Whistler or Mammoth for spring break?

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Whistler or Mammoth for spring break?

Postby flyover » Fri Nov 15, 2019 5:24 pm

My daughter's spring break starts on Friday March 27 and ends on Monday April 6, 2020. She does not have a week-long mid-winter break which means spring beak is what we have to work with if we want to take a full-week ski trip anytime other than Christmas. Of course this means we are looking for good late-season resorts large enough to be interesting for a week. We've been to Banff for 3 spring breaks and are looking to go somewhere we have not been. Having reviewed Tony's recommended list of late-season resorts and numerous FTO trip reports from both hills, were are considering Whistler or Mammoth.

My wife learned to ski after 30 and is a terminal intermediate but can handle variable snow and get down most single black diamond runs on and off piste, always with a smile. She has never minded my skiing something more challenging and meeting again at the lift. My daughter will be 14 in March and although I haven't taken her with me down the steepest stuff I like to ski, for the last 2 seasons she's been good to go in most snow conditions on any single black terrain, on piste or off, at Mad River Glen, Lake Lousie, A-Basin, Copper and Loveland. It has gotten very difficult for me to get action photos of her on piste, because every time I stop and turn around she's right behind me. With the family in tow, I'll be happiest at a resort with a wide variety of steeps that don't require much hiking or long commutes to access.

We will probably ski 6 out of 8 days and look for other activities the other 2 days. If we go to Whistler we will probably spend the first couple of days in Vancouver, a town we enjoy. This would have us arriving at Whistler just as the Vancouver schools' spring break is ending. If we go the Mammoth we would probably fly in and out of Vegas, where we would spend no time, and use our non skiing days in Mammoth for hiking/snowshoeing, hot springs, etc. It looks like the L.A. schools start their spring break on Friday April 3, so it seems likely our last couple of days at Mammoth might be quite busy.

I've done a little research and for the kind of lodging we're looking for, Mammoth looks to be a little less expensive than Whistler. Lift tickets are a bit cheaper at Mammoth as well.

I've never been to either mountain. Here are my questions: if we consider all other factors to be equal, how is the skiing likely to compare in the first week of April? What are FTO's recommendations? Anywhere else we should be thinking about?
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Re: Whistler or Mammoth for spring break?

Postby tseeb » Fri Nov 15, 2019 9:27 pm

My wife, who didn't start skiing until her late 20s and could also probably be labeled a terminal intermediate says Whistler. I'm not sure I can say she "can handle variable snow and get down most single black diamond runs on and off piste", but she is retiring at the end of Jan. and has Ikon Base and Tahoe Value passes and should ski more than her 5-7 days in recent seasons, mostly out of state.

She has been to Whistler twice: once in Feb. staying in studio barely into North Village for 5 nights when we had some new snow and once staying for a week at studio at Creekside in April when we had more new snow. Her Mammoth experience is probably only two trips: first on a cold day in April about 15 years ago when we drove down from So. Tahoe (2 plus hours away) then spent night in Lone Pine on way to Death Valley (better than off days at Mammoth) and Las Vegas (also better than off day at Mammoth so early in year) and the other time was Memorial Day a couple of years ago, staying at motel in town for a night while skiing two days followed by long drive home via Monitor and Carson Passes.

She likes Whistler more as skiing was better for her, even though weather was challenging, and it's a more 'cosmopolitan' experience. While she was challenged by skiing Blackcomb Glacier with women friends when visibility shut down and with me in powder, it is a great run and there is nothing like it (or the views at top of Whistler when clear) at Mammoth where views are mostly longer distance, She also liked being walking distance from lifts so she could quit and walk back to lodging if she'd had enough and that you did not need to get in the car, especially staying near Main base. She also liked stopping as Western Lake for dim sum after leaving airport and spending her first night in W Vancouver (and Canada) on 1st trip when we had great weather during the day and snow down to the beach overnight.

Mammoth may not have enough to keep you going, both on and off the mountain for a week, although that time of year June Mountain should also be open. Both of our wives could probably ski most of the upper mountain there without problem. You could consider flying into Reno and skiing a couple of days at Tahoe, depending on how season progresses. If you do make it to Mammoth, we (and maybe Tony Crocker who could show you mountain way better than me) could try to join you there. Not sure if that's an advantage...
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Re: Whistler or Mammoth for spring break?

