Planning for a season on snow.

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Planning for a season on snow.

Postby Sbooker » Mon Aug 10, 2020 6:08 pm

For a number of years I've had intention of spending an extended time in a mountain area somewhere on the planet. Covid has been a big wake up call to me. It's made it obvious that we don't know what is around the corner.
I plan to do my 'season' as soon as practically possible. I understand that could still be some time away (certainly not this northern hemisphere winter) but as it will be take a lot of research I am starting to plan now.

There are so many things to consider -
1. I'm making an assumption that there will be a vaccine for covid or at least some kind of insurance to cover my family for things covid related.

2. I'm thinking we'll arrive in mid December and the kids and my wife will go back to Australia at the end of January for the start of the school year. My wife would return a few weeks later (once kids are settled into routine) for a month or so. I would remain on my mid working life sabbatical until the end of March. Obviously these details are fluid - aside from the kids heading back to Oz at the end of January.

3. We could opt for one location for the duration or choose to make it a multi destination type thing. For the multi destination option my wife has an aunt in Salt Lake City that has separate accomodation in her basement. It's quite a good fully self contained set up. We could arm ourselves with Ikon passes and use her digs in Mill Creek as a base while taking vacations within a vacation to Jackson, Taos, Mammoth, Aspen etc. The positives to this is obvious. Usually lots of snow, world class hills etc. The negatives are not so obvious. We've been to the US a lot, we would definitely need a car, the exchange rate is not as favourable as Canada for example and there's a chance there could still be an orange man as President. :lol:

4. We would be open to staying in one spot but it would have to be a big mountain and have an interesting town and preferably some other interesting stuff close by that could be reached by day trip. Whister is appealing. We could plan not to be there over Christmas and New Year as an Epic pass would give us some time to road trip to Fernie to escape the crowds. Whistler would be best after the holidays.
A big Euro hill could also work. I'm thinking staying in a town near to a mountain might be best. My daughter is very into French so France would be a consideration but the exchange rate is not great and I question my ability safely ski off piste. Same goes for an Austrian or Italian area.

5. Money isn't a real factor but I am a tight arse at heart so I'd rather do 'sustainable' as opposed to lavish.

Any thoughts on this? Suggestions?
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Re: Planning for a season on snow.

Postby jimk » Tue Aug 11, 2020 7:10 am

Your "auntie" plan sounds good and probably one of your most economical options. I am retired and live in Eastern US, but have a son that lives a couple miles from your auntie. The last two winters I have stayed at my single son's house for approximately 3-5 months. There are a number of ski passes that could work very nicely for that location; for example the IKON pass would provide plenty of local ski options and you could also make short trips to Jackson Hole, Aspen, etc. Or buying a season pass to a local mtn can sometimes come with an added IKON or MCP benefit, sort of depends if you decide to focus more on one place. If you add more passes such as Epic for Park City the options are wide open.

Coming from the mid-Atlantic US I have found the winter climate in the Salt Lake Valley to be very user-friendly. The valley has a much milder climate than the nearby ski areas and you can see people shopping at Walmart in shorts and flip-flops even in mid-winter on occasion. When it snows in the SL Valley it rarely sticks for more than a few days, then it's back to 55 degs F and sunny. There are colder periods, but they don't extend for weeks and weeks. The airport is almost never closed due to local weather and precipitation problems as it is 15 miles into the dry desert from SLC.

You might have to extend your stay because April and even May can be sensational in the Cottonwoods; no crowds, good snow, nice temps, just the ticket for old retired dudes like me:-)
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Re: Planning for a season on snow.

Postby Sbooker » Tue Aug 11, 2020 3:13 pm

We’ve had many trips into SLC and I agree it has many pluses.
I do wonder if the fact the city (and therefore our logging) is so far removed from the ‘resorts’ themselves that it may be difficult to be part of some camaraderie of regulars on the hill?
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Re: Planning for a season on snow.

Postby Tony Crocker » Wed Aug 12, 2020 9:42 am

sbooker wrote:it may be difficult to be part of some camaraderie of regulars on the hill?

Those regulars nearly all live in the Salt Lake Valley, not up at the the hill. Admin's posse is quite generous in showing visitors around, and even though he doesn't post here anymore he's still very hospitable to in-person visitors.

