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North American ski areas

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hi all,

As all hope has disappeared this year of getting on some planks, we are looking ahead to next year. Having only skied Europe, I'm keen to explore a North American option.

As confident intermediates on piste who happily ski blacks (thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of the Swiss Wall last year!) we want to start broadening our horizons a bit.

One of the main reasons for looking at NA is if I'm right in reading, that within the boundary of a ski resort the whole area is controlled? So nipping off piste between the trees or down a bowl is "safer" than in Europe. Is this correct or have I got the wrong end of the stick?
So whilst most NA resorts tend to have a smaller KM of pistes, the ski area in acres makes up for it? We want to start exploring the powder and picking our own lines etc.

As for the resort, whilst I read lots about places like Banff etc the thought of a bus ride every morning does kinda put us off. We'd rather have a good base with skiing available there and then chose to visit somewhere else rather than have to if that makes sense? So I think our preferred destination would be Whistler north of the border or Park City south of it. If we based ourselves in Park City, is the drive to Snowbird reasonable?

Time of year wise, would be looking at probably the last couple weeks of Feb? Maybe last week of Feb, first week of March. Trying to avoid any potential crowds for Presidents day and Spring break, or am I being overly worried about that?

Anything else to consider? We will be going to at least 10 days, probably 14 so would probably throw in a couple of "non-ski" days as well.

Thanks all
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
I actually thought about this myself today. I havent skied north America either but I’ve always wanted to ski Alta/ snowbird for the powder. Started looking in to it and you can stay in Alta on the mountain it looks like at the goldminers daughter hotel. Then there’s shuttles to snowbird. Looks like park city is still 45 mins from Alta. I’m sure some other people will have more info
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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?
Fridge03, Some good choices there and either would suit, even Banff as the buses arent really a problem - not used them ourselves as we had a vehicle, for a couple of reasons. The area itself is just stunning and things to do if you fancy a day off.

You are correct the whole area is controlled, generally this makes it safer, but still be aware though, accidents can happen. But it does mean if you have problems you will still be rescued, unlike the back country over there where you're on your own.

Its often a good time to go - we usually go out End of Feb for at least two weeks ( should have been leaving tomorrow Sad ) Presidents weekend can be busier - spring break more so. The plus side if its been a good winter and its getting spring like, many folks start to look to other pursuits having been skiing for 2-3 months already. Since Friday Utah have just had 5 feet of snow over 3 storms Madeye-Smiley - They do tend to get more snow Spingtime.

Whistler would be good, purpose built so everything on the doorstep, and enough terrain to keep you happy for what you want,its been a number of years since we last went but doubtful its changed that much.

It can be easy to get to Snowbird from Park City if you have a vehicle. It takes around 30 - 45 minutes generally if conditions and traffic is good, the route is easy. Bad weather Parleys Canyon can be fun wink and if its a powder day once you get to Wasatch Boulevard it could take 1-2 hours to drive up the canyon Toofy Grin
If you are staying Park City and have a vehicle you can of course take advantage of other areas around too - SnowBasin / Powder Mtn are an easy drive, go via Trappers Loop. You could head to Sundance for a day, lovely drive there too and of course theres Deer Valley on the doorstep.

mk28, Plenty of people stay at the Goldminers, breakfast is pretty good Toofy Grin It has its good points and bad staying there - when the canyon closes you are onsite so if Alta opens you ski straight away. However unless you have a vehicle and even with, its more dificult to ski somewhere else, unless you want a bit of backcountry.
If you do stay there get the Alta/snowbird pass so then no need to use the shuttle to Snowbird, just ski there and back as it covers both areas.

What you will see, skiing at either Park City or any of the Cottonwood areas is how close they all are - how its possible to ski the Interconnect - a guided tour hitting 4 or 6 ski areas.
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@Fridge03, your basic premise is good - it's not about km of piste but acreage ( though bear in mind some of that acreage may be in dense trees or cliff area etc).

The most important thing I think to address is not your precise choice of location but your attitude vis a vis things like daily travel to the slopes and expectation of ski in/out. While these may be achievable in a European resort relatively easily you cut yourselves off from a lot of options & potentially steer you down a path to a certain type of resort e.g. one with a faux village at the base of the slopes.

Salt Lake City area is a great place to hit a number of resorts but you need really to adopt an approach of stay in the city area and drive everyday to maximise that. Staying in Park City and driving to Snowbird sounds fine in practice but is probably going to be 1.25 hours each way (more if heavy snow or traffic in the canyon) as effectively you are driving 50 miles rather than popping over the col that actually separates them, so you just aren't going to do it very often. Plus consider pass networks. An Ikon pass, staying in Park City and spending 5 days skiing Deer Valley then relocating to Sandy/Midvale area and skiing Altabird, Solitude and Brighton might be a better idea.

Whistler of course you could stay in a hotel/condo in or near the village and ski every day just like in Europe.

End of Feb beginning of March is usually pretty reliable anywhere. Avoid US President's week (this week this year) if possible.