Postby Tony Crocker » Fri Nov 15, 2019 11:40 pm

Your daughter's spring break is exactly the same as my son Adam's was, K-12. You have many good options, Adam's spring break list below.

Mammoth is better for your wife, as the vast intermediate terrain sprawled around Mammoth's lower half of vertical will preserve snow better than lower terrain at Whistler.

As for upper terrain, Whistler and Blackcomb are like having two Mammoths. Snow quality on the upper 2,000 of Whistler preserves at least as well as Mammoth, but the vast majority of that terrain is advanced/expert. Your wife will be able to experience some of that: the Blackcomb Glacier, Seventh Heaven, Harmony/Symphony. So given what you say about her tolerance/independence, I vote for Whistler while the Canadian $ is still somewhat of a deal. And it sounds like your daughter might be ready for an Extremely Canadian clinic. For your first time at Whistler, that's also a great way to learn some out of the way places in a vast ski complex.

Adam's spring breaks during the week containing April 1:
Age 6: Mammoth
Age 7: Crested Butte, Telluride, Purgatory
Age 8: Taos, Ski Apache, other attractions: Trinity Site, White Sands, Carlsbad Caverns
Age 9: Utah (staying in SLC)
Age 10: I was on the DL from a torn meniscus President's Weekend, so he went camping/canoeing on the lower Colorado River.
Age 11: Mammoth
Age 12: Summit County, CO
Age 13: Whistler
Age 14: The Calgary loop: Castle, Fernie, RK Heli, Lake Louise, Sunshine
Age 15: Hood Meadows, Mt. Bailey snowcat, NASJA meeting Mt. Bachelor
Age 16: Road trip to Crested Butte via AZ Snowbowl, Wolf Creek, Monarch, one day in the Grand Canyon on the way home
Age 17&18: Mammoth, last 2 years of high school Adam had some friends who skied or snowboarded

UCSD's spring break was one week earlier in late March:
Age 19: Aspen, NASJA meeting Telluride
Age 20: Whistler including Extremely Canadian clinic + TLH Heli
Age 21: No skiing, solar eclipse trip to Egypt
Age 22: Alyeska, Chugach Powder Guides
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Re: Whistler or Mammoth for spring break?

Postby egieszl » Sat Nov 16, 2019 12:54 pm

I would never recommend or consider Mammoth unless I lived within driving distance of the mountain like Los Angeles or Las Vegas. If your trip requires air travel then you should go elsewhere. Mammoth is the best option for those who live in Los Angeles and don't want to fly. However access is a huge issue and the drive a major inconvenience. The exception to the above is if you want to ski late season like May or June.

Anyone considering Mammoth should be aware of the fact that it can be very crowded on weekends. There is significant and at times very troublesome traffic to get there if you're traveling on one of the busy days like to Mammoth on a Friday or away from it on a Sunday.

I like skiing Mammoth and the mountain is good, but is it really resport quality? The lift network is incredible, but I find that runs are little on the short side. Where Mammoth really shines is in late season. The mountain historically gets a lot of snow and holds the snow very well. If your spring break were to fall in late-April Mammoth is an excellent choice because of the amount of terrain that will be open and the quality of the snow for that late in the season.

The town however leaves a lot to be desired. If you like "dive bars" then the entire town sort of fits that theme. I enjoy it for a couple of days, but a week may leave you wanting more.

Whistler-Blackcomb is a fine alternative. At times it gets a bit crowded, but not Mammoth weekend crowded. There are more alternative day activities and the Village offers great dining options, plus some nightlife for all ages. The mountain offers signficantly more terrain versus Mammoth with great variety, exceptional vertical, and long runs. The lift network makes Mammoth's outstanding network look mediocre.

The only downside to Whistler-Blackcomb is the snow conditions. It's not uncommon at that time of year to have rain on the lower slopes and snow on the upper slopes. It's close to the sea, low elevation at the base, and there tends to be a lot of variation in the snow conditions with 5,000+ vertical feet. I recall uploading the Gondola in the rain, exiting with wet snow falling and skiing great powder on the highest slopes, then at the end of the day descending from snow to rain and with conditions going from powder to heavy snow to wet slop!
2018-19 ski season stats- Vertical: 1,328,039, Days: 55, Lift rides: 814, Top day vertical: 53,363;
Total past 12 seasons- Vertical: 14,120,078, Days: 557, Lift rides: 8,869, Top day vertical: 64,867;
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Re: Whistler or Mammoth for spring break?

