2018-19 Season Recap

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2018-19 Season Recap

Postby jamesdeluxe » Sun Apr 21, 2019 6:14 am

Similar to the previous season: as a now 99% destination skier, there's a big difference between what I had planned at the beginning of winter and where I actually ended up skiing. My two trips across the ocean were moved to other regions based on conditions and as always, thank god for frequent-flyer awards. Especially disappointing was having to cancel my long-awaited Pyrenees visit (see the beginning of the Werfenweng TR for details).

jamesdeluxe wrote:Cottonwoods, UT: Dec 13-18
I'd encountered comparative low-tide conditions in previous Decembers, but last year's virtually snowless early season in Utah was the first time that I actually cancelled and ate my flights (redirecting to eastern Switzerland for four out of five powder days). As always, it'd be nice to hit Sundance and/or Snowbasin to mix things up; however, it's unlikely at that point in the winter.

Western Pyrenees, SP and FR: Feb 2-10
I've been planning/putting off this trip for a number of years, but similar to last season's very worthwhile visit to the Maritime Alps, I'm going to step up and get 'er done. With Toulouse as gateway airport, my prospective plan is to ski three days in Spain -- two at Baqueira, the Pyrenees' largest ski area with a huge amount of lift-served off-piste, and one at off-the-beaten-path fave Boí Taüll -- along with single days in France at Peyragudes, Le Mourtis, St. Lary, Grand Tourmalet, and Piau Engaly. It's only scratching the surface of this range but I have to start somewhere.

Gstaad, CH: Mar 9-17
For some reason, I've always been curious about this region straddling the French/German linguistic border of Switzerland less than two hours from the Geneva airport, often written off as a more understated version of St. Moritz but with lesser terrain. Alpinforum trip reports and British articles have portrayed it in more positive terms. I can imagine three or so days at the main circuit along with day trips to one of the many nearby local's areas including Chateau d'Oex, glacier-equipped Les Diablerets, and Rochers de Naye's stunning views of Lake Geneva.


It goes without saying that 20 total ski days is at the low end of where I'd like to be at the end of any season. That said; I was especially happy with both Alps visits and feel that the "quality instead of quantity" cliché is warranted.

20 Days
2 Brighton, UT
2 Solitude, UT
1 Snowbird, UT
1 Camelback, PA
1 Werfenweng, AT
1 Tauplitz, AT
1 Wurzeralm, AT
1 Hinterstoder, AT
1 Planneralm, AT
1 RIesneralm, AT
1 Hochkönig, AT
1 Zwölferhorn, AT
1 Pizol, CH
1 Savognin, CH
1 Bivio, CH
1 St. Moritz/Corviglia, CH
1 St. Moritz/Corvatsch, CH
1 St. Moritz/Diavolezza-Lagalb, CH
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Re: 2018-19 Season Recap

Postby lono » Sun Apr 21, 2019 10:44 am

I've read all your reports with great interest. Fantastic skiing in very cool places , if you ever take a group ,I'm in.
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Re: 2018-19 Season Recap

Postby jamesdeluxe » Sun Apr 21, 2019 3:18 pm

Thanks Lono. Looking forward to your season recap of 110+ days. :-)
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Re: 2018-19 Season Recap

Postby Tony Crocker » Mon Apr 22, 2019 5:04 pm

lono wrote:I've read all your reports with great interest. Fantastic skiing in very cool places , if you ever take a group, I'm in.

None too likely I suspect. We have been going to the Alps in somewhat overlapping timeframes and our paths have not crossed yet.

Nonetheless James' Alps trips provided inspiration once Liz and I started our own "Alps Project" in 2017.

This was the year James hit one of the same destinations we did. St. Moritz was not the one I would have expected; Andermatt and Engelberg seem more his style.

jamesdeluxe wrote:the "quality instead of quantity" cliché is warranted.

James is perhaps the extreme in this regard. It's interesting to see only one eastern day during a season regarded as quite good by many eastern skiers. But it requires flexibility to take advantage of that and metro NYC is not an ideal location. I've noted before that excellent air connections from NYC make air travel far more attractive than road marathons to lesser ski areas.
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Re: 2018-19 Season Recap

Postby jamesdeluxe » Tue Apr 23, 2019 5:21 am

Tony Crocker wrote:It's interesting to see only one eastern day during a season regarded as quite good by many eastern skiers. But it requires flexibility to take advantage of that and metro NYC is not an ideal location.

