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Fly vs Drive: Break even point

abc

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For going out west that is.

A flight, even with connection, at its worst, takes just a day each way. Driving, it's 3 to Colorado and 5 to California, times two for the round trip.

Yes, it's easy to calculate the cost of fly+rental car <> gas + vehicle depreciation + meal/lodging (non-skiing part of the trip).

But that's money, the easy part to put a value on.

What about time? Time spend on the road is time NOT skiing. Even if you're retired, not limited by yearly vacation days. How many days do you need to be staying out there before you contemplate driving instead of flying?

On the plus side, driving means you don't have to guess and commit in advance to the flight coming back. And you can bring the kitchen sink too!
 

Zand

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Drive east, fly west.

And as much as I never want to "commit" to a flight home, work wouldn't like it too much if I decided I wanted to stay another week.
 

snoseek

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With an ikon or epic and 3 or more weeks I would probably drive personally. Less than that I would fly. I've probably made this drive 25 times probably...its longer than you think but if you have more than 1 driver it can happen quick...Colorado in 2 and California in 3. It's a love/hate thing with me. That first view of the front range after dropping down to Denver's on 76 is the best sight ever!
 

Hawk

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I would never, ever drive out west unless it was for the season and I needed the car to drive all over the place. The cost of 2+ oil changes, maintenance and 18+ tanks of gas alone is more than a flight. (Based on Boston to Squaw Valley) Plus the lost time on the road. I hate all those hours in flat ass places like Kansas, Oklahoma and eastern Colorado. Nope won't do it.
 

snoseek

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I would never, ever drive out west unless it was for the season and I needed the car to drive all over the place. The cost of 2+ oil changes, maintenance and 18+ tanks of gas alone is more than a flight. (Based on Boston to Squaw Valley) Plus the lost time on the road. I hate all those hours in flat ass places like Kansas, Oklahoma and eastern Colorado. Nope won't do it.

What are you driving that takes 18 tanks of gas! I fill up maybe 5 or 6 times. It's one oil change for me as well.

Denver's is 2k. Salt lake 2.5 and tahoe 31ish
 

bdfreetuna

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keep the faith
This is why I bought a cheap used 2009 Rav4 with 30,000 miles. Cost of wear and tear on that vehicle couldn't be lower.

Flying sucks! Between the missed flights, cancelled flights, getting stranded, flying through thunderstorms and other seemingly near death experiences I've had enough. I'll pass on breathing in someone's coronavirus sneeze while I'm at it.

Luckily for me I like skiing the East better in most ways anyway.


Hawk's road trip vehicle?

Husky_armoured_vehicle.jpg
 

jimk

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So I am the madman that drives from Wash DC to the Rockies to ski almost yearly since 2000. Here is why.

I am more motivated than New Englanders to get to better skiing. I will always have great memories of mid-Atlantic skiing. But the mtns are small. VT can be great skiing if weather permits, but is one full day of driving from me. CO has almost always great ski conditions in midwinter and is two full days of driving from me. Over my 50+ years of skiing I've probably done more driving trips to New England, but over the last 20 years more to Rockies to ski.

I have done about ten-twelve drives from DC to CO for a week of skiing (drive two, ski five or six, drive two). I've done about five for destinations further than CO, but for longer than one week.

Unlike some of you, I love to do cross country drives. All my life my jobs kept me tied to a desk, but I also always had a decent amount of vacation time. The highway represents adventure. The traffic is generally light and I take southerly routes through MD, WV, KY, MO, KS that are rarely messed up by snowy roads. The anticipation keeps me alert through the flat Midwest, the scenery keeps me alert in the Rockies and beyond. The return drive provides time to rest sore muscles, reflect over good times, and think about the next trip. Usually I've had driving partners and take turns driving, making it a breeze. In 1976 I drove solo on my college spring break to CO for the first time. Slept in my car multiple nights. This ski-road stuff is part of my personal ski history.

I am not particularly fond of flying, esp earlier in life. I flew from DC to UT about 8 times in last five years for one-week visits and it was fine, but not without hassles.

I am retired now, so when I drive out I stay for months, not days. I drove solo this Jan from DC to Denver in two days without thinking twice about it. Set me up for four nice ski days in CO, then I continued further west. Will return to DC in a few months. Wife will accompany on return trip, which we may break up by visiting friends along the way.

