Skiing out west
December 29, 2005 8:10 AM   Subscribe

Where's a girl to ski?

My husband is an advanced skiier. I've been skiing a few times, have had lessons (I'll take another wherever we go), and can handle green and blue runs. All my skiing has been in Michigan and New York.

I want to take him out west, but I'd like to go somewhere that we can both enjoy our time. Ideally, this would include lots of greens and blues we can ski together, and some backcountry/blacks that he can ski alone while I relax in some kind of muscle-relaxing spa.

I'd be interested in hearing what everyone's favorite resorts are. I'm particularly interested in places that may not be really crowded, although I'm under the impression that the resorts out west are so big that they'll seem empty compared to what I've seen. He's done Jackson Hole and Vail, and I'd like to take him somewhere new.
posted by dpx.mfx to Travel & Transportation (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Tahoe! My favorites are Kirkwood, Heavenly, and Squaw, but it's hard to go wrong with any of the resorts there. Most have a great range of runs, from double-black diamonds to nice long blue cruisers.

The best way to get to the area is flying into Reno, Nevada.
posted by pmbuko at 8:23 AM on December 29, 2005

I am going to have to vote for Whistler, BC. It's gigantic. I went for a week a few years back and have been wanting to get back there ever since. It's really just gigantic.
posted by bDiddy at 8:28 AM on December 29, 2005

How about Big Bear? It's been years since I've been there, but I remember the beginner trails being pretty clear. There is also a pretty good mix of trails for different skill levels.
posted by Alison at 8:28 AM on December 29, 2005

Oops. I should have checked my link before I posted. That's not to the official site of Whistler-Blackcomb mountains. Here it is.
posted by bDiddy at 8:29 AM on December 29, 2005

I saw a great article in Travel mag about comparing skiing in CO vs. Europe. Here is what I remember: It costs the same to go to Europe in the winter as it does Colorodo. The cost for the hotels are twice the price and you don't get much more. So if I was going I would rather go to the Alps. I will second for Whistler as it is one of the best places in N. America.
posted by _zed_ at 8:40 AM on December 29, 2005

Nix Whistler, the season is terrible there this year, weather has been way too warm and wet...however that has made for fantastic skiing in the Rockies....try Lake Louise or my personal favourite: Sunshine Village just outside Banff.
posted by furtive at 8:45 AM on December 29, 2005

I'd say Mammoth in Central/Eastern California, Tahoe a bit farther north, and Whistler would all over good mixes of terrain.
posted by mathowie at 8:48 AM on December 29, 2005

Colorado has had an amazing year for early season snow.

I'm partial to Copper Mountain resort (about an hour before Vail on I-70). The mountain is nicely laid out there, easy stuff on your right as you face the mountain. The farther you go to your left, the harder it gets. On the back there are some great runs for your husband.

All the good resorts get crowded in Colorado -- there is no way around it. Come in the middle of the week if you can. I've heard that Utah resorts are just as good as CO, but have less people, but I've never been. But their snow this year was sucky the last time I checked in.

I don't really know anything about accommodations, as I drive up from Denver.
posted by teece at 8:52 AM on December 29, 2005

I live in Utah, local skiers choose Alta. They don't allow snowboarding and have some of the best snow on Earth. Also, there are a plethora of runs from intermediate to advanced.
posted by toomuch at 8:53 AM on December 29, 2005

Mt. Bachelor, in Oregon. Great snow, all high speed lifts, tons of terrain, skiing til June usually. Bend's a terrific town that is much less commercialized comparable to other ski areas, and considering the quality of the ski experience, which is right up there with the best. U.S. Ski Team trains there in the spring, so that should tell you something. Central Oregon also has every other outdoor activity imaginable, and fantastic microbrew. And a trip there is MUCH cheaper than Tahoe, Vail, Sun Valley etc.
posted by Heminator at 9:29 AM on December 29, 2005

posted by mmdei at 9:31 AM on December 29, 2005

Another vote for Utah. After you try Alta you should hit the other three cottonwood canyons resorts:


All four are less than an hour from Salt Lake City where you could find a reasonable place to stay, are less crowded, cheaper, and get better snow than the more well known resorts in Park City up the hill.

