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Utah 2018-19: travel planning, snow conditions, deals

marzNC

Angel Diva
#1
Even though I won't be flying to SLC to ski in Utah until April, I'm already watching snow conditions for Alta. OpenSnow has good news for this weekend and the following week. Lots of new snow followed by cold weather. If I didn't have plans for the next few weeks to ski in the northeast, would be a good time to hop a plane to see what early season at Alta is like.

For those who haven't skied in Utah, some terminology:

LCC - Little Cottonwood Canyon, Alta at the end, Snowbird a mile closer to SLC
BCC - Big Cottonwood Canyon, Brighton at the end of the road, Solitude a couple miles closer to SLC
Parley's Canyon - Park City, Deer Valley
Ogden Valley - Snowbasin, Powder Mountain, Whisper Ridge (snowcat, heli), Nordic Valley

UTA- Utah Transit Authority for ski bus that runs to LCC, BCC, Ogden Valley
UTA TRAX - light rail around SLC, has stop at airport
SuperPass - multi-resort pass for LCC/BCC that includes UTA transit pass, an option for trips 4-7 days
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#2
Utah for Thanksgiving weekend was pretty cold and snowy. Here are the official storm totals. Anyone get in some powder turns?

Brighton: 30"
Snowbird: 29"
Solitude: 26"
Alta: 25"
Powder Mountain: 20"
Snowbasin: 19"
Park City: 18"
Sundance: 16"
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#3
The last November storm was good all over Utah. On 11/30 Park City and Deer Valley got a little more than Alta/Snowbird and Solitude/Brighton, which is a bit unusual.

Screen Shot 2018-11-30 at 7.06.41 PM.png
 

contesstant

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#4
Powder turns today at Snowbasin. Very dense snow, which is GREAT for base building. More on the way...the season is certainly starting out well. I try not to get too excited, though...
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#5
Found the totals for the Ogden Valley. I'm guessing that Nordic Valley was ready to report for the Thanksgiving week storm. 21 inches in two days at Snowbasin. :snow:

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marzNC

Angel Diva
#7
November 2018 was a good month at Alta. Already over 100 inches of snowfall for the season. Now I'm watching for when the base is over 100 inches. The recorded total for the latest storm that started 11/28 was about 40 inches, with about 25 inches the week before. There was a good bit of high density snow (>9%) that is great for building base. 3-4% is wonderful to ski in/on but doesn't pack down as well.

Screen Shot 2018-12-04 at 8.37.05 AM.png
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#8
Woohoo! I'll be skiing in northern VA at Massanutten in a few days, but the snow report from Alta is pretty impressive for the latest storm. The 5-10 inches expected today is on top of the 25 inches that fell in the last 24 hours.

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LKillick

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#9
Wooohooo for snow!

Would love advice if someone has a moment... We're flying to SLC tomorrow for 6 nights to ski on our IKON passes. Taking advantage of the end of my Jan grad school break. Have never skied the SLC area! We're staying at the Residence Inn at the base of Cottonwood. Will have a 4WD rental.

Am excited for Alta -- but should likely check out other places nearby too since we've never been. Any tips on days of the week to go (or avoid) certain places? We might hit up Solitude 1st day to scan our passes for free ski bus usage, beyond that, I'm not sure yet. Is Deer Valley worth the slightly further drive for a day?

If it matters, I'm apparently an advanced skier (level 7 per Steamboat instructor), but stick to the groomers. At this stage, I am happy skiing anything groomed and would like to learn to expand my horizons. I would like to take a lesson on bumps at some point during this stay, as I can't do it at home as easily and would like to stop panicking if I turn the wrong way and end up at the top of a mogul run! My partner will likely ski a day or two as well, he's a beginner. He's flexible on when/where he skis. Definitely lessons for him.

