Where's the best 2019 Christmas snow destination?

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Re: Where's the best 2019 Christmas snow destination?

Postby Marc_C » Wed Dec 18, 2019 6:56 pm

jamesdeluxe wrote:Everyone here knows that given the choice, I'll always head east from NJ/NYC instead of west, whereas most Americans (even those on the east coast) reflexively fly west for their destination trips.

A lot of people are intimidated by the Alps -
* unfamiliarity
* stories or perceptions of super gnarly terrain
* real or perceived language barrier
* unaware that it won't cost $$$$$$$$$$$
* the need for international medical insurance and, if renting a car, automobile insurance
* if not renting a car, the additional logistics of airport transfer, trains, etc.
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Re: Where's the best 2019 Christmas snow destination?

Postby jamesdeluxe » Thu Dec 19, 2019 6:59 am

Marc_C wrote:* the need for international medical insurance and, if renting a car, automobile insurance

I agree with your other points about perceptions vs. reality, but can you explain this one? You mean people think that they'll need special car and medical insurance over there?

For what One Wolf will spend at Aspen/Vail during Xmas Week, he could have a mind-blowing high-end trip in the Alps. Our own London-based travel advisor (Fraser Wilkin at Snow-Wise) could do all the legwork for him.
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Re: Where's the best 2019 Christmas snow destination?

Postby One Wolf » Thu Dec 19, 2019 11:30 am

Where were you a week ago.

Vail is 86% open (terrain), Aspen 90%, so it won't entirely suck, and we've never been to either so it will be a great experience. My US flights are free on frequent flier miles, EU flights would have been on the order of at least $800 each (probably more) so there's at least $3k delta right there.

Perhaps next year.

Are the alps such that you can book well in advance of Christmas and be certain there will be plenty of open terrain? Obviously I have no idea.
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Re: Where's the best 2019 Christmas snow destination?

Postby Marc_C » Thu Dec 19, 2019 11:48 am

jamesdeluxe wrote:
Marc_C wrote:* the need for international medical insurance and, if renting a car, automobile insurance

I agree with your other points about perceptions vs. reality, but can you explain this one? You mean people think that they'll need special car and medical insurance over there?

What makes you think your US medical insurance will work overseas? It may or may not - it depends on your carrier. If you're on Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan, it definitely does not cover you outside the US.

Yes, overseas emergency care is usually "free", but if it requires hospitalization, you'll probably be charged. Sometimes your medical will reimburse those expenses, but you'll still need to pay up front. I know of an appendicitis incident in Switzerland where the person had to pay the hospital 8,000 euro before leaving.

Your US medical definitely does not cover a medical repatriation flight. Sometimes that may require a business or first class ticket. If an actual medical ambulance flight is required, that can run $35K US.

Often you can get medical included in a travel insurance package which covers a bunch of other things, including repatriation. A comprehensive $1M travel insurance package for our two week trip to Scotland, covering both of us, cost $275 US. We bought it because our medical insurance carrier at the time told me we had zero coverage in Europe.

Basically everything said about medical above applies to car insurance as well.

Take a look at this piece: https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/trip-planning/travel-insurance
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Re: Where's the best 2019 Christmas snow destination?

Postby Tony Crocker » Thu Dec 19, 2019 1:46 pm

I pay $200 per year for both of us for AMEX travel medical including evacuation. Only exclusion is pre-existing conditions. Ice Axe was satisfied with this policy for the Antarctic trip in 2011.

I have Delta FF status and we are using miles for our March trip to the Alps as we did for both trips in 2018. I realize using miles to fly at Christmas is probably next to impossible. I’m surprised One Wolf can use them in the US at Christmas in short notice.

No I would not in general be comfortable booking the Alps for Christmas several months ahead. Maybe the Arlberg or Val D’Isere. But with no plans as of Dec. 14 James or I should have referred One Wolf to Fraser for one stop shopping.

I do not think Aspen and Vail will suck in the slightest this year. But the value of waiting late to book is to take advantage of the areas that have the best current conditions.
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Re: Where's the best 2019 Christmas snow destination?

Postby sierra_cement » Thu Dec 19, 2019 7:15 pm

It's funny that people are commenting about how expensive this trip will be while OP has followed recommended advice of not booking a Xmas trip until conditions are good.

I have a feeling that on average, it's better to book a trip in advance to the more reliable destinations to save on flight and lodging costs. I saw a timeshare exchange available for Xmas 2020 in Beaver Creek with my cheap resale timeshare week in Arizona. Cost around $1000 for a week. But I decided against it due to the snow risk. I may do a similar timeshare booking for Steamboat or Mt. Bachelor in future, which have a better record. It looks like this year Mt. Bachelor is deficient while California is good.

