When Should Eastern Skiers Go West?

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
It is amazing how much steeper even the most mellow slopes of GoS and Tux are in comparison to a typical black diamond pitch at a ski area.

I have noticed this immediately when visiting lift served eastern ski areas. For those of you that enjoy the topography of GoS and Tux, may I recommend a visit to High Rustler, Great Scott, KT-22, chairs 22&23 at Mammoth, etc? :)
 

riverc0il

New member
You can in five years when I am done paying off college loans and have some funds for a trip out west! :D

Northway was doing okay for snow coverage actually, I noticed decent coverage from the top of the Jet on Northway but nothing off Northway really had much. Northway is a pretty boring run, I didn't feel like hiking up over there for a mellow run. Not that the Jet and Haynes are very intense!
 

Admin

Administrator
Staff member
riverc0il":y7dmq3s5 said:
You can in five years when I am done paying off college loans and have some funds for a trip out west! :D

Riv, you may be a slightly different case since you live in St. J and ski off a season pass, but for most Easterners I dare say you can do a western trip for not much more than an eastern one if you shop around and bring a friend to share things like the room:
  • R/T airfare into SLC on a good price: $300 (I upped that a bit for the increase in fuel - this season if you shopped around that would be $200-225)
  • 5 nights in a SLC hotel: $35 pp x 5 = $125*
  • 5 days Alta lift vouchers: $44 x 5 = $220 (maybe a multi-day is cheaper?)
  • food = 0 (* - I assumed for this discussion that you got a hotel with a kitchenette, so you'd cook in with money you'd be spending on groceries at home anyway -- otherwise, knock $10 pp/pd off the room price and insert meal cost here. Use grocery money to brown-bag lunch.)
  • ski bus @ $6 pp/pd = $30 (ground transportation to/from airport provided by hotel)

Total for 5 days at Alta = $675

Now, compare that to driving from BOS/NYC/BDL/wherever to Vermont, paying for gas, racking up miles on your car, paying higher hotel rates, paying higher lift rates, etc., and tell me that it's cheaper! With the short airport-to-skiing distance and the time difference you can catch an early-morning flight from the East Coast and be skiing by lunch time, and catch a red-eye flight home like those on JetBlue and get a full last day of skiing and still be at work the next morning after sleeping on the flight. Honestly, you can travel from NYC and be skiing here in less time than it would take to drive to Stowe.

Of course, this is a bare-bones, ultra-cheap itinerary. You could always go with a rental car (easy to find one in SLC for $25/day, split with your friend to $12.50/day, plus you'd shave off the $6 pp/pd ski bus charge), eat out and eat lunches at the hill (but save $10/pp/pd on the hotel room), etc., but you still see my point.
 

Jonny D

New member
may I recommend a visit ... chairs 22&23 at Mammoth, etc?

Yes, Yes you may. I've got to say, that there were many times at Mammoth (mostly looking down P4, Phillipes.. etc) when I had that "why don't I ever feel this challenged in the east?" feeling. If you bail there, you can slide for a thousand(?) vert before coming to a stop. There is no moutain within a 6 hour drive of me that even has a thousand vert.

I dare say you can do a western trip for not much more than an eastern one if you shop around and bring a friend to share things like the room:
Absolutely. My whistler trip in '04, and Mammoth in '05 were about $1100CAN, (about 850 USD at the time).

When I was a kid (who are we kidding, I still am), my family started heading west for our ski vacations because it was marginally CHEAPER than heading out to Tremblant once it had been bought by Intrawest.
Sure we were going to place like Red Moutain that had zero apres ski for a family, but come on... if you're skiing right, you shouldn't have any energy left over for partying all night.


In both the east and west cases though, you can save a bundle if you don't have to book months ahead, and are willing to take weird flights from expedia with 2 weeks notice.
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
I note than Jonny mentions Red Mt. Interior B.C. destinations like that (also Kelowna for Big White/Silver Star, Fernie/Castle, Whitewater, Golden for Kicking Horse) are dirt cheap for lodging and lift tickets and have exciting ungroomed terrain that most people on this board would love. Even Banff/Lake Louise is pretty reasonable for skiing because most of its tourism is in summer.