Having said above, I recognize that for most Easterners it makes complete sense timewise and moneywise to fly for ski trips of 3 to 7 days in duration that involve a destination further away than one day of driving. Caveat: in 2003 I took my family of six for a ten day trip to CO by minivan, there was considerable savings on that trip by driving and not paying for six airfares and one week minivan rental. But the long drive was not too fun with four kids between age 9-18.

Probably my most ambitious ski-road trip in recent years was 2018 winter trip from DC to UT to WY to BC to DC, 7000 miles in three weeks. Too much driving, but all went well and included my first ever visits to Revy and Banff areas and was a very memorable trip.

PS: as mentioned by ABC in another thread, I have rose colored glasses with anything to do with skiing and that has also impacted my willingness to endure long drives.
 
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abc

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The monetary break even point is fairly easy to calculate. It may differ depends on vehicle, but not by that much.

Granted, in that calculation, the flight cost has a hidden factor. You can't just compare with a bargain flight you buy 3 month in advance. You'll be buying the flight with 2-3 days notice, vs get in the car and drive the 3 days. The difference is bigger there.

Having done a 3 month road trip a few years back, I know the feeling of driving through the flatlands was positively soul destroying. And the thought I had to do the reverse was almost impossible to bear. More over, although I was able to cart more of my ski gear with me in the car, I didn't use the rest of them enough to justify that as a benefit.

But on the plus side though, the feeling of freedom to shorten or extend the trip as I please was quite liberating. Without my own car, every extra week I stay out there would cost >$300 on top of the other expenses. Not ruinous. But a psychological barrier. And I would lose the option to just head home on a moment's notice.
 

Hawk

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What are you driving that takes 18 tanks of gas! I fill up maybe 5 or 6 times. It's one oil change for me as well.

Denver's is 2k. Salt lake 2.5 and tahoe 31ish

Subaru Outback - 330 miles to the tank, 3000 Miles Boston to Squaw = 9 tanks x 2 = 18+ tanks & 2 oil changes (Both directions like a round trip flight) Driving = $1,000 Flights $600 to $900. Flight 5-6 hours Driving 3 days min.
 

Hawk

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So I am the madman that drives from Wash DC to the Rockies to ski almost yearly since 2000. Here is why.

I am more motivated than New Englanders to get to better skiing. I will always have great memories of mid-Atlantic skiing. But the mtns are small. VT can be great skiing if weather permits, but is one full day of driving from me. CO has almost always great ski conditions in midwinter and is two full days of driving from me. Over my 50+ years of skiing I've probably done more driving trips to New England, but over the last 20 years more to Rockies to ski.

I have done about ten-twelve drives from DC to CO for a week of skiing (drive two, ski five or six, drive two). I've done about five for destinations further than CO, but for longer than one week.

Unlike some of you, I love to do cross country drives. All my life my jobs kept me tied to a desk, but I also always had a decent amount of vacation time. The highway represents adventure. The traffic is generally light and I take southerly routes through MD, WV, KY, MO, KS that are rarely messed up by snowy roads. The anticipation keeps me alert through the flat Midwest, the scenery keeps me alert in the Rockies and beyond. The return drive proves time to rest sore muscles, reflect over good times, and think about the next trip. Usually I've had driving partners and take turns driving, making it a breeze. In 1976 I drove solo on my college spring break to CO for the first time. Slept in my car multiple nights. This ski-road stuff is part of my person ski history.

I am not particularly fond of flying, esp earlier in life. I flew from DC to UT about 8 times in last five years for one-week visits and it was fine, but not without hassles.

I am retired now, so when I drive out I stay for months, not days. I drove solo this Jan from DC to Denver in two days without thinking twice about it. Set me up for four nice ski days in CO, then I continued further west. Will return to DC in a few months. Wife will accompany on return trip, which we may break up by visiting friends along the way.

Having said above, I recognize that for most Easterners it makes complete sense timewise and moneywise to fly for ski trips of 3 to 7 days in duration that involve a destination further away than one day of driving. Caveat: in 2003 I took my family of six for a ten day trip to CO by minivan, there was considerable savings on that trip by driving and not paying for six airfares and one week minivan rental. But the long drive was not too fun with four kids between age 9-18.

