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Ski run grading at Whistler vs Colorado/Utah resorts

Ski run grading at Whistler vs Colorado/Utah resorts

Old Mar 23, 19, 6:30 pm
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Ski run grading at Whistler vs Colorado/Utah resorts

For those of you familiar with Whistler AND any one of the major resorts in Colorado or Utah or Alberta, I wanted to get your opinion on how you feel about run grading at Whistler and how the other resorts stack up.

I've only taken my family to Whistler for skiing in N.America. They're not very good yet but have moved on from green and can handle majority of the blues at Whistler. I'm considering some other resorts now. I'd like to go to a place where the run grading is no more liberal than Whistler (liberal meaning they under-grade runs [some blues should be black instead], whereas conservative would be over-grading [some blues should be green instead]). I don't know if you agree with me, but I think Whistler is on the liberal side. They have some blue runs that I think would be black elsewhere... eg, Hugh's Heaven, Espresso. Granted my only reference points are mostly just resorts in CA, Jpn and WA. At Whistler, I usually have to go scope out any new blue run for my family. They could handle the likes of Zig Zag and Cloud Nine and even Cruiser, but I think they would freak out if I took them down Hugh's Heaven or Espresso.

I'm particularly interested to hear about comparison to Breckenridge, Vail, Keystone, Beaver Creek, Snowmass, Park City and Banff, as those are places I'm considering.

Also, are almost all blue runs groomed (ie, no moguls like Espresso) at Breckenridge, Vail, Keystone, Beaver Creek, Snowmass, Park City and Banff?
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Old Mar 23, 19, 9:05 pm
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I don't recall Whistler being any different than my experiences at Beaver, Vail, Brek and Park City. But I'm typically on steep blues to warm up day one and black/doubles the rest of the week.

I don't recall any non-black moguls at Beaver, where I've spent most of my time, other than some play areas on Powell that you can easily go around. I would actually like to find some less steep mogul areas to practice technique and rarely find them.
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Old Mar 23, 19, 11:31 pm
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Ok thanks.
It sounds like you're a super-expert skier, and so I wonder if all the blues feel equally easy to you.
Good to know no moguls on blue runs at Beaver. Blackcomb definitely has blues with moguls. Espresso right below Excelerator and a couple runs off 7th Heaven. To me, those should be black. This is one of the things that make Whistler a bit hairy.
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Old Mar 24, 19, 12:01 pm
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Vail has so much terrain (as with Whistler, I would think), there should be plenty of variety. I've skied with my kids as they progressed from first lessons to hard blue/easy black, mostly at Beaver, and some at Vail, and never had mogul problems. Things can obviously change on a seasonal, or even weekly, basis, but there are planty of choices.

At Beaver specifically, left off the gondola onto the blues in Rose Bowl are easier than the blues to the right - Harrier and Red Tail. They're some of my favorite wide open, high speed cruiser blue runs.
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Old Mar 24, 19, 10:45 pm
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Thanks for the additional info on Vail / Beaver Creek.
Would also be great to hear you or anyone else chime in regarding the other resorts (Breckenridge, Keystone, Snowmass, Park City, Banff) relative to the above question.
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Old Mar 25, 19, 4:30 pm
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Keystone has a wide variety of blues. Spring Dipper is a gentle blue with one slightly steep part, same goes for Flying Dutchman and Wild Irishman. Paymaster is more gentle overall. Santa Fe, which starts halfway down Spring Dipper is always pretty empty--but it also has a neat "mining tunnels" for the kids. Bachelor is rated a blue, but it's pretty much 100% moguls. It is my favorite mogul run on the mountain. Mozart is a blue, but it's so crowded in some places due to its steepness that I avoid it at all costs. Instead we take Diamondback--one of two groomed black runs on the mountain--right next to it. There is a pretty long steep stretch, but it should be doable for anyone comfortable on blue slopes (just take lots of breaks). Both slopes are south-facing, so it gets really slushy after lunch. If anything, just take the gondola to North Peak. I also avoid River Run at all costs, too--if you need to get to that base, just take Schoolmarm to Ina's Way.

On North Peak, Prospector is a gentle blue run; however, Last Alamo is a pretty steep blue run. On Outback, Elk Run is a long medium blue run which typically has moguls on the right edge (the rest is groomed).

