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Could use some help planning a trip out west

Bene288

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I've been saying this for a few years, but now I actually have some initiative. The plan has changed drastically from skiing one area for a week. I could use some advice and opinions on the matter. Here's the run down:

My uncle has a cabin on Lake Tahoe, I was invited to go out for 4 or 5 days in mid February. Easy, fly there, ski, and fly back. They only ski Heavenly. This sounded all well and good. Then I was talking to my friend, he was on the US paralympic ski team and uses a mono ski. They used to train in Breckenridge and he couldn't speak any higher of the place. On top of all of that, I have another relative in Colorado Springs that would like me to come skiing.

We were talking, and my friend was saying how bad he wanted to go out west again. So it got me thinking; "Why not fly into Denver and ski Colorado for a few days, then fly out to Reno to get to Heavenly? I'm out west, I might as well ski a few areas." This would be a great trip, until I looked at the airfare. Flying into Reno or Carson City is quite expensive. I can get from Logan or JFK to Denver for around $250 bucks, but then the Denver to Reno flight is another $300. Going straight to Reno from JFK is up towards $700. Where as doing one way flights the whole way is under $500 (JFK-Denver / Denver-Reno / Reno-JFK)

Just for the hell of it, I looked at how long it would take to DRIVE to Heavenly..too long, end of story. I like adventures, but not 2 days adventures at 13MPG. But driving from Denver to Heavenly? About 16 hours, totally doable, it would take longer than a flight, but I would have a car for the trip! I looked at rental cars, they themselves are expensive, but if you book with a flight you save some serious cash. It was coming out to be about $300 for a 8 day rental. Not too bad, it would be cheaper, but we need a van or SUV for the mono-ski. Then I looked at driving directions, guess what I drive right by going to California from Colorado? Alta and Snowbird. I could potentially end up skiing Colorado, Utah and California without totally breaking the bank. I've been obsessed with trying to get to Utah for the last couple of years, but I was never able to finalize a trip.

I am sure skiing Heavenly would be an incredible experience. It may be the best skiing of my life and I would most likely remember the trip in very high regard forever, but then I have personal reasons as to why I wouldn't want to stay with my family the whole week. I'd much rather take the trip with my friend that monoskis. I'm sure that even if we didn't make it to Heavenly, the Colorado and Utah parts of the trip would be spectacular.

So my main questions are:
-Has anyone ever done a ski bum trip like this, driving from mountain to mountain and sleeping in seedy motels or a van?
-Was the experience worth the extra stress and money of having to drive and find different places to stay?
-Am I putting too much on one plate to thoroughly enjoy the skiing? After all, that's the trip is for.
-Should I be happy enough skiing one area?
-I can take up to 8 days, is that enough time?

Any weigh ins would be appreciated!
 

Edd

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Doesn't answer your questions but unless its someplace ultra-reliable with the weather, like interior BC, I'd hold off on committing along as you can. See which way the conditions are leaning.
 

SKI-3PO

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Wherever you go, certainly drive around a bit and hit multiple areas. But, I recommend you fly to one place and limit the driving to a couple hours at most given you only have a week+. Colorado, Utah or Tahoe all present many great options - don't try to get to them all in one short trip.
 

AdironRider

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Slc cheap and snowy, mountains close to airport

Cheap sure, snowy yes, close to airport, indeed, but that doesn't change the fact that outside of awesome snow, skiing in Utah is like skiing in Dorchester if there were mountains. I say stick to a couple days in Co Springs and then a couple days in Tahoe. Its a vacation, no need to stress about getting all over a full third of the country.
 

Bene288

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Cheap sure, snowy yes, close to airport, indeed, but that doesn't change the fact that outside of awesome snow, skiing in Utah is like skiing in Dorchester if there were mountains. I say stick to a couple days in Co Springs and then a couple days in Tahoe. Its a vacation, no need to stress about getting all over a full third of the country.