The other thing you might consider over a 2 week period is an actual road trip. Flying into Denver/out of SLC would be great for that. Or perhaps you combine SLC/PC with a couple of days in the parks around Moab or a drive up to Jackson.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@Fridge03, you could look in The Piste for "Scooter's North American Ski Resort Suggestions for European Skiers", which I wrote for folks like you.
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You'll need to Register first of course.
Yes you are right that the everything in bounds is avalanche controlled. It means just that, you can ski wherever you like without fear of avalanche. That doesn't mean it's all "safe" there can be unmarked cliffs for example. The biggest danger by far is tree wells. I don't mean to put you off, north America is a fantastic place to start getting off-piste without much of the hassle, take sensible precautions and you will have a great time.

You are right that most ski resorts require a commute - although Banff is one of the longer ones. Whistler is perhaps the closest thing to a European ski resort in regards to having a proper (albeit fake) village with lots of stuff to do. I think it's a great choice for Europeans looking for their first n American experience, although not the most budget friendly. There are plenty of options for staying in a nice town with short commute to the ski hill (5-10mins car/bus) - fwiw my walk through Whistler village to the gondola used to be longer.

There is nowhere I would be overly worried about end of February for decent conditions.

Perhaps the biggest thing is lift passes. You need to work out where you want to ski and get a lift pass when they first go on sale - either season pass for individual resort or iKON/epic pass. They only sell them for a limited time and if you miss out you will be paying up to £140 per day per person to ski!

I would suggest maximizing ski days rather than planning full days off. Once you've bought the pass you might as get your money's worth. Most activities/sights can be done in an afternoon/evening rather than needing a full day.
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
You’re worry about the bus ride in Banff, but want to drive even longer from Park City to Snowbird??? Puzzled

Whistler is as good as it gets for your requirements. Salt Lake area the opposite. The skiing is brilliant though.

Is there any reason you’re overlooking Colorado? Winter park, Copper, Breckenridge, Vail... All have slopeside lodging.
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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!
Aspen/Snowmass. 3(4) great hills. A nice town that doesn’t have to be expensive.
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You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
I would second Aspen/Snowmass, although I think that Aspen/Snowmass is expensive. Right now I am looking for a week for first week of March and the cheapest accommodation option is $300/day not including lift tickets. And although there are 4 ski areas, other than Snowmass they are rather small. Highland Bowl is fun for a day or two, Aspen/Ajax is fun for people watching ...

Park City/Utah would be another option to have good variety of town/ski areas. Easy drive to Cottonwoods ski areas (Solitude/Brighton and Alta/Snowbird) and Snowbasin and Powder Mountain ... All of these ski areas are either on IKON or EPIC pass (not Powder Mountain). If buying early and "local" option - buy them both and you can have 2 weeks of skiing for about $100/day which is a great deal for NA resorts.

Third (and my favorite) option would be Lake Tahoe/California. Bunch of iconic resorts sprinkled around the area, it would take some driving but the scenery is spectacular and accommodation tends to be cheaper. Again, combination of IKON/EPIC passes would give you unlimited options but expect to do some driving ... Bonus is Mammoth mountain - only 3 hours away (or so) from Lake Tahoe area. Or fly into San Francisco (4 hours away) and spend few days exploring this great city and near by wine areas ...

I skied them all and although I am NA based I do most of my skiing in Europe since I find it much better value ...

If you want multiple resort experience - driving is necessary. Other than "in town" shuttles there is no public transportation between ski areas (ie. Heavenly to Squaw or Breckenridge to Vail) ...
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 Ski the Net with snowHeads
Ski the Net with snowHeads
Regarding Utah:

Think of it as 3 fingers/canyons extending east from Salt Lake City. To travel between any of the fingers
requires driving back down to the valley and then going back up. As already noted, it's not necessarily a
short drive.

One finger is Park City/Deer Valley and is fairly easily reachable as most of it is up a major highway. This is also
the most touristy/destination option.

Second/middle finger is Solitude & Brighton. Tends towards day visits although there is some lodging slopeside.

Third finger is Alta/Snowbird. The two resorts are connected if you want to ski both in a single day. There are
a few places to stay up at either resort, and condos in between.

The last two canyons are a 10-12 mile drive up 2 lane roads. No problem if the weather is good. But if not good,
you can have long lines or perhaps worse. At the base of both canyons, there is a park-and-ride lot so you can
leave your car at the bottom and take the bus up to the ski resorts.

In the Utah resorts, everything inbounds is avalanche controlled, but the more knarly areas have gates to enter
through, so you know you're going into something a bit more interesting.

Banff could still be awfully cold in late Feb. But I would prefer having someone drive the bus as opposed to
driving a car up the canyon in Utah.

Lift tickets for next season will go on sale very soon (late March) and it does pay to purchase in the off-season,
there are often deals around the first weekend of September (US Labor Day).

I agree with OP's thoughts about scheduling/crowds.
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 snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
If you want to start exploring powder, then you might find that a bit difficult with the powder frenzy in NA. Powder days are full on powder crazies up early and waiting in line 60 minutes, 90 minutes, 2 hours before the lifts start spinning. The bigger the dump, the earlier the bro-brah powder hounds show up.

