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December ski trip to Colorado? Please help us pick a resort!

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Oct 13th, 2009, 05:33 PM
  #1
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December ski trip to Colorado? Please help us pick a resort!

Hi all,

We are planning a getaway (sans kids) in mid-December for a ski trip to Colorado (5 days). We are looking for a place that is fairly accessible to Denver (we will be coming from Canada so I don't know if we will be able to fly into smaller spots directly).

I am a beginner/intermediate skier and my husband is a snowboarder. We don't care about nightlife but enjoy good food. I have done a little bit of research and it seems like Vail and Beaver Creek get good reviews. We have skied in Eastern Canada and also in Switzerland. I have never seen real powder so am really keen to see the stuff!!

Can anyone recommend a particular resort in CO? Thanks in advance.

Lisa
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Oct 13th, 2009, 07:01 PM
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Yes, I'd agree. Vail and Beaver Creek are what you're looking for in a ski area as you described it. They're close together so you could ski both during your trip. They have a lot of choices in lodging, and many good restaurants to choose from. And don't forget the skiing - it doesn't get any better than these two! It's less than a two hour drive from Denver, all on I-70. Mid-December is not so crowded and I suspect there will be lodging deals to be had. The only drawback is that snow conditions may not be superb early in the season, but given that they've already had snow this month, chances are you will find powder.

Check out the websites: http://www.skivailcolorado.net/ and http://www.beavercreeklodging.net/ to start narrowing down your search.
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Oct 13th, 2009, 07:19 PM
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Breckenridge is also very good for a beginner/intermediate skier. And Copper Mt. is great for the beginner/intermediate. The skier separation as to level of ability is excellent at Copper and bad on the front side of Vail. Some of the best aspects of Vail and BC are only available to really good skiers. The back bowls might not be open at that time and probably beyond your ability. Another slight drawback to that area is that you have to go over Vail pass which can be real problem if the weather bad. Vail and especially BC are very upscale and the prices will reflect that. Breckenridge would be more reasonable. Breckenridge is true old mining town that has been dressed up some while Vail and BC are very glitzy. It is a toss up depending on your budget.

I always ski the second week of Dec in BC and the snow is decent. Not all of the runs or chairs will be operating or open but it more than adequate for early season. There will be no crowds while Breckenridge could be more crowded especially over a weekend.
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Oct 14th, 2009, 05:44 AM
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I agree with the above responses. You are probably going to find better restaurants in Vail and BC (you mentioned good food is a priority). I like Breckenridge too, but it is more low-key. Copper is good skiing, but I don't recall many good choices for dining.
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Oct 14th, 2009, 06:37 AM
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I think Vail would be perfect. And I would really suggest that you take at least a day of lessons. You will improve light years.
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Oct 14th, 2009, 07:07 AM
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Let me follow-up from my wife's original post...

It doesn't have to be December - Jan. or Feb. could also work. We definitely would want to optimize our chances of getting really good conditions - so when are the best times to go?

Also, I've heard a lot of good things about Snowmass (although it's much further away than Vail). We could also fly from Denver to Aspen airport.

There's just so many resorts to choose from - my head is spinning!
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Oct 14th, 2009, 08:44 AM
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Keep it simple with your choices. Yes, Snowmass is a good place to ski, but it's still a bit more of a hassel to fly into Aspen and certainly weather dependent.

Vail is a great choice for dining and skiing, but the ski area is huge(good if you know where to ski, less so if you don't), and as fmpden mentioned the front of the mountain is a negative in many respects. Copper Mountain is good because the area is mapped out according to skier ablility. C.B.'s is an excellent place to dine at Copper but for any other fine dining experiences one would need to go to Breckenridge. Copper does have several good but casual restaurants.

Beaver Creek is one of my favorite places, but it is expensive. Arrowhead and Bachelor's Gulch are excellent areas for beginners and intermediates and is next to the Beaver Creek area. You can ski from one to the other.

Breckenridge would fit all your requirements although of the ones mentioned it's my least favorite place to ski, but that's probably just an old prejudice.

