Are there uncrowded ski areas with on-site lodging?

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Are there uncrowded ski areas with on-site lodging?

Postby sierra_cement » Thu Nov 07, 2019 12:46 pm

This question came to my mind while reading the Brian Head thread. I think lots of lodging and crowds go hand in hand. But some locations are better than others.

If I'm taking a week off in Feb (president's day week is school vacation for my daughter), What are the choices for ski resorts that have lodging within walking distance of lifts? Since it's February, snow reliability should not be much of an issue. There is the issue of appropriate terrain but let's put that aside for now.

I can think of a few based on reading previous threads, but I'm sure this group knows more.
  • Grand Targhee
  • Telluride
  • Crested Butte
  • Aspen
  • Beaver Creek

Updated list based on comments:
  • Grand Targhee
  • Telluride
  • Crested Butte
  • Aspen
  • Beaver Creek
  • Sun Peaks, Canada
  • Big White, Canada
  • Panorama, Canada
  • Banff Sunshine, Canada
  • Red River New Mexico
  • Sun Valley Idaho
  • Schweitzer, Idaho
Last edited by sierra_cement on Mon Nov 11, 2019 10:57 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Are there uncrowded ski areas with on-site lodging?

Postby Tony Crocker » Thu Nov 07, 2019 2:26 pm

That's a decent list of onsite lodging locations without overcrowding reputations. Aspen, Beaver Creek and Telluride are way on the high end of the price scale. My guess is Targhee is reasonable and the jury is out on Crested Butte pending whatever Vail plans to do with it. Crested Butte is also the one on that list least appropriate terrain-wise for sierra-cement and family.

I would say expand your horizons north: Schweitzer, Whitefish, Big White, Sun Peaks, with the latter two being the best fit.
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Re: Are there uncrowded ski areas with on-site lodging?

Postby jamesdeluxe » Thu Nov 07, 2019 3:24 pm

For places where you can stay at least three days without getting bored: I'll second Schweitzer (a somewhat larger version of Targhee with lake views), I assume you've already done Solitude/Brighton (did we get a definitive answer as to whether the Ikon Pass bolloxed up the generally uncrowded feel of both?), Winter Park/Mary Jane (midweek only), and Sunshine Village.
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Re: Are there uncrowded ski areas with on-site lodging?

Postby sierra_cement » Thu Nov 07, 2019 8:53 pm

I like these suggestions. It's a great list to go back to when we plan future trips. We need to seriously consider Canada as the exchange rate is quite favorable. Sunpeaks is huge (4000+ acres). Schweitzer is also pretty interesting since we have a direct flight on Southwest to Spokane.

I hope to check out Brighton/Solitude in April. I didn't realize they had lodging near the lifts. What I've read is Brighton/Solitude have become crowded after Ikon. Which makes sense because Utah is really easy to get to, lodging is not expensive and these resorts are included on the Ikon Pass.
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Re: Are there uncrowded ski areas with on-site lodging?

Postby Sbooker » Fri Nov 08, 2019 12:31 am

I don't know about now but a few years ago - prior to Epic - Sun Valley had no crowds.
Panorama has also been on my radar for a while. I believe (thank you bestsnow.net) that it's best to leave that until February because it is slow to accumulate snow.
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Re: Are there uncrowded ski areas with on-site lodging?

Postby sierra_cement » Mon Nov 11, 2019 11:00 am

I have updated the list in the original post based on comments.

Sbooker wrote:I don't know about now but a few years ago - prior to Epic - Sun Valley had no crowds.
Panorama has also been on my radar for a while. I believe (thank you bestsnow.net) that it's best to leave that until February because it is slow to accumulate snow.


Let's see if we get any reports this year about the crowding.
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Re: Are there uncrowded ski areas with on-site lodging?

Postby snowave » Mon Nov 11, 2019 3:41 pm

Surprised no one has mentioned Big Sky. Whitefish (as TonyC mentioned) and maybe Fernie could be on the list, but both places will be borderline very busy. I think I did Schweitzer back in 2014 on Presidents weekend, and it was tolerable. Targhee would be fine, but they have somewhat limited lodging.

I'd also maybe consider Tamarack, ID as a sneaker... they are putting in a new lift right now, and are full steam ahead with finishing the village, etc.. and other upgrades. Brundage could be a nice day trip 30 min to the north.

