtrak Empire Builder train overnight arriving in Whitefish for breakfast and a day on the slopes.

You could also ski the resorts near Seattle as day trips. Great skiing and views.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
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Hi

Banff is about 1 hr 15 min from Calgary, nowhere near the two hrs mentioned. I do Lake Louise in 1 hr 45 from Calgary.

Banff would be good, potentially chilly and potentially early season snow (thin cover, rocks poking through)
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I was trying to be be realistic in terms of bus to car hire, picking up the car, getting out of the airport, round to the freeway, into Banff, finding the hotel, parking etc. i.e. Actual door-to-door time.
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Salt Lake City is a great base. I don't think I would commit to accommodation in Park City if booking for New Year. Although they have good snow making there have been some warm years recently giving them a bad start to the season. Alta/Snowbird is pretty snow sure.

Some airline is offering a non stop flight from the UK to SLC. Transfers are short. Nothing like the misery of Denver to Vail.
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TQA, If you are thinking of the LHR to SlC with Delta, IIRC they are stopping it for the winter season.

Still a good destination though, and possibly worth considering, but it will be busy I suspect.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Thank you everyone for all your replies. I don't post much on here but the feedback has been brilliant and really going a long way to helping us decide what we do. At the moment the OH is telling me San Fran then Tahoe is winning however I will be feeding back some of the above answers to her and see what she thinks.
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Utah. Hire car and stay in SLC. Buy discounted lift passes from Canyon Sports in SLC and do the easy commute to the many local resorts - except Alta & Deer Valley which are skiers only.

If budget no object stay a few nights at the Cliff Lodge Hotel at Snowbird as if you catch a heavy dump then the access road to the resort will he closed until midday and only those staying on the mountain can get at the fresh stuff.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
hammy050 wrote:
Thank you everyone for all your replies. I don't post much on here but the feedback has been brilliant and really going a long way to helping us decide what we do. At the moment the OH is telling me San Fran then Tahoe is winning however I will be feeding back some of the above answers to her and see what she thinks.


You might want to check on snow conditions at Tahoe that early in recent years. GW sucks.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
I live in New England and ski Stowe a lot. It can be great and is a very nice resort town. The BUT is that in January you could have heavy rain, powder, and super cold temperatures, and you could have it all in a week. It's also comparatively small. I would not fly from Europe just to ski in New England. Much better options in Europe. Snow in the Tahoe resorts is much less consistent than in Utah and CO. The California resorts got huge snow last year. But they had a string of poor snow years prior to last year. I believe it was the year before last they had very little snow and most resorts had very little terrain open for much of the year. I'd say CO or Utah would have a better chance of having good snow that time of year. I've never been to Banff and have always wanted to go. I always hear great things about the town. It's inland and pretty far North. Days are short and temperatures tend to be pretty cold in early January. Has a reputation of being better later in the season. Same is pretty true of Montana. I really think your best bets are in Colorado or Utah. The Salt Lake City airport is very easy to navigate and is only about 30 to 40 minutes away from Alta, Snowbird, Brighton, Solitude, and Park City. You could stay in SLC near the entrance to Big (Solitude and Brighton) and Little (Alta and Snowbird) Cottonwoods Canyons. You could drive to those resorts (may need all wheel drive) and there are buses. It's an expensive option. My issue with SLC is that it doesn't feel at all like a ski resort. It's a large working city and often doesn't have snow. It's not bad really, it's just not a ski resort. IMO, Park City is, IMO, a great ski town. Downtown is lined with restaurants, shops, bars, etc. The buildings are mostly Victorian era. Really nice. We've enjoyed skiing at PCMR, mostly been on the Canyons side. It is sprawling, the runs are typically not very long, and it can be a challenge to find your way around at first. And it doesn't have the snow record of places like Alta and Snowbird. You can drive from Park City to Alta, Snowbird, etc. My wife and I have done it quite often. It's about an hour drive each way. I have less experience in CO. Breckenridge is a lovely ski resort town which is likely to be very busy at New Years. I've enjoyed skiing there but I feel like the skiing is sort of bipolar. The greens are very flat and the blues are quite flat. And a lot of more challenging terrain is up in the bowls and is much more challenging. Someone with more experience might be able to elaborate, but I don't recall much terrain for "advanced but not expert" level skiers. The base at Breckenridge is also at about 9500 feet (around 2900 meters) so altitude sickness can be an issue. Vail would also likely be very busy at that time of year. The times I've skied Vail I've really enjoyed it, but personally, I don't like the town much. It's purpose built and, IMO, lacks any semblance of charm. I've never been to Steamboat but I think it's an option you should a close look at. The base is considerably lower and it has a very good reputation for early season snow. It's far enough away from Denver that it likely won't be as crowded. And I think Aspen would be another resort to take a close look at; 4 ski areas. You could stay in Aspen or Snowmass. Finally, I don't know anything about the snow record that time of year, but I'd certainly do some research on Whistler.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Breck Peak 10 groomers are pretty much the definition of advanced but not expert as is the top terrain at Peak 6. Basically advanced skiers in the US are expected to be skiing ungroomed single diamonds and there is plenty of that type of terrain. In fact until you're getting into Lake Chutes, Windows and Peak 9 drops to E chair there isn't proper expert terrain.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Hi everyone. A little update for you all. After plenty of deliberation it looks like we are heading to Banff. Flying out boxing day and returning on the 6th Jan.
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