Suggestions for Winter Ski Trip

Old May 4th, 2021, 11:04 AM
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Suggestions for Winter Ski Trip

Hi everyone! We are a family of 4 living in Georgia and would like to travel somewhere at Christmas time this year that has great snow/mountain scenery as well as skiing. We have never skied before so what we are really looking for is a super scenic mountain town that has a very festive holiday atmosphere, nice shops/restaurants, outdoor winter activities, and of course skiing that is suitable for beginners. We have heard good things about some of the towns in Colorado such as Vail, Telluride, and Breckenridge, Park City in Utah, Lake Tahoe, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. We know that wherever we go, it will likely be expensive that time of year but we really want to experience Christmas/New Years in one of these beautiful winter locations. I have looked into all of these towns and they all look beautiful but I'm having a hard time narrowing it down to one.

I also am finding it somewhat overwhelming trying to figure out where to stay. Is it common to stay in an Airbnb in one of these towns and still use all the facilities at the ski resort? There seem to be many more affordable options for Airbnbs, as the accommodations in the resorts themselves are crazy expensive. If anyone has any advice on a destination that would suit what we are looking for, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks!
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Old May 4th, 2021, 11:58 AM
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There are so many great ski resort towns to choose from. Our favorites tend to be the more 'authentic' ones, like Crested Butte, Telluride, Aspen, Park City, Jackson Hole, Winter Park. As opposed to Vail, Keystone, Copper.

You might start by investigating ease of transportation to get there. How easy is it to fly there, and do you have a long drive once you've arrived? Is it an easy area to navigate, once you arrive? Do you need a car? Would you have to drive to the ski area and pay for parking? Could people in your party come and go as they please, or is it an ordeal for everyone to pile into the car at the same time, and return all together? With beginners, especially, it's nice when people can go at their own pace.

Park City is a good one, because you fly to Salt Lake and it's only about 45 minutes to Park City, with no mountain passes on the way. We took an Uber last time we were there. We stayed right off the main drag, and did not need a car. If you stay right in town, you can walk to the ski lift and the shops/restaurants. We stayed here: https://www.parkcitylodging.com/rentals/motherlode-3

I think your question about resort activities is that anyone can use them. They are set up to accommodate loads of day visitors.