Purgatory probably isn't a place many would think of, but IF they are having a good snow year, its a pretty nice family resort with a large variety of beginner and intermediate- low level advanced terrain, and a nice little village at the resort w/Durango 30 min down the road. However, it's a bit more of a gamble with the snow than most other places.
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Re: Are there uncrowded ski areas with on-site lodging?

Postby Tony Crocker » Mon Nov 11, 2019 6:04 pm

I would be very surprised if Sun Valley gets any busier. Sun Valley was formerly on Mountain Collective. Telluride switched from Mountain Collective to Epic last year. Like Sun Valley it's remote from drive-up business and gets mostly long distance destination tourists. We didn't see any crowd issues with nice weather/conditions skiing there March 15-17.

For Mountain Collective areas than went on Ikon last year, there is minimal evidence of additional crowds from destination skiers. Alta/Snowbird were the specific examples of visitation being about the same in the two excellent 2016-17 and 2018-19 seasons.

Areas where crowds increased due to Ikon:
1) Solitude was formerly not on any group pass. Now it's the only unlimited Utah area on Ikon. So it got a big influx from both locals and tourists.
2) Deer Valley was formerly not on any group pass plus day tickets are expensive. Even though Deer valley required advance reservations from Ikon passholders, there was a big morning line to exchange those reservations for tickets. Lift lines were not bad but density was up and some of those groomers not so smooth by midday as a result.
4) Big Sky was formerly MaxPass, now Ikon and Mountain Collective. I find it believable that visitation was up with that change.
5) Aspen was Mountain Collective and added Ikon, so I suspect there was little change in destination visitors. But the former RMSP people who had Copper, Winter Park, Eldora and Steamboat moved to Ikon with the Alterra takeover. So more Front Rangers took long weekends in Aspen and were reputedly labeled "tunnel trash" by some of the locals.

Jackson has been steadily growing in visitation regardless of pass program, so as a founding Mountain Collective area I'm hesitant to ascribe extra due to Ikon.

Some people say Mammoth was busier last year on Ikon, and Memorial weekend was the busiest I've seen it. But the SoCal season passholder base should have been the same, and visitation from out of state has always been trivial. So the source of more people if any IMHO would have been NorCal people with Squaw passes that are now good at Mammoth (analogy to RMSP people who now get Aspen).

For those who say 2018-19 was way busier than 2017-18, most of that is good snow year vs. bad snow year. The correct comparison, as at Alta/Snowbird, is 2018-19 vs. 2016-17, both good snow years. I'll reserve judgment on Mammoth until I see those numbers.
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Re: Are there uncrowded ski areas with on-site lodging?

Postby sierra_cement » Mon Nov 11, 2019 10:59 pm

snowave wrote:Surprised no one has mentioned Big Sky. Whitefish (as TonyC mentioned) and maybe Fernie could be on the list, but both places will be borderline very busy. I think I did Schweitzer back in 2014 on Presidents weekend, and it was tolerable. Targhee would be fine, but they have somewhat limited lodging.

Big sky is a great suggestion. Somebody on a chair lift in Utah told me that they have the large vertical beginner/intermediate terrain.

I'd also maybe consider Tamarack, ID as a sneaker... they are putting in a new lift right now, and are full steam ahead with finishing the village, etc.. and other upgrades. Brundage could be a nice day trip 30 min to the north.

Another good one. We will surely go there in a couple of years especially if lodging is affordable.

Purgatory probably isn't a place many would think of, but IF they are having a good snow year, its a pretty nice family resort with a large variety of beginner and intermediate- low level advanced terrain, and a nice little village at the resort w/Durango 30 min down the road. However, it's a bit more of a gamble with the snow than most other places.

This place is truly remote. It's harder to get to than even Targhee/Big Sky. Unlikely I will ever make it there given the snow stats.
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Re: Are there uncrowded ski areas with on-site lodging?

Postby sierra_cement » Mon Nov 11, 2019 11:12 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:I would be very surprised if Sun Valley gets any busier. Sun Valley was formerly on Mountain Collective. Telluride switched from Mountain Collective to Epic last year. Like Sun Valley it's remote from drive-up business and gets mostly long distance destination tourists. We didn't see any crowd issues with nice weather/conditions skiing there March 15-17.

Great point about Sun Valley. Full Epic pass gives you 7 days @ Sun Valley so this a good place to consider instead of Beaver Creek. Access difficulty is same as Beaver Creek, lower than Aspen/Targhee/Big Sky but much lower than Telluride.