Postby Tony Crocker » Sat Nov 16, 2019 2:58 pm

For flyover and family, Mammoth's resort shortcomings are somewhat irrelevant. The mountain topography is layered (the higher you go the steeper it gets) with most fall lines in the 1,000 foot range. For any spring break week (mid-March onwards) Mammoth has to be on the short list for terrain quality/diversity and snow conditions.

egieszl wrote:It's not uncommon at that time of year to have rain on the lower slopes and snow on the upper slopes.

West Coast rain incidence is not what many people think. Lowest rain incidence is February/March. Highest is November, then December. January and April are in between. I have 30 years of daily data from the Central Sierra Snow Lab on this, and Larry Schick says it's the same in the PNW. Nearly all of the destructive Pineapple Express events in the PNW with very high rain/snow line have occurred in the first half of the season.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Re: Whistler or Mammoth for spring break?

Postby Sbooker » Sat Nov 16, 2019 4:59 pm

Interesting comments above.
My crew of intermediates have enjoyed both Whister and Mammoth around that time of year. To be fair we may have been a little more intermediate than we are now as it was a few years ago. I find it impossible to believe that you could not have a great time at either hill but I agree that Whistler is a bit more 'resorty' than Mammoth - but then again I see that as somewhat of a negative. I like the 'real' feel of Mammoth.
We've also had a great time at Alta/Snowbird at the end of March. Both times we've scored powder days and the snow was largely winter snow (not melt/freeze). I would think it would have to be a consideration too.

@egieszl - I find the drive from LA to Mammoth to be both easy and beautiful. I'm not getting the inconvenience bit that you feel?
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Re: Whistler or Mammoth for spring break?

Postby Tony Crocker » Sat Nov 16, 2019 7:31 pm

sbooker wrote:@egieszl - I find the drive from LA to Mammoth to be both easy and beautiful. I'm not getting the inconvenience bit that you feel?

If you don't live on the northern edge of the LA Basin, a Friday evening getaway to Mammoth can be quite painful in terms of traffic. I'm lucky in that regard, often drove the Angeles Forest Hwy to Palmdale to avoid any evening rush hour. Then it's smooth sailing on 14/395 with only two 10-mile sections of 2 lane road. The OC/SD/Inland Empire skiers driving through Cajon Pass now have it tougher. The 395 from I-15 to the junction of the 14 is 100 miles of mostly 2 lane including tedious intersections with Highways 18 and 58.

Aussies are by necessity real road warriors. We got a taste of that in the Red Centre and Top End in July. But there's lots of elbow room in Oz, not the level of traffic aggravation we have many places here.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Re: Whistler or Mammoth for spring break?

Postby flyover » Sat Nov 16, 2019 8:15 pm

tseeb, Tony, egieszl and Sbooker, thank you for the long and detailed responses. They are very helpful and we are now leaning toward Whistler if we can make the logistics and the math work.

tseeb wrote: Whistler [is] a more 'cosmopolitan' experience.

Mammoth may not have enough to keep you going, both on and off the mountain for a week, although that time of year June Mountain should also be open.

You could consider flying into Reno and skiing a couple of days at Tahoe, depending on how season progresses.


None of us really care about having any kind of resort experience. If anything, my wife, who has fewer ski days per season than I do, is even more adamant about getting the most out of every ski day. We prefer to have lodging with a kitchen and cook most of our own meals, get to bed early and get back out on the hill early. On days that we don't ski, we like to hike, snowshoe, etc. We won't be looking for fine dining or nightlife.

I've been concerned that Mammoth might not have enough skiing to keep us happy for a week, but a little internet research suggests it wouldn't be difficult to find decent hiking or snowshoeing. We'd probably spend our non-skiing days on a trip to Whistler kicking around Vancouver on the front end of the trip. (Now that's cosmopolitan!)

I've wondered about June. Not many FTO TRs. How's the skiing there in April?