You may lose to bad conditions once every X years, but still come out ahead when averaged over a decade. Now the value of X changes for the locations. Based on Tony's data, X is large for Targhee and Whistler. Risk is higher for the Sierras.

To understand this risk, I added up the historical November and December snowfalls for a few destinations in this thread :
http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards ... =3&t=14004" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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Re: Where's the best 2019 Christmas snow destination?

Postby Tony Crocker » Fri Dec 20, 2019 2:02 am

sierra_cement wrote:It's funny that people are commenting about how expensive this trip will be while OP has followed recommended advice of not booking a Xmas trip until conditions are good.

There two separate issues here. The primary one, which I routinely advocate, is to book ski destinations once there is some favorable weather evidence for that destination, recognizing that climate is what you expect and weather is what you get. The earlier in the season you are considering a trip, the more you have to rely on history (climate) rather than the track record of the current season. sierra_cement has therefore researched the history and come up with a "Top 5" early season list that is quite consistent with the snow data I have collected.

Many here have been :dead horse: about the cost of skiing during Christmas Week. But a further disadvantage is that availability of flights and sometimes lodging may be problematic, forcing far advance booking and increasing risk of a poor experience unless sticking with a quite short list of resorts.

As far as One Wolf is concerned, note his opening statement:
I have one kid in college and one in high school and their spring breaks don't overlap so we are stuck with Christmas break being our only extended time to make a trip. It sucks but it is what it is.

I think this shows a recognition that spring break is a better option for most families, and for 15 years most of my 1 week destination ski trips were during my son Adam's spring break.

So I think ski trips during Christmas Week are a relatively new subject for One Wolf. I also occasionally indulge in travel many would put in the category
This is the one week a year I say F it and go where I want, stay where we want, do what we want - and we love to ski. I'm not looking for the best value, I'm looking for the best experience.

But I try to confine the high cost trips to places with no cheap alternatives (Iceland, Antarctica, some of the difficult eclipse destinations). I strongly resist paying the big $$ for destinations where one can get just as good an experience for less cost at a different time.

If Christmas Week is going to be a recurring issue while One Wolf's older son is in college, it might be worth investing in an Ikon, Epic or Mountain Collective for those future seasons. With those passes there is some degree of flexibility in choosing the destination on short notice and not getting reamed for lift ticket prices.
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Re: Where's the best 2019 Christmas snow destination?

Postby sierra_cement » Fri Dec 20, 2019 12:09 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:sierra_cement has therefore researched the history and come up with a "Top 5" early season list that is quite consistent with the snow data I have collected.

My conclusions are not independent from yours since it is based on your data. I just wanted to get a feel for why those recommendations make sense so decided to deep dive into the raw data.

As far as One Wolf is concerned, note his opening statement:
I have one kid in college and one in high school and their spring breaks don't overlap so we are stuck with Christmas break being our only extended time to make a trip. It sucks but it is what it is.

I think this shows a recognition that spring break is a better option for most families, and for 15 years most of my 1 week destination ski trips were during my son Adam's spring break.


I understand now that spring is a better time to ski. I didn't grow up around ski areas so it took me a while to understand that snow that falls in the ski areas usually doesn't melt until April, the exception being south facing and low elevation terrain. So it's clear to me now that spring skiing has more favorable odds than Christmas.

With limited vacation time in the US, Christmas skiing is unavoidable for many. Last year I took 6 days off work and got 14 ski days in from Dec 21 to Jan 6th. This year I'm taking 5 days off in Feb and will only get 8 ski days in. If you have 15 vacation days per year, how do you maximize your ski days over a decade if you don't have a big ski budget? I feel like an occasional bad season is the price you pay for maximizing your vacation time in the long run. I'm curious to hear your take on it.


If Christmas Week is going to be a recurring issue while One Wolf's older son is in college, it might be worth investing in an Ikon, Epic or Mountain Collective for those future seasons. With those passes there is some degree of flexibility in choosing the destination on short notice and not getting reamed for lift ticket prices.

It's not the best destination for this Chrismas, but one recommendation you have made is Mt. Bachelor. You don't even need to buy a season pass in advance. They sell a 30 day pass all season long for $629.
https://book.mtbachelor.com/#/season-pa ... re-30-pass" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I know a few poeple who have moved to Bend. They really like the town as well.
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Re: Where's the best 2019 Christmas snow destination?