Yes, 60 minutes drive time from my house in northern NJ allows me to hit the Poconos (East Coast fourth-tier: fine for family outings but that's about it) and 90-100 minutes to the Catskills (East Coast third-tier: fun if you hit them during/after storms, which requires flexibility). If I lived within an hour of the Catskills, I'd certainly go there more often. Even with less than optimum conditions, I can view them as the skiing version of working out at the sports club, similar to your SoCal ski areas like Snow Summit/Big Bear. I'm aware that Baldy has very legit terrain and that the limiting factor is undependable snowfall.


Tony Crocker wrote:I've noted before that excellent air connections from NYC make air travel far more attractive than road marathons to lesser ski areas.

I successfully road-marathoned throughout the northeast for a long time; however, starting five years ago I de-emphasized that due to an increasingly inflexible schedule (work and particularly a special-needs son) and that I enjoy the Alps trips on both a skiing and cultural level much more than stateside: ergo, "quality over quantity." Moreover: between FF awards, living close to an international air hub, judicious use of booking.com, and far less expensive lift tickets, my Alps trips are the same price or cheaper than ski visits out west.

Until I retire, that's ^^ my MO.
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Re: 2018-19 Season Recap

Postby Tony Crocker » Tue Apr 23, 2019 12:18 pm

jamesdeluxe wrote:If I lived within an hour of the Catskills, I'd certainly go there more often.

Yes I get the one vs. two hour convenience factor. I probably don't ski last Saturday on Baldy's limited remaining terrain if it's a whole day commitment vs. half a day. Similarly I might ski Big Bear in early season WROD mode if it were one hour but as it is I want to see those areas 60+% open with some of their black marked runs to spend a whole day going out there. Garry lives 40 minutes closer to Big Bear than I do and he skis there quite a bit when Baldy is lacking snow. He often only skis Snow Summit and leaves by 2PM to beat any traffic going down the hill.

I see Big Bear and Mt. High as close analogies to the Catskills. Liz says Hunter is more challenging than Big Bear. She has only seen the East side of Mt. High, but I suspect East + West in full operation is very comparable to Hunter.

I have skied top tier in the East including full operation days at Stowe and MRG. Baldy during infrequent full operation is not far off those places in scale and at least as good in terrain quality.

What does James define as second tier East Coast?
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Re: 2018-19 Season Recap

Postby jamesdeluxe » Wed Apr 24, 2019 3:57 am

Tony Crocker wrote:What does James define as second tier East Coast?

Tiers mean different things to different people, whether it's East, West, or the Alps. To me, it's a mixture of best terrain (on- and off-piste), best conditions (the East's often volatile snowfall/preservation needs to be considered), the most skiable terrain, with the added category of perceived popularity. I'd posit that the first tier is inarguable and that others would put some of the first-tier runner-ups in the top rung (for example, Patrick is a big fan of MSA and many would place Cannon/Mittersill, the Whiteface of New Hampshire, in the first tier if it had less challenging weather/conditions).

First Tier: Stowe, Smugglers Notch, Sugarbush, Mad River Glen, Whiteface, Sugarloaf, Jay

First-Tier Runner-Ups: Killington, Tremblant, Le Massif, Mont Sainte Anne, Cannon/Mittersill

Second Tier: Gore, Stratton, Magic, Mount Snow, Burke, Bretton Woods, Wildcat, Sunday River, Saddleback, Massif du Sud, Mont Orford, Sutton, Attitash

Another thing to consider is whether lower tiers are an attraction or a deterrent to a given skier. Over the years, I've made a cottage industry out of skiing third-tier areas and some would say that I prefer them. The most recent exhibit is my February 2019 visit to the Steiermark and Salzburgerland regions of Austria, where six of the seven areas were unquestionably third tier for the Alps. On the other hand: while Tony visits the full gamut of ski mountains in his extensive travels -- from Alta/Snowbird and Whistler to Pajarito, Baldy, and Castle -- due to his background as an actuary (tasked with figuring out the most probable to the least likely/the "best" to the "worst"), I would venture to say that he leans toward the first tier.

Feel free to break this out into a separate topic.
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Re: 2018-19 Season Recap

Postby Patrick » Wed Apr 24, 2019 10:54 pm

jamesdeluxe wrote:I'd posit that the first tier is inarguable and that others would put some of the first-tier runner-ups in the top rung (for example, Patrick is a big fan of MSA and many would place Cannon/Mittersill, the Whiteface of New Hampshire, in the first tier if it had less challenging weather/conditions).

First Tier: Stowe, Smugglers Notch, Sugarbush, Mad River Glen, Whiteface, Sugarloaf, Jay

First-Tier Runner-Ups: Killington, Tremblant, Le Massif, Mont Sainte Anne, Cannon/Mittersill

Second Tier: Gore, Stratton, Magic, Mount Snow, Burke, Bretton Woods, Wildcat, Sunday River, Saddleback, Massif du Sud, Mont Orford, Sutton, Attitash


Yes, but regardless of my opinions and tastes, I think you tiers are a good reflection.