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Old May 4th, 2021, 01:23 PM
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Thanks for your response. There are definitely some things to consider transportation wise, but overall we aren't too concerned with that. Park City does seem the most accessible, but since we will most likely be renting a car regardless, driving from the airport isn't a deal-breaker. Ideally it would be great to stay within walking distance to the slopes/lift so that our kids can have the flexibility to go on their own and not having to worry about parking at the resort, but that's dependent on being able to find somewhere to stay that fits our price range. We are more concerned with finding a destination that combines good skiing for beginners and the best holiday atmosphere, then we can work out the finer details. There are so many resorts in Colorado. Would you say some are better than others for beginners and holiday festivities?
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Old May 4th, 2021, 02:00 PM
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I like Jackson, but I'm not sure it's the best fit for what you're looking for. The ski resort is about 12 miles from the town of Jackson. So if you wanted in town activities you would stay in Jackson and then drive to Teton Village to ski. Or you could stay in Teton Village and walk to the lifts, but Teton Village isn't a town.
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Old May 4th, 2021, 02:01 PM
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Does it have to be in the United States or are y'all open to flying and staying at a Canadian resort? Because if so, I have recommendations.
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Old May 4th, 2021, 02:37 PM
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Originally Posted by SirhanTheStrong View Post
Does it have to be in the United States or are y'all open to flying and staying at a Canadian resort? Because if so, I have recommendations.
We are definitely open to flying to Canada, but did not think it would be possible this year with all the travel restrictions still in place there. Always open to recommendations though!
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Old May 4th, 2021, 02:47 PM
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GAHiker, when it comes to which places have the ‘best’ beginner skiing or activities or lodging, you’ll need to make a list of your priorities and Google. And ask specifics here. All areas have beginner runs, but ordinarily beginner skiers do not want to go skiing every day. What type of other activities do you want: cross-country skiing, horse-drawn sleigh rides, ice skating, tubing, day-trips, spas, fine dining, night life, etc. If you will have a car, some places have better day-trip options. All will have their own version of holiday festivities, like having a multi-Santa nighttime torchlight parade down the mountain, horse carriages in town (Crested Butte is my best memory for that), fireworks, etc.
Look at what places have ski in/ski out that’s in your budget.
Aspen has four ski mountains to choose from (one not so much for beginners), and tons of other activities. Gorgeous scenery. About five hours drive from the Denver airport, though you could also fly to Aspen. Or take the train to nearby Glenwood Springs and rent a car there. It’s expensive to stay in Aspen proper. Snowmass could be less expensive, but nowhere will be a bargain at Christmas.
The places we personally do NOT like are the ‘newer’ (to us) resorts created and placed by a highway, like Vail and Copper. Just our personal preferences.
My husband is a skiing/biking fanatic, and he chose Winter Park for our getaway place. We’ve gone there since the 70s. He’s still skiing this week there. He never gets tired of that mountain, but he’s an expert skier. We enjoy Grand County year-round. Grand Lake is an easy day-trip. Steamboat is about 1.5 hour drive, so you could split your week between WP and Steamboat.
A really beautiful ranch resort in Grand County is Devils Thumb Ranch, which has cross-country skiing and all the other activities in a gorgeous wide-open setting, with awesome food and customer service. For downhill skiing, though, you’d need to take the shuttle to Winter Park or smaller Granby Ranch. And DTR is pricey. https://www.devilsthumbranch.com/ Consider a few nights at the downhill area, and a few nights at the cross-country ranch?
For rentals that would be close to Winter Park, look at VRBO or Vacasa for Trademark condos. It’s located at the back gate to Winter Park, with a free ski shuttle right there. There are also condos on the ski resort property itself. Be aware that Winter Park is a large area, and some rentals will be a decently long drive. There is a free shuttle service that serves the town of Winter Park, which is different than Winter Park ski area itself, and different than Old Town Winter Park. It’s confusing. Ask me if you’re actually considering staying there. https://www.vacasa.com/usa/Colorado/...partnerid=1746
Then there’s Steamboat, Lake Tahoe, Jackson, etc etc
So many choices. You’ll need to prioritize your interests and look at prices.
I think there are so many that would fit the bill, you’ll be able to find a place relatively easily.

Last edited by MoBro; May 4th, 2021 at 03:36 PM.
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Old May 4th, 2021, 04:50 PM
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It's unlikely that any ski resort in the U.S. will have 100% of its terrain/trails open by Christmas. Some resorts have better historical averages for early snow than others do. If skiing is the priority, you might want to look at this:

https://www.zrankings.com/articles/b...rs-snow-top-15
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Old May 5th, 2021, 02:49 AM
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m going to say that for your budgeting which you seem to be willing to be ample you must add in ski lessons for all for at least a number of days depending on age of kids. These can also include the lift ticket and the equipment rentals. You will probably not be in the same class as your kids--and depending on their ages they may be in different ones. But you will advance so quickly with lessons. Even really good skiers take lessons to improve.
We went to Vail in the days we first started going west from NC to ski and loved it. It has all kinds of terrain and even beginner slopes up high. It has changed a lot in the interim years. Our family in Denver skis at Copper Mountain which has an excellent ski school and the more expert slopes are somewhat separated from beginner which has its good points.
Our daughter was a ski instructor for a year at Winter Park and it is a nice smaller area. It is somewhat isolated as compared to Summit County areas that sort of interconnect for dining and shopping possibilities up and down I70.. You are "there" with what they have is my recollection.
I think Jackson Hole is a more expert mountain as is Aspen--too bad because the towns are so WONDERFUL!!
Aspen Highlands near Aspen and Snowmass is a wonderful little place for beginning skiers.
There is a Summit County pass that allows for skiing several areas and there is a free bus service between them.

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Old May 5th, 2021, 05:57 AM
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“Winter Park and it is a nice smaller area.”

Smaller than Vail, but not a small area.

https://www.uncovercolorado.com/larg...sorts-by-size/

Actually size of the mountain and the amount of terrain open doesn’t matter all that much, since the OP has never skied before. Beginners don’t need 100% of the mountain to be open.

