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Scooter's North American Ski Resort Suggestions for European Skiers

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Scooter's North American Ski Resort Suggestions for European Skiers

Geographical area covered: “North America” here means Rockies and west. Why not East? Because you are coming over here to ski the best that we have to offer. As my friends from the East Coast readily concede: nobody ever moves from Colorado to Vermont for the skiing.

Ski areas covered: the places I believe most first-time or infrequent visitors from Europe would want to ski in the respective States/Provinces. About half are very large resorts, though I’ve included plenty of smaller areas that are worth a visit for those who like to move around a bit.

Timing: avoid Christmas and school holidays or expect higher costs and crowds, same as the Alps. The closer your target area is to a metro area, the more important this is. Any trips before the new year could be limited by coverage issues. I’m also assuming you’ll have a week or more for your trip, since you’re coming all that way.

Lift tickets: as you know they are expensive, possibly your biggest trip cost depending on where you sit on the airplane. Ski where you want and investigate their discounts for advance purchase of multi-day tix etc., or take a look at the multi-area passes which can save big time, especially for road trippers. I’ve noted after each resort name the pass(es) they’re on (if any), limited to the three biggest, Ikon, Epic and Mountain Collective. Be aware that the secret is out about these passes, and the crowding they have brought is an issue at some resorts. Some areas require a surcharge, and the included resorts change each year, so check.

Lessons: This is really outside the scope of this piece, and besides, no matter where you go, it all comes down to the instructor doesn’t it? I’ve found the more focused experience of private lessons to be a better value and a better use of time, and you can’t get “put into the wrong class” that way.

Dining: It is indisputable that on-slope dining is nowhere near as good or as abundant as the Alps. In town the gap is narrower but still big. Staying in is very doable if you don’t need a vacation from your own cooking.

Tipping: is customary in restaurants, bars, for guides & instructors and so forth. Not in retail or rental shops. It is what it is. Please understand that most of these people are paid less than minimum wage, so tip income is essential to get their overall income to a level that will barely attract and retain people who want to work in a resort and take care of us. If you’re looking for guidance, 15-20% is customary, but I say: tip like you’re rich; the cost difference isn’t much and they’ll feel good and so will you. It is well known that the best tippers are waitstaff, which is saying something.

Rental cars and Driving: it is much easier to get AWD over here, and I think you should; you won’t need chains if you do. “Chains” and “vacation” do not belong in the same sentence! You’ll like the price of gasoline, maybe the only thing on your trip that is cheaper than in Europe. As for driving, you already know we drive on the right, but sadly I must inform you that (on multi-lane roads) very few people observe the “keep right except to pass” law that is obeyed to a much greater extent in Europe. I love the autobahn!

Cannabis: is legal in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California and Colorado, with each jurisdiction having various restrictions but all mandate 21 yrs or older and no smoking in public, which includes the ski areas. It is nothing to be concerned about if you aren’t interested; you might not even notice. If you are interested, be smart and considerate about it. Speaking of smoking, you’ll see way less cigarette smoking over here, and more restrictions on it as well.

For additional information you may also wish to read my recent post “Comparing the Alps and North America-with a twist”.

So now it is time to point ‘em. Where?

British Columbia

Whistler (Epic) is the biggest ski area in North America, and also one of the best. It is worth anyone’s consideration as a first-time over the pond destination. It has steeps, very long groomers, big bowls, and an excellent, modern lift system. Some of the lodging is ski-in, ski-out, and nearly all of it is reasonably conveniently located. I wouldn’t call it cheap. The village is truly massive, and has something for everyone (very good for non-skiers), though to some it resembles a shopping mall with the same chain stores you see everywhere. Whistler’s vertical is exactly one mile, though usable vertical can be somewhat less, as its proximity to the Pacific Ocean means that marine weather can bring rain to the lower mountain and fog to the above-treeline upper reaches. Whistler’s weather gets debated ad nauseum in this forum, so here are the facts, per Environment Canada: on average, each of the four core months of the ski season bring 10 days with rain and 12 with snow. So come, just don’t be surprised if you get some suboptimal weather. I think Whistler’s main attributes are its many long, interesting pistes and in the right weather, Euro-style off-piste skiing up top. It is somewhat isolated, so not a natural for a multi-area road trip, and besides its so big you could spend a winter there and not get bored. Definitely on your short list. Portal: Vancouver (YVR), 90 minutes away. Lots of shuttles, and you don’t need a car once there. No train service.