The early season snow hasn't been as good as last year (which was amazing) but we're starting to catch up. (In fact if you look at the snow reports, Snowbird has had 163" (a slow to average year) and Copper Mtn has had 156" ("best early season conditions ever"). I think you'd be safe in the Cottonwoods...

Depending on how long you're out here you could ski Snow Basin (near Ogden) and The Canyons (largest resort in Utah -- outside of Park City) as well.
posted by jacobsee at 9:36 AM on December 29, 2005

Not a lot of people think New Mexico for skiing, but we've got the goods: SkiNewMexico tells you where and what the conditions are like.
posted by FlamingBore at 9:57 AM on December 29, 2005

toomuch, you really aren't supposed to tell the world about Alta.

I second the advice to avoid Park City. It's big and resorty, but it never gets as much snow as the resorts on the leading edge of the Wasatch.
posted by Good Brain at 10:28 AM on December 29, 2005

Tahoe's kind of sucked this year, too, I hear. Too warm. Just when you get a bit of snow pack it rains. We're having a chilly storm right now, though, so maybe it's improved over the last couple of weeks.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:40 AM on December 29, 2005

I just got back from Banff, Canada, where both Sunshine Village and Lake Louise (about 45 minutes apart from each other) had great snow and wonderful slopes. A great variety of greens, blues, blacks, and double diamonds (depends on how crazy your husband is) and huge mountains. The Banff area has good shopping, wonderful restaurants, a few spas (although I admit not having tried them), and a boat load of non-ski activities for those off days (dog-sledding, ice-walking, and a visit to the Fairmont at Lake Louise are amongst my favorites).

I love Tahoe as well (particularly Heavenly at South Tahoe), great place for both skiing and non-skiing activities, but as small_ruminant said, they haven't had that good a snow until now.
posted by tuxster at 11:32 AM on December 29, 2005

Summit and Eagle counties in Colorado are presently having record snow years. Summit county consists of Arapahoe Basin, Keystone, Breckenridge and Copper Mountain. Eagle county consists of Vail and Beaver Creek Resorts. Considering your need for blue and green slopes and you husbands need for more difficult terrain, I would recommend Beaver Creek and/or Vail. Copper is nice in summit county and definitely has some good beginner terrain and would be worthy of a day trip. It is only 20 miles east of Vail.

There are a lot great ski areas in the West, but you cannot go wrong with Colorado. Unlike California and British Columbia, we do not receive rain in the Winter months due to the elevation. Mostly sunny weather or otherwise it is snowing. Always have good snow coverage due to the lack of rocky terrain unlike New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and Idaho.
posted by xcwhite at 12:49 PM on December 29, 2005

I'd give the nod to Vail, which meets both your requirements. You can take advantage of the main mountain, which includes tons of terrain for your ability level. Your husband should find enough to keep him busy, plus he'll have the opportunity to explore the back bowls, with tons of advanced terrain. If that's not enough, he can hire someone at Vail to take him to the hairy parts of the bowls.

I can't speak for the spas at Vail, but I imagine that they'd be acceptable.

If you want something more luxurious -- and to my hardened New England heart less about skiing -- Beaver Creek should work. I went there for a day about 10 years ago, and they even carry your skis at the lodges.

On preview: What xcwhite said.
posted by jed at 1:08 PM on December 29, 2005

Colorado has had an amazing amount of early season snow, and there is no greater local ski resort then Monarch. It has everything you want in a nice, not overcrowded, lot's of snow, good, groomed runs, and a nice lodge.