Thanks :smile:

Oh, and Marz, you convinced me to take the girls to Massanutten over MLK weekend. Going with a big group of their friends. Thanks for all the help :smile:
 
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marzNC

Angel Diva
#10
Oh, and Marz, you convinced me to take the girls to Massanutten over MLK weekend. Going with a big group of their friends. Thanks for all the help :smile:
Great! It will be crowded between 11:30 to 2:30 but if your group can ski off Lift 6 there is never a line for that lift. I certainly hope Paradice will be open by then. Lift 5 isn't too bad most of the day and that's blue. Saturday is the most crowded. Sunday afternoon is often not that crowded. Monday is not much different than a regular Monday because people who stay on resort don't get on slopes before they head home.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#11
Would love advice if someone has a moment... We're flying to SLC tomorrow for 6 nights to ski on our IKON passes. Taking advantage of the end of my Jan grad school break. Have never skied the SLC area! We're staying at the Residence Inn at the base of Cottonwood. Will have a 4WD rental.

Am excited for Alta -- but should likely check out other places nearby too since we've never been. Any tips on days of the week to go (or avoid) certain places? We might hit up Solitude 1st day to scan our passes for free ski bus usage, beyond that, I'm not sure yet. Is Deer Valley worth the slightly further drive for a day?

If it matters, I'm apparently an advanced skier (level 7 per Steamboat instructor), but stick to the groomers. At this stage, I am happy skiing anything groomed and would like to learn to expand my horizons. I would like to take a lesson on bumps at some point during this stay, as I can't do it at home as easily and would like to stop panicking if I turn the wrong way and end up at the top of a mogul run! My partner will likely ski a day or two as well, he's a beginner. He's flexible on when/where he skis. Definitely lessons for him.
Since you are staying in SLC, it does make sense to check out other places besides Alta. It's snowing today so the powder hounds will be out in force on Tuesday and Wednesday. Alta will not open all of the off-piste areas until ski patrol has time to do their avalanche mitigation work.

Solitude is a good pick. As is Brighton midweek. Both have reasonable prices for group lessons. Although Alta group lessons are a very good deal in my opinion because of the level of experience of all the Alta instructors, even though teaching adult beginners. I've had a few friends who were beginners learn to ski at Alta in recent years based on taking the adult group lessons midweek.

One reason I added Ikon even though I already had the MCP was to check out Deer Valley. Since you are sticking to groomers at this point, I think it's well worth the drive one day. Park City is fun to walk around. Should be plenty of parking in the decks that are only a short walk.

For you, Alta has good intermediate group lessons for adults that are appropriate for low advanced skiers who haven't skied much off-piste. @Olesya Chornoguz did that one trip and had a woman who is one of the most experienced instructors at the ski school.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#12
@LKillick : what level are your girls after Steamboat? You could have a good time at Snowbird, but I recommend doing the free mountain tour in the morning. Lots of green/blue groomers at Snowbird that are fun if you don't have to worry about which way to go next. If it's good visibility and Mineral Basin is open, the view from the summit lodge is pretty impressive. Or you could save Snowbird for another trip in the future. Can look over into Mineral Basin near the top of the Sugarloaf lift at Alta.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#13
The adult afternoon lessons at Alta are scheduled to coordinate with some of the children's ski school times. When my daughter or my friend's kids were good enough for afternoon-only lessons, we would ski together in the morning, have a leisurely early lunch and then take the kids to ski school. For my friend, that meant she could do the adult group lesson. Although she had to make sure her instructor knew she needed to be back in time to pick up her kid(s) if another adult wasn't available. Sometimes adult lessons run long, especially when it ends up a solo lesson. She was lucky one late season trip and had three solo lessons in a row with the same very experienced instructor. He had a very good time with her because she pays close attention and is willing to ask lots of questions. She learned to ski at Massanutten at the same time as her kids, but it was more of an effort for her. Still, she was able to ski Alta blues after the first lesson during their first trip to Alta a few years ago.

