Started by Scsc19 in USA 17-Feb-2015 - 6 Replies
We are a family of 5 in the UK (2A, 3 Chn aged 5,7,9) and have just returned from a weeks skiing in France. (Feb 2015). We are considering going to the US/Canada next year and would be looking at 7/10/14 day holiday, flying from the UK (flexible on airports).
We haven't done any research so far and tbh, don't know where to start. Any advice would be appreciated in the following areas:
* What are the choices of direct flights to the slopes with short transfer times(3 hours or less)?
* Looking at going last week of March/beginning of April 2016 (just after easter)
* Is this time a fairly 'snow sure' time of the year?
* I (mum) will be a non skier, so would like to have some activities/choices of things to do during the day?
* How does French ski week compare to US ski week cost wise? (total spends this year (inc spending money) for a week for a family of 5 was approx £7000 gbp)
* At the moment, we're undecided between chalets/hotel....what do you think? We've done catered chalets up to now, with 4 other families (friends). Next time, we'd most likely be on our own.
* Do ski schools/private instructors operate much the same as in France?
* Is it normal to have access to nannies/chidcare in the afternoons.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. Any advice or suggestions on websites to visit would be much appreciated.
- at that time, some of the best resorts may be sketchy for snow
- Banff/Lake Louise is a safe bet (Sunshine Village is high enough - skiing till May, Lake Louise - similar; Banff offers some activities for non-skiers)
- if you can come earlier, look at Panorama, or any of the resorts around Kelowna (Silver Star, Sun Peaks, Red Mountain, Big White).
- direct flights from LHR to Calgary and Vancouver, with potential to link to a flight to Kelowna (which opens most of the interior of British Columbia)
- catered chalets are not a norm in Canada or US. Much more popular (for your situation) would be a condo/chalet. They usually come with a full kitchen, but you would have to cook yourself.
- the cost would vary significantly depending on the destination. You can count that US would be more than Canada, but it depends on where.
- I would not assume that the ski school operates the same way as in France (never used a ski school outside of Canada). The norm is that you sign for a set of lessons, but don't assume that this is kind of a babysitting arrangement.
- Don't count on babysitting/childcare. It might be available, but this is not a norm.
If you're trying to avoid the crowds at half-term, then you might find that renting an Alpine apartment for 2 weeks but only going across the middle Weekend was an option, provided (a) your children's school dates allowed it and (b) you could reconcile yourself to hiring somewhere that was empty for half of the elapsed time. The extra week's hire should be offset at least in part by cheaper flights, and the reduced stress of a Weekday transit through GVA or wherever.
Regulars here know that as the owner of a Swiss apartment in a 'Satellite' resort, I'm going to suggest you consider this as an alternative to dragging the family over to North America. A 3-Bed apartment near to the gondola in our village would hire out at about £2,500-£3,000 for 2 weeks. Switzerland is much less crowded than France at half-term (cue plenty of people disagreeing, but you decide ...). The £ is now back at 2013 levels against the CHF - ignore press scaremongering about the CHF. But the ski pass will be more expensive than in France, undoubtedly.
Here's the website for the Agency who we use for our apartment rentals. Perhps it'd be worth taking a look and pricing it out (bear in mind the number of rooms includes the living room, so 3 beds is a 4 room place).
And for an idea of what an Alpine 'satellite' village like ours is like, here's an article from The Guardian. It also mentions one of the more up-market chalets if you're still thinking that a catered chalet would suit you better. I can recommend the Chalet Cathay as another good example, but this is probably much bigger than you need and is around £3,000/week for the main school holiday periods.
When you've got a young family, you're probably not after a stupendous night-life, so why pay Verbier prices for a club scene that's no use to you? The attraction of Satellite resorts (some others are discussed in the article) is that you pay a lot less to use the same lifts and pistes that the residents of the Big Name location are paying through the nose for.
1. What Jet Lag, come on, it's far worse the other way ,going West to East across the Atlantic !
2. You are a family of 5 with 3 kids 10 and under next year. And you want to travel around Easter.
3. Snow sure places - changes with the years sometimes but this year the BEST snow was Colorado, then Utah, Wyoming. Terrible Snow was California (Mammoth, Tahoe), British Columbia (Whistler-Blackcomb), Alberta (Sunshine or Lake Louise).
4. You can fly direct from LHR to Denver (a very common transit), that I know for sure, not sure if you can to Salt Lake City or Vancouver or Calgary, you can find out easily from Expedia or something like that.
