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舊 2010-03-25, 06:19   #1
saikee
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A quick taste of some Colorado resorts

Haven't seen many American thread so I post my recent trip here. The report has been posted in another forum but slightly edited here.

This is not a resort report as the wife and I do not do off piste and we donot spend much time in Apres. It is a do-it-yourself trip, from 23 Feb to 12 Mar this year, for us to sample some of the upmarket resorts in USA in one go.

What we did was to hire a 4x4, pick 3 hotels near Vail, Aspen and Keystone and ski the 8 resorts of Vail, Beaver Creek, Copper Mountain, Aspen, Keystone, Breckenridge, Arapahoe Basin and Loveland over 18 days. This is our first visit to the American resorts.

I apologise for its length as I am describing 11 skiing facilities here. I also had to split the thread in two posts due to the forum limitation of maximum 10000 words per post.

Car Hire - This was done by Internet booking. Denver airport is actually some distance away from the car hire lot but each car hire company provides a free bus service to their lot. We opted for a 4x4 because we wanted to be able to cope with the snow condition whenever we went. The 8 resorts we visited are on flat ground but there are modest gradients on the roads from Denver to the skiing resorts. With a 4x4 one needs less worry with snow on the road. To assist navigation we brought a Tom Tom equipped of North American maps. We did 1300 miles altogether.

Accommodation - We stayed 6 nights at Vail, 4 night at Carbondale and 8 nights in Silverthorne. The maximun distnace we had to travel is 25 miles when we had to drive from Carbondale to Aspen. To stay in Aspen the cost would have to be 2 to 3 times more. Aspen actually has 4 unlinked resorts and the best way to ski all of them is to park at the free car park at Buttermilk and take the free ski buses to the other 3 resorts. In general we paid about $100 to $110 per night for a twin of double room with breakfast for two in all three accommodations which were booked via the Internet.

Lift ticket - With the exception of Loveland and Arapahoe Basin the day ticket of a large Colorado resort is between $85 to $95. There is an Epic seasonal ski pass sold at just under $600 which entitles the holder to ski Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone, Breckenrige and Arapahoe Basin for the whole skiing season. This seasonal ski pass also attracts a 60% reduction for daily ticket for skiing the Copper Mountain. Aspen is the one that proved difficult to get pre-booked ski pass as it is normally sold with the accommodation. Luckily Carondale, even at 25 miles away, was recognised as Aspen's own accommodation areas so we we got 4 day pass for $337. Other than that we paid a day ticket at Loveland for $59 per head.

Locations of resorts - The 8 skiing resorts lie mostly along the main highway i-70 and some are spread along consecutive junctions. The nearest resort, at 53 miles from Denver, is Loveland. Arapahoe Basin is 8 miles by going over the Loveland Pass. Loveland is on the highway i-70 with Silverthorne as the next exit. Keystone is 8 miles east of Silverthorne. Breckenridge follows on as the next consecutive exit from i-70 but it is 10 miles from the highway i-70. Copper Mountain is also next to i-70 at about 10 miles west of from Silverthorne. Continue with highway i-70 for 20 miles from Copper Moutain is Vail. Beaver Creek is just the next exit after Vail. For Aspen one has to drive another 90 miles from Beaver Creek.

(1) Vail - This is the only one of the 8 resorts that does not have a free car park for the day skiers. There is virtually no public parking except the garage blocks which charge $25 per day. Vail is largest of the 8 resorts. It claims to have the world's largest ski school charging $235 per child. Front side of the mountain is the easy bit leaving the back side as the difficult part with only one out of 6 bowls having groomed piste. In the back side the majority of the runs are single diamond black which are just off piste mogul tracks with a tiny sign displayed at the top through a break in the boundary rope. The majority skiers used the few groomed blue runs to access the third face called the Blue Sky Basin. skiers could find Vail easy by skiing the large number of cat walks otherwise Vail left me with little impression. The resort appears hard to attract buyers to its on-resort properties as it has its own TV channel to promote the properties and the resort! It left me with an impression that the developer was pre-occupied with getting buyers for the apartments and the skiing facility might have been added to attract them. It was clear to me that Vail does not provide easy facilities to cater for the skiers other than those staying inside Vail. Even a local staff at a Colorado information centre admitted that she refused to ski in Vail as she found the parking charge offensive.

(2) Beaver Creek - This is an eye opener. All the main roads into the Beaver Creek Village have a manned security barrier! There is a huge car park near the main thoroughfare but it is for its employees only! It does have free large car parks, which were not easy to find, and free buses in and out of the resort. Also part of the skiing domain is actually in private properties with runs marked as "Homeowner Skiways" which have limited access. We did found in one of the run a house was being built right at the middle of the piste. Skiing there gave us the sensation that we were skiing in someone's back garden. Beaver Creek is smaller and easier to maintained so the piste were well groomed making skiing quite enjoyable. In general the village is well integrated with the skiing infrastructure. If one wants to park inside the village and close to the chairlifts the parking charge is $33 per day. Beaver Creek also has its own TV channel and one of the advert was to persuade skiers to hire a locker, for locking up the gears, for $40 per night.