The appeal of SLC is that it was on the way to California. It's about a 7 hour drive to Utah ski country from the Breckenridge area. The biggest perk with driving a rental is that my friend won't have to borrow a mono ski at each mountain. He's involved in an organization in which he could just pick it up at Breckenridge and we could use it for the duration of the trip wherever we end up. Hence why we need a big vehicle.

As with the date, that was also a concern. The Tahoe trip is set in stone. If we did our own thing we would have more wiggle room to accommodate based on conditions. I know if I book through AAA they have insurance in which you can reschedule your flight without having to be on your death bed and without an astronomical fee.

It comes down to what is better: Heavenly and only Heavenly on a set week, or Colorado, Utah and maybe Tahoe. The latter being a bit more expensive and a bit more crunched as far as time goes.
 

Ridge Racer

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If you drive by alta bird you would kick yourself. In fact just go to Utah and ski the cottonwoods. My avatar is from snowbird last year when a supposed 4 inches turned into a foot.... on top of the 2 feet they got 2 days before.
 

ScottySkis

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I went to Vail for West trip great mountain no snow, went to Steamboat 2 West trip great mountain east coast snow in March( low elevation) went to SLc 5 times in 2 years after that over 15 feet of snow 14 days in SKC GUESS what my choice is?:):):beer::beer::beer:
 

jaytrem

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With only 8 days and a concern about money, I don't think a Heavenly/Breck trip would make much sense. If you have to return the monoski to Breck that would be a 2 way drive. Otherwise the drop off rate for the rental car can be kinda steep. There are plenty of other places to explore that are an easy drive from both places. So I'd just choose one or the other and wouldn't even bother with UT unless it was an all UT trip.

That being said, if you decide on Heavenly, you might want to check for flights to Sacramento, San Fran and San Jose. Especially if visiting SF for a day or two has any appeal. Also, the rental SUVs are usually a lot less expensive there compared to Reno. The ride to Tahoe is pretty easy and you can hit Kirkwood on the way in/out.

For future trips you should consider getting yourself one of those Untied/American/Southwest or whatever credit cards that gets you a bunch of free miles. Thanks to all the free miles out there, my wife and I haven't paid for a flight in ages, and we're still sitting on about 140,000 United miles.

Anyway, I'm sure whatever you choose will be a great time. I've been doing the multi area trip thing for ever and wouldn't have it any other way. If you need any specific advice on rental car/lift ticket/hotel discounts be sure to ask. You wouldn't believe how cheap you can do a ski trip if you put in a little effort.
 

crank

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I think there's just too much distance and driving. I'm all for ski safaris and do this sort of trip often but not that much driving in that short a time. I suppose it would be doable with one way tickets and a one way car rental but both those may add a good deal of cost to your trip. BTW there are plenty of great ski areas that are not Heavenly nor Breckenridge...just saying.
 

snoseek

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I do this drive twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring and often once in the middle of winter. It is LONG, beautiful but LONG. 16 hours is optimistic really, you need to haul ass to make that time. Nevada is huge and you cross some lots of mountain ranges, so often its smooth sailing followed by nasty weather over passes. I tend to take us 50 as it's more direct, especially to south lake so if you go that way you will pass south of SLC. Also if you drive 50 gas up at every opportunity, I cannot stress that enough. There is nothing between Ely and Austin. should you find yourself in SLT and want a tour of Heavenly or Kirkwood give me a shout.
 

bruno1

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If the Tahoe trip is a done deal then you have to ski squaw,alpine meadows, and kirkwood. I was out there a few years ago and they are all great mountains along with heavenly. As far as skiing colo. or Utah I would do one or the other. Both are great, been to Utah many times and you can't go wrong. Stay in PC and ski deer valley,canyons and ParkCity. Stay in Ogden ( your cheapest option) and ski powder and snowbasin both awesome Mtns. and no lines. Or stay near the cottonwoods and ski alta,snowbird, solitude and Brighton. Skied them all and it's all sick skiing. If you do the Breckinridge trip you can ski brek, keystone and copper and do day trip to vail and bevercreek also great skiing. Hope this helped.
 