As to the best time for the best snow conditions that's difficult to say. That Mother Nature thing is seldom definitive. December will likely have the least number of skiers. January is usually the coldest month and February is good if you avoid President's weekend.

Personally I would chose between Breckenridge, Copper Mt., Beaver Creek and Vail. If cost is not much of an issue go with Beaver Creek or Vail. Otherwise Copper Mountain and Breckenridge are your best choices.
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Oct 14th, 2009, 09:07 AM
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<<>>

FWIW, my DH has gotten snowed in at Aspen airport on more than one occasion, in both cases having to rent a car to drive to Denver to get home. Also, while Snowmass might be a great place to ski (I've been there but I don't ski), it's a ski area with a ski area village (lots of places to rent skis, buy a hat, that kind of thing, no "regular" shops, not a lot of great dining, etc.), not an adjacent town (that would be Aspen, which is great and is about 20 minutes away by car (or by free shuttle bus)).
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Oct 14th, 2009, 10:22 AM
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Use this page linked below to help you see what resorts are consistantly good in December. Copper and Snowmass are not, for example--Vail and Steamboat are better bets. Steamboat has better and cheaper flight service (via Hayden Airport) than you'd expect for a small town--it's not nearly as bad as Aspen.

I'm hesitant to plan a December ski trip--you never know what the weather's going to bring at any time, but I'd rather deal with less than ideal weather when there's already a good snowpack, than deal with early season conditions (closed lifts, rocks, etc). You're far less likely to experience early season conditions in January, and prices plunge after the xmas break period since hardly anyone travels in January. So while I wouldn't plan a December trip, I do keep my eye on conditions and will plan a last minute trip if December ends up being a great month.

http://webpages.charter.net/tcrocker818/
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Oct 14th, 2009, 11:28 AM
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It's a bit of a hyperbole to say prices plunge in January. It is certainly less expensive than during the Christmas holidays, but I wouldn't expect any huge savings.The idea that hardly anyone travels [to Colorado] in January is also misleading. The cheapest rates will always be early season. It is true that you'll never know what the weather/conditions will be in early December, but that holds true for any time during the ski season. I'm not suggesting you should plan a December trip rather than one in January or February but early December shouldn't be so easily dismissed. While planning a last minute ski trip around snow conditions might be ideal,you'll find that flights will be more expensive.
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Oct 14th, 2009, 02:24 PM
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The price plunge has absolutely been my experience when renting condos. It's been shocking to me how much prices drop during January (actually the shock is how expensive things are during xmas!), and then shoot up again (though not as much as xmas) during spring break. Though I think you're right about early season being the cheapest, and there's a reason for that--early season conditions.
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Oct 14th, 2009, 03:24 PM
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If you can go later in the season, do so. Christmas is expensive and crowded.
I would still go to Vail. Aspen is an expert mountain. Snowmass is as has been described for shops and restaurants.
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Oct 14th, 2009, 03:46 PM
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I don't believe the OP was thinking of going over Christmas but did mention mid-December as a possibility.
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Oct 14th, 2009, 06:33 PM
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My wife's original post did say mid-December, but as I corrected, we would certainly look at any time really.

My preference for Vail was based on its proximity to Denver which is easily reached from Ottawa, the huge ski area with what I thought was lots of beginner/intermediate runs, a nice village with restos, and those back-side bowls.

I've been reading more and more about weather related problems when going through Aspen airport and I've pretty much ruled out going to that area by air and I don't want to drive that far to and from Denver.

I'm leaning (still) to Vail (those bowls look awesome).
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Oct 14th, 2009, 07:16 PM
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The peak ski condition "should be" mid Feb to mid March. The last week of Feb could work well since it still somewhat off peak. March is generally view as the month of Spring skiing.

If Vail is your choice you could also fly into Vail Eagle airport -- about 30 miles west of Vail. It is a very good airport and does not the problems associated with Aspen. There are some direct flights from Chicago, Houston, etc. but don't know about Canada and of course you can connect through Denver.