(I've been skiing for 39 years. I taught my kids to ski at 2 1/2. They are now 11 and 14 and can follow me on anything I do (including double blacks).)
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Old Mar 25, 19, 11:34 pm
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Originally Posted by pseudoswede View Post
Keystone has a wide variety of blues. Spring Dipper is a gentle blue with one slightly steep part, same goes for Flying Dutchman and Wild Irishman. Paymaster is more gentle overall. Santa Fe, which starts halfway down Spring Dipper is always pretty empty--but it also has a neat "mining tunnels" for the kids. Bachelor is rated a blue, but it's pretty much 100% moguls. It is my favorite mogul run on the mountain. Mozart is a blue, but it's so crowded in some places due to its steepness that I avoid it at all costs. Instead we take Diamondback--one of two groomed black runs on the mountain--right next to it. There is a pretty long steep stretch, but it should be doable for anyone comfortable on blue slopes (just take lots of breaks). Both slopes are south-facing, so it gets really slushy after lunch. If anything, just take the gondola to North Peak. I also avoid River Run at all costs, too--if you need to get to that base, just take Schoolmarm to Ina's Way.

On North Peak, Prospector is a gentle blue run; however, Last Alamo is a pretty steep blue run. On Outback, Elk Run is a long medium blue run which typically has moguls on the right edge (the rest is groomed).

(I've been skiing for 39 years. I taught my kids to ski at 2 1/2. They are now 11 and 14 and can follow me on anything I do (including double blacks).)
wow thanks for the detailed info on Keystone!
I followed everything you said with the trail map on the side. The area around Summit Express and Montezuma Express sure seems like intermediate heaven.
Outback has several blues... everything besides Elk Run is groomed and average blue runs?
I also realized that the elevation is almost 12,000 ft at the summit! Don't some people get sick up there? I haven't been higher than 10,000 ft in over 10years.

What are the pros and cons of Keystone vs Breckenridge for us?
It's a 3-day ski trip during peak season (Feb mid-winter break week) for shaky intermediate ski family seeking 1).short lift lines; 2).family friendly; 3).conservative ski run grading.

All things being equal, I'd choose Breckenridge. I'm looking at either Doubletree Breckenridge or Hyatt Place Keystone. I'm Hilton Diamond, but lowly status with Hyatt (but do have some Hyatt points). DT is walking distance to lifts, Hyatt Place isn't (I think 1/3 mile is too far).
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Old Apr 1, 19, 11:15 am
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Originally Posted by evergrn View Post
Outback has several blues... everything besides Elk Run is groomed and average blue runs?
The blues on Outback are doable for any intermediate.

I also realized that the elevation is almost 12,000 ft at the summit! Don't some people get sick up there? I haven't been higher than 10,000 ft in over 10years.
I have known many people from sea-level who have gotten altitude sickness. Tylenol, lots of water & Gatorade, and just taking it easy is the best remedy. Adults should severely cut back or eliminate alcohol consumption.

What are the pros and cons of Keystone vs Breckenridge for us?
We ski mainly at Keystone. We feel it is a much more family-friendly resort compared to Breckenridge. If you're going to have a rental car, Keystone offers free up-front parking for families.

There is also a reason why the locals call it BreckenWIND. You can never predict the weather, but Breckenridge can get pretty miserable if it is windy.

With all that said, Keystone is an incredibly boring village with lackluster restaurants. They do have two outdoor ice skating rings and some family-friendly activities (including fireworks on Saturday nights); River Run has a very large pedestrian courtyard with large firepits and a place for the kids to run around. Breckenridge has done a much better job incorporating their lodging options with ski-in/ski-out abilities, and linking their vibrant (though very touristy) main street with easy access from the ski slopes. As a family, we don't typically go out to eat in the evenings (since we have a child with food allergies). We typically bring up one frozen Costco lasagna, a bag of salad, and a few loaves of ready-to-bake baguettes, and we have dinner for the whole weekend--but I understand that's easier said than done for non-Colorado residents who wouldn't want to bother with cooking on vacation.