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Old May 5th, 2021, 07:07 AM
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Park City is a great choice if your kids would like to be independent. It has a very good free bus system that gets around town and all the ski areas. My sisters family with teens/twenties did a Xmas trip there a few years ago and with a group ski lesson or two for the beginners had a great week. What she found was the most expensive though is outfitting the kids. You can rent ski equipment. But then there are also jackets, pants, socks, gloves, helmets, googles, etc.
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Old May 5th, 2021, 07:41 AM
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There is a lot of information about that is hard to sort through. From your original description I would recommended Breckenridge. It is an authentic, old Victorian mining town that dresses up very well for Christmas -- lights, the whole business. It is large enough to have an extensive range of housing available. Has an excellent bus system if you are not staying the immediate downtown area. The ski bases are spread across the mountain so there is a lot of housing clustered around the bases and within walking distances of the condos. Breckenridge has more ski-in/out lodging than any of the other ski areas. An exception might be Snowmass in the Aspen complex. Unless it is an odd situation all of Breckenridge will be open by Christmas.

Breck is super scenic nested at the end of Ten Mile canyon and the foot of Hoosier pass. Also an excellent rec center with indoor pools and a variety of non ski activities such as sleigh rides, dog sleds, etc.

The sole drawback to Breckenridge or any of the other ski area is the crowds at that time of year. It will be packed and there is little you can do about it. Your will need reservations for ski school, ski rentals, restaurants. We have spent several Christmas weeks in Breck and it can have a magically feeling especially if the snow is falling.

Another recommendation would be Beaver Creek, part of the Vail complex. It is all new, well designed ski area. It is very beautifully decorated at Christmas with an ice skating rink in the center but does not provide the Victorian feeling you get in Breck. Again, an excellent and convenient ski school.

And finally Vail, itself. A lot of folks like to knock Vail because it is a recreated Alpine village but it is festive at Christmas.

I would discourage Jackson Hole as a ski area for beginners. It is a tough mountain even for experienced skiers and I don't recall seeing many beginner slopes. IMO, the best single mountain for beginning skiing is Cooper Mountain. But the base area is pretty plain Jane. Nothing exceptional. Skier separation is excellent at Cooper with all the beginning slopes on one side and all the black slopes on the other end. And never shall they meet. Skier separation can be a problem a Vail when a black slope dumps into a green slope.

While I have skied frequently at Park City I don't recommend it generally. If you like your glass of wine with dinner the liqueur laws will drive you nuts. And the ski runs tend to be fairly short but the base is much lower than Breck so it will make breathing a little easier.

I think you would be happy with Breck.

PS - Small disclaimer -- I learned to ski at Breck in '62 (only one base in those days) honeymooned there in Christmas '68 so it is a favorite mountain for us.

Last edited by fmpden; May 5th, 2021 at 08:02 AM. Reason: Changes
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Old May 5th, 2021, 07:49 AM
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The amount of open terrain is an indication of how much snow there is. Some resorts do snowmaking (if it's cold enough) to cover high-traffic areas, but there can be spots where snow gets skied off and rocks emerge. A measured snow depth of 20-24 inches would be the absolute minimum for safe skiing, but snow is usually measured at the summits and not in the middle of popular runs or in beginner areas, so interpreting a ski area's daily report can be tricky.

Ski trips are expensive, and buying lift tickets in advance is usually cheaper. If skiing is the priority, I would choose a destination that is most likely to have enough snow to safely ski. IMO, this is more important for beginners than experienced skiers who can seek out runs with the best coverage.

If skiing is secondary to a holiday atmosphere, then it's a different decision-making process.
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Old May 5th, 2021, 08:11 AM
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Jean, that would not be a concern at any of the Colorado ski areas by Christmas, All have have snow making ability but it is turned off by that time.

A general comment about ski lessons. I think you should plan of two full days of lessons. That barely get you down the bunny hill. Take the next day off to practice what you learned from the previous two days. You may want a rest day as you discover muscles that haven't been used in decades. Then opt for half day lessons so you can practice in the afternoon what you learned in the morning. In my experience it will take a good four or five days to get to a comfortable level with the green slopes. After that it is just practice and time on the skis. For kids it will be a question of skis or boards. Not both till they are very good. The techniques for ski and boarding is nearly opposite.

