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Help Me Pick a Ski Trip Destination for Next Winter

MsWax

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Some background:
- Family of 5 (1 snowboarder, 4 skiers), all high-level capable of at least black diamond trails
- Primarily East coast skiers
- Only resort we've skied out west is Big Sky (and we loved it...went twice)
- Hate crowds
- Need on-mountain lodging (youngest doesn't want to ski all day so someone brings him back to room early, but often leaves him there alone so the rest can keep skiing for a few more hours)
- Prefer IKON over EPIC, but not a dealbreaker

Prices for the place we've stayed at Big Sky have doubled since this year, and I just can't justify that cost (plus the plane tickets to Bozeman are super expensive).

Can folks recommend mountains we would like? We like the big bowls, trees, etc. We don't need fancy amenities. Just give us a room with a kitchen (or kitchenette) and enough beds/couches for 5 people and we are good!

I'm feeling overwhelmed by all the choices, and I don't feel like I know enough about the mountains to assess them!
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
Can you give a few specific examples of the trails/terrain your group skied the most at Big Sky? What dates are of most interest? Would it include a holiday period?

The first destination resort that comes to mind is Telluride. But the cost factors for on-mountain lodging and flying to Montrose, plus the fact that it's an Epic Partner probably would make returning to Big Sky in the same ballpark from a travel logistics and cost standpoint.

Staying at Solitude could be fun if also had a car to explore Alta/Snowbird and Brighton for a day or two. But depends on how necessary it is to be slopeside every day.

For something completely different from any destination resort on Ikon or Epic, there are condos at Powder Mountain.
 

Christy

Angel Diva
Because you said "hate crowds"--

Sun Valley could work. You need the full Ikon or Base Pass Plus. It's got bowls and some trees. It's an easy (no passes to cross) drive from Boise if you don't want to pay extra to fly to SV.

I think staying at Pennay's at River Run could meet your needs. It's probably 100 yards from the River Run (main) base, and that's the closest you get there. They will pull you in a sled there and back at certain times or you can walk. If you just leave your skis checked at the base it's an easy walk. I quite like Pennay's--these are full condos with kitchens in a quiet location; they are well managed and without the sketchiness that comes from renting a condo from a private owner via Airbnb or whatnot. It's a longtime family owned business and are reasonably priced for the area. You can walk to the center of town for dinner or the store. It is likely you will see elk and moose around Pennay's. https://www.sunvalleypennays.com/

There are also many condos on the Warm Springs side, though I don't love that side--it's too far to walk to town. There's no TRUE ski in/out at SV. You always have to take off skis.

I think it's the best ski town in the West and has lots of iconic local businesses and restaurants. In this way it's miles better than Big Sky, which reminds me of a suburb the way it was developed, though Big Sky does have more skiable terrain. Maybe this isn't a priority but if that's the only place you've been out West, maybe it would be fun to go to a real town rather than a modern development? Telluride is terrific too and meets that criteria.
 

MsWax

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
At Big Sky we skied mostly off the Ramcharger, Swift Current, Powder Seeker, and Challenger lifts, but also some off Moonlight Basin, the Tram, and had just started to check out the glades off the Thunder Wolf lift at the end of our last trip. We really enjoy the things we can't get in the northeast; big bowls, open glades, and lots of vertical.

ETA: we DON'T need ski-in, ski-out, but within a ~5ish minute walk to the lift would be great...that's what we did at Big Sky and it make it really convenient to drop a kiddo off at the room and keep skiing.

Also, the "town" and nightlife isn't a priority, because after a full day of skiing we are usually pretty tired so I just make dinner in the room and we go to bed early. The skiing is more important to us than the rest of it.
 
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marzNC

Angel Diva
At Big Sky we skied mostly off the Ramcharger, Swift Current, Powder Seeker, and Challenger lifts, but also some off Moonlight Basin, the Tram, and had just started to check out the glades off the Thunder Wolf lift at the end of our last trip. We really enjoy the things we can't get in the northeast; big bowls, open glades, and lots of vertical.
Powder Mountain doesn't have the same type of vertical as Big Sky, but it actually has more skiable terrain that isn't expert chutes. Since season passes and day tickets are limited, with a total of 4000 combined there is never much of a lift line anywhere. PowMow has plenty of open terrain and Aspen glades. The powder can last for days since hard chargers think the place is "flat."

What Big Sky has that PowMow doesn't is high-speed lifts.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
Steamboat is a possibility. Good variety of terrain. A real town. Plenty of walk in/out lodging, plus a good free bus system. Very much a family resort. Has the advantage of being at a much lower elevation than most mountains in Colorado. Southwest flies into Hayden, which is a short shuttle ride away from the town and resort. Don't really need to rent a car with just a little planning.


Bonus would be a day at Howelsen Hill.