In the analysis of Jumbo's feasibility it was stated that Americans make up only 6% of the skier visits to interior B.C. I had never skied there when I was writing the Powder article with Leslie Anthony in 1995. I made my first trip up there in 1997 and have been back nearly every season since then.

To minimize costs you need to fly into a cheap airport like Calgary or Spokane and be willing to drive several hours to the area of your choice.

I will reiterate my opinion that consistent high quality skiing in the East is attainable only for people like riverc0il and powderfreak who are well located and have some scheduling flexibility. The vast majority in metro areas like Boston, NYC and Toronto will do better following the advice admin and I are giving here.

Speaking of scheduling flexibility, Larry Schick in Seattle has made an art form of this in 2005-06. He has taken 10 short notice midweek powder days off. In addition he had 5 powder days on the weekends. So out of his 30 day ski season half his days and at least a third of his 500+K vertical were in fresh tracks.

Larry's snow quality was very high (comparable to my days 1/29 at Jackson and 3/13 at Snowbird) considering that much of the powder was in Crystal's low density North and South Backcountry, which is avy controlled but requires 10-20 minute traverse/hikes to reach the best stashes.
 

riverc0il

New member
marc, your barebones cost is higher than my season total lift ticket totals for this season and the last season. those totals are lift tickets only and do not include transportation prices, but still, that is essentially doubling my cost of skiing excluding gas. considering my entire savings just got drained due to my injury, i ain't got that kind of loose cash lying around. i'll get there in a few years, trust me :D
 

Admin

Administrator
Staff member
Again, Riv, I understand that you're hardly a typical case. For the typical weekend warrior, though, the numbers are compelling.
 

Patrick

Active member
Admin":1cgljq8h said:
Again, Riv, I understand that you're hardly a typical case. For the typical weekend warrior, though, the numbers are compelling.

I don't think many of us writing here are typical. :D
 

aaron12345

New member
I'll agree except for a couple cases:

1. When you're still in high school and not yet a second semester senior (next year...) - you really don't have any scheduling flexibility/midweek breaks to take off.

2. Group trips. When looking at out west vs. vermont for our ski club trips, a bus comes out to about $120/person incld. all grautities, and ground transfers once we're there from DC area to VT. Airfare scheduled well in advance cannot be had for that price. Lodging/food/lift tickets comes out to be a little less for us on the east coast at Stowe than your west coast example - about $90 per person, per night, for a 3 night, 3 days of skiing, food, all inclusive dealio. Using your numbers 3 days of skiing out west incld. transport, lodging, lift tickets and not including food would be $555. Using our numbers it comes out to $390. And lastly, planes are a pita for a 55 persons group, I can just imagine "my skies (or ski clothers) were lost (or snapped in half) in luggage.... what should I do".

Other than that going out west would be awesome... maybe next year :)
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
aaron12345's point #1 supports the case for a western trip. We all know that an advance-booked trip in the East, even to Northern Vermont, is going to suck probably 1/3 of the time due to rain, freeze or some other last minute unfavorable weather development. In SLC the odds of a mid-season ski experience being seriously degraded at the last minute are probably less than 10%.

I can appreciate the difficulty of doing this for 55 people. For a smaller group, say the first 10-12 to sign up, it should be considered. In general, the less flexible your schedule, the higher percentage of ski time and $ an Easterner should allocate to western ski trips.
 

riverc0il

New member
In general, the less flexible your schedule, the higher percentage of ski time and $ an Easterner should allocate to western ski trips.
this is sound advice. eastern skiers with flexability can hit many pow days on the east coast. booking a trip and having the chance of not getting any powder would be a lot more disappointing to an eastern skier with flexible scheduling and lots of seasonal pow days. if an eastern skier only takes two or three weekend a trips a year and doesn't ski more than those three weekends, it would be sound advice to look west. but those skiers aren't going to be the type that would value pow and good expert terrain, so the benefits could be lost on them. cost benefit issues could come into play depending on trip costs. beginner and intermediate skiers are likely to have a similar experience no matter where they go. snow making and grooming can take care of eastern slopes that don't get a lot of snow. west coast snow would be better in general, but that is that cost benefit thing... especially depending upon skier ability level. but overall, that is definitely sound advice.
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
I am always amazed when I run into easterners (and southerners) at various destinations (Wiegele this year for example) who tell me, "We never ski at home, we always come out here."

