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Where to go in January?
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Updated 13 days ago
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15 days ago

Hello everyone,

I am new to this forum and would like some help regarding going to a ski destination in January. My dates are January 24th-28th. We are a family of four, two adults and two boys, ages 11 and 15. My husband and kids are advanced skiers. On the other hand I am still learning to get down the hill on a beginner slope :)

We live in the Washington DC area. We have skied White Tail, Snowshoe, and Holiday Valley. This January we would like to try something different. We are thinking of going to Colorado. Do you have any recommendations of where the skiing is great? I do not know what the snow conditions will be everywhere. I am thinking of choosing between Vail and Beaver Creek. My husband and kids love long and steep runs. I am sure wherever we go we will have a great time. I thought I’d ask since I do not have much experience with this.

The only other date that would work for us is Presidents day weekend. My son is a sophomore in high school and he cannot take much time off. 

 

Any advice would be appreciated.

Thanks a million,

Shazia

15 days ago

First question - do you like the big resort type or the “off the beaten” path type of place?

I’d suggest taking a good look at Utah. You go from downtown to most resorts in under an hour. You can stay either slope side or down in Salt Lake - so there are plenty of lodging options to fit any budget.  You can take an early morning flight and be on the slopes around lunch time. Depending on what type of pass you have or if you’re buying daily tickets, you can easily focus on one or two resorts, or try multiple ones pretty easily. Whether you want the big resort or more down-home area, you’re covered.

Salt Lake’s a Delta hub, and has a decent Southwest presence, so flights are plentiful with nonstops available, and easily reachable from all 3 DC area airports. If you don’t feel like driving, they have a great bus system that’ll get you at least to the Big Cottonwood (Solitude, Brighton) or Little Cottonwood (Snowbird, Alta) resorts. I know some of them used to offer you a break on the lift ticket if you took the bus up - even just from the base of the canyons. Park City’s off of I-80 (and a pretty straight shot from the airport), so it’s nearly always accessible.

Snowbird/Alta and Brighton/Solitude has intermountain tickets with connecting trails, so you can hit two in one day if you want. Brighton has decent night skiing if the kids aren’t ready to quit for the day.  Not sure if Park City and Deer Valley have a combo ticket, but it wouldn’t surpise me if they did. The mountains are quite large and have enough to keep everyone from the beginner to the expert entertained.

I liked Colorado and they have great resorts and terrain, but the resorts weren’t as accessible for the most part.

Costwise, the Utah resorts are typically more affordable - unless you’re hitting Deer Valley. Snowbird and Park City a good bit cheaper than Vail most days, and if you hit the other resorts, you can find tickets under $100 a day.

And that’s all before you get to the biggest selling point - Utah has the greatest snow on Earth! :D  (Ok, I know I just touched off a huge debate, but Utah powder is hard to beat).

I’ve skied Brighton, Solitude, Snowbird, Alta, Sundance (might even see Robert Redford there :)) and The Canyons (when it was separate from Park City).  All are great resorts, and I can recommend them all.  Sundance sits lower than all of them so its snow can get a little sketchy at times, but it’s a decent mountain and usually uncrowded.  Brighton and Solitude were my favorites when I lived there.

I think between accessibility, cost, and variety, Utah’s hard to beat.

15 days ago

chalnikal wrote:

Hello everyone,

I am new to this forum and would like some help regarding going to a ski destination in January. My dates are January 24th-28th. We are a family of four, two adults and two boys, ages 11 and 15. My husband and kids are advanced skiers. On the other hand I am still learning to get down the hill on a beginner slope :)

We live in the Washington DC area. We have skied White Tail, Snowshoe, and Holiday Valley. This January we would like to try something different. We are thinking of going to Colorado. Do you have any recommendations of where the skiing is great? I do not know what the snow conditions will be everywhere. I am thinking of choosing between Vail and Beaver Creek. My husband and kids love long and steep runs. I am sure wherever we go we will have a great time. I thought I’d ask since I do not have much experience with this.

Maybe a little more info to help gauge responses.  How often has everybody skied these mid-Atlantic resorts?  Can husband/sons comfortable ski Cupp Run and Shay’s in all conditions?  Own equipment?  If so, what are some specs.  Does anyone in family have experiece being above 8k feet altitude?

Nobody knows what the conditions will be anywhere.  Skiing will be great somewhere, just chance if you hit it.  Regardless, you’ll probably have a good time.

JimK - DCSki Columnist
15 days ago

Good questions/comments from other posters.