Great skiing in BC is by no means limited to Whistler. A couple hours east in the Okanagan portion of the BC interior, each small city has its own hill, and many are excellent. Three of my favorites are Big White (Kelowna/YLW), Silver Star (Vernon/YLW) and Sun Peaks (Kamloops/YKA or YLW). There are shuttles to each and no car is needed once there, unless you want to sample more than one, which is a fun approach. All have a family orientation but don’t let that deter you; these are great hills with excellent lift systems and endless, long, well-groomed pistes. Silver Star in particular has numerous blacks that will challenge anybody. All 3 have perhaps the most accessible lodging in NA; all of Silver Star’s is in the middle of the ski area and BW & SP are nearly as convenient. Skiing from your room down to the lift in the morning and skiing down to your room at day’s end…as y’all would say: sorted. I listed the portals above, but you could also just get off the plane in Vancouver (YVR) and drive from there.

Just up the road a bit you will find Revelstoke (Ikon & MC) and Kicking Horse, two shiny one-trick ponies. Both were small local hills with huge potential which is slowly being realized. On powder days, which are not rare, these hills have great terrain and tons of vertical. Anybody who likes to ski powder, especially in trees, wants to be there on those days. Trouble is, that’s all they have. Barely-adequate lift systems and limited pisted terrain means these are not the place to be if it hasn’t snowed lately. I think both are overhyped because of this. However, they are great in combination with the some of the other BC interior areas for an epic road trip on the so-called “Powder Highway”. Portals: Kelowna (YLW) or Calgary (YYC).

Speaking of the Powder Highway, the portion in Southeastern BC contains Kimberley, Panorama (MC), Red Mountain, Whitewater and Fernie, which are all excellent smaller areas with tons of character and great snow. For those crossing the pond, these only make sense for advanced skiers looking for a road trip-type adventure. For that, they are second to none. You could even include Whitefish MT or Schweitzer ID on the same itinerary. Portals: same as the Okanagan areas, or Spokane, WA (GEG).

Alberta

Snow country is cold, but Alberta is really cold. This is why Lake Louise (Ikon & MC) is an early date on the World Cup calendar. Very beautiful (in a National Park, and you’ll need a parking permit), with abundant wildlife whose protection is taken seriously; during the aforementioned races large sections of the crash fences are laid down at night to permit animals to cross. In the morning they look for and document any animal tracks. You’ll probably see bighorn sheep while you’re there. LL is not huge but what is there is choice and it has a great vibe. It also has the largest selection of balaclavas I’ve ever seen. Down the road about half an hour is Banff Sunshine (Ikon & MC), which isn’t as well known as LL but is almost as good…maybe more steeps. Lodging is nearby with the usual mix of inns and condos, as well as the enormous Chateau Lake Louise for a more luxe experience. Portal: Calgary (YYC), car not essential, but I lean that way (almost everywhere, I like to set my own schedule).

Washington

My home state is not a place for ski tourism, though it has one terrific mostly-day area: Crystal Mountain (Ikon). Lots of steeps, chutes, trees and bowls. A very good ski area but definitely not worth building a vacation around unless you are in Seattle for other reasons. The Ikon Pass caused unprecedented crowding issues here, resulting in a apology letter from the CEO. Portal: Seattle (SEA), and you’ll need a car.

Oregon

One of the unknown gems of NA is Mt. Bachelor, a volcano. It is a unique and snowsure area, open from late November to late May. “Bachelor” is well named, as the mountain is all by itself, a few miles from four other volcanoes which provide stunning views. I mention volcanoes because they are not what you’re used to seeing in the Alps or elsewhere in NA. Their prominence is unsurpassed, rising above the surrounding terrain by 4,000’ or more. Bachelor is sneaky-big, the 6th largest area in the US. It has terrific, long interesting cruising; great tree skiing and unusual off-piste terrain, owing to its volcanic origins. The conical shape and singular nature of the mountain makes it possibly the easiest to navigate. Not a ton of steeps. Probably the best spring skiing in NA with plenty of sun, and you can golf or fly fish in the afternoon. No village or lodging at the hill; that’s 30 minutes away in Bend, a very lively town that might well be the beer capital of the US. A great family resort community south of Bend is Sunriver, also 30 minutes from the hill. I have been skiing at Mt. B for 45 years and I’d move to Bend if the Mrs. would allow it. Portal: Redmond (RDM). You’ll want a car.

California

The skiing you need to know about is centered around Lake Tahoe, with the exception of Mammoth (Ikon & MC), which is accurately named with great pitch and a lift system to match, though it is hard to get to. You can do a long day trip from Tahoe if you’re so inclined. It can have very good spring skiing in deep years. Portal: Mammoth Lakes (MMH).