Historytraveler summed it very well. Vail can be a little intimidating for beginner skiers and even some not so beginner. HTravler you need to come back. I, too, had a prejudice against Breck for a long time but the new lifts, Peak 7 and Peak 10 along with the new chair to the bowl that was only reachable by foot, have changed my mind. My favorite ski areas are Snowmass, BCreek, and Breck but I ski Breck most of the time because it is easy to get on the mountain.
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Oct 14th, 2009, 08:27 PM
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fmpden,

I know you're probably right about Breckenridge. The first and only time I skied there was in blizzard-like conditions. I have always enjoyed the town, and we've had a good number of excellent meals there while living at Copper Mountain.
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Oct 15th, 2009, 05:21 AM
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I don't agree about Vail being intimidating for the beginner. What alsways drew me to it was the fact that there were green slopes high up on the mountain, even if you had to take the gondola down (to avoid the catwalks). I think it is easier for the beginner skier than Snowmass, for example. But again, a lesson will work wonders.
Vail is two hours from DIA. I cannot count the number of times I have left in a snowstorm, but have never missed a plane.
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Oct 15th, 2009, 07:59 AM
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One last time:

Vail is one of the great ski areas in the U.S.,arguably the world, but it is not,IMHO, the best for begining skiers. Having to take the Gondola down because of lack of good trails for beginners (in fact for lack of trails to the village) is about the only real negative for the resort. Well that and the cost. There are other ski areas which have excellent beginner/intermediate trails without the hassel of getting to the bottom at the end of the day.

Vail is not a bad choice; it's just that there are other areas that are just as good or better for beginners. The OP needs to be aware of this fact and decide on their priorites. Vail does have excellent restaurants and shops. It remains one of my favorites. I actually learned to ski at Vail, so I believe I have a good idea of its trails in regard to begining skiers.

While a lesson or two will help, I doubt if they will work wonders. Having taught skiing, I've seldom found a student that progressed from an uneasy start to wonderful in one lesson. I do recommend that any begining/intermediate skier take a couple of lessons.It took me years before I could ski to the bottom without it being a terrifying experience. I know I'm not alone in that regard.

Snowstorms can and do close I 70. I live in Denver and have lived at Copper Mt. I hear the news of the closings every ski season. I would, however, not let that be a determing factor.
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Oct 15th, 2009, 08:54 AM
  #19
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We stayed at the Valdoro Mountain Lodge in Breckenridge. We had a two bedroom, two bath condo-it was very nice. We could walk to town to the shops and restaurants. We also drove a few miles to Friso and found several restaurants there we liked.

We also flew into Denver and rented a car to drive to Breckenridge.
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Oct 15th, 2009, 07:16 PM
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Gretchen you either have your blinders or don't ski that much. Htraveler is absolutely correct. Vail has two serious problems that impacts beginner -- trail design and skier separation. Many of those upper green slopes especially around mid-Vail and east will dump into blue and black slopes. Sure there is a cut off that the beginner skier should take to avoid those slopes but it can be easy to miss and then that beginner skier is in deep trouble. Second, some of those green cut offs -- often a cat walk -- will cut across the face of a black slope. Now you some hot dogger bombing through some black bumps and he suddenly finds a beginner skier crossing in front of him. Result has been severely injured and a couple killed skiers. And it is generally the beginner that takes worse of the hit. I have skied Vail since the third year it was open and I still don't like the front side. That is a couple of many reasons that I don't recommend Vail for beginners.

You are right in that Snowmass is not the best mountain for beginners but you cannot compare Snowmass and Vail. By design Snowmass is an intermediate mountain with about 60/70% blue, 20% green and 10/15% black. Snowmass is big, wide open, steep cruising mountain. But even at Snowmass, the Elk Camp area - green - is to the east and black is in the west and the massive blue is in the middle. A beginner could ski the green slopes all day and never worry about being in the path of black skieer. You can ski Snowmass without trail map. You can not do that at Vail. Buttermilk is the beginner mountain though they have been trying to discourage that classification.

Vail is a great mountain and I ski it several times every year but avoid all of the slopes in and around mid Vail but beginner do better going else where.
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