I do sometimes ask how these people learned to ski in the first place. Some of them spent a year or more living in the West. Most of them only ski 10-15 days a year total but work out regularly to maintain conditioning.

Skiing has a fast learning curve vs. many other sports (golf and tennis for example). The fit and athletic types, particularly those who do other balance sports like windsurfing and mountain biking, can keep up fairly well, even at places like Snowbird and cat/heliskiing.

Bob Peters at Jackson Hole was critical of the "rich punter stereotype" who allegedly only cares about the groomers and how luxurious the hotel is. Some of these people are as focused in their recreation as in their high-powered jobs, so they fly in regularly to places like Jackson and Snowbird. This is more the rule than the exception at Wiegele and CMH.
 

Anthony

New member
This thread has drifted away from the original topic of Jay Peak but felt I had to add something to the comment that skiing has a fast learning curve. I think the average person can learn quickly to keep their balance on a groomed blue /green/black trail and make it down the trail but to carve well balanced complete turns is a complex skill . Not sure what the US Program is based on but the Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance S.T.E.P. program has 10 levels that are rigorously tested at the end of each course before you are allowed to progress to the next level ( hard to go through 10 levels in a year or two ) . The courses also reinforce the skiers responsibility code which by what goes on out on the trails today is urgently needed. There is the opinion that these courses are too conservative but in my opinion they correct all your mistakes and make you an all round better skier no matter where you go (off trail ?on trail etc)
 

jasoncapecod

Active member
I just priced out a trip to ParkCity from the NYC area. For my family of 4, it came to a little over 5000.00... This is for real nice accomdations. So one person could easly do a trip out west for under 1000.00.
 

Spensar

New member
Patrick":3py2f43x said:
Admin":3py2f43x said:
Again, Riv, I understand that you're hardly a typical case. For the typical weekend warrior, though, the numbers are compelling.

I don't think many of us writing here are typical. :D

Ahh, that's where back to skiing with the kids after being away for 15-20 years moi comes in to represent the family weekend skier :lol:.

We did do two stay over family trips to Jay this year. Because we were pass holders at another MSSI hill and CDN$ = US$ there, tickets were $63 per day total for three of us. (Lodging for 4 people). Stayed 6 nights, skied 4, because of driving and a rest day. So for the week, $1,104 for skiing and lodging. If we didn't need puppy friendly lodging we could have satyed for $109 with tax and saved $198 on the week, so the total would be $906. We also drove 3.5 hours from Ottawa.

Lift tickets without the pass would be about $50 more per day.

At March break a 2 bedroom chalet was $130 with tax. Same puppy limitation or the cheaper place was available.

I looked at the West, and the big variable is bagging cheap flights. I would be willing to pay some premium but travelling when the kids aren't in school is not the best bargain time. It isn't so much more as to be totally out of consideration though.
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
Spensar's post (and several of my PM's with Patrick) led me to analyze what I would call the skiing lifecycle. My ski days can be divided among SoCal local (daytrip), Mammoth/Tahoe (weekend drive) and destination (usually means flying).

The learning years through 1978-79 (average days skied):
10.3 local: Given my modest athletic ability the once-a-week daytrips were essential to my making progress.
6.3 Sierra: The measuring stick for when I was ready for destination trips.
no destination: My attitude then was that I was not willing to spend the $ for destination resorts until I had adequate ski ability not to be significantly restricted in which runs I could ski.

The "new convert" years through 1983-84 (may look familiar to some of you):
7.0 local: I still wanted to ski at least once every 2 weeks even if conditions weren't optimal.
17.8 Sierra: I wish Mammoth had the Value Pass back then!
4.6 destination: One trip a year given constraints of $ and vacation time.