Jan 24-28 does not coincide with any national holidays, which is good for your chances of avoiding the greatest crowds at most ski areas.  It is a relatively brief period which is not so good for allowing flatlanders to adjust to the higher elevations of many western ski areas.  These reasons sort of point to Utah rather than Colorado because the resorts are closer to the airport and lower elevation.  However, Beaver Creek, esp. if sleeping in the town of Avon, is also not too high in elevation.  How important is being in a major ski town to you, such as Vail, Park City, etc?  One medium size mtn that might be a good fit is Solitude, UT because of the cute little base village and good snow.  There are many fine choices including staying in the mid-Atlantic.  Your choice might come down to the size of your budget once you start to calculate costs.

 

15 days ago

Hello Bonzski,

Yes they have done Cupp Run and Shay multiple times without any problem. We have only skied on the east coast. Last year we went to Holiday Valley and the conditions were not optimal. It was rainy and the resort overall does not have the best snowmaking capabilities. I was able to go down the greens. 

I heard that Snowshoe will have a good season this year. It seems tempting to go there again but we are not fond of the choice of restaurants there. I also looked at Kilington, Jay Peak, and Sugarbush. The skiing looks great but the food scene not that much. I may be totally wrong. After a full day of skiing it would be nice to enjoy some good food.

The flight tickets to Denver from DC are very cheap, around $700 for 4 people. Hence, I figured its a good option.

I looked into Utah as well. The tickets are more and the lodging is as much as Colorado. What places do you recommend in the  mid atlantic?

 

15 days ago

We are planning to rent equipment there. My husband has his own ski equipment but he is not planning to take it there.

Being in a huge ski town is not a big priority for us but being close to some good food options is. Its nice to walk to a village and coffee shops and relax after a full day of skiing. I was also looking at Steamboat Colorado since it is a town in itself.

 

15 days ago

The thing (well, one of many things) about Utah is that the resorts are so close to SLC, you don’t need need to stay at a resort, which means you don’t need to pay resort prices. Instead, you get the benefit of Salt Lake City’s voluminous lodging options, which drives down prices. I’ve stayed in Airbnbs about 20 minutes away from the Cottonwoods several times. If your family is interested in ski-in/ski-out type lodging, then Utah isn’t likely to be much cheaper than Colorado. 

Other than cost, the big logisitical advantage Utah has over Colorado is the ease of driving from the airport to the mountain. It’s a substantially longer and more treacherous trip on I-70 to the Colorado mountains compared to the trip to the mountains from SLC. This can affect the type of car you rent, as well as how much time you need to budget for getting from the airport to the mountain or vice versa.

But you’re right about flights. In my experience, flights to Denver are cheaper than flights to SLC. And the restaurant choices on mountain are probably better for most of the Colorado resorts than the Utah resorts save Park City. It’s impossible to predict whether conditions will be better in one place compared to the other two months from now, so that shouldn’t really matter. And both areas have awesome mountains and terrain (Snowbird is my favorite of all the Utah/Denver-adjacent places, but if someone says they like Vail or Breck or Winter Park better, I don’t think that’s crazy). If you want cheap flights and are going to stay at a resort, then Colorado is probably for you. If you want to maximize your mountain time (and minimize driving time to and from the airport) and the flexibility to go to multiple mountains, then Utah is probably the right choice. 

JimK - DCSki Columnist
15 days ago

Considering your interest in restaurants, I checked and Jan 24-28 coincides with the 2019 Sundance Fillm Festival at Park City.  The slopes won’t be very crowded then, but the restaurants will be extremely busy for about ten days with film people.

Steamboat might be a good choice if you can find affordable direct flights to nearby Hayden airport, otherwise it’s about 3.5 hours from Denver airport in good weather. Steamboat has a nice town and family-friendly ski terrain.

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
15 days ago

chalnikal wrote:

Hello everyone,

I am new to this forum and would like some help regarding going to a ski destination in January. My dates are January 24th-28th. We are a family of four, two adults and two boys, ages 11 and 15. My husband and kids are advanced skiers. On the other hand I am still learning to get down the hill on a beginner slope :)

We live in the Washington DC area. We have skied White Tail, Snowshoe, and Holiday Valley. This January we would like to try something different. We are thinking of going to Colorado. Do you have any recommendations of where the skiing is great? I do not know what the snow conditions will be everywhere. I am thinking of choosing between Vail and Beaver Creek. My husband and kids love long and steep runs. I am sure wherever we go we will have a great time. I thought I’d ask since I do not have much experience with this.

The only other date that would work for us is Presidents day weekend. My son is a sophomore in high school and he cannot take much time off. 

 

Any advice would be appreciated.

Thanks a million,

Shazia

Good for you for doing the research.  Since you are planning for a family, you might ask for suggestions from the women on TheSkiDiva.com .  There are a fair number of women who are advanced beginners or intermediates who live in the flatlands and take trips with their families out west.  Unlike those the others who have replied, I’m also a mother of a teenager.  However, I’ve been planning ski trips out west a fair amount in the last 10 years after my daughter was an intermediate skier.  I’m an advanced skier at this point thanks to working with very experienced instructors at Massanutten and out west.