But mainly its Tahoe, which is split between North Shore and South. Up north the biggest and best is Squaw/Alpine (Ikon & MC). Although next door to each other and soon to be connected with a long-delayed gondola, they have different skiing. Squaw has tons of fun steeps and long bump runs with great beginner terrain as well. But the cruising runs are short and boring. Alpine is more balanced and laid back; better cruising but not as many steeps. Together its a good place to ski though they can be crowded on weekends. The beauty of the Sierras is on full display…granite, pines, and the lake in the distance. Lots of lodging options both at Squaw, whose village now looks like a mini-Whistler, and all over the Lake Tahoe region. The nearby town of Truckee has a great vibe; if you don’t stay there, eat there. Elsewhere at North Shore, Northstar, Mt. Rose & Sugar Bowl all are fun places to ski, but are definitely a notch down. In terms of snow, the Sierras are more prone to feast-or-famine seasons, but when it snows they get by far the biggest dumps of anywhere in NA; a single storm can bring 6-7 feet, usually of “Sierra Cement”. This can make for a long spring season with bankable sunshine. Portal: Closest and best is Reno (RNO). San Francisco (SFO) and Oakland (OAK) are options 4 hours away, and combining a ski trip with SF, one of the great cities in America, isn’t a bad idea. Car needed.

South Shore gets you Heavenly (Epic), which has something for everyone. The view of Lake Tahoe from Heavenly is one of the best in skiing. A unique aspect to South Shore is its close proximity to the casinos in Stateline, NV. This is fun even if only for the people-watching, but folks on a budget can find affordable lodging and food in their hotels. A smaller area with a nice vibe is Kirkwood (Epic), a 45 minute drive through the beautiful Christmas Valley. It is worth a day or two. Portal: same as North Shore areas.

Idaho

Sun Valley (Epic) is very accurately named, which cuts both ways. Possibly the most sun of any area over here, they also have by far the most extensive snowmaking system in NA because they need it, and the typically cold temps make it possible. Excellent terrain with consistent pitch, long runs and a bit of tree skiing. Good lift system and above-average lodges. If you like to rack up a lot of vertical you can do it here. The mountain can shrink a bit if it hasn’t snowed in a while, as the fantastic, numerous bump runs get hard. Dollar Mountain, the beginner area, is a couple miles away…maximum separation, great for everyone involved except for parents trying to be in two places at once. Hailey is a nice little town with a laid-back vibe while Sun Valley, a mile or two away, is a little more posh and quieter. Non-skiing spouses like it here more than most areas. Portal: Hailey (SUN). Shuttles and busses work pretty well. If you have a car and some ambition, you can rip over to Jackson Hole or Grand Targhee.

Wyoming

Wyoming is home to one of the best ski areas in the world, Jackson Hole (Ikon & MC). The most vertical in the US, and it is all worth skiing. Steeps, chutes, couloirs, groomers, trees, Jackson has it all, including attitude from the tragically hip locals. Ignore them and come anyway, this place has the goods; no less an authority than Jean-Claude Killy agrees! Lodging is expensive at the base (Teton Village) with the notable exception of the famous Hostel X. If you are on a tight budget you can stay there and save big time, just be prepared to hear a pin drop (and worse) from the adjacent rooms. 15 minutes away in the town of Jackson there is the usual array of lodging options. The town has a bit of western flavor but is otherwise nothing special. Not good for non-skiers; you come here for the serious skiing, and getting here ain’t easy. Keeps the crowds down, although locals would not like your Ikon pass. Definitely on the short list for accomplished skiers. Portal: Jackson (Jac). Shuttle/busses can work unless you want to include Targhee or Big Sky (or Utah, in which case you should use Salt Lake City as your portal). Also you can fly into Idaho Falls (IDA); car required.

About an hour over Teton Pass is Grand Targhee (MC), a great ski area that doesn’t get a lot of press. On the front side of the range, it gets great snow and more of it than Jackson. Nice, continuous pitch. Worth the drive; wear yourself out for three days at JH, then come here for a fun relaxed day or two. It’s way more chill here. Some lodging at the hill, and more affordable options in the little town of Driggs ID, through which you must drive to access the area. Portal: same as Jackson.

Montana

The biggest and best ski area in Montana is Big Sky (Ikon & MC). Once maligned for not enough steeps, this was solved when they installed the Lone Peak Tram. Endless groomers, and its remote location and bigger-than-Vail size means it is never, ever crowded (although this is one of the areas where locals have whined about it being overrun by Ikon passholders). Notably cold, right there with Alberta, which means good quality snow that stays that way. Comparatively expensive lodging, and the bloom is off the rose on much of the lodging at the hill; plenty of other options are nearby and well connected by busses. A great road trip paired with Jackson and Targhee. Portal: Bozeman (BZN), 45 minutes away. Shuttle can work depending on where you are staying.