So, the Utah resorts are good for tipping your toes with what's left of the powder scraps.

Jackson Hole can be incredible too. Stay in town, and yes, you take the bus to save on the $20-$40 parking at the resort.

Snowmass doesn't get as much snow as JH or LCC, but it can be a good place on a pow day. Again, there are buses between Aspen and Highlands.

The time of year you are looking at is normally when I look to go for a week's vacation too. Less crowded during the week at least that's what I tell myself.

Whistler has tons of terrain and slope side accommodations a plenty. No need for a car when you are there either.

What ever you decide to do, once you pick your ski resort(s) buy the Epic or Ikon pass that is associated with that resort(s) of your choosing. You will save on the walk up window ticket prices enough so that you can buy your ski buddies apres ski drinks at the end of each ski day.
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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.
@Fridge03, all of your basic assumptions are correct.

I'm not sure I'd recommend Whistler for s first trip. I've been there twice and had planned to go again this winter so it certainly has its attractions. A big draw is the quality of accommodation (the Fairmont is probably the best ski hotel I've ever had the pleasure to visit) and the ease of the journey from the UK. But it's crowded and suffers coastal weather so the lifts are prone to closure due to winds and/or rain. I've had 1-2 days of no skiing each time I've been there and seen queues of well over an hour for lifts.I have never lost a day skiing or seen unavoidable queues elsewhere in North America. You might have a great time there, but it's risky.

Are you willing to go to a lesser-known resort? The best ski trip I've ever had in North America was to Fernie: incredible terrain and epic snow. I will be back next winter, but accommodation on the hill is limited.

Big Sky would also be a grat choice with a huge area and no crowds. I have only once found suitable flights at a sensible price, but connections might improve when Alaska Airlines joins the Oneworld alliance in March.

Jackson Hole is an amazing place that I keep going back to, but it's much busier; despite its reputation, it has loads of easy off piste, but all the slopes face south so you might get freeze/thaw conditions by late Feb. If you go there, make time for a day trip to Grand Targhee - a tiny resort with an epic snow record.

Panorama is a hidden gem. Very small but lots of decent ungroomed opportunities and the snow lasts for ever as it's mostly visited by families. Again, no need for buses.

Colorado has options, too, but none of the CO resorts have lodged in my heart. I have booked flights to Denver in 2022 so I will have to try somewhere new. I'm thinking Beaver Creek unless a friendly snowHead wants to recommend something better.

I've never tried Utah or California. One day, one day...

Wherever you go, I promise you will be hooked.
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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
Jonny Jones wrote:

Colorado has options, too, but none of the CO resorts have lodged in my heart. I have booked flights to Denver in 2022 so I will have to try somewhere new. I'm thinking Beaver Creek unless a friendly snowHead wants to recommend something better.

Don't know when was the last time you visited CO. Both A-basin and Copper have recently added new lift that open up access to new terrains.

Quote:
I've never tried Utah or California. One day, one day...

I would strongly suggest you try Utah, preferably sooner rather than later.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Quote:
I would strongly suggest you try Utah, preferably sooner rather than later
Agreed. As long as you don't expect powder/the greatest snow on earth - as we did on a 10 day January trip to Park City, Canyons, Deer Valley, Alta and Snowbird.

We had a brilliant time with great skiing - some amazing steeps - but wall to wall sun and not a single powder turn in sight.

The classic 'You shudda been here last week' syndrome - and guess what happened the day after we came home? rolling eyes
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
mountainaddict wrote:
Quote:
I would strongly suggest you try Utah, preferably sooner rather than later
Agreed. As long as you don't expect powder/the greatest snow on earth - as we did on a 10 day January trip

You must be pretty unlucky! Tell me where you're going next and when so I can avoid. Toofy Grin

My "sooner rather than..." has to do with the explosion of population in the Salt Lake area.

I've been going to Utah for a couple decades. It's starting to feel more and more like a zoo the last couple years...

The snow is still coming down in abundant as usual. Powder days in Utah still rank tops. But your chance to being able to make it up canyon on a powder day is decreasing rapidly with each years going by (due to the insane traffic)...


Last edited by Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name: on Thu 25-02-21 14:48; edited 1 time in total
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Quote:

I've had 1-2 days of no skiing each time I've been there and seen queues of well over an hour for lifts


I've done over 100 days at Whistler and never had a day where skiing was not possible! I've only ever seen waits getting up to 45mins once - huge dump, bluebird, and they didn't get many lifts open because avy danger was too high. You are either exaggerating a lot or incredibly unlucky.

Quote:

The best ski trip I've ever had in North America was to Fernie


Another good choice for a first timer. While I don't rate is as high as some other places it has a nice mix of terrain and gets plenty of snow. Know a lot of Brits that love it. Perhaps you just got lucky at fernie but ime they struggle way more than Whistler in getting terrain open - Currie headwall and all the good stuff off polar peak are predominantly closed and after storms it takes a really long time to get avy control done (not their fault, just the way it is with the terrain there).
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