From DC, flying out west is probably the better idea than driving up to upstate NY or Vermont.  The snow conditions will be better in the Rockies even if the weather isn’t the very best.  One rain storm followed by freezing temperatures at the wrong time can make for a disappointing trip in New England.

When did your husband get his ski gear?  How old are his boots?  Not taking skis can make good sense but usually people with good boots prefer to carry them on the plane instead of renting boots.

Steamboat is a good suggestion.  It’s not only a fun town with things to do besides skiing, it’s at a lower elevation if your family hasn’t slept at over 8000 ft before.  Usually takes a couple days to adjust.

My favorite destination is Alta for assorted reasons.  Staying slopeside at Solitude can be fun for a mixed ability family, but best to rent a car.  Then can also ski at Brighton a mile away, as well as Alta or Snowbird.  Your husband and sons might enjoy Snowbird.  You would like Alta.  Especially if you did a group lesson.  I understand the lure of cheaper plane tickets to Denver vs SLC.  Just be sure to consider all the travel costs, including transportation from the Denver airport to whatever resort in Colorado you are thinking about.

There are many destination resorts where your family would have a good time on the slopes.  It may be that the non-skiing considerations out weigh terrain in your case.  Vail and Beaver Creek would certainly keep you entertained but are not usually considered by families looking to keep expenses down.

15 days ago

chalnikal wrote:

Hello Bonzski,

Yes they have done Cupp Run and Shay multiple times without any problem. We have only skied on the east coast. Last year we went to Holiday Valley and the conditions were not optimal. It was rainy and the resort overall does not have the best snowmaking capabilities. I was able to go down the greens. 

I heard that Snowshoe will have a good season this year. It seems tempting to go there again but we are not fond of the choice of restaurants there. I also looked at Kilington, Jay Peak, and Sugarbush. The skiing looks great but the food scene not that much. I may be totally wrong. After a full day of skiing it would be nice to enjoy some good food.

The flight tickets to Denver from DC are very cheap, around $700 for 4 people. Hence, I figured its a good option.

I looked into Utah as well. The tickets are more and the lodging is as much as Colorado. What places do you recommend in the  mid atlantic?

I would lean towards Stowe or Sugarbush.  Both have ample restuarants and enough skiing for everybody. Both have small relatively small “village” for apres ski etc, however their food scene out in local area/communities is nice.  Easy drives from Burlington airport. If you prefer a megaplex village for then Vail, BC or Steamboat.

Snowshoe or 7Springs for mid-atlantic w/ village style atmosphere.  I’m not sure about 7S food scene.  Snowshoe’s food options are limited as you know, but Applachia has done well.  New this season are a sushi place and Cantina is returning at new location.  Also, off-mountain (and probably the best) is Elk River Inn.

15 days ago

as of now the flights to SLC, HDN, and Eagle are almost the same and pretty reasonable. So now it all comes down to which place will be a good fit for all of us. Believe it or not the prices to BVT are also the same. I am sure if I have flexible dates things would work out but due to my older son we cannot take much time off.

15 days ago

i meant BTV

15 days ago

chalnikal wrote:

as of now the flights to SLC, HDN, and Eagle are almost the same and pretty reasonable. So now it all comes down to which place will be a good fit for all of us. Believe it or not the prices to BVT are also the same. I am sure if I have flexible dates things would work out but due to my older son we cannot take much time off.

If you decide Vail or BC and stay in village and fly into EGE, to help offset transportation costs you can get county bus for ~$4/person to village.  Rental car (plus parking) and shuttle buses at airport are very expensive.

14 days ago

Thank you Bonzski for the great suggestion. I was initially looking into BTV but when I saw the prices I started considering going to either Utah or Colorado. I know food will be more expensive in Vail and Beaver Creek. We will look into Steamboat as well. At this point since the price is almost the same our decision will depend where we have a better chance of skiing on powder. 

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
14 days ago

chalnikal wrote:

Thank you Bonzski for the great suggestion. I was initially looking into BTV but when I saw the prices I started considering going to either Utah or Colorado. I know food will be more expensive in Vail and Beaver Creek. We will look into Steamboat as well. At this point since the price is almost the same our decision will depend where we have a better chance of skiing on powder. 

No way to predict where there will be powder in a few months.  Hard to predict even for the next week.  Meaning fresh powder over 4 inches deep.  The reason to fly out west is that the snow conditions will be significantly different than mid-Atlantic or the northeast just because there is far more natural snow and it doesn’t rain on the slopes during mid-season.  Well, it hardly ever rains on Utah and Colorado slopes in Jan-Feb.  I do remember one weekend about 10 years ago that it rained at Alta almost all the way to the summer.