I should mention Whitefish. An excellent smaller area with a full range of terrain, enough for 1-4 days, it isn’t a primary destination for trans-oceanic travelers except for those doing a road trip in Southeast BC. Then it is worth a look. There is an overnight train from Seattle and some other cities that can be a good way to go; unfortunately we have very little rail-accessed skiing in NA. Lodging at the hill or a short drive away in the town of Whitefish. Portal: Kalispell (FCA) or Spokane, WA (GEG)

Utah

Utah should be on the short list for any skier crossing the Atlantic. The Wasatch Range is renowned for reliable, excellent snow and super-easy access via Salt Lake City; all the areas mentioned here are within an hour’s drive of the airport, and one another. The region provides some notably different experiences depending on where you decide to stay. There are several groups of ski areas, and the biggest is Park City (Epic). Park City is the only real ski town in Utah, but it’s nothing special. The ski area is enormous, nearly as big as Whistler, though its terrain does not compare. I don’t know anybody who thinks Park City is a great ski area, just a good one. Deer Valley (Ikon) is mostly an on-piste area, catering to rich folks seeking top level service across the board. They pay dearly for it, and they receive it. Last time I was there, an employee carried my skis up to the lift boarding area and refused a tip. You will see good pistes buffed to perfection and above-average food but you won’t see any soul, or any snowboarders; DV is one of three ski areas in the US that doesn’t allow them. Powder can last longer here, with fewer hounds and limits on the number of tickets sold. But its not the best place for serious off-piste skiers, who should focus on…

…heading up Little Cottonwood Canyon to the famous Alta (Ikon & MC). It has plenty of old-school vibe, and it, too, is for skiers only-no snowboards allowed (which is about the only thing it has in common with Deer Valley!). It has not been overrun with retail or luxury accommodations though there are some, along with several Euro-style half-board hotels. Lodging is not cheap and nightlife is quiet. Alta is at the end of a box canyon so the excellent snow falls deeper there. Great powder terrain, especially in nicely-grouped trees. Not a great cruising area, and the lift system is a little behind the times, which preserves the pow a bit longer, though it gets tracked up pretty quickly anyway. It seems a bit like a place time has forgotten—in a good way. Any serious skier coming to Utah has to ski it.

Next door to Alta is Snowbird (Ikon & MC). Built nearly all at once, it has a different look than most ski area base facilities, with exclusively modern concrete and glass buildings. Lodging is convenient and expensive. The Bird isn’t a place for party hounds, but you come here for the great snow and some of the best steep, long powder terrain anywhere. However, this is another area where cruising isn’t very good so in such conditions you’d be better off almost anywhere else in the region. Little Cottonwood Canyon is narrow and steep and the road passes through a bunch of slide zones, so it can close when its dumping. Epic dumps can result in “interlodge”, meaning the road is closed and those lodging at the ski areas have to stay indoors until avi control has made things safe. In such cases the required patience is usually rewarded with truly memorable conditions. If you think you should come here, then you should.

There are a few other areas that are definitely worth skiing at. The Big Cottonwood Canyon areas of Solitude (Ikon) and Brighton (Ikon) would be considered more favorably if they weren’t in the shadow of their more famous neighbors. They are also day areas, so more oriented towards locals and sometimes less crowded. If you like to move around and sample smaller areas they are worth your time; of the two, I’d pick Solitude.

Lastly there is Snowbasin (Epic), kind of off by itself, a short drive north from Salt Lake City. Not a big name, but a big mountain, with longer runs. Hosting the Olympics caused some lift system upgrades all over the Wasatch, especially here…long slow chairs are long gone. Snowbasin flies under the radar, it is easily the most underrated area in Utah.

For strong skiers who are willing to hike a little and who like the linked-together areas like Ski Arlberg or Dolomiti Superski, consider the Utah Interconnect. You can ski from Deer Valley to Snowbird, or from Snowbird to Brighton, the latter route having more backcountry skiing. This is a one-day guided tour, and hiking is required because the lifts they’d instantly install to link the areas aren’t there due to opposition by greens and backcountry skiers. Transportation back to the starting point is included. This can be a way to access powder when the areas are all tracked out.

Compared to other states/provinces, Utah’s skiing is not as well paired with lodging for those on a budget. Fortunately, there is a solution: staying in Salt Lake City. It is not the most interesting city, and nightlife is marginal, but there are endless affordable hotels and you are then positioned to go to the ski area that has the best conditions for you on each day.

So if you are a strong, serious skier, base yourself in Little Cottonwood Canyon. If you’re with the kids and/or are looking for fun as opposed to a challenge, head for Park City/Deer Valley. If you fancy sampling what the Wasatch Range has to offer, stay where your budget allows and bounce around. Then you’ll know where to focus on your return trip. Portal: Salt Lake City (SLC). If you are going to stay in one resort area, a shuttle is fine. Otherwise get a car.