Continue in next post---------------------------------------------------
saikee 目前離線   回覆時引用此篇文章
舊 2010-03-25, 06:21   #2
saikee
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(3) Copper Mountain - Same deal here very little parking facilities in the village but some huge free car parks for the day skiers who can ride free buses to the the Green, Blue are and Black areas. Copper Mountain is unique to be able to separate the three sections of the mountain into easy (majority green runs), intermediate (blue runs) and difficult (black runs) areas. A significant number of properties appear to be large rented apartment blocks and commercialised so they don't look as private and upmarket as Vail and Beaver Creek. Skiing wise Copper Mountain appear more like an European resort catered for the general public.

(4A)Snowmass - This is the largest of the four Aspen unlinked resort. Very upmarket and has a well laid out village. There are many sizeable detached properties dotted around the piste runs at the bottom. The whole set-up, the services and the workers' manner do give a high class feel. The resort was modestly busy but virtually no queue at the base stations. A few middle stations did have queues but everybody seemed relax and courteous. Snowmass has its own free day skier car park served by a fast bus link direct to the Village Mall. Skiing in Snowmass was memorable as the end to end distance between Two Creek and CampGround is quite long. It also has some nicely groomed and long signle diamond black runs. When I first went to check the place out I found very few people on the piste in the central area. Instead people were drinking and socialising in the village and there were live music being playedin the open.

(4B) Buttermilk - This is the smallest of the four Aspen resorts. Everything here is easy including the black runs. The longest of which was used for the World Competition for the disabled skiers during our visit. The wife was hugely impressed by some diabled skiers seen in Aspen as she saw one disabled skier being served by 3 persons. Many national teams also stayed at the same Day's Inn we were staying. Buttermilk is the stragetic place to be as it has a large free car park for the day skiers plus free buses to all the remaining Aspen resorts.

(4C) Aspen Highland - Possibly the least visited one of the four resorts in Aspen. Although there are some green runs the rest of the area is pretty steep. The famous Highland Bowl, which was closed for 13 years when 3 of the ski patrols got killed, remains a Mecca for some seeking thrill. Due to the steep gradient part of the bowl has been reported prone to avalanche. In order to make it safe volunteers have to walk up and down this bowl to consolidate the snow whenever there is a heavy dump in the early season. The Highland bowl can only be accessed by walking over a ridge barely big enough for one person width (as seen from the photo off the piste map). In fact even the groomed run, off the highest chairlift, has the first part over a ridge too. The steep side has been fenced off but the less steep side has only isolated poles to mark the edge. This would be considered dangerous in an European resort. Aspen Highland is seaparated by one mountain side from Buttermilk but the two were not linked, possibly due to the separating side being sunny and seldom has snow.

(4D) Aspen Mountain - This is the resort directly above Aspen. It has a unique feature of able to view a fully populated American downtown (Aspen) while skiing! No green piste here and so the resort is therefore not friendly to families with small children. This resort and Aspen Highland have almost no crowd. I filmed the wife coming down the Copper Bowl run between the highest and lowest points and could only found 6 other skiers on that piste from the video record! Aspen gave us the impression that there are more workers serving the visitors as there were workers handing out the daily grooming report, handing out free coffee and on standby to answer any question. We made altogether 4 journeys on the free bus between Aspen and Buttermilk and in 2 of the 4 journeys the wife and I were the only passengers. SHs advices of wearing a helmet against being crashed into by fthe ellow piste users and warning skiing gears being stolen at the resort would fall on deaf ears in Aspen.

(5) Breckenridge - This is more like an European resort to me as it is cheap, popular and visited by a huge number of skiers/boarders. Naturally it has great and extensive facilities for the families, beginners and early intermediates. The resort has a huge free car park at a short distance from the chairlift stations. From the impressions I got reading various posts on Breckenridge and after skiing it I felt it is almost like the Courchevel of France. It is a place everybody have to go sometimes and would not be sorry for not going back again. This is not a fair comment as Breckenridge is busy but nowhere as crowded. It does have some extreme skiing of double black diamond runs and a chairlift reaching 3963m that no European resort can match. The similarity with Courchevel is really to do with both are very large resorts with a lot of accommodations to sell. In a poor season when the visitors are lacking many accommodations could be sold at basement bargain prices and that can create an impression these resorts are cheap places to ski. Breckenridge is in fact an upmarket resort as it has large deatached residential properties lining some of the runs.