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Old May 5th, 2021, 08:29 AM
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fmpden makes a good point: "The ski bases are spread across the mountain so there is a lot of housing clustered around the bases and within walking distances of the condos. Breckenridge has more ski-in/out lodging than any of the other ski areas."
I don't really know Breckenridge, but it is a cute little town. Easy day-trip to Vail/Beaver Creek, if you're interested.
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Old May 5th, 2021, 08:53 AM
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You aren't going to get great snow conditions at Christmas in most places. Even Summit County was not good this year. I go to Aspen and Tahoe a lot, they are my favorites, but would never go at Christmas. However, I can't see South Lake Tahoe as some amazing Christmas festivity place. I don't know what is actually, I could see how maybe Park City or Breckenridge (or Aspen) being real towns might be. But iot really depends what people want, could be a manufactured resort like Copper or Vail is fine with them, such as if they like Disneyland for Christmas, that kind of thing.

I don't agree that Aspen Highlands is good for beginners, I think it is pretty bad. Buttermilk is the best near Aspen (that's where I learned, and I still go at least once when I'm there, really like it), then I'd say Snowmass. It isn't just that Aspen Mtn (aka Ajax) is "not so good" for beginners, it is impossible as it has zero beginner runs. Aspen Highlands doesn't either, it has 1-2 sort of "easy" blue runs, but some of its blues are pretty difficult IMO. And even those "easy" blue runs are not what I'd take a rank beginner on. In fact, they have NO beginner lessons at Aspen Highlands because it has no beginner area. But you can have a great time just at Buttermilk if you are a beginner.
Aspen is expensive, but so is Breck. Lake Tahoe isn't, you can get much cheaper hotels there due to casino competition. But in December, it's lower altitude and doesn't usually snow much by then at all. Great scenery, though.

I'm not crazy about Park City, actually, just not a big fan if that mountain. It could be fine for beginners, I don't know.

I think Copper might be ok, even if it is not a real town. But I think it's good for beginners and not as crowded as Breckenridge.

So if money is no object, I'd vote for Aspen probably. In Colorado, Breck or Copper (I don't know Vail, it could be fine also).

I would veto Lake Tahoe at that time of year unless you really don't care about skiing all that much. Heavenly isn't a beginner's paradise, actually, but okay. I'd also veto Park City again unless you don't care about skiing all that much. I will add, I forget, a friend of mine LOVES Deer Valley and takes her kids although they are too little to do much. It is upscale and would be okay for beginners. I had a car and just drove to their lot but I never go during holiday periods, and only go midweek when things aren't that bad there or at Park City for parking. You can stay within walking distance of the lifts at both, sure, but Deer Valley is expensive I think. You'd have to check. I only go for skiing so stay in Kimball Junction in a chain hotel.

Any of those places will have enough good restaurants.

Last edited by Christina; May 5th, 2021 at 08:55 AM.
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Old May 5th, 2021, 09:26 AM
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"I'd also veto Park City again unless you don't care about skiing all that much".
Huh?
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Old May 5th, 2021, 11:00 AM
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I would have to suggest Beaver Creek. It has been about creating the best family mountain experience since it opened. They pride themselves on teaching people to ski and having them on runs the first day. The layout of the village is fantastic and the Christmas time atmosphere is wonderful. All the villages and condo areas around BC are connected by an easy to use free transportation network of buses. So with that you could stay for a much lower rate in say the town of Avon and still have ready access to the heart of the BC Village and all the surrounding activities. Getting these is easy too as you can fly into the Eagle Airport that is only about 10 miles away from Beaver Creek. The airport is served by at least American, Delta and United and you can even fly non-stop/direct to Eagle from Houston and Atlanta, so you avoid the debacle they call DIA.
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Old May 5th, 2021, 11:25 AM
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Thanks for all the replies! Sounds like we definitely have a lot to consider. Breckenridge sounds delightful, as well as Vail and Copper Mountain. I think a good option might be if we could stay somewhere near Breckenridge, we could also be within driving distance to Vail/Copper Mountain/Beaver Creek. Like I said, we have never skied before so the question is just how much we will enjoy it. That's why we are looking for somewhere that also has other activities like sledding/snowshoeing/snowmobiling, but I think most ski areas would. As a side note, does anyone know what the parking situations are like at the Colorado resorts if we don't stay within walking distance of the lifts? I read Vail charges, but not sure about the others and how hard it is to find spots.
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Old May 5th, 2021, 12:04 PM
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Parking ? You will almost certainly have free shuttles if your rental property is near the resort - all of them, so parking should not be an issue.
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