Colorado

The Continental Divide runs through Colorado, so it’s no surprise that it has more than its share of great skiing, nearly all of it at high elevation which can give some sea-level folks a headache for a couple days. For the resorts reasonably near Denver, I favor getting a car so you can avoid a flight in a small plane and have flexibility to bounce around and go at your own pace. There are so many lodging choices at these resorts I don’t really have much to say other than you’ll have no difficulty. Closest to Denver are the Front Range resorts. Copper Mountain (Ikon) has great natural separation of terrain; experts aren’t skiing through beginners here. Winter Park (Ikon) is a local’s favorite, renowned for bumps. Arapahoe Basin (Ikon & MC) is the smallest and by far the least “resorty”, with an old school vibe. Breckenridge (Epic) and Keystone (Epic) are both large areas with big villages that are both somewhat similar to their corporate cousin, Whistler. They are like the person who finishes fourth at the Olympics: way less notoriety yet still very good. As such, they are probably the best of the Front Range resorts for folks coming over the pond. Portal: Denver (DEN).

Further west on I-70 is Vail (Epic), which definitely are on your short list. Everything about Vail is huge; it is the Whistler of Colorado except for not as much vertical and steeps, but better snow. The back bowls are vast powder havens. I think their cruising terrain is on the gentler side. Beaver Creek (Epic) is Vail’s little brother, just down the road. It doesn’t have the back bowls; otherwise I like it better than Vail; on piste its steeper. Together they can show anybody a good time. Portal: Eagle County (EGE) or Denver (DEN).

Further away, and preferably by air rather than car, are the Aspen (Ikon & MC) areas. You’d think with the fancy people there, Aspen would be an area for posers, but “Ajax” is the real deal; not huge, but all kinds of terrain, plenty of it steep. It rises from one of the best ski towns anywhere. Locals and strong-skiing visitors looking for a more local kind of experience will like Aspen Highlands (Ikon & MC). Buttermilk (Ikon & MC) is the separate beginner area, which keeps most novices away from the main areas, a win-win. Snowmass (Ikon & MC) is huge, like a Front Range resort. Powder persists longer here. Not steep, but steep enough, with long runs. Aspen is definitely on the first-timers short list; I prefer Aspen over Vail but that’s just me. Portal: Aspen (ASE) or a long drive from Denver.

Telluride (Ikon) is an outlier that is worth a look. T-ride is isolated and its airport can get closed. To drive there you’d pass all the aforementioned areas but you can do it, and if you’ve driven that far you can keep going and pair it with Crested Butte and Taos. Very high and tons of steeps, plenty of easy stuff, the in-between is on the easy side. I think its the most authentic town, but if you want the corporate ski village look and feel it also has the Mountain Village. You could spend a week here easily, though it is not as snowsure as other resorts in CO. Portal: Telluride (TEX).

Steamboat (Ikon) has a real town and a good ski area. OK, they patented a fancy-pants term for their snow, whatever. Known for good tree skiing. A week is too long here, though; I like it in combination with some Front Range and/or Vail resorts on a road trip. Portal: Steamboat Springs (SBS) or car from Denver.

New Mexico

New Mexico is home to Taos, a place apart. The town of Taos has history, cuisine, art and architecture. For example, adjacent to it is Taos Pueblo, a Native American adobe community which has been continuously inhabited for over a thousand years. The skiing at Taos Ski Valley (Ikon & MC) is plenty good but not great. Snow reliability is not its long suit, the terrain is average and the lift system is below average. It is high, like the Colorado resorts. But despite my somewhat faint praise about the ski area, the whole package is super fun and worth doing because of the totally different culture. While there is lodging at the hill that is typical of ski-county lodging, including one of the few full-board hotels in US skiing (St. Bernard), I’d steer you to lodging in town, as you can find some really cool places such as adobe buildings you won’t find anywhere else.

Combining Taos with some time in Santa Fe, a major arts & cuisine community, is a great way to spend a week (and it is halfway between Taos and Albuquerque). Just outside of town is Ski Santa Fe, a fun little old-school ski area, with a world-class spa (Ten Thousand Waves) on the road up. Park your spouse there while you ski, or stay there in their Japanese-style rooms. For people looking for a different kind of adventure, especially if some in your group don’t ski, this fits the bill nicely. Your souvenirs from here will unlike anywhere else, maybe some Nambé or a ristra? Portal: Albuquerque (ABQ). A car is best, that way you can take the “High Road” between Taos and Albuquerque and sample even more of what this area offers.

