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Tahoe tips for 2020

Teleskier

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No snow is good for the SFO drive, but once you get there, decent skiing?

I’ve done a 180 on the prior two concerns.

Having had time to research a little more, I’m now less nervous about the SLT food scene. The happy hour scene seems widespread with a lot of options to keep things varied, and am also curious to try out the new Hell’s Kitchen that just opened (playing tourist).

But now I’m nervous about the current warm temps and lack of snow. Last July, I had picked next week for historically being the most likely to get the big powder dumps. Doesn’t seem in the works for next week.

Recent snow reports say no recent snowfall in several weeks and warn of “many icy patches and areas.” What does that mean in western skiing terms - expect typical New England hard pack - everything manmade and machine groomed, no off-piste or powder? IE, expect Stratton?

I was tempted to cancel this trip and switch to Telluride from the recent "foot of powder" alerts, but would pay too many cancellation penalties to be worthwhile.

Anyone ski Kirkwood or Heavenly recently? How ‘bad’ is it? Do I leave my powder skis at home and take my usual New England 'mixed bag' setup?
 

snoseek

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I've got a lot of friends back there complaining about the lack of snow. Best bet if it stays dry is find spring kinda snow or rent a car and take a drive east.

Tahoe can get pretty firm in between storm cycles. New England areas handle freeze thaw better imo
Kirkwood grooms more steep stuff these days though.
 

abc

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I was tempted to cancel this trip and switch to Telluride from the recent "foot of powder" alerts, but would pay too many cancellation penalties to be worthwhile.
What did you committed? If it’s just flight, can’t you just eat the penalty and postpone the trip till March? Or are you fixed on next week?

Going elsewhere next week will cost you due to being so last minute.

Or you can drive down to Mammoth (though I don’t know the current condition there)

I haven’t followed the condition development in Tahoe the last few weeks. So can’t say what to expect. Did it rain (or melt) all the way to the top? It’s not very typical for that. So you should usually find something soft up high.
 

Teleskier

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I am locked in for dates - as well, was surprised how the cancellation fees quickly added up between flight, car, and hotel.

The prior rain has now dropped from the long-range forecast, it now looks like the temps might drop in a week from the current spring temps.

Will have to play it by ear! Having a car does help. Worst case in a total washout, there's always visiting a saloon in Virginia City. :)
 

abc

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Tahoe mid-winter is always a bit of a crapshoot. You can also get too much snow and everything closed due to avi risk.

I maybe going there in mid-March. Spring break week. Haven’t committed yet.

Apart from flight, I usually don’t commit to more than just the first night of hotels. How much is the rental car cost?
 

snoseek

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Kirkwood is under a 50 inch base! That volcanic rock eats skis like a cheese grater.
I've had more winters out there like this than I care to remember. There always that season that heavenly didn't even hit 100 inches...that was the only truly awful season I had. Kirkwood low tide can be sorta fun and techy with some sunny days. Hopefully march delivers for them
 

jaytrem

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Stupid Alaska Airlines cancelled my direct flight home from SFO. The good news is I can now cancel up until flight time and get all my money/miles back. Trip isn't until April, but it's good to have options. Haven't booked any hotels and can cancel the car for free too. May just end up doing an Eastern Ikon trip instead.
 

Bandit2941

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The key is to book stuff that you can cancel or transfer. In March 2015 we had a Tahoe trip booked but there was pretty much no snow, so we canceled it and went to Whiteface instead. Awesome decision, great skiing and the slides were open too.

I never book a prepay rental car. The minuscule savings isn’t worth it. I book a pay at the counter reservation and keep checking it since the price fluctuates. When I find it lower I either modify my reservation or cancel and rebook depending on the car company.

For flights, Southwest allows the most flexibility for changes or cancellations. If you cancel you get a voucher for the full value of your flight to be used within one year. If you use their credit card or otherwise book on credit card points (such as transferring chase ultimate rewards points to southwest) you get all the points back and they never expire.

Whenever we go to South Tahoe we always stay in one of the casinos which let you cancel same day or the day before. So we were able to cancel our whole trip without penalty.

I think it’s crazy to book a ski trip anywhere so far in advance. 3 weeks or maybe a month if things are looking good is as far out as I go. Usually it doesn’t even cost any more, but if it does it’s worth it to have the flexibility and know that conditions will be good.

We went to Squaw & Manmoth last April and had hoped to go this year, but we’re going to go to a different ikon destination that we haven’t made a final decision on yet.
 

abc

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The key is to book stuff that you can cancel or transfer.

I never book a prepay rental car. The minuscule savings isn’t worth it. I book a pay at the counter reservation and keep checking it since the price fluctuates. When I find it lower I either modify my reservation or cancel and rebook depending on the car company.

For flights, Southwest allows the most flexibility for changes or cancellations. If you cancel you get a voucher for the full value of your flight to be used within one year. If you use their credit card or otherwise book on credit card points (such as transferring chase ultimate rewards points to southwest) you get all the points back and they never expire.

Whenever we go to South Tahoe we always stay in one of the casinos which let you cancel same day or the day before. So we were able to cancel our whole trip without penalty.
That's also what I've been doing.

