Jersey Skier

aka RatherPlayThanWork or Gary
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Metuchen, NJ
I'm wondering if "crowds non existent" is because you're from New Jersey or if indeed it's the vastness of Big Sky that is absorbing them. And then I say to myself, what do you care? As long as no one comes HERE!

Anyone know what the Big Sky record is for skier visits on any one day? Just curious.

Edit. Found it for the prior season, 8392, which when divided by their acreage (5800) yields less than two skiers per acre. Definitely beats our 8631, especially since we have less acreage. Yes, go there.
I was there on that Dec 27th and there were lift lines at Swifty and the Six Shooter, which are not typical so there corrals were too small and poor line management. Slopes had a lot of elbow room. Compare ~8,400 to Vail having ~27,000 the same day.
Yeah, I really didn't care why it was empty. The year we were there during Xmas, there were no real lift lines. Maybe 20 people in front of us at peak times. The only time it seemed a little crowded was at lunch time in the lodge. But NOTHING like the East Coast during Xmas week.
 

RJS

Getting off the lift
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Boston
Anyone know what the Big Sky record is for skier visits on any one day? Just curious.

Edit. Found it for the prior season, 8392, which when divided by their acreage (5800) yields less than two skiers per acre. Definitely beats our 8631, especially since we have less acreage. Yes, go there.
Skiers per acre is usually a pretty decent metric on the East Coast, where the majority of our terrain is on-piste, but I would imagine at a place like Big Sky that a large amount of the terrain is off-piste. More than half? Even with 8,392 skiers on the mountain, I bet most of the off-piste areas aren't too crowded :).
 

Ken_R

Living the Dream
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Denver, CO
Thanks all..great advice. (Particularly SoCal's link). I get it Ken R-- managing expectations is the hurdle. It's tough when you only get one real shot at it each season, I always want the perfect trip, and have been lucky the last few years going West in late February (between Presidents Day and Spring Break has proven very reliable with snow cover, good weather and really low crowds !)

Not writing off the East Coast yet,, but right now torn between Whistler and Vermont, I get it, two different worlds, but Whistler has been on the bucket list and the link above suggesting that Whistler's early season snow cover is pretty reliable and reputation as a good ski town makes it attractive. It doesn't hurt that one daughter has an EPIC pass and might save some $$ --but its a Vail property, so gonna spend some money to save a little. If I go Whistle-- any advice on lodging ? We'd want to stay in the Village, probably without a vehicle....

Again, thanks for all the great advice.
The good thing about Colorado is that if you dont get powder you still get pretty nice packed powder and fantastic weather... Vermont, well, thats another story...
 

Talisman

Out on the slopes
Team Gathermeister
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Gallatin County
Yeah, I really didn't care why it was empty. The year we were there during Xmas, there were no real lift lines. Maybe 20 people in front of us at peak times. The only time it seemed a little crowded was at lunch time in the lodge. But NOTHING like the East Coast during Xmas week.
Twenty people in front of you is a "big" lift line when you typically can ski on to the chair or talk with the lifty for awhile.
 

sbooker

Getting on the lift
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ogsmileogsmile
I'm wondering if "crowds non existent" is because you're from New Jersey or if indeed it's the vastness of Big Sky that is absorbing them. And then I say to myself, what do you care? As long as no one comes HERE!

Anyone know what the Big Sky record is for skier visits on any one day? Just curious.

Edit. Found it for the prior season, 8392, which when divided by their acreage (5800) yields less than two skiers per acre. Definitely beats our 8631, especially since we have less acreage. Yes, go there.
Most of the crowds would be on the one half of the mountain that caters for everyday skiers. Big Sky seems heavy on expert terrain that most of the crowd won’t ski.
Go to Whitefish. ogsmile
 
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David Chaus

Epic & Ikon because I’m indecisive. Or am I?
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Not that you’ve mentioned how far west is too far, but for early season snow reliability, Whistler is hard to beat. Sun Peaks has less snow but needs much less to get a lot of terrain open, due the summer grooming and brush clearing they do, plus snowmaking.

I’ve skied Xmas week at Sun Peaks, Schweitzer and Red Mt & Whitewater. No crowds, good-to-great conditions. Avoiding better known resorts near major populations centers is a better strategy for avoiding crowds. Whistler is actually not too bad that time of year, if you understand where the bottlenecks occur.
 

zephyr17

Booting up
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Washington State
I skied 2 weeks before Christmas in Sun Peaks last year and coverage was relatively thin, but adequate and I had a ball. It was NOT a WROD situation. Towards the end of the day, you got brown spots showing through, but grooming and snowmaking overnight generally took care of it. They got some good storms between the time I left and Christmas, too.