Probably my most ambitious ski-road trip in recent years was 2018 winter trip from DC to UT to WY to BC to DC, 7000 miles in three weeks. Too much driving, but all went well and included my first ever visits to Revy and Banff areas and was a very memorable trip.

Jim, I have seen your posts around the internet. You are a true warrior and you have had some awesome trips. I envy you as I with I had the time to spend. My observation on car travel is from one long trip I did with two of us splitting the driving. I was younger and just wanted to get there. I can't imagine going it alone. I think now I would enjoy it more but I would want at least a month this time.
 

abc

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Subaru Outback - 330 miles to the tank, 3000 Miles Boston to Squaw = 9 tanks x 2 = 18+ tanks & 2 oil changes (Both directions like a round trip flight) Driving = $1,000 Flights $600 to $900. Flight 5-6 hours Driving 3 days min.
Your flight cost is high. But perhaps you did factor in rental car cost?
 

skiur

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Subaru Outback - 330 miles to the tank, 3000 Miles Boston to Squaw = 9 tanks x 2 = 18+ tanks & 2 oil changes (Both directions like a round trip flight) Driving = $1,000 Flights $600 to $900. Flight 5-6 hours Driving 3 days min.

Even with conventional oil, changing your oil every 3000 miles is a waste of money, and bad for the planet. Any car built since 2000 can easily go 5000 miles between changes (especially if its all highway miles like a trip out west is) and upwards of 10000 with synthetic. The 3000 mile oil change was brought to you by jiffylube.
 

Hawk

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Your flight cost is high. But perhaps you did factor in rental car cost?

Dude, who is flying into Reno for cheaper than that? Seriously, I'll be look at flights soon for April to visit my friends who moved out there this year. One caveat is I never do more that one connection and only connect through Dallas, Phoenix, Denver or Salt Lake. It minimizes the chances for delays or cancellations.
 

Hawk

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Even with conventional oil, changing your oil every 3000 miles is a waste of money, and bad for the planet. Any car built since 2000 can easily go 5000 miles between changes (especially if its all highway miles like a trip out west is) and upwards of 10000 with synthetic. The 3000 mile oil change was brought to you by jiffylube.

2015 Subaru Recommended with Synthetic is 5K and gas is premium for my car. Straight out of manual. On long trips I change it before going out and when I get back. The planet will never know. My cars last longer than most because of it. Sorry that is what I do.
 

jimk

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Thanks Hawk. Yesterday I skied all day with two gentlemen at Snowbird that were in their mid70s. They were both strong skiers. I kept quiet for most chairlift rides because these guys told so many amazing ski stories from their 60+ years of skiing all around North America and Europe. It was a privilege to listen and ski with them.
snowbird 4 March 2020 John and Detlef.jpg
 

abc

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Dude, who is flying into Reno for cheaper than that? Seriously, I'll be look at flights soon for April to visit my friends who moved out there this year. One caveat is I never do more that one connection and only connect through Dallas, Phoenix, Denver or Salt Lake. It minimizes the chances for delays or cancellations.
In that case, once you add rental SUV, you're already even with driving even for one week.
 

kbroderick

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It also depends on the agenda. If you want to work touring or border crossings into your plans, the lack of properly equipped rentals for less-traveled areas (4x4 w/snows and chains) can be an issue as well, especially since most rental agreements prohibit use on unpaved roadways and many prohibit border crossings. It's also a lot easier to bring touring gear if you don't have to worry about airport security and 50-pound weight limits.

While less of an issue when skiing lift-served, but the lack of a requirement for rental cars to have 3PMSF-rated tires for winter rentals in places like Bozeman is annoying.

With that said, I'm generally unwilling at this point to give up more than one travel day in each direction. I can be fairly flexible from a work standpoint (as long as I'm caught up and have given the folks I work for plenty of warning), but my wife is a teacher and has very defined vacation schedules. From Maine, that pretty much limits driving trips to the northeast and eastern Canada.
 

kingslug

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This is why I like utah...its still the quickest trip for the best skiing. Fly and ski the same day. Although flight prices have gone through the roof.
 
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