On both rental car and hotel, there's also the risk of flights getting delayed and missing the first day. Having a reservation that can be cancelled the same day allows for that hiccup. At some destination, that's hard to do, especially if lodging options are limited. But for Tahoe, that's usually doable without costing extra.

Southwest is a good option but it doesn't always have the best flight schedule. I'm willing to eat the $200 cancellation penalty if the snow condition is truly bad. As long as I don't have too much non-refundable outlay on lodging, that lost is acceptable.
 

jaytrem

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I agree with most of that. Only thing is when booking with miles often the early bird get the worm. Been on a number of trips where friends had to use more miles or pay outright since they couldn't commit early. Also the earlier you book.the more likely they are to change the schedule which can get you a refund.
 

Bandit2941

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I agree with most of that. Only thing is when booking with miles often the early bird get the worm. Been on a number of trips where friends had to use more miles or pay outright since they couldn't commit early. Also the earlier you book.the more likely they are to change the schedule which can get you a refund.

I find this to be very airline dependent, and it applies to both miles or the cash price. With Southwest the prices are always moving both up and down, so you can often rebook and get a lower rate. Over the last couple years we’ve flown United and JetBlue a lot, and I can’t remember a time when the price got lower after booking.
 

KustyTheKlown

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i book my western trips well in advance every year. its a dice roll, but it makes it affordable. i've been badly burned in tahoe once, and won't book tahoe far out again. i was almost burned in utah one xmas, but thanks to max or ikon (cant remember which year it was) a drive to big sky saved the trip.

we booked our recent utah jaunt in september. we secured 3 nights at the lodge at snowbird for 5 people for $1400 total (steep but ski in/out and split 5 ways - would have been steeper or unavailable had we waited). but we really crushed it on the airbnbs. our BCC airbnb was a mile from the base of solitude and cost $400 for two nights. our powmow airbnb was 10 minutes from powmow and cost $300 for two nights. our first night was an SLC hotel on a friends points. so we had 9 nights of prime utah lodging for 3-6 people (our group size fluctuated thru the week) for $2100. not possible if we waited longer. flights well in advance were $340, and that was with an upgrade to emergency exit row for the redeye home.

its a risk but it makes it affordable, and utah in mid feb should generally be a fairly safe bet.

my colorado trip for xmas was booked in august. we stayed at a super nice 2 bed airbnb condo for 7 nights over xmas break for $750. again, that deal would have disappeared if we waited.

in the east i only book hotels that can be cancelled up to the almost last minute.
 
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abc

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I rarely know my winter vacation schedule till sometime in January. So my "prime season" booking only have 6 week to 2 month lead time. Doesn't often give me a huge discount.

I usually have some idea what the "normal" flight cost is like. So if I like the price, I book. If not, I wait.

Hotels are more complicated. Some places (typically ski-in/out) are in such strong demand it has to be booked as soon as possible to be even doable.

Though thankfully, by early Jan, I have SOME idea of how the season will shape up. Base depth etc. So I know I'll be skiing rather than rock climbing, even if it's less than fantastic condition.

I've had several occasions I had to bail. A couple years back, Colorado trip for Christmas. There's no natural snow whatsoever. So I bailed. I lost one night hotel plus the airline change fee. But since I never pre-pay rental car, there was no lose there. Another time I had to change the date due to work obligation. Fortunately that time, it was on Southwest so I got to use the money on a different trip (for all the "greatness" of Southwest, sometimes their prices were so high it's cheaper to fly with another airline -- provided I know I'll be able to use the credit on a different trip later)

Bottom line, weight the saving of discount against the penalty of cancellation.
 

jaytrem

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I find this to be very airline dependent, and it applies to both miles or the cash price. With Southwest the prices are always moving both up and down, so you can often rebook and get a lower rate. Over the last couple years we’ve flown United and JetBlue a lot, and I can’t remember a time when the price got lower after booking.

I'm pretty much all United with a bit of Alaska Airlines here and there. Too bad Southwest left Newark. Was planning on using them for Denver this year. United worked out okay though. When using miles with United it does seem like they have only X number of cheap miles seats available for certain cities (Jackson Hole and Bozeman). I've booked both of those on the first possible booking day. They have made some changes to their mileage system though, so not sure if that's still true. I have noticed you can get round trip to Denver for less than 20,000 miles these days, that was never possible in past years.
 

Bandit2941

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Denver is cheap. Lots of flights on United out of Newark and LaGuardia. We went to Winter Park for a 4 day weekend last month, the 23rd-27th. The flight schedules worked out best with our work schedules to fly out of LaGuardia, United on the way out and Southwest on the way back. United was 9072 points, Southwest was 6790. And I booked it on 1/5, a couple weeks before the trip.

4 nights in a condo for $640 split 3 ways, best price was right on winter parks site. 4wd SUV for $305 total. Using points for airfare and the ikon passes we bought last spring made it cheap trip.
 

jaytrem

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We went to Winter Park for a 4 day weekend last month, the 23rd-27th.

Ahhh, I was right behind you, flew out on the 24th. Used Thank You points, the flights were nice and cheap. Didn't get to Winter Park until the 1st. Unfortunately I was sick as a dog by then. Picked up the flu, still not 100%.
 
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