The alpine at Whistler/Blackcomb is reliable for Christmas, the lower mountain, maybe, maybe not, but the alpine above Blackcomb's Rendezvous and Whistler's Roundhouse is where a lot of the good skiing is anyway. Christmas is a really major time at Whistler, though.
 

ADKmel

Turning
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I'll add Whiteface to the Eastern suggestion,yes will probably be mostly man made, usually have real snow too, It is 'the Olympic Mt", Lake Placid is a great town, lots of Off Mt things to do (bobsled rides, olympic venues super restaurants, shops, bars etc.) I think it's Rare to find a 'big' crowd at WF, lol, after 6 Runs from the top many are all done and ready for a bloody mary at the cottage.
 

DanoT

RVer-Skier
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Sun Peaks B.C. in winter, Victoria B.C. in summer
I am bias toward Sun Peaks but consider these facts: The single day skier visit record is around 6,300 skiers on 4,270 skiable acres making it the second largest ski resort in Canada. By comparison Whistler has just over 8,000acres and a busy weekend or Xmas holiday you can expect around 20,000 skiers each at Blackcomb Mtn. and Whistler Mtn., so you do the math. Whistler also has a couple of million people living about 1.5 hours away. Sun Peaks has about 90K people of which about 5 or 6k are skiers, living 45minutes away.

One season when there was a really bad start to the year, when they had to shut down Whistler for not enough snow, they started sending skiers to Sun Peaks where we had about 18" of compacted snow and over 100 runs open. You will also find excellent snow preservation (rain is rare) and the snow will be lighter and drier than anything at Whistler or eastern US or eastern Canada.

IMO, Whistler is best skied in April, when the crowds are gone, it is the best chance of getting sunshine (it can and does rain at any time during the season) and everything is on sale in April.
 
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zephyr17

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I am bias toward Sun Peaks but consider these facts: The single day skier visit record is around 6,300 skiers on 4,270 skiable acres making it the second largest ski resort in Canada. By comparison Whistler has just over 8,000acres and a busy weekend or Xmas holiday you can expect around 20,000 skiers each at Blackcomb Mtn. and Whistler Mtn., so you do the math. Whistler also has a couple of million people living about 1.5 hours away. Sun Peaks has about 90K people of which about 5 or 6k are skiers, living 45minutes away.

One season when there was a really bad start to the year, when they had to shut down Whistler for not enough snow, they started sending skiers to Sun Peaks where we had about 18" of compacted snow and over 100 runs open. You will also find excellent snow preservation (rain is rare) and the snow will be lighter and drier than anything at Whistler or eastern US or eastern Canada.

IMO, Whistler is best skied in April, when the crowds are gone, it is the best chance of getting sunshine (it can and does rain at any time during the season) and everything is on sale in April.
Second that. Discovered Sun Peaks last season, and I prefer it to Whistler, too. I like the hill, the snow is better and more consistent, and it always seemed like I could ski right onto the lift. Only downside for me is that it is an hour further (no big deal) and the Coquihalla can be a much more challenging drive than the Sea-To-Sky.
 

DanoT

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Sun Peaks B.C. in winter, Victoria B.C. in summer
Second that. Discovered Sun Peaks last season, and I prefer it to Whistler, too. I like the hill, the snow is better and more consistent, and it always seemed like I could ski right onto the lift. Only downside for me is that it is an hour further (no big deal) and the Coquihalla can be a much more challenging drive than the Sea-To-Sky.
On a Sunday, late afternoon and into the evening and after a busy weekend at Whistler, the Sea to Sky Highway #99 can have challenges of its own. It is called bumper to bumper traffic and it can be so jammed up that you can't even get out of the village. And then if there is a MVA....go have a coffee or spend a few hours eating dinner some where in the Whistler village.

As far as the challenges on the Coquihalla Highway it is usually only bad weather and not traffic and really the weather is only really bad for about 10 miles or less on either side of the snow shed. And sometimes high winds and blowing snow near Chilliwack.
 
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zephyr17

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On a Sunday, late afternoon and into the evening and after a busy weekend at Whistler, the Sea to Sky Highway #99 can have challenges of its own. It is called bumper to bumper traffic and it can be so jammed up that you can't even get out of the village. And then if there is a MVA....go have a coffee or spend a few hours eating dinner some where in the Whistler village.

As far as the challenges on the Coquihalla Highway it is usually only bad weather and not traffic and really the weather is only really bad for about 10 miles or less on either side of the snow shed. And sometimes high winds and blowing snow near Chilliwack.
Agree about the traffic on the Sea-to-Sky, but if I am leaving Whistler on a Sunday, I generally don't ski and leave in the morning precisely because of that. Whistler traffic, though bad, is pretty predictable. Getting through Vancouver isn't always a treat, either, which I don't have to do to get to Sun Peaks.