 

marzNC

Angel Diva
Two resorts I've not checked out in person yet might have potential for a family trip for advanced skiers who want to get away from any crowds. Red Mountain is just over the border in Canada if flying into Spokane. Whitefish has been working towards becoming a destination resort.

April 13, 2022

 

MsWax

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Sun Valley is looking like a pretty good option!

Telluride looks amazing, but I'm concerned it's SO big that "taking a kid back to the room" will actually be pretty hard because it takes 3-4 lifts to get back to where you want to be! I'm going to add that one to the "future" list for when he's older and can take himself back.

Going to check out Powder mountain now.

Thanks for all the recommendations! I really appreciate them.
 

Amie H

Angel Diva
I'd also offer that Palisades (formerly Squaw Valley) is a great spot for both intermediate and advanced skiers and there are a number of ski in/out options (I stayed at Squaw Valley Lodge. Very easy access, but some of the units are in decor from the 1980s - clean and comfy, though! Nice saunas and hottubs, pool, etc.) Currently the whole building is undergoing renovations per their website. Right in Tahoe City there is a larger grocery store. I ate all my meals in my unit. I agree about relaxing in the room after skiing! Coming from the East can likely fly direct into San Francisco and drive. Palisades(both ex-Squaw and Alpine Meadows) is on the IKON pass.

I stayed with my sister slopeside at what was formerly known as Canyons Resort, now part of PCM. It was ok. I mean nice unit, easy to get on the snow, but we ended up skiing our 2nd day at Deer Valley so...
That said, it was a weird blizzard and we were struggling our day at PCM, snow was unusually heavy and wet and there was zero visibility. With reports this year of very long lines at PCM and awful traffic in Park City...not sure it'd be top of my list. Easy enough to get to from SLC airport, though!

Breckenridge (CO) also offers loads of slopeside lodging. My husband & I stayed at One Ski Hill in Nov 2018 and the unit we rented was very nice, in-unit laundry, great kitchen, etc. It has wonderful pools/spa amenities (indoor pool, sauna, steam room, etc.) I liked that One SKi Hill is 1) right at Peak 8 so that hill is the one that's always open 2) next to the gondola to go into town for dining, shopping, etc if desired. There is plenty of challenging terrain at Breck and I think the views can't be beat. I mostly ski groomers, nothing too challenging. I think there are more exciting runs for advanced skiers. There is a former ski instructor there who has a YouTube channel and you can view some of the expert terrain he skis. He does a great job narrating, explaining where he is on the mountain, what chair he's heading to, etc. Breck is EPIC pass.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
elluride looks amazing, but I'm concerned it's SO big that "taking a kid back to the room" will actually be pretty hard because it takes 3-4 lifts to get back to where you want to be! I'm going to add that one to the "future" list for when he's older and can take himself back.
Depends on what lodging area works out for Telluride. Shouldn't be that hard to ski near enough to condos in Mountain Village to make it relatively easy to stop by without riding more than a lift or two.

For most destination resorts in the west with 2000+ acres, if you are at one end of the resort it can take 15-20 minutes to get to a different area. Consider how long it takes to get from the Moonlight area back to the main base at Big Sky. Or from the main base out to the Dakota trees.

Even at Alta, getting from the Collins base to the Supreme area can take 15 minutes. That's for an advanced skier using the Singles line and skiing the groomers in between at speed.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
Coming from the East can likely fly direct into San Francisco and drive. Palisades(both ex-Squaw and Alpine Meadows) is on the IKON pass.
For a trip to Tahoe, I've always flown to Reno and driven from there.

On weekends and holidays, Palisades and Alpine Meadows are probably on the crowded side. Planning trips with school-age children is more complicated that for a solo adult.
 

Amie H

Angel Diva
I've always flown into Reno, too, but coming from the East, I was thinking multiple connections with a group would not be desirable.

From the reports this year, sounds like most of the EPIC resorts out West - save for Crested Butte, probably - were really packed on weekends.

I've also seen multiple videos in social media complaining about excruciating lines/wait times this year at Montrose Airport due to construction (where you'd fly for Telluride.) I'm not sure if it will be completed by next season.

Also not sure how many connections to get to Sun Valley from the East? Maybe just one, via SLC, DEN, or ORD?

After re-reading OP's post, maybe some of these spots we are offering are not in the budget OP is aiming for? Flying into DEN from most places in the US you can usually find very reasonably priced airfares AND direct flights. It's just that you have to be prepared for that I-70 slog. That said, how about Copper Mountain? I've never been but maybe someone can offer a quick review?

Winter Park may be also a nice option, but I haven't been there since 1994. Anyone have any lodging to suggest there?
 
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marzNC

Angel Diva
I've always flown into Reno, too, but coming from the East, I was thinking multiple connections with a group would not be desirable.

From the reports this year, sounds like most of the EPIC resorts out West - save for Crested Butte, probably - were really packed on weekends.