I haven't been to MSA is a while and I still think it's my favourite for overall terrain/topography in Quebec, however maybe if I would have skied there more often, it might stick out as much above Tremblant. I grew up skiing Tremblant, so I might have gotten bored by some aspects (plus not a fan of the busy scene that arrived with Intrawest 25 years ago.

If people would go back maybe 10 years ago, my favorites are still pretty much the same. They need challenge, fall line skiing, a good variety of fun trails regardless if they are groomed and not.

Here are my top 2 ...followed by my next 3 (alpha order).

1) Stowe, Sugarloaf
2) Mad River Glen, Smuggs', Whiteface

Anyway here is my current count, I've been stuck at the same count since April 14, my longer break from skiing since November. There are still one month left of skiing within a day drive and beyond in the East, so I'm hoping to get a chance to go, but a few important issues are still in the way.

Days 79 (66 Days / 13 nights)

Local Ottawa - 60miles/100km or less:
Edelweiss: 53
Ste-Marie: 6
Calabogie ON: 1
Fortune: 1
Cascades: 1

Not local
Killington VT: 6
Mad River Glen VT: 3
St-Sauveur QC: 2
Smuggs' VT: 1
Cannon NH: 1
Burke VT: 1
Owl's Head QC: 1
Bretton Woods NH: 1
Middlebury VT: 1


Before someone gets on me, I've been being paid with 66 of those outings (I managed to pay for my NZ 2016 and Australia 2018 trips for those 2 seasons of coaching), so my actual out of pocket cost is $165 US or approximately $2/day.
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Re: 2018-19 Season Recap

Postby jamesdeluxe » Thu Apr 25, 2019 7:32 am

Patrick wrote:Before someone gets on me

LOL, anticipating a certain person's inevitable criticism. :lol:
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Re: 2018-19 Season Recap

Postby Tony Crocker » Thu Apr 25, 2019 10:31 pm

Patrick's eastern skiing is essentially a job at this point, and most people don't get to be flexible about where they work.

We have been corresponding, and Patrick's ski quality should increase significantly in May/June when he's not on the job. :wink:

James' eastern hierarchy makes sense and if there's debate about that list it would be at the margins. The areas that are best for each of his stated criteria are often the same places, with obvious dominance by northern Vermont.

In the West or the Alps the conversation would be different. There are places in the West that are probably fourth tier by resort ambience and public visibility/popularlty/skier visits that are first tier for terrain (Castle) or snow (Targhee, Wolf Creek).

I'm sure James would say the Alps have even more diversity of attributes. He makes an art form of finding places that are huge by North American standards that are far under the radar even to Euro vacationers. I would say that there are perhaps more places in the Alps that are top tier for a particular level of skier but of almost no interest to other types of skiers. North American marketing departments invest much effort in spinning their areas as being suitable for all levels of skiers.
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Re: 2018-19 Season Recap

Postby jamesdeluxe » Fri Apr 26, 2019 9:27 am

Tony Crocker wrote:North American marketing departments invest much effort in spinning their areas as being suitable for all levels of skiers.

Good point. On NY Ski Blog, locals repeatedly shake their head in disbelief about how the state agency that manages Whiteface (ORDA) continues to spin it in marketing and daily operations decisions as a family ski area, when the terrain (decently steep) and conditions (often hardpack or worse) say otherwise.

As you've underscored before, the casual/family skier demographic in Europe is numerous multiples that of North America's. My February trip to Austrian third-tier areas underscored how downhill skiing is such an ingrained part of non-hardcores' leisure time there. The mountains I visited (unknown to long-distance ski tourists) are positioned to absorb the sizable market unwilling to spend the extra money and deal with the additional crowds that go along with top-tier resorts during peak periods.

I guess that North American analogies would be Schweitzer instead of Sun Valley, Powder Mountain/Solitude/Brighton instead of Park City/Deer Valley/AltaBird. What's interesting about Colorado in particular is how few comparatively lower-tier options are left other than A-Basin, Loveland, Eldora, and Monarch, which are locals joints without any onsite lodging. There's expensive (Copper, Winter Park, Steamboat, Telluride, Breckenridge, Keystone, Crested Butte) and there's really expensive (Vail, Beaver Creek, the Aspen group).