Oh yes, eating lunch at Alta Lodge or the Rustler is a nice change of pace from the usual on-mountain cafeteria food. Cost at Alta Lodge can be lower than on-mountain. Rustler is a little more upscale but still reasonable for the amount of food. Takes a little longer.

What's new is the completely reconstructed Snowpine Lodge. Looks like they serve lunch too. The chairlift to the Snowpine is also the first lift for never-ever lessons. Used to be a handle tow.

All the lifts around Alta are run by Alta Lifts, even the ones that go to a lodge (all independently owned). So they are all public lifts and can be used by anyone. They shut down at 5:00pm. In many ways, Alta is a ski area not a "ski resort" because the lodging, eating places, and ski slopes are mostly independently owned. Alta Lifts owns Alta Ski Shop but here are other ski shops around Alta as well. The different shops carry different brands of skis. Alta Ski Shop has the lowest rental rates.

Also several places to rent skis in SLC.
 

contesstant

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#14
Yes, Deer Valley is worth it for a day, especially since you have an IKON pass! And we just got POUNDED here with almost 3 feet of snow that just ended this morning. Downside is it's going to warm a bit in the coming days, upside is the new snow is going to make all the mountains skiable from top to bottom. Enjoy your trip!
 

LKillick

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#15
Thank you both, that was super super helpful.

My girls are both level 4, the younger one skiing quite a bit better than my 12yo who is a bit adamant about her wedge... but they're staying home. Sadly, their school started today. This trip really gets to be about what I would like to ski :smile:

I did see the great pricing at Solitude/Brighton, and great to know about the Alta intermediate lesson.

Thanks so much for mentioning the Snowbird tour. Did not know that existed, and honestly, didn't really know Snowbird has groomers! Excited about that.

I'd definitely like to check out Alta lodge or Rustler, so will definitely do that for lunch. Would consider their dorm style lodging on future trip so would be nice to see the place a little :smile:

I will likely bring my skis, but I think we'll rent for Kris, so I appreciate you having given those tips too!

We'll likely activate our passes for free ski bus, but is driving pretty reasonable some of the time? Not sure where it would make sense to take the bus due to parking, etc...
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#16
My girls are both level 4, the younger one skiing quite a bit better than my 12yo who is a bit adamant about her wedge... but they're staying home. Sadly, their school started today. This trip really gets to be about what I would like to ski :smile:
Ah, that changes things a lot. Now I understand the back-to-back ski trips. Almost teens are certainly more stubborn than tweens. :smile:

We'll likely activate our passes for free ski bus, but is driving pretty reasonable some of the time? Not sure where it would make sense to take the bus due to parking, etc...
Driving is reasonable 90% of the time, if not 95%. The trick to taking the ski bus is to park in a lot that is farther away from the base of the canyons. That is if you want to get a seat. And pay attention to the time in the afternoon so you don't miss the last bus if having an apres drink. For Alta, there are advantages to boarding the bus for the down canyon ride at the Albion base. There are a few lockers in the building with the ski school desk, as well as on the ground floor of the Albion Grill building.

Parking at Solitude and Brighton is a non-issue midweek. Even on weekends, not as issue. Always better to arrive at least 30 min before lifts open. I prefer to boot up at the lodge so usually try to get parked about an hour before lifts start loading.

For Deer Valley, drive for sure. The road to Park City isn't really a mountain road. Storms don't dump as much snow compared to LCC/BCC in any case.