However if you want to ski with any of those people on a recurring basis you'll need some form of LCC pass as you'll end up at Alta or Snowbird more than 7 days. If you are really going to be there for the entire season into April, that's what I would recommend anyway. Admin and a few of those people have Alta-only passes $1099.
Snowbird only is $1199.
Snowbird has a feature where you can get an Ikon base add-on for combined price $1499.
An Altabird combined is $1749 and includes the base Ikon.
Those may sound like big numbers, but if you/re in your auntie's place for several months I'll bet the end result is much cheaper being a road warrior for 3-4months.

Perhaps you buy Ikon for the kids and after you send them home in January, settle in for the rest of the season in Utah with one of the Snowbird/Ikon combos for you and your wife.
jimk wrote:Coming from the mid-Atlantic US I have found the winter climate in the Salt Lake Valley to be very user-friendly. The valley has a much milder climate than the nearby ski areas and you can see people shopping at Walmart in shorts and flip-flops even in mid-winter on occasion. When it snows in the SL Valley it rarely sticks for more than a few days, then it's back to 55 degs F and sunny. There are colder periods, but they don't extend for weeks and weeks.

This is true mid-February onwards. From mid-December to early February dry spells are usually accompanied by inversions where the mountains are sunny but the valley is under low clouds with colder temps and often some particulate pollution. These episodes are rare during stormy midwinters like the last two but if you get a prolonged midwinter dry spell like in 2015 you'll spend a lot of time under that dirty cloud. That's probably a good time to hit the road.
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Re: Planning for a season on snow.

Postby Sbooker » Wed Aug 12, 2020 8:08 pm

What is the collective thought of Solitude as a home mountain? I’ve not skied there.
I note that an Ikon pass would make Solitude unlimited and provide 7 days at each of Alta/Snowbird, Brighton and Deer Valley.
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Re: Planning for a season on snow.

Postby jimk » Thu Aug 13, 2020 8:12 am

I must say that online ski forums have been a big help for finding ski partners in Utah and many other spots around the US.

Solitude as home mtn could certainly work. The problem is that IKON base pass has been hugely popular, especially with Utah locals and it is no longer such a good mtn for crowd avoidance. It's been so popular that IKON base blackout days are some of the best weekends to go skiing at many IKON resorts, sometimes even less crowded than weekdays:-) This is a strong argument for a frequent skier to buy the full IKON. Also, Last season Solitude implemented special parking limitations, but if you skied there often getting a parking pass would pay for itself quickly in cost and convenience.

I have only skied Solitude a half dozen times myself. It's a fine mtn, but I find it more confining than the other Cottonwood resorts. Maybe if I skied it more I wouldn't think that way? Most of my Utah skiing over the last five years has been at Snowbird and Park City.
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Re: Planning for a season on snow.

Postby Sbooker » Thu Aug 13, 2020 4:44 pm

Thanks for the comments on Solitude. I've noted the crowding.
The other issue with SLC as a base is transport to the hill. I think I would have to rent a vehicle or have Kylie's aunt purchase one in her name for us. She's in Mill Creek and it doesn't look like it is very close to the ski bus route.
There are other places that wouldn't require a car. I previously mentioned Whistler. Fernie and the other Rockies resorts (RCR card) look interesting too. I'm wondering if public transport between Fernie, Kimberley, Kicking Horse and Banff is decent.
There's also a Tyrol card that covers heaps of ski areas. Transport is good in that area but the accomodation seems more expensive.
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Re: Planning for a season on snow.

Postby jimk » Fri Aug 14, 2020 12:39 pm

I always have a car with me and use it most times to ski, but I have taken UTA a few times to Little and Big Cottonwood ski areas. It works well except big powder weekends when it can be crowded or get delayed by avalanche mitigation work. If you develop relationships with a few local skiers you can often figure out ways to catch rides at least one direction on days you go skiing, but that might take time for a newcomer to the area.
Here's a map with UTA bus and rail stations/lines: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mi ... 99025&z=13" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
If you were staying on the eastern edge of Mill Creek you might be within a mile of a bus station, close enough that a bike might actually work to get you to a bus stop on days when weather is cooperative. Leave bike chained to a rack until you return at end of ski day.
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Re: Planning for a season on snow.