DoublePlanker

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You can't go wrong any way you do it. IMHO, Breckenridge and Heavenly, while good ski areas, are WAY down the list of western ski areas I would choose. They are worth like 1 day to spend. I would probably never choose to go back to either one of those places. I went to Breckenridge 2 years ago only because it was a group. I like Kirkwood and Squaw Valley better than Heavenly. I like Copper, Vail, Beaver Creek better than Breck. The town of Breckenridge is cool. I think Utah >>>> Colorado >>>> California. If it were me, I would just head to SLC and ski most of the time at Snowbird/Alta.

If you must go to Heavenly, then try to get to some of the other Tahoe areas. Have a great time!
 

thetrailboss

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Cheap sure, snowy yes, close to airport, indeed, but that doesn't change the fact that outside of awesome snow, skiing in Utah is like skiing in Dorchester if there were mountains. I say stick to a couple days in Co Springs and then a couple days in Tahoe. Its a vacation, no need to stress about getting all over a full third of the country.

Says the guy living in Jackson Hole, which is paradise ;)

It's not that bad. Sure, there are parts of SLC that aren't pretty, but there are lots of nice areas.

As to the original point you could spend all eight days skiing in Tahoe alone. Squaw, Heavenly, Alpine Meadows, Kirkwood, etc. There are tons of good areas that you've never heard of before. Mount Rose, Homewood, etc.

If you were to fly to Denver and then go on from there, I've done that. In 2010 we spent three days in Denver and three in SLC. I skied two awesome days at Loveland, and two more awesome days at Alta. Worked for me. The flight from Denver to SLC was cheap and short...Southwest flies several of them each day. Denver vs. SLC: the latter is much closer to the mountains but has less options for lodging and dining than [huge] Denver. But much less traffic.

Honestly, I'd focus on one area for your trip so as to get the most skiing and enjoyment. Don't forget that you have to deal with jet lag and altitude adjustment and that usually takes a day or so. If you go to Tahoe, you're three hours behind and when we went in 2010 it really had an impact on me versus the two hours for Denver/SLC.
 
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deadheadskier

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My time is too valuable to be bothered with a multi-state ski safari vacation. Days spent traveling could be days spent skiing. If I were you, I'd just settle on one of the three destinations; Colorado, Utah or Tahoe and spend my time at one of them exclusively. Ideally, you have the option of booking somewhat last minute, say a month in advance to see which location is having a good season and likely to produce powder potential when you visit.
 

Ridge Racer

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Says the guy living in Jackson Hole ;)

It's not that bad. Sure, there are parts of SLC that aren't pretty, but there are lots of nice areas.

Not sure why people hate on SLC. Sure there's some blight but you're not skiing in SLC. Rent a condo in Sandy or Cottonwood Heights and you'll never have to see it. I've spent a fortune staying in Tahoe and spent MUCH less staying in Midvale and Layton. Guess which I liked better? I'll take Utahs snow / terrain over a gamble anywhere else. If you live there (and this is another topic all together) where else could you have world class skiing plus everything else so close?
 

Cannonball

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Is your paralympic buddy able-bodied enough to handle a complex multi-state road trip with challenging driving and random lodgings? Even if he is, that's a lot of stress, strain, and potential for problems. When you could just spend 8 kick-ass days in UT or CO or CA.
 

Bene288

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Thanks for all the input! We certainly have a lot to think about. I think we've decided to just stick to one area. My buddy is leaning toward Colorado. What would be the best spot to stay and be close to a few mountains? We're still planning on flying to Denver. I imagine we could stay anywhere in the Vail area and have a few options within an hour or two.
 

SKI-3PO

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It depends on what your priority is - saving $$$ or having the more resorty experience and ability to walk for a meal/drink. For the former, stay in Dillon or Frisco. Otherwise, stay in Breck or Vail. If you've never been to that area, prepare yourself for the altitude adjustment. It affects some more than others, but drink a ton of water before and after you arrive to be safe. You'll be able to check out Loveland, A-Basin, Keystone, Breck, Copper, Vail and/or Beaver Creek in that area, within an hour+ drive depending on where you stay and good (for driving) weather - that should give you enough variety.
 
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