Postby tseeb » Fri Dec 20, 2019 12:49 pm

Mountain Collective is still available through this weekend, but OP will have to decide if it’s worth it to him. For $529, you get two days at each destination, no blackout dates, and 50% off any additional days. The only CO ski area besides Aspen (where you get 2 free days total, not 2 at each Aspen area), is Arapahoe Basin.
Last edited by tseeb on Fri Dec 20, 2019 8:19 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Where's the best 2019 Christmas snow destination?

Postby jamesdeluxe » Fri Dec 20, 2019 3:42 pm

Now that this thread has hit 40 posts, it's time for One Wolf to pull a Gpaul and not go or otherwise ignore all the suggestions. :lol:
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Re: Where's the best 2019 Christmas snow destination?

Postby Tony Crocker » Fri Dec 20, 2019 9:14 pm

I never got the Gpaul vibe in this thread. I presume One Wolf is soon on his way to Vail then Aspen. We will be interested in the results in a couple of weeks.
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Re: Where's the best 2019 Christmas snow destination?

Postby jamesdeluxe » Sat Dec 21, 2019 8:41 am

Marc_C wrote:What makes you think your US medical insurance will work overseas? It may or may not - it depends on your carrier. If you're on Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan, it definitely does not cover you outside the US.[...] Basically everything said about medical above applies to car insurance as well.

Fair enough, each person travelling out of the country has to perform his/her own due diligence. For the past decade, I've worked for international NGOs with extensive medical insurance coverage outside the U.S. (including repatriation), because employees often go to oddball, often dangerous places like Sierra Leone, the Congo, or the Central African Republic.

As far as rental cars, my United Airlines and American Airlines Mastercards have had the following standard benefits for years (I assume it's the same with Tony's Delta Amex):

Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver
The waiver benefit provides reimbursement for damages caused by theft or collision up to the Actual Cash Value of most rented cars. The Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver acts as primary coverage and covers theft, damage, valid loss-of-use charges imposed and substantiated by the auto rental company, administrative fees, and reasonable and customary towing charges (due to a covered theft or damage) to the nearest qualified repair facility.This benefit is available in the United States and most foreign countries.

During the rental transaction, review the Rental Car Agreement and decline the rental company’s collision damage waiver (CDW/LDW) option or a similar provision. Accepting this coverage will cancel out your benefit.
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Re: Where's the best 2019 Christmas snow destination?

Postby Marc_C » Sat Dec 21, 2019 11:27 am

jamesdeluxe wrote:As far as rental cars, my United Airlines and American Airlines Mastercards have had the following standard benefits for years (I assume it's the same with Tony's Delta Amex):

Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver
The waiver benefit provides reimbursement for damages caused by theft or collision up to the Actual Cash Value of most rented cars. The Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver acts as primary coverage and covers theft, damage, valid loss-of-use charges imposed and substantiated by the auto rental company, administrative fees, and reasonable and customary towing charges (due to a covered theft or damage) to the nearest qualified repair facility.This benefit is available in the United States and most foreign countries.

During the rental transaction, review the Rental Car Agreement and decline the rental company’s collision damage waiver (CDW/LDW) option or a similar provision. Accepting this coverage will cancel out your benefit.

That's fine, and what I always do in the US, but the problem isn't the damages but liability.
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Re: Where's the best 2019 Christmas snow destination?

Postby jamesdeluxe » Sat Dec 21, 2019 11:29 am

Marc_C wrote:the problem isn't the damages but liability.

Noted.
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Re: Where's the best 2019 Christmas snow destination?

Postby Sbooker » Mon Dec 23, 2019 9:43 pm

This thread is obviously now redundant as the OP is likely to be sliding on snow now but I agree with the others that if you really have to go at Christmas and are more comfortable booking ahead Europe is a great option. It has to be noted that their lodging at peak times is often done in weeks Saturday to Saturday and Christmas week is usually significantly quieter than New Year week which is the busiest of the season apparently.
The advantages are twofold in that day tickets are significantly cheaper than The US and Europe seems to be better prepared for low natural snowfall in that they have vast snowmaking systems so even if it's a poor start to the season there's likely to be a lot open on the high mountains.
I think Landeck in Austria would be a great base with St Anton and the other Arlberg resorts, Ischgl, Serfaus, Solden and the glaciers of Stubai, Pitzal and Kaunternal less than an hours drive away. All are relatively high and the are good bets even if it is only piste skiing. Of course there's a chance of decent natural snowfall too. It just happens that the city of Innsbruck is an hour away on the train for an off day for a less avid skier.
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