2018-19 Pugski Epic Resort Tour

Discussion in 'General Resort Discussion' started by Philpug, May 15, 2019.

  1. Philpug

    Philpug Notorious P.U.G. Admin Pugski Ski Tester

    Nov 1, 2015
    Reno, eNVy
    Pugski Epic Tour Slider.jpg
    The 2018-2019 season was a whirlwind -- dare we say “Epic” -- tour for Team Pugski. Tricia and I were all over the western United States at almost 25 resorts, including more than a half-dozen Epic resorts. Even though these areas are under the Vail umbrella in one way or another, each has its own unique personality. Having had some affiliation with Vail in years past, it was refreshing to experience the resorts from the point of view of typical Joe and Jane Skier. We will start the list in the chronological order of our visits to these resorts throughout the season.

    Truckee, CA

    Base elevation: 6,330 ft
    Summit elevation: 8,610 ft
    Vertical rise: 2,280 ft
    Number of trails: 100
    Number of lifts: 20
    Skiable acreage: 3,170

    Northstar is the closest of the resorts to Pugski.com's headquarters and quite frankly the resort we have the most history skiing, Tricia and I have literally hundreds of days there between us. Northstar is one of the most family friendly of this bunch with the most gentle terrain. While it doesn’t have the steeps and double black terrain of some of the other Tahoe resorts, it does have arguably the best tree skiing in all of Tahoe. Sawtooth Ridge and Martis Camp glades have some great tree skiing that will give you fresh tracks long after the powder has been skied out on the rest of the mountain.

    The Backside and and specifically Lookout have the most advanced terrain at Northstar and, again, great tree skiing. Northstar is still the place to be in Tahoe during a storm -- windy days, specifically. Amenities on the mountain include some very nice lodges and a lift network that is easy to navigate.
    • Who is it for? Families, tree skiers.
    • Who is it not for? Thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies, there is Kirkwood for you.
    • Insider tip: For food, there is a Ritz-Carlton on the mountain and for not much more money than your typical lodge food, you can have a nice sit-down meal. If you are looking for a quick meal, the redesigned Summit Lodge has a pretty good BBQ-based menu.

    South Lake Tahoe, CA

    Base elevation: 6,567 ft
    Summit elevation: 10,067 ft
    Vertical rise: 3,500 ft
    Number of trails: 97
    Number of lifts: 28
    Skiable acreage: 4,800

    Heavenly is the tail of two mountains, the California side and the Nevah-da (not Nevaa-da) side. The California side is for people who ski, people who want to be seen skiing, people who are there for recreation. It is the side that feels like it was put together with mirrors. You will be at the top of a run thinking, "This looks okay, but over there on the other ridge, that looks realllly good." Then you work your way over there, take three lifts, one of them you have to take twice and when you get there, it isn’t quite what you expected and as you look over to another area and think, "That looks pretty good," well, that's where you just were. Actually, I kinda kid with that because the California side has some of the best groomers in all of Tahoe. You can even have trouble concentrating on skiing because you are mesmerized with the magnificent views of Lake Tahoe.

    The Nevada side has the terrain for skiers. Mott and Killebrew canyons have the trees and steeps that pick up where Northstar left off, steep and gnarly. Where the California side has views of Lake Tahoe, the Nevada side provides great views looking down into the Carson Valley. The Nevada side has more of a ski area feel where the California side is more resort like.
    • Who is it for? One-stop shopping as a Lake Tahoe destination ski resort, Heavenly has almost everything for you.
    • Who is it not for? Wallflowers and introverts; they like to party at Heavenly.
    • Insider tip: If driving, park up at the Stagecoach Lodge -- but arrive early.

    Kirkwood, CA

    Base elevation: 7,800 ft
    Summit elevation: 9,800 ft
    Vertical rise: 2,000 ft
    Number of trails: 86
    Number of lifts: 15
    Skiable acreage: 2,300

    Of the Vail-owned Tahoe resorts, Kirkwood has the most aggressive terrain, gets the most snow, and is the most remote (thus unfortunately the most difficult to get to) -- for those reasons, if you are visiting Tahoe on an Epic Pass, make sure to ski there.