It seems like Telluride is the most difficult ski area to access.


Areas where crowds increased due to Ikon:

Thanks for this analysis. I think the Utah resorts with nearby lodging would unlikely be less crowded than the other places mentioned here. They are just too famous, easy to access and accept multi resort passes.
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Re: Are there uncrowded ski areas with on-site lodging?

Postby Tony Crocker » Tue Nov 12, 2019 2:19 pm

sierra_cement wrote:Access difficulty is same as Beaver Creek, lower than Aspen/Targhee/Big Sky but much lower than Telluride.

Zrankings has an access score, which I have seen though not the actual algorithm. The key factors:
1) Number of direct flights
2) Distance from airport to ski resort
I would add cost competitiveness of airport to that list, a factor dominated by Denver with Salt Lake a distant second.

Access is to some degree in the eye of the beholder. We west coasters view Denver and Salt Lake as similar, but if you read or talk to anyone in the eastern 2/3 of North America,they all think Denver is much better in terms of both cost and convenience. Those same North Americans view West Coast ski areas including Whistler as having poor accessibility.

Of the destination resort airports, Aspen has by far the most direct flights and its airport is very close to town. Jackson is also fairly good on direct flight count and convenience. In both cases I'm sure there is a cost premium vs. the larger airports with a big population base.

The Bozeman airport for Big Sky both tseeb and I have found fairly reasonable but I've only used it once and tseeb (for his wife) twice. I've used Durango twice (though not recently, 1992 and 2004). Durango''s population is significantly less than Bozeman's but surely more than Hailey/Ketchum/Sun Valley.

Vail/Beaver Creek are much more accessible than Sun Valley. The Eagle airport is close and if you make the schlep from Denver the cheap and frequent flights there are a big plus. Depending on how you rate factors 1&2 above, the access scores for Vail/Beaver Creek are very similar between the EGE and DEN airports.

No question of the areas sierra_cement mentions, Telluride has the worst access. For non west coasters, Bachelor and Mammoth are as bad as Telluride and Whistler only slightly better. Many times we post a great TR from out here, James will comment that he will never ski these places until he is retired. He can get to the Alps faster, though there are other reasons for his preference there.
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Re: Are there uncrowded ski areas with on-site lodging?

Postby sierra_cement » Tue Nov 12, 2019 4:08 pm

I know easy access and crowds are highly correlated. So I'm glad to read thoughts about access from the perspective of others.

I have been to DEN a few times. I dislike Denver because it is a very large airport, requires a train within the airport, then another long shuttle to rental cars, and you drive through the whole city to go to the mountains and the road to the mountains involves a difficult drive. I think SLC is the most accessible airport for West Coast skiers, all things considered. I usually find prices to SLC much cheaper than DEN. Of course, that will be reverse for East Coast folks. No wonder most ski areas in CO are crowded.

My observation based on limited data for those small airports is that they tend to have very expensive flights. I have occasionally checked and I've never found affordable flights to EGE, ASE, BZN, MTJ, JAC and a few others. Spokane and Boise are available with Southwest and that improves their accessibility score. I could have booked a President's day flight to Spokane for ~$200 round trip with Southwest, but decided to skip as we are going to ski the whole week after that.

Google says Sun Valley is a 2.5-hour drive from Boise. Beaver Creek is similar. I haven't done the Sun Valley drive so I don't know if it is a difficult one. My hypothesis is we can reach Sun Valley cheaper and faster than Beaver Creek. Same with Schweitzer.

It's fun to discuss these things. Let's see how many ski areas we can cross off. I will aim for 2-3 new areas per ski season.
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Re: Are there uncrowded ski areas with on-site lodging?

Postby Sbooker » Tue Nov 12, 2019 5:23 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:I would be very surprised if Sun Valley gets any busier. Sun Valley was formerly on Mountain Collective. Telluride switched from Mountain Collective to Epic last year. Like Sun Valley it's remote from drive-up business and gets mostly long distance destination tourists. We didn't see any crowd issues with nice weather/conditions skiing there March 15-17.

For Mountain Collective areas than went on Ikon last year, there is minimal evidence of additional crowds from destination skiers. Alta/Snowbird were the specific examples of visitation being about the same in the two excellent 2016-17 and 2018-19 seasons.