It's a 3-day ski trip during peak season (Feb mid-winter break week) for shaky intermediate ski family seeking 1).short lift lines; 2).family friendly; 3).conservative ski run grading.
February isn't very busy at Colorado ski resorts (compared to March when most schools in the US have their spring break), so I think lift lines won't be an issue at any resort. I consider Keystone to be much more family-friendly compared to Breckenridge (but that is also just my opinion--I know many families who dislike Keystone). And ski grading is going to be very hit-or-miss no matter what the resort. Many Colorado ski resorts have volunteer guides standing near almost any large ski map billboard on the mountain. They should be able to answer any question you have about what are the best runs based on your abilities.

All things being equal, I'd choose Breckenridge. I'm looking at either Doubletree Breckenridge or Hyatt Place Keystone. I'm Hilton Diamond, but lowly status with Hyatt (but do have some Hyatt points). DT is walking distance to lifts, Hyatt Place isn't (I think 1/3 mile is too far).
Hyatt Place in Keystone is about a 15-minute walk to the Peru lift. Yes, probably not ideal depending on the ages of your kids, and the lack of exposure to high altitude. The wetlands and Snake River between the hotel and ski resort are very nice for a family walk--you will occasionally see moose, so just be aware.

If you aren't averse to driving, consider staying and skiing in Breckenridge, but ski one day at Keystone to see how you like it. I would recommend parking over at River Run and walking through the village to get the full experience. You should be able to find free wagons to carry all of your ski gear to the gondola.
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Old Apr 1, 19, 4:35 pm
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Disclaimer: I pretty much only get the Keystone/A-Basin season pass. Breckenridge is simply further away, more crowded, and pretty much no free parking unless booking a condo.

I'm at a cross-roads with my season pass. This is the last year of the Keystone/A-Basin pass. We love Keystone. We also love A-Basin. Decisions, decisions.
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Old Apr 3, 19, 7:18 pm
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@pseudoswede: Thank you very much for the very detailed info!
I don't think I'll want to drive. I'd be nervous to drive on snow.
Keystone's terrain looks awesome, and I like the fact that you say it's family-friendly. The wind thing at Breckenridge is a concern. I do wish there was a Hilton at Keystone that's <5min walk to the lift, though.
Lots to think about.
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Old Apr 7, 19, 4:54 pm
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OP, while I haven't skied Whistler myself, the fact that you zeroed in on those resorts specifically as an intermediate skier shows that you're already on the right track. Vail, Keystone,Breck, Beaver Creek, and Snowmass are all in the top 10 ski resorts in North America for skier visits along with Whistler because they offer a ton of terrain at intermediate family-friendly levels.

I like to think that western North America ski destinations basically fall into one of two categories. 1. Large intermediate-friendly family destinations with lots of grooming, or 2. Large expert-oriented 'skiers' mountains with less grooming that may also have large resort amenities(villages) like the others. Examples of the first category would be all the resorts you listed, plus places like Steamboat, Winter Park, Deer Valley, and Northstar. Examples of the second category would be Jackson Hole, Alta/Snowbird, Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows, and Telluride. Myself, I'm mostly interested in the second category, but for a family like yours, they may be something to aspire to as you all get better. In the meantime, you really couldn't go wrong with any of the resorts you listed. And in one trip its pretty easy to ski multiple resorts on one pass for many of these destinations.

One other suggestion I would highly recommend is trying a private lesson for the whole family. I know, they've become outrageously expensive in recent years, but most ski schools let you book 4-5 people together in their private lessons, which lowers to cost/person quite a bit. Not only will your group get expert instruction to help build their confidence on blues/blacks, the instructor will also be a guide showing your family around unfamiliar terrain.

Last thing... Banff. If you have the chance, DO IT! I've only been there in the summer so I can't say much about the skiing other than that there are several resorts there and they have terrain for all abilities. The scenery, however, is absolutely mind-blowing. The Canadian Rockies truly are an amazing place.
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Old Apr 10, 19, 7:20 pm
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Thanks @TuxTom !

Its interesting how you categorize the resorts. Makes sense, though.

Weve been doing family/private lessons off and on. The tough thing is that the instructors are such hit and miss! Yes Banff is beautiful indeed. Ive been there a few times in summer, but have not skiied yet.