(6) Keystone - Surprisingly we found this our favourite as it is simple with three distinct sections easy to remember and navigate. The front side also serve the night skiing so most runs there were well groomed and prepared. What I like most is the forest trees in between the runs as it can be quite fun to ski in and out of these densely spaced conifers. Some of spaces were barely wide enough for me to pass through and required constantly ducking for the branches. Moguls are an important offering of the American resorts and it is nice to have short sections spreading around like Keystone has managed. The free day skiers car park is right in front of the village and there is no need to ride a bus to the lift stations. Keystone also has many on resort properties but they are not obviously integrated with the piste as Vail, Beaver Creek, Aspen and Breckenridge have done.

(7) Arapahoe Basin - This is a resort more akin to Europe. Finally there is a skiing resort that could only be accessed by driving up a mountain pass which may require snow chains in poor conditions. On the resort there is no residential apartment. Arapahoe Basin is in fact very small but it has height. The base station is at 3286m which is higher than the highest peak of many European resorts. Therefore the wife was pleased to break the record to reaching 3801m just by sitting in a chairlift. Although the peak has various well groomed blue runs they do have some steepish sections which would have made them single diamond black elsewhere. However Arapahoe Basin has some serious extreme terrians so they grade the blue runs relative to the resort itself.

(8) Loveland - This resort has either no footrest on all its chairlifts or if it did then someone must have since removed all the footrests. We were warned by a skier from Denver that this place would be windy and so it was. It is the cheapest place to ski as the day pass for adult is only $59. Its attraction to us is the highest chairlift reaching 3860m which is even higher than Arapahoe Basin. Due to the strong wing some areas in the peak were bald as the wind blew some the snow away. We found the terrain quite challeging. Some narrow tracks were partly reconfigured with snow drift and some cat walks were littered with collapse snow at the edge leading us to fear for a local avalache. We were skiing Loveland in our last skiing day so we were reluctant to take on any unnecessary risk. Both Loveland and Arapahoe Basin are on the Loveland Pass but the Loveland resort situates at the lowest point of the pass.

All Colorado resorts have excellent facilities for the beginners. Good skiers able to ski steep moguls, off piste through forest, double black diamond and extreme terrain runs will find above the paradise too. Satisfaction for early intermediates is modest. We skied mostly on the groomed piste which cover all the green, majority of the blue and a small number of signle black diamond runs.

Notes - Aspen describes "Extreme Terrain" can have 50 degree gradient. It is indicated as a double black diamond but additionally with "E" and "X" depicted inside the two diamonds.
saikee 目前離線   回覆時引用此篇文章
舊 2010-03-25, 09:13   #3
skier
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Wow......you covered all these resorts on your trip (in and out of hotels in 18 days)

It is a dream for most people here :)

(I have skied Keystone, Vail, Beaver Creek, and Aspen mountain)
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舊 2010-03-25, 11:44   #4
eLeung
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Nice report! Really want to go this winter!
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舊 2010-03-25, 13:23   #5
Mike
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(2) Beaver Creek - This is an eye opener. All the main roads into the Beaver Creek Village have a manned security barrier! There is a huge car park near the main thoroughfare but it is for its employees only! It does have free large car parks, which were not easy to find, and free buses in and out of the resort. Also part of the skiing domain is actually in private properties with runs marked as "Homeowner Skiways" which have limited access. We did found in one of the run a house was being built right at the middle of the piste. Skiing there gave us the sensation that we were skiing in someone's back garden. Beaver Creek is smaller and easier to maintained so the piste were well groomed making skiing quite enjoyable. In general the village is well integrated with the skiing infrastructure. If one wants to park inside the village and close to the chairlifts the parking charge is $33 per day. Beaver Creek also has its own TV channel and one of the advert was to persuade skiers to hire a locker, for locking up the gears, for $40 per night.
Two of my friends just bought an apartment (fully furnished) at Beaver Creek last December, what used to cost US1.2M a year ago are now selling for US700K.
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舊 2010-03-25, 13:37   #6
jackwan
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next time come to Tahoe and we will take you around 12 different ski areas. Most parking is free and if you get up early enough, you could park next to the lift.;)
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舊 2010-03-25, 17:40   #7
saikee
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If visitors know the proximity of all these resorts then covering them is quite natural.

We would wake up and have a quick breakfast at about 8:15am, decide which one to go, leap into the hired car, drive within half an hour (mostly 10 to 20 minutes) to a free car park, put the boots in, grab the skies, board the next bus and start skiing normally at about 9:30am.

We changed hotels three times in this trip to cut down the driving. We selected hotels for convenience.

About a month before doing this trip we had already skied a week in Ski Amade (in Austria) and then moved to Italian Dolomites for the second week to sample Cortina d'Ampezzo. Again covering several resorts in each hotel stay.
saikee 目前離線   回覆時引用此篇文章
舊 2010-03-25, 17:42   #8
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Thanks Saikee for the very detailed report.