Summary:

Best for Serious Skiers: Jackson Hole.
Best for those willing to move around a little bit, conveniently: Utah.
Best for those up for a road trip: BC Interior, Colorado or Utah/Wyoming.
Best for those who want to stay in one spot: Whistler, Vail or Aspen.
Best for those who want a ski trip where good skiing is paired with a very different cultural experience: Taos/Santa Fe.
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Nice one ! Thanks @Scooter in Seattle, got me dreaming . Off to buy my lotto ticket....
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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?
Fantastic review. Thanks for that. Fully agree on Jackson Hole! My fave vs Whistler, Aspen and Alta/SB. Which one next?
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Great write-up! And to go with it, the best guide to snowfall https://bestsnow.net/
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Think you undersold Kirkwood; had my most enjoyable North American ski days there. No mention either of Sierra-at-Tahoe, which is a much under-rated area and great on snowy/poor visibility days.

Whitefish is also worth visiting for a day or two. We did it from Fernie - easily doable in a day although the US border post was a little bit of a pain.
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Nice work @Scooter in Seattle, Thank you.
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Not bad overview.

Wouldn't say kicking horse is particularly good for tree skiing! Also would argue that it's lift system is actually pretty good (1200m vertical in 12min in a gondola).

You missed bridger bowl in bozeman which is great.

I wouldn't necessarily say Jackson is the best for serious skiers. It has its negatives too. It's also mostly south facing, so not a great choice for late season skiing.
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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!
boarder2020, I'd agree about Bridger, often overlooked, a great area. Smile
and as you say not that many trees at KH in reality. I'd disagree about some of the points regarding Taos too, since it has some of the steepest/gnarliest skiing in NA.

Others have been missed too, in places where there are numerous ski areas, so suspect these are only where Scooter has visited.

Still a great read, with some useful information.
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You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
@Scooter in Seattle, Many thanks, this is really well written, readable and concise. If I ever have the opportunity to get over there at the right time of year, I'll be sure to dig this thread up.
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Ski the Net with snowHeads
Thanks for this. A good read.
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Yeah, for once a good summary without weird political/ "I once went there and it didn't snow" bias. Well done.
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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.
Very good Scooter
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
What a great post, extremely useful and informative. Many thanks
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
@Scooter in Seattle, another tremendous post, thanks. Expanded with stats, photos, area maps, lodging and eating information, you have the basis for a book!
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
@Scooter in Seattle. An amazing treasure trove of information. Thank you
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Poster: A snowHead
boarder2020 wrote:
Not bad overview.

Wouldn't say kicking horse is particularly good for tree skiing! Also would argue that it's lift system is actually pretty good (1200m vertical in 12min in a gondola).


I'd say the KH lift system has a major design flaw. 1 long lift, with no mid station. So when it's too windy to run the lift you are stuffed for skiing there. Sad
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
@Scooter in Seattle, like it. The cost is the main barrier to people from UK, due to the distance and flight costs. Time also is a barrier to skiing as the flight time and transfers are longer for those with only a week.

For those skiers on a once in a lifetime round the world trip, who have more time and less of a budget, there are many options which can reduce costs. The flight ticket for example for a RTW ticket on economy with 6 flights is only about £1,000, so that gives you a head start.

Driveaways (driving someone elses car across the USA or Canada as a delivery service, for no cost and they pay insurance) are an option for those over 21 who are prepared to be flexible in terms of timing of drive and are able to drive long distances. I was offered a driveaway from Boston to Colorado, but turned it down due to the age of the Volvo and no air conditioning (it was a heatwave at the time).

Bus is probably the best option, although it can be difficult lugging skis and boots around by bus.

Many resorts have hostels as well as out of town motels. I have been to Lake Louise HI hostel and stayed there a night or two. It is massive and well equipped for a ski season on a budget. I also had a tent and camped near Jasper in low temperatures and in Glacier National Park (all in Canada). This was done with a rent a wreck hire car for 2 weeks which was a 100,000 km aged Ford Escort in 1999 hired from Vancouver.

I'm not sure about the budget options in USA ski resorts, as I have only skied from Breckenridge on a non budget chalet deal with Crystal.

However, the logistics are not important, it is the skiing information which a useful point of view.

I suspect most of the skiers from Seattle head up to Whistler quite often. Can be expensive and crowded.
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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?
Excellent post - thanks....

Haven't been to Lake Louise but the "has the largest selection of balaclavas I’ve ever seen" made me chuckle - and it's due to Canada ( a trip to Mont Tremblant in fact...) that means I do indeed have the perfect balaclava Laughing

It's from a Canadian outfit called Dissent who also do great socks - and seriously needed to prevent frostbite.
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@Bigtipper, time needn't really be a barrier and can even work in favour of North America. Depending on resort, it can be quite easy to take an overnight flight home after a day's skiing (your hotel should let you shower somewhere), arriving home in the UK the middle of the next day.