    This year we were only able to make one trip down to Kirkwood, and shame on us because it was such an epic (there’s that word again) season for snow. Kirkwood is known for its steeps, chutes, and cliffs but it also has some great cruisers. Its terrain does have something for everyone, so don’t let the extreme reputation scare you off, Kirkwood can be a gentle giant of a mountain, it is just a matter of knowing where to ski and how to ski it.
    • Who is it for? Those willing to earn their turns, not necessarily by hiking but driving. Kirkwood is not really close to anything.
    • Who is it not for? Those expecting perfection. Kirkwood is a bit rough around the edges, which is part of its charm.
    • Insider tip: Kirkwood does not have a lot of high-speed lifts, but don’t hesitate taking the fixed grips, they will take you to some of the best terrain that is skied the least.

    Beaver Creek
    Avon, CO

    Base elevation: 8,100 ft
    Summit elevation: 11,440 ft
    Vertical rise: 3,340 ft
    Number of trails: 150
    Number of lifts: 23
    Skiable acreage: 1,832 acres

    Beaver Creek is just what you would expect, pampering and warm cookies. Yes, they treat you well, but remember any resort that has the terrain to host a World Cup downhill has some serious skiing, too. Beaver Creek is best skied for the first time with someone who knows the mountain because getting from around can be confusing; Beaver Creek is bigger than it lets on, and things always feel farther away than they look on the trail map.

    You would think that a resort that caters to the affluent would have all of the trails manicured, but that's not the case at the Beav, which has some of the best top-to-bottom bump runs west of Mary Jane, runs that will wear you out. Even trails like Birds of Prey (when it doesn’t have its race face on for a downhill) get covered in moguls.
    • Who is it for? Those who hate crowds, you will not get the masses you do at the affiliated resorts closer Denver.
    • Who is it not for? Cliff huckers, you are very limited.
    • Insider tip: The remote parking is very well organized and while you do have to take a bus, it is very efficient. If you want to park close to a lodge, use the Arrowhead base.

    Park City
    Park City, UT

    Base elevation: 6,800 ft
    Summit elevation: 10,026 ft
    Vertical rise: 3,226 ft
    Number of trails: 330+
    Number of lifts: 38
    Skiable acreage: 7,300+

    Skiing Park City and the Canyons is like trying to eat an elephant, it can only be done one bite at a time. In that manner, don’t try to ski Park City all in one day, it is too big and you will spend all of your time trying to get to another lift as opposed to just enjoying yourself.

    We spent more time at PCMR than we usually do because the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame induction ceremony was held in Salt Lake, and Pugski’s remote headquarters were based at the Canyons. Where Heavenly is a tale of two sides, Cali and Nevada, Park City and the Canyons have melded together seamlessly. Park has some huge long cruisers, and Canyons has great trees and bowls up high.
    • Who is it for? One-stop shoppers. Land in Salt Lake then take a shuttle up, it you get an early enough flight you can be skiing that day. Park City is a resort where you can spend a week and still not ski it all.
    • Who is it not for? Spring skiers; they do close early.
    • Insider tip: Don’t hesitate to hit some of the little offshoot trails; there are a lot of hidden gems.

    Breckenridge, CO

    Base elevation: 9,600 ft
    Summit elevation: 12,998 ft
    Vertical rise: 3,398 ft
    Number of trails: 187
    Number of lifts: 34
    Skiable acreage: 2,908

    We hit Breckenridge late in the season simply because we could. In years past Vail would close down Breckenridge earlier, usually around Easter, but since the parting with Arapahoe Basin was announced, Vail decided to keep Breck open for its Epic passholders, and that is good for all of the Front Range skiers.

    What Breckenridge lacks in butt-puckering terrain it makes up for in vast above-treeline snow fields and great steep trees off of Peak 9. Speaking of peaks, Breck is big enough that it didn’t bother naming them, it just gave them numbers. While Breckenridge does have a reputation for crowds, if you avoid the main areas, plenty of secondary and even surface lifts will take you to secluded spots that are much less traveled.
    • Who is it for? Like Park City, there is enough here for a week of exploration.
    • Who is it not for? People with altitude issues; Breck can wreck.
    • Insider tip: If you are worthy, you must lick the Devil’s Crotch.