I'm planning a trip there this year early Dec 2010, as i'll need to attend a conference in US.
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舊 2010-03-25, 18:20   #9
saikee
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jackwan,

Be nice to see what Lake Tahoe can offer. Can you name the 12 resorts so that I could investigate in the Internet?

Colorado was our first skiing trip in USA. We have been doing this type of trip for several years in Europe and it seems equally applicable in USA, at least for Colorado. Apart from Colorado we haven't found out another area with similar high concentration of resorts. However we are aware Lake Tahoe near California and Utah also have some resorts close to each other.

In Europe there are plentiful.
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舊 2010-03-25, 18:56   #10
saikee
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jackwan,

Got a book on USA resorts. Together with Google managed to locate for California region

(1) Tahoe Donner
(2) Sugar Bowl
(3) Northstar
(4) Squaw Valley
(5)Alpine Medows
(6) Heavenly
(7) Sierra at Tahoe
(8) Kirkwood
(9) Mt Rose
(10) Diamond Peak
(11) Soda Spring
(12) Homewood Mountain

Does look like a nice project there as the distance between the two extreme resorts is shorter than that in Colorado. Should make a nice 2-week outing.
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舊 2010-03-26, 08:45   #11
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Have skied several times in Lake Tahoo ski area. The most popular is probably Heavenly where one side is California and the other side is Nevada. At the summit (10,000 ft) you can ski to the Nevada with large bowl ski grounds.
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舊 2010-03-26, 23:19   #12
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for anyone interested in skiing the Tahoe area next season, you should buy The Six Pack in June or July this year. The savings are great... but make sure you understand the black-out dates for the Six Pack...

http://www.skilaketahoe.com/cms/medi...w-on-sale.html


You can buy multipule packs for longer staying. If you are coming for a long stay and have blackout days in your staying, don't worry, buy the Six Pack anyway. Since Diamond Peak, Homewood, Donner Summit, Boreal and Sugar Bowl will be able to fill the void.

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舊 2010-03-29, 15:18   #13
saikee
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jackwan,

Wonder if anybody from HKSA would be interested in skiing Tahoe in 2011?

I am thinking of a two week trip possibly at the end of Feb. I shall repeat my Colorado formula of hiring a 4x4 (to make sure I can be in and out of any resort and airport as long as the roas isn't shut). Currently my thought is to stay at between 2 to 3 locations, say at the top and bottom of the lake, to cover the 12 resorts. Anyone can join in.

The scheme will work as follow:-

If there are 2 to 3 interested they can join me in Car Group A. For extra two skiers I need to do nothing but for 3 skiers I need to specify the car hire with ski clamps on the roof.

If there are more than 3 HKSA visitors joining then one of them will have to prepare to drive in a Car group B. THis can accommodate up to 8 skiers/boarders. More HKSA visitors would require repeating Car group B, say B1, B2 etc.

I shall be equipped with Sat Nav myself and sort out the routes. I would recommend each visitor to equip with a walkie talkie so that when travelling we don't get detached on the route. Also in the mountains we can regroup for lunch and other activities whenever we want, say at agreed time.

Since the nearest airport is quite close the HKSA visitor can come in any number of days to suit themselves.

There is a good probability that I would go for such a trip so Car group A will be formed even if nobody comes along. For Car group A I can afford to give up a maximum of one skiing day if you guys need me to pick up from and return to the airport, presuming HKSA visitor will stay for a shorter duration within the ime I am in Lake Tahoe, otherwise I would ending up being a chaffeaur instead of a skier in my holiday. I believe there is ample transfer facilities from the airport to the Tahoe resorts.

The wife and I are slow "groomed piste" skiers but we are self sufficient. We start and retiurn from Newcastle UK. HKSA visitors not able to ski blue runs may find little benefit such a trip but they can join in to ski a different resort everyday or remain in one place (by arrangement). An exchange of information/experience is always beneficial for the participants.

We could agree on the hotels to be booked so that we waste little time to pick up everybody to head for the resorts in the morning. In the evening we could spend time together for meals, window shopping and drinks if wish. With own transporation There is no requirement but preferrable if we could stay together as near as possible.

This will be a do-it-yourself trip. I have been doing this kind of trips for about 8 years in Europe and so can contribute advice on 4x4 and driving around skiing resorts. Lake Tahoe if takes place would be my second skiing trip to USA.
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舊 2010-03-29, 16:53   #14
Mike
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Wonder if anybody from HKSA would be interested in skiing Tahoe in 2011? .....
I have been thinking of going to Jackson Hole (instead of Tahoe) as a side trip next time I go to the West Coast.
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舊 2010-10-30, 19:49   #15
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Jack,

Of the 12 resorts in Tahoe you named above, which are the more challenging ones?

I have only been to Heavenly before, this Christmas I will be staying at Donner/Truckee.
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