Unfortunately MSP to RNO is pricey, not direct and, worst of all, most likely to be on United. No thanks.

Tony Crocker wrote:Mammoth's lower half of vertical will preserve snow better than lower terrain at Whistler.

As for upper terrain, Whistler and Blackcomb are like having two Mammoths. Snow quality on the upper 2,000 of Whistler preserves at least as well as Mammoth, but the vast majority of that terrain is advanced/expert. Your wife will be able to experience some of that: the Blackcomb Glacier, Seventh Heaven, Harmony/Symphony. So given what you say about her tolerance/independence, I vote for Whistler while the Canadian $ is still somewhat of a deal. And it sounds like your daughter might be ready for an Extremely Canadian clinic.


This is very helpful.

I'll look into the Extremely Canadian clinic, but am not sure I can make it fit into the budget this year.

It's the likely snow conditions and risk of rain on the lower half of Whistler in April (with its low elevation and proximity to the Pacific) that got me thinking about Mammoth and other late-season resorts. Colorado should probably be on our list as well, but we were just there last winter.

egieszl wrote:If your trip requires air travel then you should go elsewhere.... [A]ccess is a huge issue and the drive a major inconvenience. The exception to the above is if you want to ski late season like May or June.

Anyone considering Mammoth should be aware of the fact that it can be very crowded on weekends.

Where Mammoth really shines is in late season. The mountain historically gets a lot of snow and holds the snow very well. If your spring break were to fall in late-April Mammoth is an excellent choice because of the amount of terrain that will be open and the quality of the snow for that late in the season.

The town however leaves a lot to be desired.

Whistler-Blackcomb ... gets a bit crowded, but not Mammoth weekend crowded. The mountain offers signficantly more terrain versus Mammoth with great variety, exceptional vertical, and long runs. The lift network makes Mammoth's outstanding network look mediocre.

The only downside to Whistler-Blackcomb is the snow conditions. It's not uncommon at that time of year to have rain on the lower slopes and snow on the upper slopes.


We would drive up from Vegas, which is a long drive, but sounds like it is pretty desolate and low stress.

It's funny how the definition of "late season" is so variable from resort to resort. At what point in the spring do the weekend crowds start to thin at Mammoth?

I can tell by looking at the stats and maps and TRs that Whistler offers much more terrain and variety, but it is helpful to hear your perspective on the lift network. We would be arriving at Whistler immediately AFTER the Vancouver schools' spring break, so we are hoping this might keep the weekend crowds down.

I'm not so worried about Mammoth Lakes boring us. Like I said above, we tend not to dine out very often or do much in town on ski trips. We would be happy to find some hiking, hot springs, etc.

Tony Crocker wrote:
egieszl wrote:It's not uncommon at that time of year to have rain on the lower slopes and snow on the upper slopes.

West Coast rain incidence is not what many people think. Lowest rain incidence is February/March. Highest is November, then December. January and April are in between. I have 30 years of daily data from the Central Sierra Snow Lab on this, and Larry Schick says it's the same in the PNW. Nearly all of the destructive Pineapple Express events in the PNW with very high rain/snow line have occurred in the first half of the season.


That is reassuring, although even without rain, I'm assuming we would spend almost all of our time on an April trip to Whistler skiing the upper half of the vertical.

Sbooker wrote:Interesting comments above.
I agree that Whistler is a bit more 'resorty' than Mammoth - but then again I see that as somewhat of a negative. I like the 'real' feel of Mammoth.

We've also had a great time at Alta/Snowbird at the end of March. Both times we've scored powder days and the snow was largely winter snow (not melt/freeze). I would think it would have to be a consideration too.


I also tend to gravitate toward not-"resorty." Whistler made my list because its hugeness seems like it would keep us busy for a week without too much repetition.

Love Altabird, and have been there many times, but have lost some interest since the advent of the multipass. Although I have not researched it this year, when I have looked in recent years it seems like lodging in LCC has become brutally expensive, and it sounds like the traffic up and down the canyon has gotten a lot worse since my last visit in 2012.
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Re: Whistler or Mammoth for spring break?

Postby tseeb » Sun Nov 17, 2019 12:32 am

If it's too wet or snow is not good on lower half of WB you can take enclosed lift up and also can download. My wife did that most of the days when we were there in April as snow was marginal and got soft getting to Creekside base, but not me.

