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US Christmas Ski trip with expert hills and short lift lines

Novi, MI
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17 posts
43 reviews
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US Christmas Ski trip with expert hills and short lift lines

We're a Midwest US family of four (two adults, two teens) looking to ski in the western US over Christmas. We've skied many areas - including Whistler, The Canyons, Breckenridge, Snow Bird, Vail and Big Sky - but we've always skied in February or early March.

This year, we need to do our trip the week after Christmas. We are looking for an area with reliable snow at Christmas, intermediate to double black runs and no big crowds. We don't care about restaurants or night life and we wouldn't mind an offbeat, lesser known area as long as there is enough snow, many intermediate runs and a lot of challenging skiing without much hiking to get to it. (Arapahoe Basin is probably a bit too challenging.) We plan to stay a week, so a large area or several areas within a one hour drive would be a plus.

We were considering the Tahoe areas, but are worried that they would be too crowded at Christmas or might not have snow. Does anyone have experience with Squaw Valley, Heavenly or any of the other Tahoe areas between Christmas and New Years? Are they crowded? Any other suggestions? Does anyone have experience with Schweitzer Mountain during this time?

Park City, Utah
Destination Expert
for Utah, Winter Sports
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16,850 posts
387 reviews
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1. Re: US Christmas Ski trip with expert hills and short lift lines

Look at areas that control lift ticket sales, like Deer Valley Resort here in Park City, Utah. And look for great lift infrastructure at those who don't control. I ski Deer Valley every day over the holidays. While I generally ski single, I don't think I've ever waited more than 3-4 minutes in a lift line.

The other factor is to get to know the mountain. Get out on the first lift out of the base and get away from high-traffic areas. Eat lunch early to both beat the lunch crowd and be able to ski while everyone else is eating lunch.

Have fun.

San Francisco, CA...
2 posts
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2. Re: US Christmas Ski trip with expert hills and short lift lines

I've skied Heavenly for the last two years at Christmas/New Year's. Lift lines can be as much as 20-30 minutes long, especially at the Gondola at the base or at the main California or Nevada lifts (think Sky Express or Dipper Express or Comet Express). Compared to most of the big resorts in Colorado, that's a minimal wait. However, weather in Tahoe at Christmas/New Year's can be hit or miss. Last year, for example, we had 30 inches of snow right around Christmas. Two days later, it was 55 degrees, which meant that a lot of the new snow melted quickly, and, unfortunately, we did not have a great base to work from, so there was quite a bit of exposed piste.

Fortunately, at Tahoe there are a number of resorts around the Lake, so you can, in about an hour, drive up to Squaw or Alpine Meadows or even Northstar. Alpine Meadows and Northstar are both mostly intermediate resorts that are good for families. Squaw has a lot of expert terrain, and lift lines get long since it's the easiest resort to get to from the Bay Area or Sacramento (closest to I-80).

Hope that helps.

Novi, MI
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17 posts
43 reviews
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3. Re: US Christmas Ski trip with expert hills and short lift lines

Thanks for replying!

We ended up getting an inexpensive flight to Salt Lake and took advantage of a hotel and lift ticket deal. We stayed in Sandy, Utah and drove to Alta, Snowbird, Solitude and Brighton. We had no lift lines anywhere except at the base of Alta and Snowbird and even those were small. However, we heard that lift ticket sales were down at the areas due to the economy, so that may have helped us.

In general, we arrived early, ate at 11 when the bulk of the skiers were hjust starting out. We went back to skiing just as they were breaking for lunch. It worked well.

Tahoe and Park City/Deer Valley are the next two areas on our list, thanks in part to your recommendations. We may even be able to ski Heavenly and Squaw in February.

Thanks again!

London
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407 posts
14 reviews
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4. Re: US Christmas Ski trip with expert hills and short lift lines

If you're considering Tahoe maybe you should look a little further south into California at Mammoth.

A little known fact is that Mammoth has a sister mountain called June around 15mins away and it is VERY quiet. The terrain is challenging and has excellent snowparks.

It is my favorite resort. Shame it's quite a trek to get too, but because of that it's the reson why it's so quiet.

Mammoth itself is becoming more commercialised since intrawest now run it but it's a huge mountain with a glacier so snowcover isn't an issue.

Ooops sorry just noticed the date of the posts...

I still recommend Mammoth though, about 3-4 hrs from Tahoe ;)

Edited: 08 January 2010, 11:53
Novi, MI
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17 posts
43 reviews
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5. Re: US Christmas Ski trip with expert hills and short lift lines

No problem about the posting dates! I'm now looking for a good place to go either at my kids' Feb school break or Easter break, so your suggestion was helpful! I had not thought of Mammoth but will look into it! Thanks!

South Dakota
2 posts
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6. Re: US Christmas Ski trip with expert hills and short lift lines

Sometime you should try going to the Black Hills in SD. It's a great out there and no long lift lines! I've grown up in SD so am somewhat bias but it would be a great way to spend a long weekend!

South Dakota
2 posts
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7. Re: US Christmas Ski trip with expert hills and short lift lines

Sometime you should try going to the Black Hills in SD. It's a great out there and no long lift lines! I've grown up in SD so am somewhat bias but it would be a great way to spend a long weekend!

Delavan, Illinois
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1,363 posts
55 reviews
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8. Re: US Christmas Ski trip with expert hills and short lift lines

Since you're looking at a second trip, I would recommend Winter Park in Colorado. I was there at the end of in April 2008 and found still unbelievable snow and was surprised at no lift lines of more than 30 seconds (not minutes). That same week Copper Mountain had lift lines in the 3-5 minute range. BTW, if you're skiing double blacks, how could you say that A-Basin is over your head? It's higher in elevation, and does have some gnarly bowl terrain, but the majority of it can be skied by your average to slightly advanced skier. Grand Traverse, on the Idaho side of Jackson Hole, is another oft overlooked ski destination. And from where you are in Michigan, though not as challenging as those in the Rockies, you might also want to take a look at Mont Tremblant north of Montreal, though for good snow you need to get there before the first of April.

9. Re: US Christmas Ski trip with expert hills and short lift lines

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