Of course, the Ikon and Epic Passes have positively affected those numbers to a point but still, buying one of those passes (in the upper three figures) is something you have to plan well in advance. In contrast: as mentioned recently, even ultra-exclusive St. Moritz offers surprisingly reasonable options for mere mortals -- mine was $130/day for lift ticket, extensive local transportation, lodging, and breakfast that I booked only a few days before departure. Anecdotal Exhibit B is Hotel Sandhof in Lech, which includes a pleasant hotel ride in the middle of town, outstanding half-board meals, and a six-day Arlberg pass for a quite decent price.
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Re: 2018-19 Season Recap

Postby Sbooker » Fri Apr 26, 2019 6:24 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:Patrick's eastern skiing is essentially a job at this point, and most people don't get to be flexible about where they work.

We have been corresponding, and Patrick's ski quality should increase significantly in May/June when he's not on the job. :wink:

James' eastern hierarchy makes sense and if there's debate about that list it would be at the margins. The areas that are best for each of his stated criteria are often the same places, with obvious dominance by northern Vermont.

In the West or the Alps the conversation would be different. There are places in the West that are probably fourth tier by resort ambience and public visibility/popularlty/skier visits that are first tier for terrain (Castle) or snow (Targhee, Wolf Creek).

I'm sure James would say the Alps have even more diversity of attributes. He makes an art form of finding places that are huge by North American standards that are far under the radar even to Euro vacationers. I would say that there are perhaps more places in the Alps that are top tier for a particular level of skier but of almost no interest to other types of skiers. North American marketing departments invest much effort in spinning their areas as being suitable for all levels of skiers.


It’s a good and necessary thing that the marketing departments put that spin on things. In my view some hills are pigeon holed far too often - most particularly in relation to “not suitable for beginners” or “xxxxxx is an expert only mountain”. I’m sure many skiers have missed the opportunity to visit some wonderful iconic hills because of this rubbish.
Jackson and Snowbird are the best examples. There are acres and acres of beginner and intermediate terrain on the (lookers) right side of Jackson mountain and heaps of terrain on the Gad side of Snowbird (not to mention about half of Mineral Basin) that is perfect for very average skiers.
My family of permanent intermediates rate Snowbird as a favourite.
Last edited by Sbooker on Fri Apr 26, 2019 6:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 2018-19 Season Recap

Postby sierra_cement » Fri Apr 26, 2019 6:27 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:North American marketing departments invest much effort in spinning their areas as being suitable for all levels of skiers.


Every area in the US claims to be family-friendly. I think family-friendly is a catchall. If they have lodging: it's family-friendly; it doesn't matter if it's expensive. If they have beginner terrain: it's family-friendly; if they have low priced tickets: family friendly. Low crowds: family-friendly.

So I don't even understand what it means when people say it's family-friendly.

My friend working in marketing said: the goal of marketing is to say as little as possible with as many words as possible.
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Re: 2018-19 Season Recap

Postby Tony Crocker » Fri Apr 26, 2019 10:01 pm

sbooker wrote:My family of permanent intermediates rate Snowbird as a favourite.

Just last week you said your intermediate groomer skiing wife only "tolerates Snowbird." The term "intermediate" covers a lot of ground. Some of them like Snowbird a lot better than others. Virtually all intermediates like Alta better than Snowbird. And I stand by my opinion that Snowbird is about as inappropriate as you can get for beginners.

I agree with sierra_cement that "family friendly" is about as ill defined a term as there is in the world of ski resorts, and ridiculously overused. Part of this comes from the simple fact that all families are not the same. You don't see every resort putting out press releases about how they are good for 30-year old singles or 45-year old couples. In those cases perhaps it's more obvious that what attracts skiers more is a fit for appropriate ski terrain, interest in convenience and/or luxury amenities or conversely a desire to stay within a budget and maximize bang for the buck. All of those factors apply to families too.
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Re: 2018-19 Season Recap

Postby Sbooker » Fri Apr 26, 2019 10:30 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:
sbooker wrote:My family of permanent intermediates rate Snowbird as a favourite.

Just last week you said your intermediate groomer skiing wife only "tolerates Snowbird." The term "intermediate" covers a lot of ground. Some of them like Snowbird a lot better than others. Virtually all intermediates like Alta better than Snowbird. And I stand by my opinion that Snowbird is about as inappropriate as you can get for beginners.

I agree with sierra_cement that "family friendly" is about as ill defined a term as there is in the world of ski resorts, and ridiculously overused. Part of this comes from the simple fact that all families are not the same. You don't see every resort putting out press releases about how they are good for 30-year old singles or 45-year old couples. In those cases perhaps it's more obvious that what attracts skiers more is a fit for appropriate ski terrain, interest in convenience and/or luxury amenities or conversely a desire to stay within a budget and maximize bang for the buck. All of those factors apply to families too.


I’ll be more accurate then. My kids and myself love Snowbird. * The kids being tiny in stature hate the tram though.
Yes you are correct - my wife would prefer to be up the road a bit but she’ll happily compromise for the sake of the group.
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