That way, it's easy to ski seven days on a week long Sat-Sun trip. European week-long trips tend to be limited to six days of skiing as it's hard to book accommodation for eight nights.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@Scooter in Seattle, good overview. On this point: "Timing: avoid Christmas and school holidays or expect higher costs and crowds, same as the Alps. The closer your target area is to a metro area, the more important this is. Any trips before the new year could be limited by coverage issues. I’m also assuming you’ll have a week or more for your trip, since you’re coming all that way."

worth noting that NA school holidays do not coincide with UK half term, so don't be afraid to come then. UK half term might coincide with US President's Day in some years, but that only impacts a long weekend (Saturday-Monday tend to be busier).
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Great overview Scooter in Seattle.

I'm a big fan of skiing in North America, but after the debacle I suffered in Utah this year, if and when I ever return I shall make every effort to avoid any resort that is part of the Ikon or Epic passes. Some locals I've spoken to estimate the volume of traffic going up both of the Cottonwood canyons has grown by at least 30% in the last couple of years. It certainly feels like that to me.
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
TroutFace, Saw evidence of the increases in the Cottonwoods in the previous season, I'd say 30% is a conservative estimate.

Apparently Presidents Weekend was quiet in comparison as it was blackout for Ikon !!
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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!
I arrived in Salt Lake on Feb 20 and made my way up Little Cottonwood Canyon quite a few days afterward. No issues with traffic jams or parking. No lift lines aside from the Snowbird tram. Lovely conditions with some fresh snow too.
* I avoided the weekend and got early starts though.
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@Bones, you are probably right. It certainly feels like it's gone way beyond what the resorts can cope with.

@sbooker, I think early starts were the only answer but on three mornings I had left by 7-7.15am and still the traffic was huge and the lift lines were very large too. If you leave after 7.45am, even if you're staying in the Cottonwood area, which is supposed to be 25 mins away, you can forget being in the resorts before 10am, even midweek. The Ski Bus can't cope with the numbers either. I'm convinced the Ikon Pass has ruined both LCC and BCC.
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 Ski the Net with snowHeads
Ski the Net with snowHeads
Quote:

I'd say the KH lift system has a major design flaw. 1 long lift, with no mid station. So when it's too windy to run the lift you are stuffed for skiing there.


And how often does that happen? This season there was one day where they closed the lift around 12-1pm because of wind. 2 seasons ago the lift had zero down days due to wind. If there was a mid station it wouldn't be much (if any) higher than top of catamount chair anyway.
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 snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
Bones wrote:
boarder2020, I'd agree about Bridger, often overlooked, a great area. Smile
and as you say not that many trees at KH in reality. I'd disagree about some of the points regarding Taos too, since it has some of the steepest/gnarliest skiing in NA.

Others have been missed too, in places where there are numerous ski areas, so suspect these are only where Scooter has visited.

Still a great read, with some useful information.

When I saw the opening post, I made a decision not to nitpick.

It covered a lot of mountains. On a quick glance, mostly balanced. So if the description on one or two of them aren't quite right, it doesn't detract from the overall recommendation. Besides, I knew others will jump all over it. Toofy Grin

Now that I went through some of the criticisms, it's clear the OP covers the big resorts well. But quite a few of the smaller resorts are... way off.

That said, it doesn't matter all that much. As anyone who are going to visit smaller resorts, they typically have a more personal preference to make them like or dislike the peculiarity of the individual mountains. They can do their own research and come to a more in depth understanding.

However, (if I must find flaw when none exist) much of the comments on crowd levels are render irrelevant by the introduction of Ikon pass. Many of the formerly "quiet" resorts (I suspect when the OP visited them in years past) had now been turned into a mob scene! Solitude/Brighton, Deer Valley, Big Sky... Jackson had never been a low crowd mountain, now it can often be a mad house!


Last edited by snowHeads are a friendly bunch. on Fri 10-04-20 23:45; edited 1 time in total
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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.
Glad some people are finding this helpful and I appreciate the comments. As for crowding due to the Ikon pass, as I noted my home resort in Washington got slammed (e.g., people being turned away due to no parking one hour before the resort even opened). We literally didn't believe what we had heard. What a season.....too many people, then none. I'd rather ski than invest in the skiing business!
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
Excellent post. thank you

I learned to ski in Banff a very long time ago. I visited many times in the summer through the 70s, 80s and 90s (my grandparents loved in Calgary) but only twice in the snow. Definitely on my bucket list to go back one day. Alberta is a wonderful place any time of year.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Quote:

Alberta is a wonderful place any time of year.


There's some beautiful places in the east, Jasper np, icefields parkway, Banff no, yoho np. Calgary as a city is pretty boring. The Albertan people have a deservedly bad reputation, there's a reason it's called canada's Texas.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Quote:
there's a reason it's called canada's Texas.