For pretty good info about Vail, Beaver Creek, and the SLC resorts, take a look at SnowPak.  It’s a website that started out catering to Australians flying to the U.S. during their summer vacation in Jan-Feb.  For a given resort, scroll down to find the tabs for travel and lodging.  (I know about SnowPak because the info for Alta and Snowbird is based on my input.)

https://www.snowpak.com/usa

14 days ago

My view is that if you’re going to get on an airplane, you should fly west to the Rockies and not north to Vermont. I’ve had plenty of good days in Vermont, but the terrain out west is substantially better. That, plus the higher probability of good conditions (a higher probability of powder and a lower probability of ice/rain), makes going west an easy choice. Tahoe is another choice to consider. There are plenty of places to stay at various price points, and a lot of places to eat in the various towns that surround the lake and abut the ski resorts. The major drawback is that there are no direct flights from any of the DC airports to RNO, and flights to RNO tend to be expensive. The drive from RNO to Tahoe is easier than the drive from DEN to the mountains but harder/longer than the drive from SLC. My sense (and I have no data whatsoever to back this up) is that flights into RNO get cancelled more because of weather than flights to DEN or SLC, so that should be a consideration. 

14 days ago

My simple input, Early flight to SLC, ski at ALTA (the Mecca of all skii resorts) unless someone in your party snowboards.  Neither Alta nor Deer Valley alow snowboarding.  Stay in SLC or at Alta/ Snowbird slopeside (Best). You will maximize your on-snow time, and SLC is a great visit.  If there on Thurs evening, be sure to catch the Mormon Tabernacle Choir weekly practice at Tabernacle.Square. Take late flight home on last day for  even more ski time.  ENJOY and be amazed at Utah powder!

MorganB

aka The Colonel

 

 

13 days ago

dwm8a wrote:

My view is that if you’re going to get on an airplane, you should fly west to the Rockies and not north to Vermont. I’ve had plenty of good days in Vermont, but the terrain out west is substantially better. That, plus the higher probability of good conditions (a higher probability of powder and a lower probability of ice/rain), makes going west an easy choice. Tahoe is another choice to consider. There are plenty of places to stay at various price points, and a lot of places to eat in the various towns that surround the lake and abut the ski resorts. The major drawback is that there are no direct flights from any of the DC airports to RNO, and flights to RNO tend to be expensive. The drive from RNO to Tahoe is easier than the drive from DEN to the mountains but harder/longer than the drive from SLC. My sense (and I have no data whatsoever to back this up) is that flights into RNO get cancelled more because of weather than flights to DEN or SLC, so that should be a consideration.

As far as flights go, things will be much better at either DEN or SLC due to both being hubs for United and Delta, respectively. Reno’s pretty much an outstation for everyone, so there’s fewer options if something goes wrong.  Sacramento isn’t a bad backup and generally has good weather.  It’s only about 2 hours from Tahoe and not a bad drive.  I’ve gone up while on business in Sacramento. Only issue is that the Sierra passes can get pretty snowy and unless you have an SUV or chains, you may get turned back.

As others have mentioned, I think the big difference between Colorado and Utah is what options you have once you get to the mountain.  Most Utah resorts are easily accessible to SLC, so there’s a lot more options for food, lodging and activities.  In
Colorado, once you’re at the resort, you’re pretty much stuck there the entire time, with the accompanying resort town prices.  When I went to Winter Park, it was pretty isolated - we weren’t venturing off anywhere but around the resort.

13 days ago

Take a flight to Hayden and a shuttle to slopeside lodging at Steamboat.   Guarantee you will love it.  There are many reasons it is one of the top resorts in the country as measured by skier visits (and even when it is crowded the mountain can handle it, just don’t head to the Gondola at 10am on Saturday). 

13 days ago

I am looking into both options. Did beaver creek, steamboat, and vail have a bad season last year?

I read some complaints on tripadvisor that they did not receive enough snow.

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
13 days ago

chalnikal wrote:

I am looking into both options. Did beaver creek, steamboat, and vail have a bad season last year?

I read some complaints on tripadvisor that they did not receive enough snow.

Other than lodging, I would not use Trip Advisor when planning a ski trip.  Especially for a mixed ability group that ranges from beginner to advanced who has never skied out west.

The timeframe you are thinking about is typically good for snow conditions.  But there are no guarantees.  The mountains out west are so much bigger it doesn’t make nearly as much difference as in the Mid-Atlantic, or even in the northeast.  I’ve skied Taos in Feb with 100+ inches of snow and with so little snow that there was no black terrain was open.  Had a very good time both trips.  I’ve skied Alta in March is perfect conditions and when temperatures were in the 50s.  I don’t hesitate to plan trips to Alta in April.

Best to choose a destination resort based on overall budget, travel considerations, and non-skiing factors.  If you worry about snow conditions when travel dates are limited, it’s wasted effort.

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