Another advantage to Sun Peaks is you can stay pretty cheaply if you are willing to drive. I did a spur of the moment trip there last year late in the season when conditions at my home mountain, Crystal, were predicted to be pretty bad and Sun Peaks had good conditions. I drove to Kamloops, got a cheap motel, and drove to Sun Peaks to ski the next morning. And cheap in Kamloops is genuinely cheap. Parking is really easy and available at Sun Peaks and is close to lifts. It was a memorably good ski day, one of the best I've had.
 
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pete

not peace but 2 Beers!
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Iowa
Noted on Tony's site for Colorado is Steamboat.

Not advocating as it gets really really pricey over Christmas .. lodging I've noted hits 2.5x to 3x your regular February trip times .. but they typically aim to have most all the mountain open other than at times the Pony side of things. Tighter tree skiing would likely not be too wise but traveling to Denver could allow for travel plan changes later.

I've hit it earlier on good years prior to the Dec 19th time range and have had top side (Tomahawk, Morningside, etc) closed but with added snow making Buddies is typically open. I know they aim and as noted typically get top open for the Christmas week and the one year I hit between Christmas and New Years had a great time as they had very good coverage.

Town it great but as noted, expect costlier stay .. transportation is good with lots of shuttles and trip from Airport runs ~$50 .. less one drives the 3 to 4 hrs from Denver ...

Terms of crowds, they do pack out .. once on mountain I don't recall it being horrible but I know it was far more crowded but can't speak towards a midweek Christmas Holiday, and lifts can be very pricey, few discounts.

anyhow, noting this mostly due to Tony's site listing in case you caught their ranking for snow.

The Big Sky and Sun Peaks look interesting to me simply for crowds. ... that or perhaps Utah .. stays and lifts could be "cheap" ... no idea on crowds though but lots of resort options in a tight radius.
 

LowPressureKarl

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Wait till early/mid December and book some place that already has a base and a favorable forecast. Driving gives you a lot of flexibility.
Do you have a pass?

Skiers per acre isn’t a good metric of how crowded an area gets. WB and Vail are the two most crowded places I’ve ever experienced. Aspen Mountain’s ratio will 10x and I never stand in line.
 

Mike Rogers

Getting off the lift
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Calgary
Historically, I usually try to avoid ski trips during Christmas because of work, crowds, and uncertain weather. I will admit it, I usually get one ski trip a year, so I try to schedule mid February to avoid crowds, get an idea where snow is good. Skiing is expensive, and I want things to be just perfect....

That being said, kids are grown and we don't have much opportunity to get together now, and Christmas is in the middle of the week this year so work isn't really a factor. I'm contemplating doing a Christmas trip, but want to maximize chance of having reasonable skiing. I'm in the Midwest (hence the name !), but open to going East or West....there are actually good family reasons to go East , although I have only skiied on the East Coast (Stratton) once in recent years. A couple quesitons for the experts here:

1) What is likelihood of having snow and decent amount of terrain open at Christmas ? One of the reasons I have shied away at Christmas is crowds -alot of people skiing and resorts only partially open. I will have to live with the crowds -- but best of they are spread out.

2) Which resorts have the best chance of having good snow and open terrain (and lower crowds if at all possible). Most interested in the East Coast, as I am pretty familiar with West Coast resorts.

Type of terrain is not the highest priority, but skier levels run from pretty darn good (younger daughter is a natural, but not into extreme ) to intermediate (blue/black groomers). Really looking for mix of decent skiing , town with nice restaraunts, etc. (and did I mention, lower crowds ?).

Thanks for your input.

I've had good luck with Whitewater in Nelson BC during this time period. It isn't a huge resort, but the tree skiing is excellent, and while there is no on-hill accommodations, the on-hill food is great, and the town of Nelson is worth a visit. It is one of the more interesting mountain towns in my opinion.

Whitewater doesn't have a tonne of long groomers though.

Although snow is a bit less reliable at nearby Red Mountain, it is a much bigger resort, with more variety (still not great for groomers). Red has the best trees of all the resorts I have visited. It's only an hour's drive from Nelson. It's town, Rossland is a true ski town, but perhaps a bit sleepy.

Access is probably the biggest drawback, but it's not too difficult to get there from Spokane. The local airport in Castlegar can be a bit pricey, and, owing to valley fog has been nicknamed Cancel-gar.

The West Kootenay region is a nice change from mega-resorts.
 
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