I've also seen multiple videos in social media complaining about excruciating lines/wait times this year at Montrose Airport due to construction (where you'd fly for Telluride.) I'm not sure if it will be completed by next season.

Also not sure how many connections to get to Sun Valley from the East? Maybe just one, via SLC, DEN, or ORD?
Since I fly from RDU, there are very few ways to ski in the west without changing planes.

When planning a family trip months in advance, as long as there is a flight connection that makes sense, that's usually not the primary consideration for choosing a destination.

My experience in the last decade is with Ikon/MCP resorts, mostly Ikon Partners. Along with independent ski areas/resorts like Grand Targhee, Bridger, or Wolf Creek. The OP needs slopeside lodging, which narrows the potential list. For instance, Mt. Bachelor could be good fun from a skiing standpoint but the nearest lodging is a 20-25 min drive.

Mammoth could work but involves a lot of travel time starting in the northeast.

Compared to Big Sky, Taos wouldn't be worth the travel logistics and cost of slopeside lodging for a family trip. Although there are plenty of Texas families who make the drive in March during spring break weeks. Taos has great steep terrain but much less variety for terrain for people who are looking for long and wide groomers as well.
 

Amie H

Angel Diva
I believe the crux of her question is finding slopeside out West on a budget less than going to Big Sky. So budget is important to her.
 

Chuyi

Certified Ski Diva
Solitude has ski-in/out condos with Ikon discount which are$300-400/night. Solitude is good choice for advanced skiers/riders with Chutes/gates/trees. it has 2 slow chairs which help spread out the crowd. Solitude is owned by Alterra so unlimited with the Ikon pass. flights to SLC from east coast are easy to catch and SLC to solitude takes about 40 min via uber (on a storm days, uber has designated ski uber with snow tires to go up the canyons). Uber XL will offer to stop at the grocery store on the way up. If you want to explore, you can ski to Brighton via Solbright trail from the summit. Keep in mind, for 22/23 u will need to reserve ur day at Brighton with the Ikon pass.
If you have lots of energy, you can take the bus and ski Brighton at night :smile:. Weekends are crowded & on powder days the morning will be busy but on the worse day, the lines have never been as long as the ones at Park City this year.
 

Amie H

Angel Diva
Two resorts I've not checked out in person yet might have potential for a family trip for advanced skiers who want to get away from any crowds. Red Mountain is just over the border in Canada if flying into Spokane. Whitefish has been working towards becoming a destination resort.
Yeah, I was thinking Whitefish, too, if they could get there. I flew to Kalispell via SEA on Alaska Airlines. I was on a Bombardier prop plane, which I'm fine with, but others may not like.
The entire mountain is skied, so it's not too crowded once you get away from the base area. My lodging was very reasonably priced when I went($100ish/night?), but I stayed at a Hampton Inn in town and took the free town bus up the mountain. What was nice was my hotel shuttle picked me up at the airport and took me to the ski bus each morning, so didn't need to spend $ renting a car.
The base lodge didn't have lodging, if I recall, but there are private homes and condos to choose from, plus ample hotels on the bus route.
Larger grocery stores in town for meal prep. If you rent a car, can do a day trip to Glacier national park as well.
Terrain is not for newbies and plenty of it is ungroomed. Often visibility is not good.

I remember that a pint of domestic beer at the lodge was like $3 and food was along the same price points so definitely aims to be affordable.
 

MsWax

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Thanks, ladies. I really like all these suggestions.

My concern with Sun Valley is snow (or lack thereof). It seems like they get significantly less than other mountains out west.
 

Christy

Angel Diva
My concern with Sun Valley is snow (or lack thereof). It seems like they get significantly less than other mountains out west.

Indeed. The past 5 years especially. They do mitigate that better than anywhere else via very extensive snowmaking, but if you want bowls and trees, it's not ideal. You are always going to have decent groomer skiing at SV but snow is the compromise point there. (Unless you are me--I have had terrific luck with snow days there.) My husband loves the bowls there and I'm trying to think of how often he hasn't been able to ski them due to lack of snow. In December, sure. In early January, there might have been a time or two they weren't good yet.

So it just depends on what you want to compromise on--crowds, cost, snow...there's going to be something.

Eta: Be sure to look at recent annual snow totals in general for any place you are considering. There are a number of places in the West that have gotten less than 200" in recent years, Telluride (and Big Sky) included.
 
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Christy

Angel Diva
I've also seen multiple videos in social media complaining about excruciating lines/wait times this year at Montrose Airport due to construction (where you'd fly for Telluride.) I'm not sure if it will be completed by next season.

Also not sure how many connections to get to Sun Valley from the East? Maybe just one, via SLC, DEN, or ORD?

You can also fly to Grand Junction for Telluride and to Boise for Sun Valley. These are easy drives with no passes to cross to each place. If you do fly direct to Sun Valley you can forego a car. The lack of direct flights from more cities helps keep it uncrowded.

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