Whistler has amazing terrain for intermediates. And so it can be amazing when the snow is good. But unfortunately the snow is more often bad than good. Hence Im considering other places.
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Old Apr 11, 19, 3:46 am
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Originally Posted by evergrn View Post
Thanks @TuxTom !

Its interesting how you categorize the resorts. Makes sense, though.

Weve been doing family/private lessons off and on. The tough thing is that the instructors are such hit and miss! Yes Banff is beautiful indeed. Ive been there a few times in summer, but have not skiied yet.

Whistler has amazing terrain for intermediates. And so it can be amazing when the snow is good. But unfortunately the snow is more often bad than good. Hence Im considering other places.
I worked as a ski instructor for a number of years, mostly on the east coast, but agree that the ski schools at these resorts can be very hit or miss, especially with the kids programs. At times, they're just a glorified baby sitters. However, that really shouldn't happen in a private lesson. The guys (and gals) taking the private lessons should be the top instructors from that schools staff. While I'm not a fan of Vail corp as a whole, the ski schools at Vail and Beaver Creek are very well regarded for the depth and experience of their staff.
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Old Apr 30, 19, 1:13 am
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Probably might be a bit late to reply since the ski season is almost over or already over for some ski areas. Anyway I have skied at Beaver Creek and Snowbird amongst the resorts listed and I consider Whistler as my 'home' mountain since I spent countless weekends there when I studied and worked in Vancouver for a time. Personally I found Hugh's Heaven and Cloud Nine about the same, and while Hugh's Heaven is slightly steeper, it is more consistent on the way down, while Cloud Nine can get bumpy at times and it does have some steep sections and if not careful could lead to a moguls section. In general, the blue runs at Whistler side is milder than the ones in Blackcomb side.

Amongst the resorts you listed, Beaver Creek is generally easier for the equivalent blue runs and generally better groomed. Also the ski resort is more suitable for families. Snowbird is more of a local mountain with most skiers coming up for the day, and I found its terrain to be a bit more narrow and steep even compared to Whistler. I did, however, enjoy Mineral Basin in Snowbird but it is more like an open bowl which is my preferred terrain in skiing.

Speaking from experience, I would not suggest relying solely on a piste map colours to gauge difficulty as under some conditions, a Black run can be easier than a Blue run. I was at Snowmass and upon a recommendation was told to check out 'Campground' which is a Black run but I enjoyed that run the most during my visit since it was empty and the piste was not as steep as I thought it would be. So checking out the terrain with a guide or just asking for recommendations from the guest services would be a great idea at the start of your ski trip.
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Old Apr 30, 19, 10:52 am
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Originally Posted by quirrow View Post
Probably might be a bit late to reply since the ski season is almost over or already over for some ski areas. Anyway I have skied at Beaver Creek and Snowbird amongst the resorts listed and I consider Whistler as my 'home' mountain since I spent countless weekends there when I studied and worked in Vancouver for a time. Personally I found Hugh's Heaven and Cloud Nine about the same, and while Hugh's Heaven is slightly steeper, it is more consistent on the way down, while Cloud Nine can get bumpy at times and it does have some steep sections and if not careful could lead to a moguls section. In general, the blue runs at Whistler side is milder than the ones in Blackcomb side.

Amongst the resorts you listed, Beaver Creek is generally easier for the equivalent blue runs and generally better groomed. Also the ski resort is more suitable for families. Snowbird is more of a local mountain with most skiers coming up for the day, and I found its terrain to be a bit more narrow and steep even compared to Whistler. I did, however, enjoy Mineral Basin in Snowbird but it is more like an open bowl which is my preferred terrain in skiing.

Speaking from experience, I would not suggest relying solely on a piste map colours to gauge difficulty as under some conditions, a Black run can be easier than a Blue run. I was at Snowmass and upon a recommendation was told to check out 'Campground' which is a Black run but I enjoyed that run the most during my visit since it was empty and the piste was not as steep as I thought it would be. So checking out the terrain with a guide or just asking for recommendations from the guest services would be a great idea at the start of your ski trip.
the other problem is there isnt a set standard for classification

You go to a place that is generally more advanced like Jackson hole there are blues that would be blacks elsewhere.
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