There is a section of Snowbird that's actually good for adventurous beginners. The Baby Thunder lift area is relatively empty all the time. I spent pretty much an entire day there during a snowstorm as an intermediate during a ski club trip. The cautious intermediates didn't even ski that day. I caught a ride with some advanced skiers who rode the tram all day. But with Alta, Solitude, Brighton, and Deer Valley . . . I think I would say skip Snowbird this time until BF has a little more mileage and can enjoy the blues at Snowbird. The blues at Alta are more fun for an advanced beginner or low intermediate. Especially the ones off the Supreme lift. However, if an Alta instructor thinks he's ready for the blues on the Collins side then Snowbird groomers would be fine with good visibility.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#17
I'd definitely like to check out Alta lodge or Rustler, so will definitely do that for lunch. Would consider their dorm style lodging on future trip so would be nice to see the place a little :smile:
If you have lunch at Alta Lodge, you can ask if you can take a look at a dorm room. Alta Lodge is my lodging of choice when staying on mountain. Get completely spoiled, even if staying in a dorm room. Rustler is much more upscale and more like a hotel. I have friends who prefer the Goldminer's Daughter so take a look in there too.

When driving to Alta, I tend to park in the first lot, which is the Wildcat base. But for BF that may mean having to take the transfer tow over to the Albion side, which is pain in that direction because the last part is a little uphill. Have to be able to ski down the easily blue off Sugarloaf to get to the Sunnyside lift if parked at Wildcat. I would guess that a Solitude instructor would be able to provide guidance about what blues at Alta he would enjoy.
 

LKillick

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#18
Thanks again. Appreciate all the tips -- extremely helpful. Appreciate having insider tips related to parking and lockers, etc! Yes, I'm trying to make the most of my ski time between semesters, but sadly had to bring the girls home.

Kris won't ski every day (or even most days, most likely), so Snowbird might still be an option, even if it just means me exploring across the connection. His knee has been bothering him, but he's a good sport, and is fine just exploring SLC or relaxing while I have fun. He's not ready for the blues on any side just yet, he's moving pretty slowly on the greens... mostly forwards. :tongue: He's a good sport, but hope we can get over the hump into being more comfortable and having more fun shortly! He didn't ski in Steamboat this time but says he is feeling better enough that he likely will in Utah.
 
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marzNC

Angel Diva
#19
Kris won't ski every day (or even most days, most likely), so Snowbird might still be an option, even if it just means me exploring across the connection.
Not that it makes that much difference, you'll use a separate day for Alta and for Snowbird skiing across the gate at the top of Sugarloaf. We did learn last season that for people staying at either place and using the MCP, it's possible to ski back in the late afternoon without being charged for skiing back to slope side lodging. Probably the same for Ikon.

If Kris wants to explore with the car, then taking the ski bus up LCC to Wildcat should be fine. There are lockers on the ground floor of Goldminer's Daughter. Or can stuff a boot bag in a corner. Also a few places above the lockers in the outer section, or at least still existed last season. Best to check the Alta website to see Expected Openings. If something like Devil's Castle is going to open, then traffic could be heavy in the morning.

His knee has been bothering him, but he's a good sport, and is fine just exploring SLC or relaxing while I have fun. He's not ready for the blues on any side just yet, he's moving pretty slowly on the greens... mostly forwards. :tongue: He's a good sport, but hope we can get over the hump into being more comfortable and having more fun shortly! He didn't ski in Steamboat this time but says he is feeling better enough that he likely will in Utah.
In that case, Alta may be best. Has a couple of nice long greens. Plus now with the Snowpine lift, can practice on that bunny hill without have to stand on a magic carpet.

I can't remember the greens at Solitude and Brighton. But that's where many locals take their kids to learn. Several busloads show up at Brighton after school.
 

LKillick

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#20
Thank you again. Will watch for openings!

Do we know that the combined Alta/Snowbird using 2 days bit is confirmed? I noted that people were told both ways (combined usage = 1 day and combined usage = 2 days) preseason, but I'm not sure I've seen confirmation of either one once things opened. I suppose it is unlikely to matter, as we're only there for 5 skiing days and will likely check out Solitude and Deer Valley. :smile:

Fantastic, will start him at Alta. I think their price is still quite reasonable for their beginner lesson and he will be happy there. Brighton was a pretty awesome value though, will go early if we go there together :smile:
 

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