But don't rule out New Mexcio. Taos and Santa Fe are two of my particularly favorite ski resorts. Taos is by far the resort that I have really enjoyed over the years and keep coming back.
posted by Benway at 2:56 PM on December 29, 2005

I wholeheartedly recommend Sierra at Tahoe. On Tahoe's south side, near Heavenly and the other huge resorts, it's my annual skiing mecca. The primary chair takes you to the summit, where an easy zig-zag goes all the way down the mountain, with fun intermediate shortcuts that an accomplished skier can take without ditching beginners. If you choose to detour, there's an entire area of punishing expert slopes (not to the level of Kirkwood, more fun), and another area of almost all intermediate slopes.

It rarely gets crowded like the other nearby resorts, costs less, has huge, wide runs that make it easy to avoid collisions, and is more skier-friendly than many other resorts I've been to (in Tahoe, it sometimes feels like the entire scene is converting to snowboards, with no sympathy for those of us that suffered too many concussions trying to learn to try it again).
posted by Pacrand at 5:06 PM on December 29, 2005

I'm in Utah right now and the snow is in fact only ok. It's still pretty good, though, and depending on when you are planning to go, it might be great. jacobsee is right on the money as far as which resorts are consistently the best--the Cottonwood Canyon resorts (Alta, Snowbird, Brighton, and Solitude) almost always seem to have the best snow. Alta and Snowbird are my favorites in the area. Some people complain that Snowbird is too black-centric, though.

If you're interested in getting more of the posh resort experience, Park City and The Canyons might be more up your alley, though Snowbird does have fairly ample base facilities as well. (Plus if you go to Snowbird you could get passes for both Snowbird and Alta, as they are adjacent, and have access to a massive amount of terrain.)

In North Tahoe, I had a fantastic time two days at Northstar in April, but that was probably due to some exceptional weather. That was only my second trip to Tahoe, though, so I can't lay out the whole scene for you, but I can say that people I know love Squaw as well, which would have more of a muscle-relaxing spa type atmosphere.
posted by epugachev at 7:05 PM on December 29, 2005

I heartily agree with benway! Monarch rules! storms that leave summit county with 15 inches, dump up to 30 at Monarch, the snow is light champange powder that stays fluffy for days, there is glade skiing thru the trees in hipdeep powder snow, as well as blue, green, black,trails.Stay at nearby Mt Princeton hot springs resort. There is also southern Utah, Brian Head highest elevation equals fantastic dry light snow, family oriented with trailside bristlecone pines it is absolutely beautiful.
posted by hortense at 7:08 PM on December 29, 2005

Montana - Big Sky Country! Try Showdown - it's very friendly, and never TOO crowded. You & your hubby will love it -- the location, the people, the skiiing, the whole thing.
posted by davidmsc at 7:29 PM on December 29, 2005

Tons of snow in the rockies for a girl to ski, but bitterly cold last week. aspen rather expensive but super skiing, restaurants, beauty, all the spas you could ever want. breckenridge greens and blues and blacks. farther afield- steamboat springs and crested butte.
posted by madstop1 at 10:50 PM on December 29, 2005

just skied deer valley today and it was excellent...they just got 2 feet of powder of the last few days. still a little wet though -- it needs to get colder!
posted by jacobsee at 7:26 PM on January 2, 2006

related thread: Lodging for Utah ski vacation
posted by jacobsee at 3:25 PM on January 3, 2006

And some thoughts from a friend of mine (another Utah local with more knowledge about some of these resorts than me)

"I don't think the Cottonwoods are really a good choice for her. She wants a nice spa and lots of green and blue groomers. Well Snowbird has a great spa but is very limited on green and blue groomers. Alta has a nice beginner section but no spa. Brighton is so-so for beginners but no spa. Solitude is the best bet for groomers and they have a spa but it's new and I haven't heard much about it. Her husband may love the terrain and snow but, with the possible exception of Solitude, those places don't really cater to her skier type. The Park City area is a much better resort destination for her ski trip goals."
posted by jacobsee at 5:08 PM on January 3, 2006

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