Postby Sbooker » Fri Aug 14, 2020 5:45 pm

jimk wrote:I always have a car with me and use it most times to ski, but I have taken UTA a few times to Little and Big Cottonwood ski areas. It works well except big powder weekends when it can be crowded or get delayed by avalanche mitigation work. If you develop relationships with a few local skiers you can often figure out ways to catch rides at least one direction on days you go skiing, but that might take time for a newcomer to the area.
Here's a map with UTA bus and rail stations/lines: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mi ... 99025&z=13" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
If you were staying on the eastern edge of Mill Creek you might be within a mile of a bus station, close enough that a bike might actually work to get you to a bus stop on days when weather is cooperative. Leave bike chained to a rack until you return at end of ski day.


Thanks for the suggestion but my late 40’s wife may not be up for the bike option. :-)
I think a car will be the way to go.
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Re: Planning for a season on snow.

Postby jimk » Sat Aug 15, 2020 8:21 am

Oh yes. Totally understand. Are you familiar with the expression, "if mama's not happy, nobody's happy!" I guess you'd have a few options on a car, I'm not an expert on this; 1) buy an older car and sell it when you leave for hopefully not too much less than your buying price but that might involve some registration and licensing tasks, 2) go through regular car rental agencies and sometimes if you rent an economy car from a non-airport location you can get as low as about $100 per week, 3) seek out one of the uber or lyft type companies that also do car rentals and try for an extended rental from a private party for a lower rate than regular rental car agency, 4) vagabond mode - rent a car briefly to get from one destination to another where you turn in the car and use local bus system until time to rent car again to go to next destination with good bus service, for example a month near Copper, a month in Steamboat Springs, and a month in Winter Park, renting a car briefly to get to next town then turn it in.

Other places to stay for an extended ski visit without a car that I know a little about: Summit County Colorado - doable with the free Summit Stage bus and an Epic Pass to get to Breck and Keystone or IKON to Copper and A-Basin. I stayed once for two weeks in little Minturn, CO (halfway between Beaver Creek and Vail) and was able to use a fairly inexpensive county bus to get to those two resorts. Aspen has free bus system and I could easily spend a winter skiing those four mtns. Steamboat has free bus, but probably would want more variety than just that one mtn over a winter. North Lake Tahoe?
Don't have a lot of experience in Western Canada, but did drive through there in 2018. From Kicking Horse to Revy includes Rogers Pass and can be snowy and possibly occasionally problematic if you had to do that real frequently. From Kicking Horse to Banff has one hairy area if I remember correctly, but otherwise not too bad. Banff to Calgary is a very mild and easy drive.
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Re: Planning for a season on snow.

Postby tseeb » Sat Aug 15, 2020 3:16 pm

jimk wrote:If you were staying on the eastern edge of Mill Creek you might be within a mile of a bus station, close enough that a bike might actually work to get you to a bus stop on days when weather is cooperative. Leave bike chained to a rack until you return at end of ski day.
I think walking a mile or less to bus stop sounds more reasonable than than biking, but either would not be much fun with your wife and carrying both of your skis and boots.

@jimk It took me a while to realize I know you, but the NoVA and son in SLC finally tipped me off. You also mentioned Tahoe which would work better as a place to spend a few months vs. one week vacation booked well in advance when a storm could shut down a lot of the skiing for part of your time. But you'd still almost need a car to have flexibility in picking best area unless you rented a place at Squaw or Alpine which would be expensive, and then you'd need a car for groceries and restaurants unless you want very limited choices, especially for groceries. And you never know if it's going to be a good or poor season.

Sbooker wrote:I'm wondering if public transport between Fernie, Kimberley, Kicking Horse and Banff is decent.
Most of the public transport seems to be between Calgary and ski areas including Revy. The exception is that it is possible to get from Banff or Lake Louise to Kicking Horse. Even finding a one-way car rental in Fernie, Golden or Kimberly is problematic and/or expensive as they are small towns. When Tony Crocker wanted to ski Castle and Fernie a few days after cat skiing and I joined the most recent pugski Big Sky gathering, the only option that worked very well was for me to drive him to YYC to rent a car.
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Re: Planning for a season on snow.

Postby Sbooker » Sat Aug 15, 2020 3:40 pm

jimk wrote:Oh yes. Totally understand. Are you familiar with the expression, "if mama's not happy, nobody's happy!" I guess you'd have a few options on a car, I'm not an expert on this; 1) buy an older car and sell it when you leave for hopefully not too much less than your buying price but that might involve some registration and licensing tasks, 2) go through regular car rental agencies and sometimes if you rent an economy car from a non-airport location you can get as low as about $100 per week, 3) seek out one of the uber or lyft type companies that also do car rentals and try for an extended rental from a private party for a lower rate than regular rental car agency, 4) vagabond mode - rent a car briefly to get from one destination to another where you turn in the car and use local bus system until time to rent car again to go to next destination with good bus service, for example a month near Copper, a month in Steamboat Springs, and a month in Winter Park, renting a car briefly to get to next town then turn it in.