    Arapahoe Basin
    Dillon, CO

    Base elevation: 10,780 ft
    Summit elevation: 13,050 ft
    Vertical rise: 2,530 ft
    Number of trails: 145
    Number of lifts: 9
    Skiable acreage: 1,428

    This is the last year for Arapahoe Basin on the Epic Pass, and while I can say their partnership helped us out, I believe the breakup is mutually beneficial and both entities will be better for it in the long run. But since A-Basin is still technically affiliated with Vail/Epic, it is included in this article.

    A-Basin has been our Colorado home away from home. The atmosphere, terrain, grub, and The Beach are like a comfortable pair of jeans, and the 100-plus days we have skied here is more than any other Colorado resort, probably well more than the next two or three combined. Yes, this was our 13th year coming to A-Basin in May; will it be our last? We cannot say yet. But it has been a good run. This trip had always been over Mother's Day, but with Mother's Day being about as late as it can be, we decided to move it up a week for numerous reasons, most having to do with scheduling for many of the attendees. In the past 13 years, A-Basin has disappointed in only one year, and that is a pretty darn good run.
    • Who is it for? Those who prefer a ski area over a ski resort.
    • Who is it not for? Like Breckenridge, if you have issues with altitude, A-Basin can be tough.
    • Insider tip: The brisket at the Black Mountain Lodge is fantastic.
    Slim, Jim Kenney, textrovert and 9 others like this.
  2. fatbob

    fatbob Making fresh tracks Skier

    Nov 12, 2015
    My potted version

    Nstar - once you get over being pissed off at the time/distance from your car til clicking in it's better than you thought.

    Heavenly - better than you think but you need to find a local to help you poke around - base yourself at Stagecoach to beat the weather

    Kirkwood - not for groomer zoomers or fans of HSQs.

    BC - Grouse is a private mtn if you can hack the bumps. Some great tree lines

    Vail - pretty much what it sez on the tin and everyone has read it.

    Breck - You can beat the crowds but you have to be very tactical.

    A-Basin - Smaller than it's reputation. Bigger heart than everywhere bar Kirkwood

    Park City - Meh
    Wannabeskibum likes this.
  3. James

    James Skiing the powder Instructor

    Dec 2, 2015
    Northstar- If it's fresh snow, you need fat skis to make it back to the lift.
    Slim, SBrown and Tricia like this.
  4. mdf

    mdf entering the Big Couloir Skier

    Nov 12, 2015
    Boston Suburbs
    Yeah, I think that is where my son and I had a long downhill slog to get back to the bottom. We had to take turns breaking trail.
    Slim likes this.
  5. Tricia

    Tricia The Velvet Hammer Admin Pugski Ski Tester

    Nov 1, 2015
    You probably need to ski A-Basin now that they have lift served in the Beavers. Changed the mountain a LOT

  6. Bill Miles

    Bill Miles Old Man Groomer Zoomer Skier

    Nov 16, 2015
    Hailey, Idaho
    If you have an Epic Pass next year, give Sun Valley a try. Don't know if you are old enough to fit in, though.
    slowrider and Tricia like this.
  7. Thread Starter

    Philpug Notorious P.U.G. Admin Pugski Ski Tester

    Nov 1, 2015
    Reno, eNVy
    We will be at Sun Valley next year for the Ski & Snowbard Hall of Fame Induction ceremonies
  8. Wannabeskibum

    Wannabeskibum Getting on the lift Skier

    Nov 12, 2015
    Being quite familiar with Breck and Heavenly, let me add the following-

    Nevada side of Heavenly has great glade skiing - basically everything between the groomed runs is a glade that can be skied.

    Breck - definitely need a local’s knowledge to really find the best terrain in the high alpine on any given day. Skiing the high alpine gives one a new appreciation for the interplay between Mother Nature and Snow surface. If you know where to look, Breck also has some great glades besides what is in front of you on peak 10. Most of the E chair terrain (peak 9) will make you think you are back in New England with the multiple fall lines, relatively narrow spots. The Windows could easily be mistaken for Julio or Anarchy (and their unnamed brethren) at Killington
    Philpug likes this.
  9. Tricia

    Tricia The Velvet Hammer Admin Pugski Ski Tester

    Nov 1, 2015
    I'm stoked to hit Sun Valley next year. Can't wait!!
  10. DaveM

    DaveM Booting up Skier

    Jul 18, 2017
    Massachusetts, USA
    Thank you for the evaluations. I haven't skied those areas, yet. 'Sounds nice. :--)

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice