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Non Region Specific Kids-friendly Ikon resort in the West in early April

Ivan

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A bit of background first. We have two kids (and the third one on the way very soon, but it will be a it too early for him to ski this season :ogbiggrin:). The older one is 8 (has been skiing for 5 seasons), the younger one is 4 (has been skiing for 1 season). We normally ski at Greek Peak, by the end of last season we were skiing top to bottom at Greek and did a day trip to Stratton, also skied top to bottom (greens or gentle blues).

I'm thinking about a family ski trip during the spring school break, March 30 - April 6. We have Ikon passes, so one option is to go to Stratton, Killington, or Sugarbush. The main pro is that we can simply drive there; the main con is that the snow conditions might not be great (it's pretty late in the season). Yes, I know Killington is normally open into May, but it's mostly advanced runs that stay open long, while the beginners' options may be a lot more limited.

So I'm potentially looking into Ikon resorts in the West, where the snow conditions are likely to be better and less uncertain. Just a few possible options include Colorado (Aspen, Steamboat, Copper, Winter Park, Arapahoe Basin), Idaho (Sun Valley), Montana (Big sky), California (Palisades Tahoe or Mammoth), Utah (Solitude, Alta, Deer Valley), potentially Canada (Banff and Lake Louise). Among these resorts, I've only been to Mammoth and Palisades Tahoe (on my own, without kids), so I would appreciate any advice on which of these (or other Ikon resorts) may be best suited for skiing with kids and have good snow conditions in April. Reasonable price and ease of getting there would be an advantage, too, but that I can figure out later. For now, I'd like to narrow down the list of options based on the quality of skiing itself.
 

Pat AKA mustski

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June Mountain - just down the road from Mammoth - is excellent for kids. The other advantage is that if the new little one has arrived before the ski trip, you and your wife could switch off easily. You upload via chair and the lodge is at the top of the chair so easy ski in ski out. The only problem is that the upload chair (J1) is a double so it might be tough to get the kiddos all up there. Also a warning about that week ... it's spring break for San Diego Unified. Not as big a deal as LA Unified, but still a big school district.
 

David Chaus

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For family and kid-friendly, Sun Peaks if you’re considering Canada. Banff as well, however Sun Peaks has a nice village right at the slopes, and excellent long green and blue runs.

Banff is easier to get to with flights to Calragy an hour or so away, but then you drive or take a shuttle to Sunshine or Lake Louise. Sun Peaks you can fly to Vancouver and it’s about 4 1/2 hours to Sun Peaks, or see if there’s flights to Kelowna, which is about 2 1/2 hours.
 

Tony S

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A bit of background first. We have two kids (and the third one on the way very soon, but it will be a it too early for him to ski this season :ogbiggrin:). The older one is 8 (has been skiing for 5 seasons), the younger one is 4 (has been skiing for 1 season). We normally ski at Greek Peak, by the end of last season we were skiing top to bottom at Greek and did a day trip to Stratton, also skied top to bottom (greens or gentle blues).

I'm thinking about a family ski trip during the spring school break, March 30 - April 6. We have Ikon passes, so one option is to go to Stratton, Killington, or Sugarbush. The main pro is that we can simply drive there; the main con is that the snow conditions might not be great (it's pretty late in the season). Yes, I know Killington is normally open into May, but it's mostly advanced runs that stay open long, while the beginners' options may be a lot more limited.

So I'm potentially looking into Ikon resorts in the West, where the snow conditions are likely to be better and less uncertain. Just a few possible options include Colorado (Aspen, Steamboat, Copper, Winter Park, Arapahoe Basin), Idaho (Sun Valley), Montana (Big sky), California (Palisades Tahoe or Mammoth), Utah (Solitude, Alta, Deer Valley), potentially Canada (Banff and Lake Louise). Among these resorts, I've only been to Mammoth and Palisades Tahoe (on my own, without kids), so I would appreciate any advice on which of these (or other Ikon resorts) may be best suited for skiing with kids and have good snow conditions in April. Reasonable price and ease of getting there would be an advantage, too, but that I can figure out later. For now, I'd like to narrow down the list of options based on the quality of skiing itself.
Copper (not sure of closing dates?) is a nice choice because they have family-friendly terrain (and also challenges), with A-Basin nearby if snow on the lower slopes of Copper ends up being thin. Utah also good, as others have pointed out, but a little less pretty IMHO.

I can't imagine taking little kids like yours to an out-of-the-way location like Big Sky or the Canadian Rockies (edit - or Aspen, unless you're flying direct). They're not going to care about special scenery or remoteness or thousands of acres of terrain. Save those places for when you have, you know, twelve year olds. You're going to have a huge burden of care under the best of circumstances, so why make it harder on yourself with a ton of travel hoops?

In general, wherever you go, it pays to do some in-depth homework on what services will and will not be available. Many areas start curtailing things like day care and ski school severely after mid March, even to the point where they might not have any by mid April. Same thing with options for parking and dining on-mountain.
 
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Bill Miles

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Several thoughts, focusing on snow conditions and greens and easy blues:

Alta--Probably best snow conditions in early April. Good long greens on Sunnyside, several blues on Collins fairly easy,
Aspen--Have a whole mountain for greens and easy blues (Buttermilk). Adults might get bored though. Fairly good selection at Highlands and Snowmass, avoid Aspen Mt.
Sun Valley--Past its prime for snow, but low crowds. Greens on Seattle Ridge chair (needs to be early April, closes earlier than rest of mountain) and College run equivalent to fairly easy Blues most places. Other greens and blues a notch up from most places.
 

Jim Kenney

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If you have full IKON then Alta could be very good. Great spring snow conditions and some good green circle terrain (and great black diamonds). Solitude might be a good option too, with Brighton next door. Might be some lodging discounts in the cute little Solitude village at that time of year.
 
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Ivan

Ivan

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Thank you everyone for great suggestions!

Just a couple of points in response to your comments. First, I understand that some services late in the season may be limited, but I don't think it's a big concern for us. If we go, we will be skiing together with the kids instead of using ski school. I understand that this would limit our skiing options to a certain extent (lower speeds, easier terrain), but I care more about spending time together than doing "cool" stuff. I skied with the boys at Stratton at the end of last season, and we had lots of fun. They still remember the gondola rides and the runs we did together.

Second, regarding remoteness, I totally get it. I don't want to limit our options in advance, but the ease of getting there is a huge factor. I went to Mammoth on my own in May, and it took me over 14 hours to get there (3 hours to drive to EWR, 6 hours to fly to Vegas, and 5+ hours to get to Mammoth from there). Even without kids, it was tough. We are pretty far from major airports (EWR is closest, at 3 hours), and most smaller and closer ones don't have direct flights to the big resorts. Pretty much the only exception is Syracuse, which has direct flights to Denver. Because of all this, places like Mammoth or June, as amazing as they are, would be pretty tough.

Resorts that are close to Denver would probably be the easiest ones to get to... But I'm a bit concerned about elevation. I got tired at Mammoth fairly quickly (even though I'm in good shape), so we might be looking for places where we could stay at a lower elevation.

Overall, Utah sounds like a really good option: plenty of flights into SLC; potentially ability to stay in (or close to SLC), at a lower elevation, and have access to multiple resorts; good snow and suitable terrain. A question, though: is it OK to stay in SLC, or can traffic be an issue?

And another question: say, if we go to Copper, is there a place nearby where we could stay at a lower elevation (the base elevation at Copper is really high)?

Yet another concern is crowds. Presumably early April is not a peak period, but my understanding is that bigger resorts that are close to major cities are likely to be more crowded than smaller or more remote options.

Of course, all additional comments (not necessarily related to my questions) are welcome. The more information I have, the better.
 

dbostedo

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A question, though: is it OK to stay in SLC, or can traffic be an issue?

That time of year, unless it's a powder day, driving to the resorts shouldn't be much of an issue. But some more familiar with Utah should weigh in.


And another question: say, if we go to Copper, is there a place nearby where we could stay at a lower elevation (the base elevation at Copper is really high)?

No, not really. Copper village is at ~9700 feet. Frisco/Silverthorne 15 minutes drive away are still at ~9000 feet. You'd have to be like an hour away to get significantly lower.

I haven't usually found the elevation to be an issue with getting fatigued from skiing, but I definitely had times where I was breathing harder. YMMV.
 

musicmatters

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Agree with Utah. A nonstop flight from most major airports, and a quick drive to the resorts. You mentioned staying in SLC, most of the resorts you can get to in under an hour, but are you trying to stay that far?

if you did Deer Valley you could stay right on the mountain for ski in/out. Or you could stay in Park City at lower elevation with easy access to Main Street, shops, restaurants, activities, etc and a free and easy bus service to Deer Valley.

Deer Valley also has an excellent ski school for the kids and a good variety of beginner runs off of most lifts. My kids have a blast in the ski school and always ask me to enroll for a day or 2.

I have been skiing that exact week for Spring Break with my kids at Deer Valley for the past 5 years. It’s some of my favorite times to ski with them. It’s hardly ever too cold (big plus for my kids to get them out there and having fun), and the mtn is empty, no stress stopping to get lunch at the lodges. Most every year the conditions have been great at higher elevations, or at least good untill the end of the day and at low elevations.
 
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Ivan

Ivan

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@dbostedo @musicmatters Thanks for your comments! When talking about SLC, I meant the greater SLC area, not the city proper. And, more specifically, the parts of the area closer to ski resorts. I can definitely see the advantages of staying slopeside, or in a village close to the lift. However, staying in places like Cottonwood Heights also has its advantages (access to several mountains, lower elevation, possibly lower prices). I'd need to look more closely into accommodation options to see what would suit us best, but I figured that I need to narrow down the list of options first.
 

Pat AKA mustski

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Next time, fly to Reno. It’s only a 3 hr drive to Mammoth and you could stay in Reno a couple of days and hit up Palisades as well.
 

DebbieSue

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Debbie Downer here…would not put kids on a plane for an “out West” trip until they are older. The logistics /expense are hard on you / Mom and the plusses are lost on the kiddos. Build on your Stratton experience and go to Killington. More late season skiing than anywhere in Northeast in my opinion. Lots of Green and Blue and variety of lifts. Kids will enjoy gondolas and blue bubble, lodge at the top of gondola. Mom can meet you up there with the baby and have a drink that she will definitely need. Maybe a day at Pico if it’s still open. Eat at Casey’s Caboose. . . Maybe sit in the caboose. If you do go out West, I think with the ages of your kids you gotta stay slopeside. Snowmass, Buttermilk, Mammoth are good, but still you gotta get there. Car seats, skis, extra mittens, helmets, diaper bags!!! I can’t imagine staying at edge of one of Utah canyons and loading, driving, unloading. Staying at Alta an Alta lodge is great but $$$$$. Deer Valkey could be easy, but $$$$.
Drive to VT to Kton or Sugarbush, stay at a place with a pool. You’ll have a blast. Take a flying trip when they’re older.
 
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Jilly

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Have to agree with @DebbieSue. Travelling with that young, you're going to be a porter. Neither on Ikon but good snow - Mont Ste Anne, Quebec City, or Jay Peak. Tremblant is on Ikon, but who knows. Not a school holiday week either.
 

James

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Killington end of March/Early April has good snow. There’s no slopeside lodging afaik. Sugarbush would be a good hour drive from there.
You might have the Brits at Killington around then for the international flavour.
 

Mel

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My kids are older than yours now, but I'd agree that hauling kids makes any trip more challenging. We travelled a lot with our kids when they were little, so definitely not impossible, and I'm always surprised by how much my kids remember from trips we took. If the adults involved really want to go on a trip, there are lots of good options.

For Banff (LL/SSV), they will be wide open and have good snow and moderate temperatures by then. If you're flying out of EWR, there are direct flights to YYC and then a bus you can get from the airport to Banff. Flight is 4-5 hours, bus another 2 hours to Banff. There are shuttles to the ski hills from the hotels in Banff, so you can avoid renting a car and hauling car & booster seats unless you plan to take cabs etc. Not really needed though as there are public buses within the town of Banff too, and it's not big.

Flying home, you clear customs etc on the Canadian side, so arriving back in EWR is like getting home from a domestic flight - no long waits with grumpy children (or adults, for that matter). If you have Nexus/Global Entry cards it's super easy at both ends. I'm not sure when the spring passes go on sale, but sometimes buying the family spring pass is cheaper than individual lift tickets.

Pros for Banff:
1. There are things to do that aren't skiing
2. excellent skiing - SSV in particular has lots of easier shorter runs that kids would enjoy
3. ski schools & daycare on hill still going strong at that time if you do want a day or half day to yourself to ski
4. lower elevation (town of Banff is at 4500 feet)
5. avoiding car rentals etc
6. Canadian dollar makes everything a bit cheaper for you
7. Our "crowds" are... not really crowds

Cons for Banff
1. there's really no slope side accommodations. You will be taking a car or shuttle every day to the hill. The only on hill accommodation is the Sunshine Mountain Lodge, which doesn't have any fridges/microwaves in the rooms (if you want to make some of your own meals for cost and picky eater preferences)
2. crossing a border always adds an extra layer of hassle to travel
3. It's spring break as well as easter here, so you won't find really good deals on hotels etc until a week or two later
3. even with direct flights, you're looking at an entire day of travel to get there and home

Good luck!
 

Ogg

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Killington end of March/Early April has good snow. There’s no slopeside lodging afaik. Sugarbush would be a good hour drive from there.
You might have the Brits at Killington around then for the international flavour.
They will also be there for the Bear Mountain Mogul Challenge.
 

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