Areas where crowds increased due to Ikon:
1) Solitude was formerly not on any group pass. Now it's the only unlimited Utah area on Ikon. So it got a big influx from both locals and tourists.
2) Deer Valley was formerly not on any group pass plus day tickets are expensive. Even though Deer valley required advance reservations from Ikon passholders, there was a big morning line to exchange those reservations for tickets. Lift lines were not bad but density was up and some of those groomers not so smooth by midday as a result.
4) Big Sky was formerly MaxPass, now Ikon and Mountain Collective. I find it believable that visitation was up with that change.
5) Aspen was Mountain Collective and added Ikon, so I suspect there was little change in destination visitors. But the former RMSP people who had Copper, Winter Park, Eldora and Steamboat moved to Ikon with the Alterra takeover. So more Front Rangers took long weekends in Aspen and were reputedly labeled "tunnel trash" by some of the locals.

Jackson has been steadily growing in visitation regardless of pass program, so as a founding Mountain Collective area I'm hesitant to ascribe extra due to Ikon.

Some people say Mammoth was busier last year on Ikon, and Memorial weekend was the busiest I've seen it. But the SoCal season passholder base should have been the same, and visitation from out of state has always been trivial. So the source of more people if any IMHO would have been NorCal people with Squaw passes that are now good at Mammoth (analogy to RMSP people who now get Aspen).

For those who say 2018-19 was way busier than 2017-18, most of that is good snow year vs. bad snow year. The correct comparison, as at Alta/Snowbird, is 2018-19 vs. 2016-17, both good snow years. I'll reserve judgment on Mammoth until I see those numbers.


Tunnel trash. :lol: Love it.
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Re: Are there uncrowded ski areas with on-site lodging?

Postby Sbooker » Tue Nov 12, 2019 5:30 pm

sierra_cement wrote:I know easy access and crowds are highly correlated. So I'm glad to read thoughts about access from the perspective of others.

I have been to DEN a few times. I dislike Denver because it is a very large airport, requires a train within the airport, then another long shuttle to rental cars, and you drive through the whole city to go to the mountains and the road to the mountains involves a difficult drive. I think SLC is the most accessible airport for West Coast skiers, all things considered. I usually find prices to SLC much cheaper than DEN. Of course, that will be reverse for East Coast folks. No wonder most ski areas in CO are crowded.

My observation based on limited data for those small airports is that they tend to have very expensive flights. I have occasionally checked and I've never found affordable flights to EGE, ASE, BZN, MTJ, JAC and a few others. Spokane and Boise are available with Southwest and that improves their accessibility score. I could have booked a President's day flight to Spokane for ~$200 round trip with Southwest, but decided to skip as we are going to ski the whole week after that.

Google says Sun Valley is a 2.5-hour drive from Boise. Beaver Creek is similar. I haven't done the Sun Valley drive so I don't know if it is a difficult one. My hypothesis is we can reach Sun Valley cheaper and faster than Beaver Creek. Same with Schweitzer.

It's fun to discuss these things. Let's see how many ski areas we can cross off. I will aim for 2-3 new areas per ski season.


Sun Valley is an easy drive from SLC in my experience.
The difference between crowds coming from the nearest major population centre to Beaver Creek and Sun Valley is Denver has about 3 million inhabitants and Boise has about 300000.
Also flying into Hailey is subsidized by the resort I believe so reasonable flight costs are available.
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Re: Are there uncrowded ski areas with on-site lodging?

Postby jamesdeluxe » Wed Nov 13, 2019 8:05 am

sierra_cement wrote:I think SLC is the most accessible airport for West Coast skiers, all things considered. I usually find prices to SLC much cheaper than DEN. Of course, that will be reverse for East Coast folks.

Not necessarily true -- ECers like yours truly have been taking nonstops to SLC for years and the prices are usually no more than to Denver. Throughout the 00s, I took the 7 am Delta flight to SLC, was on a lift by 11 am, and skied until 1:30 pm on departure day before catching a 4 pm flight back. That's similar to how it works for me when going to the Alps -- no loss of ski time due to air travel if you're so inclined -- particularly to Zurich, which has a 5 pm nonstop back to EWR.

For a long stretch, there was also a great program, Quick Start, that allowed you to use your boarding pass from any airline's incoming flight to get a same-day free lift ticket at the three Park City areas. Most people used it at Deer Valley (many claimed it was worth going there for the turkey chili alone); however, I also went to The Canyons a number of times. A recurring takeaway was how much better conditions were on the Wasatch front side than the back side but hey, don't argue with free. Quick Start was discontinued several years back.
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