The family years through 1995-96 (I'm sure Patrick can relate):
5.3 local: More discrimination based on expected conditions.
8.7 Sierra: The biggest hit from family obligations.
9.2 destination: One family trip per season, usually around Adam's April 1 spring break, plus a 3 or 4 day trip on my own or with just Adam.

The Warren Miller years (If you don't do it this year, you'll be one year older when you do) ongoing:
3.7 local: Besides being pickier about conditions, I'm sometimes on a destination trip when it's good here.
8.3 Sierra: Decreased some when I started doing longer trips, but it's been more the last 2 seasons.
18.7 destination: At least 2 full weeks in addition to the annual 4 days at Snowbird.

With regard to "where to live," particularly with families, I have driven to Utah 5 times and Colorado once. When my friend Richard's kids were young he also drove to Colorado at least 3 other times and to Sun Valley twice. For spring and particularly Christmas family vacations of a week or more you can save big $ and gain flexibility by driving to destination resorts if you live anywhere west of the Rockies.

The biggest advantage of living out here (as we discussed at some length a year ago) is still the quality of the weekend Sierra trips.
 

Patrick

Active member
Tony Crocker":p84gd6z9 said:
The biggest advantage of living out here (as we discussed at some length a year ago) is still the quality of the weekend Sierra trips.

Okay, I haven't broken down the numbers the same way as Tony. I have never done a quantitative analysis of my skiing data, but here is a quick peek at some numbers. As some of you know from the past discussion, I don't necessarily agree on most of the arguments about living in SoCal for skiing.

Here are the numbers...

1981-82 to 1984-85: From Driving license (16) / High School to College. Interest mainly into the bigger mountain close to Montreal (Tremblant, Jay and Smuggs).

Average day per year per region: Avg year: 25.8 days (4 seasons)

3.0 Lower Laurentians (less than 45 minutes)
12.8 Upper Laurentians (45min to 1:30) - Tremblant 8.0
1.0 Eastern Townships (approx 1 to 1:30)
5.8 Vermont - close to border (less than 2hr) - Jay 4.0
2.5 Vermont (over 2 hours) - Killington 2.3
0.8 Quebec City (apprx 3 to 3:30)

1985-86 to 1991-92: University years and ski team days. Skiing mostly with the ski team. Skiing closer to Montreal on smaller hills. Training was mostly in the Lower Laurentians. First time out in Europe and in the West.

Average day per year per region: Avg year: 33.1 days (7 seasons)

15.6 Lower Laurentians (less than 45 minutes)
6.9 Upper Laurentians (45min to 1:30)
1.0 Eastern Townships (approx 1 to 1:30)
0.4 Vermont - close to border (less than 2hr)
0.1 New York (less than 2hour)
3.1 Vermont (over 2 hours)
1.4 Quebec City (apprx 3 to 3:30)
0.4 NH-Maine (apprx 3 to 3:30)
2.0 Quebec - remote (6 to 7 hours)
1.3 Alps
0.9 Canada West

1992-93 to 1993-94: Two years after university and prior to moving to Ottawa. I had enough of small vertical, I wanted to ski bigger and newer mountains. Notice jump in average days in NY and further in Vermont. Back to France for 2 months. More quality and less quantity.

Average day per year per region: Avg year: 26.5 days (2 seasons)

2.5 Lower Laurentians (less than 45 minutes)
5.5 Upper Laurentians (45min to 1:30) - Tremblant 3.5
2.0 Eastern Townships (approx 1 to 1:30)
2.0 Vermont - close to border (less than 2hr)
3.0 New York (less than 2hour) - Whiteface 3.0
6.5 Vermont (over 2 hours) - Killington 2.5
1.0 Quebec City (apprx 3 to 3:30)
0.5 NH-Maine (apprx 3 to 3:30)
3.5 Alps

1994-95 to 1999-2000: Started working in Ottawa at the beginning of the ski season and moved two months later. Morgane was born in October 97. As you look at the numbers under, I wasn't interested in skiing the small local hills, I still had enough of the Lower Laurentians memories. More trip to Tremblant (2hrs). Often in Montreal for day trips to New England.