Because it got oil?

As a visitor, I found the city Calgary exciting... (perhaps colored by having had a few excellent meals there)
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Quote:

As a visitor, I found the city Calgary exciting


You need to travel more then. What does Calgary even have of interest for tourists? I guess the stampede is fun, but only 10 days of the year. Don't get me wrong it's not the worst place, it's clean, public transport is pretty good, there is everything you need etc. But there is nothing particularly unique or interesting about the place. There are hundreds of more interesting cities in the world as a tourist to visit. For someone with a 2 week trip to Alberta my advice would be get out of Calgary asap and spend time in Banff, Jasper, icefields parkway etc. which are far more enjoyable.

I guess oil comes into it, but the Texas comparison is racist hicks that love money and hate the environment. There was a poll done a while back about what Canadians thought about trump, around half of Albertans thought trump was doing a good job, way bigger than any other province. Don't take my word for it about Albertan people. Just ask friends in other provinces about them. They have a bad reputation, which in my experience is justified. Of course I'm not saying they are all bad, there are some nice ones too.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
boarder2020 wrote:
What does Calgary even have of interest for tourists?.


You don't have to be a tourist. I had friends and family there. It's a very liveable city. I loved the outdoor lifestyle, loads of parks and cycleways around the city, kayaking on the rivers, and drive an hour out of town and you are in Kananaskis, bit further and you are in the Rockies. The smell of the foothills in summer. Or drive south to the badlands and Drumheller and you could be on a different planet.
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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?
boarder2020 wrote:
Quote:

As a visitor, I found the city Calgary exciting


You need to travel more then. What does Calgary even have of interest for tourists? I guess the stampede is fun, but only 10 days of the year. Don't get me wrong it's not the worst place, it's clean, public transport is pretty good, there is everything you need etc. But there is nothing particularly unique or interesting about the place. There are hundreds of more interesting cities in the world as a tourist to visit.

I guess oil comes into it, but the Texas comparison is racist hicks that love money and hate the environment. There was a poll done a while back about what Canadians thought about trump, around half of Albertans thought trump was doing a good job, way bigger than any other province. Don't take my word for it about Albertan people. Just ask friends in other provinces about them. They have a bad reputation, which in my experience is justified. Of course I'm not saying they are all bad, there are some nice ones too.

I happened to think highly of the positives you so casually toss aside.

Quote:
For someone with a 2 week trip to Alberta my advice would be get out of Calgary asap and spend time in Banff, Jasper, icefields parkway etc. which are far more enjoyable.

I did all that on my first trip. Enjoyable.

On my second trip, I spend more time im Calgary itself. Enjoy it too. Different, but enjoyable.
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Reading has all those things too, but I wouldn't really call it a great city. I could name a long list of more interesting places to visit, but whatever floats your boat.

Quote:

and drive an hour out of town and you are in Kananaskis, bit further and you are in the Rockies. The smell of the foothills in summer. Or drive south to the badlands and Drumheller and you could be on a different planet.


Yep the further you get away the better things get. No arguing with that. When I think of enjoyable cities to visit I tend to not think about things an hour away, because the city itself can hold my interest.

There's too many more interesting places in the world than Calgary, and nicer people than Albertans. But whatever, we are getting way off thread here, send me a message if you want to discuss further.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Quote:
I'd say the KH lift system has a major design flaw. 1 long lift, with no mid station. So when it's too windy to run the lift you are stuffed for skiing there....

Q:And how often does that happen?
100% of the time in my experience rolling eyes Admittedly only been once wink (for 2 days as part of a catskiing and road trip) - with the gondola shut for 2 days out of 2.

We had bought lift tickets in advance too. No reduction for being stuck with effectively one chair on the lower slopes...

All a bit off-putting and not somewhere I'd rush back to as a result.
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@Bigtipper,
Quote:

Driveaways (driving someone elses car across the USA or Canada as a delivery service, for no cost and they pay insurance) are an option for those over 21 who are prepared to be flexible in terms of timing of drive and are able to drive long distances. I was offered a driveaway from Boston to Colorado, but turned it down due to the age of the Volvo and no air conditioning (it was a heatwave at the time).

I did two in the 80's, first from DC to LA, stayed on west coast for 3 months, and then got another LA to Miami. The cars we drove I wouldnt be taking anywhere near snow! Highly recommended though, great fun.


@Scooter in Seattle, Great summary, tbph I have no great desire to ski NA (happy in the Alps for last 25 years and don't see much changing) but if I did i'd look this thread back up.
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Quote:

All a bit off-putting and not somewhere I'd rush back to as a result.


Fair enough, I can't really blame you based on your experience. I would say that it being closed for one day is very unusual. I've never heard of two days in a row before but not doubting your experience
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