Other places to stay for an extended ski visit without a car that I know a little about: Summit County Colorado - doable with the free Summit Stage bus and an Epic Pass to get to Breck and Keystone or IKON to Copper and A-Basin. I stayed once for two weeks in little Minturn, CO (halfway between Beaver Creek and Vail) and was able to use a fairly inexpensive county bus to get to those two resorts. Aspen has free bus system and I could easily spend a winter skiing those four mtns. Steamboat has free bus, but probably would want more variety than just that one mtn over a winter. North Lake Tahoe?
Don't have a lot of experience in Western Canada, but did drive through there in 2018. From Kicking Horse to Revy includes Rogers Pass and can be snowy and possibly occasionally problematic if you had to do that real frequently. From Kicking Horse to Banff has one hairy area if I remember correctly, but otherwise not too bad. Banff to Calgary is a very mild and easy drive.

I’m more familiar with the expression “Happy wife, happy life”. :-)
Yes there are plenty of viable options. The Resorts of the Canadian Rockies Pass covers Fernie (decent chance for good early season), Kimberly, Kicking Horse and Lake Louise. I’ve travelled from Banff to Whistler a couple of times but only skied Lake Louise on that list. Both times were early April and we enjoyed that mountain.
I keep coming back to SLC as a good option because of the strong likelihood of regular snowfall and good variety of quality hills. The Altabird plus Ikon pass would give great quality and variety both locally and within a days drive (Jackson, Big Sky, Aspen, Copper etc).
Epic does interest me because Whistler would be a big plus and a diversion to Fernie and others over the busy holiday period would work. The last half of the season could be spent in the US (I’ve never skied at Heavenly or Telluride and they are big bucket list items). I’ve already mentioned the favourable exchange rate and a car wouldn’t be needed all the time. Lodging appears to be pricey though.
In general Tahoe isn’t a realistic option because I would be concerned about a snow famine year. And this is something we would have to commit to in advance.
Europe has the disadvantage of a costly currency and lodging is definitely more expensive. While Japan can be relied on for snow in most cases I find myself attracted to a different style of mountain to theirs in general. (Even though I am not a good skier I love to push myself to tackle steepish terrain and I expect my skill would improve with a lot of time on snow).
A lot of this decision will come down to Covid. I will be doing this at the first practical opportunity - so hopefully winter 21/22. Our government may have travel bans on some destinations and not others I guess. Here’s hoping that a successful vaccine is forthcoming quickly. Even so in the case of no vaccine I expect our government and many others around the world will have a re-think on their Covid strategy as our economy is so reliant on international tourism and eduction.
Thanks for the input.
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Re: Planning for a season on snow.

Postby Tony Crocker » Sat Aug 15, 2020 10:20 pm

I have a hard time believing any of these extended ski trips are viable without a car. Again, the lodging deal in Salt Lake, being able to eat meals in; these go a long way to paying for the car.
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Re: Planning for a season on snow.

Postby Sbooker » Sun Aug 16, 2020 1:43 am

Tony Crocker wrote:I have a hard time believing any of these extended ski trips are viable without a car. Again, the lodging deal in Salt Lake, being able to eat meals in; these go a long way to paying for the car.

Yes. If SLC is the base we’ll certainly need a car. How that happens I don’t know yet. We may have to get Kylie’s Aunty to by one in her name.
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Re: Planning for a season on snow.

Postby ChrisC » Tue Aug 18, 2020 9:40 pm

If you buy an Ikon Pass and could get to Gunnison or Montrose - unfortunately flying likely - you can easily do Crested Butte or Telluride without a car. Aspen too.

You might as well look into monthly car rentals - almost 1.5 weeks = 1 month - same price.

If you do get to Jackson on Ikon - you should go up to Big Sky - Epic Pass as well. Bozeman - 45 min from Big Sky - is one of the great Western ski towns where you could still find relatively cheaper lodging with a fun main street. By some tickets at Bridger Bowl - an awesome co-op area outside of town.
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