Average day per year per region: Avg year: 21.6 days (6 seasons)

1.8 Ottawa local (25 to 60 minutes)
5.8 Upper Laurentians * 2 hrs from Ottawa - Tremblant 5.3
2.0 New York * 3 hrs from Ottawa - Whiteface 2.0

Times from Montreal - 2 hours from Ottawa

0.2 Lower Laurentians (less than 45 minutes)
1.3 Eastern Townships (approx 1 to 1:30)
0.3 Vermont - close to border (less than 2hr)
4.0 Vermont (over 2 hours) - Kmart 2.2
0.7 Quebec City (apprx 3 to 3:30)
2.5 NH-Maine (apprx 3 to 3:30)
3.0 Canada West (2 trips out West)

2000-1 to 2005-6: Morgane's first real ski season at age 3, Tara was born in Nov 02. Skiing more locally (19 days compare to 1.8 before) instead of weekend trips to Tremblant (2 days less a year). Less than 30 minutes versus 2 hours. I also started local Master racing 5 years ago. So the other numbers haven't really suffered, it's the number of days from the local skiing and the big destination that have increased. An average of 7 days per year in the Big Mountains out West/Europe.

Average day per year per region: Avg year: 40.3 days (6 seasons)

19.0 Ottawa local (25 to 60 minutes)
3.3 Upper Laurentians * 2 hrs from Ottawa - Tremblant 3.0
2.3 New York * 3 hrs from Ottawa - Whiteface 2.0

Times from Montreal - 2 hours from Ottawa

1.0 Lower Laurentians (less than 45 minutes)
0.8 Eastern Townships (approx 1 to 1:30)
0.3 Vermont - close to border (less than 2hr)
3.7 Vermont (over 2 hours) - MRG 2.7
1.3 Quebec City (apprx 3 to 3:30)
1.5 NH-Maine (apprx 3 to 3:30)
2.8 Alps
1.2 Canada West
3.0 US West
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
I would consolidate Patrick's list into local small hills, driveable larger eastern areas and destination.

Up to 84-85:
15.8 local
10.1 larger East
no destination
Looks a lot like my learning years, though we know the reason was $ not ability.

Up to 91-92:
22.5 local
8.4 larger East
2.2 destination
There are probably many young SoCal snowboard "park rats" with a profile like this, but the "official" ski teams mostly have their events at Mammoth.

Up to 93-94:
8.0 local
15.0 larger East
3.5 destination
Looks just like my "new convert" years.

Up to 99-00:
7.8 local
10.8 larger East
3.0 destination
The inevitable decline when children are pre-skiing age. In my case the Mammoth weekends took a big hit and the destination trips went up some.

To present:
23.3 local
9.9 larger East
7.0 destination
The latter 2 categories are not that different from my family years. We (and particularly our wives) obviously have different attitudes toward the local hills. Patrick's are so close that they are accessible for night and partial day trips, which I haven't done for a long time here.
 

Patrick

Active member
Tony Crocker":3fc2etti said:
I would consolidate Patrick's list into local small hills, driveable larger eastern areas and destination.

Something got lost in the translation. :wink: I'll go back to the table I created last night and break it down based on vertical. Not sure where you would cut off the difference between larger Eastern areas and the locals.

Small (less than 1500ft vertical) - which could be categorised as local even if they can include areas over 6 to 7 hours away.
Middle (1500-2000)
Larger (over 2000ft)

Tony Crocker":3fc2etti said:
94-95 to 99-00:
The inevitable decline when children are pre-skiing age. In my case the Mammoth weekends took a big hit and the destination trips went up some.

The Ottawa years prior to skiing kids. When didn't have kids for half that period.

Morgane was born in the Fall '97. As I mentioned to Frankontour before, the hit was more work-related than family related. The decline started that first year in that period and includes my 2nd smallest season (15) was in 1994-95, prior to Morgane's birth, a year that included a move to Ottawa during the SuperBowl weekend.

The smallest was 10 in 1982-3 due to an injury.

Regarding the "children pre-skiing age", would you include your second child in that category? If so, Tara first real season was this season.
 
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