We nearly always make breakfast in condo and alternate going out to Happy Hour, dinner and cooking in condo. We don't go out much in evening, but enjoyed being to be able to walk to store or to catch free concerts or flaming ski jumping, etc. in Village.

You may want to consider Epic Local Pass which gives you 10 total days at Whistler, Vail and Beaver Creek, especially if you can make use of it somewhere else (Afton Alps? Does not appear to give you anything at Fernie or Kicking Horse like full Epic does). $739 for adults and $589 for 13-18 and you have to commit by 11/24. https://www.epicpass.com/passes/epic-local-pass.aspx
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Re: Whistler or Mammoth for spring break?

Postby Tony Crocker » Sun Nov 17, 2019 4:39 pm

flyover wrote:I've been concerned that Mammoth might not have enough skiing to keep us happy for a week

Don't be. The reality of topography, layout, lifts is such that most skiers can find abundant terrain in their sweet spot and never get tired of it.

flyover wrote:I've wondered about June. Not many FTO TRs. How's the skiing there in April?

June has 2/3 of Mammoth's snowfall and is north facing but overall 1,000 feet lower. The most advanced terrain is the lowest 1,000 vertical and not often open. June is less hectic, excellent for beginners and ideal for someone like sierra_cement's wife. If the weather is bad enough to close the middle layer of lifts (3,5,22) and/or the Main Lodge lifts 1&2, then consider driving to June if its upper lift J7 is open, which it may be as June has trees to the top.

flyover wrote:At what point in the spring do the weekend crowds start to thin at Mammoth?

As a retiree my skiing at Mammoth is primarily midweek because lodging is cheaper and I can get it last minute when I know what the weather is going to be.

Don't worry about the early spring weekends in terms of liftlines/crowds, aside from getting a good parking spot by opening bell (I recommend chair 2) and avoiding the lodges during peak lunch hour. This past Memorial Day was the busiest I have seen and I still skied 30K on Saturday. viewtopic.php?t=14007
There was local bitching about the Ikon as at other places, but 2016-17 was 14% below the record season of 2005-06 and I'd be surprised if last year gained that much over 2016-17.

The record attendance seasons in recent years were 2004-05 and 2005-06. On the weekend of April 9-10, 2005 I skied 30K each day and the Saturday was a big powder day.
http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards ... .php?t=964

On April 8-9, 2006 I skied 25K each day and was skiing with intermediate friends a good chunk of that weekend.
http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards ... php?t=2028

flyover wrote:That is reassuring, although even without rain, I'm assuming we would spend almost all of our time on an April trip to Whistler skiing the upper half of the vertical.

Yes. Liz and I were at Whistler during your timeframe April 2-6 during the very lean 2014-15 season. The lower mountain was completely burned off and had to be downloaded, yet skiing was still good in the alpine.
http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards ... hp?t=11789
http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards ... hp?t=11790
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Re: Whistler or Mammoth for spring break?

Postby flyover » Sun Nov 17, 2019 9:11 pm

Tony, tseeb and everyone else. Thanks again, your responses have been very helpful.

We just pulled the trigger on airfare to Vancouver and a superhost airbnb condo in the "upper village" just a stones throw from the Blackcomb gondola.

tseeb wrote:You may want to consider Epic Local Pass...


Yes. Thanks. The local pass is in serious consideration. Afton is my least favorite local mole hill, but one way or another we seem to end up there enough times during a typical season to make the local pass worth it given it will cover our 7 skiing days at Whistler.

Tony Crocker wrote:Liz and I were at Whistler during your timeframe April 2-6 during the very lean 2014-15 season. The lower mountain was completely burned off and had to be downloaded, yet skiing was still good in the alpine.
http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards ... hp?t=11789" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards ... hp?t=11790" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;


Thanks, these TRs and the photos are very reassuring to review, especially since they are from the 2014-15 season.

Our search for lodging at Whistler has been interesting. Initially we were thinking about skiing on the front end of the trip and kicking around Vancouver for a day or two at the end. When we decided to instead kick around Vancouver first and not arrive at Whistler until the evening of Sunday March 29 it opened up many more and better options in our target price range.
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