5. This period is generally seriously snow sure in Colorado, Utah, British Columbia and Alberta. The question is knowing what is open and so on?
6. Given your requirements, family mix and experience with a French resort but you did not say where and that matters in comparing quite a lot, but will give it a shot: The best place would be Aspen-Snowmass and let me tell you why.
7. You should stay either in Aspen or in Snowmass slope side at some of the nicest places you can stay like Little Nell's in Aspen or the Viceroy in Snowmass as they have great deals and apartments at that time will be dirt cheap too - British operators are all over Aspen-Snowmass
8. Aspen - the town is quaint, real, rich and has the right Western mountain feel and non-skier will find much to do, shop, art galleries, museums, trails, bike-road or mountain , pools , golf etc.
9. Kids will be able to ski free and rent all their gear free - you need to check with Aspen-Snowmass but this is customary at end of season around Easter.
10. Aspen-Snowmass is 4 mountains: Aspen or Ajax, Snowmass (the biggest), Aspen-Highland(home of the legendary off-piste but navy controlled and patrolled Highland Bowl), Buttermilk. All connected by a FREE shuttle bus. Each a 5 to 20 min (Snowmass to Aspen) bus ride away. Note if you combine Aspen, Highland and Snowmass, think Lech-Zurs and a good chunk of St. Anton by themselves. Lots of steeps, deeps, powder, groomers (piste) and trees, glade haven which is pretty much non existent in the Alps, fantastic tree skiing and kids go nuts! Or think 40% of Zermatt and all of Cervinia. Combined, this is bigger than Whistler-Blackcomb but note connection is by ski-bus , they are distinct areas ringing the same valley - huge valley really
11. Mountain ski schools are legendary (All controlled by same entity so same company), and for kids they are simply the best - forget Europe, these folks have this down to a science in execution, and an art in their fitnesse with children.
12. Ski School and instruction is FAR more expensive than ESF Europe but a bit more perhaps than Evolution2 or New Generation, the ones Brits favor. But you can get package deals for a 7 night stay.
13. Flight to Denver from LHR is direct, then you take a 30-40 minute flight to Aspen (do not Drive, not worth the hassle). Note there are many big mountains on the way like Breckenridge, others close enough a few hours drive like Vail, and Steamboat etc but seriously, these 4 are huge.
14.Here is a quick guided tour on film of Aspen-Highland, Snowmass, Aspen in multitude of conditions - your tour guide is an 11 year old[/u]:
But for all of these I was already in either New York or California. London Heathrow to Denver direct is about 12½ hour flight and on an initial search BA would be about £3,000 for return flights in Economy. For an international flight you'll need to plan to be at the airport at least 2½ hours ahead of departure, more if you're distant. And you then have to get through US Customs & Immigration. Then get to your car hire and pick up the car, and then actually drive up a mountain after what, 17-18 hours of travelling and a major time differential? My kids travelled to San Francisco at the same age and were fine, if exhausted. But that was summer and I was already there in my own apartment with a pool etc.
All I was saying is that I'd recommend at least ten days there to make it worth the effort and cost.
ESF just doesn't bear comparison with American levels of teaching - Not only is US instruction in fluent English but much more sympathetic than from the ESF. The whole experience is also much more positive, with polite and generally short lift queues and in many resorts, free on-piste Guides who will happily stop and help with recommendations and directions.
I also found that on-piste catering was great for families: the Americans are good at providing solid value-for-money food and in being able to do mass catering. On-piste prices were very reasonable.
The counter was that the skipass was generally more expensive than the French Alps (more in line with Swiss prices); and equipment hire was also comparatively more (again, on a par with CH). But the level of customer service and attention was higher than in France.
Bear in mind this comparison is based on self-organised apartment holidays. I haven't looked at what sort of prices are offered by the big Tour Operators for the USA. Just beware with the TOs that they sometimes imply the airport-to-resort drives are trivial (usually by using a large-scale map): For example, I've talked to people who've flown to San Francisco then driven to Lake Tahoe: it looks OK on a little brochure map, but it's comparable to driving from London to Manchester or Calais to Paris.
I am a Londoner who skis regularly in both Europe and the U.S., they offer different things, Europe is great for dramatic scenery and big resorts, whilst the U.S. Is far better for a holiday as against a sport; the ski instruction, snow maintenance, quality of accommodation, service culture (they make it a positive experience) and the breadth of non ski activities / acceptance that it's not all about skiing. If it's a family holiday the quality of ski instruction in English makes it a no brainer! Flights to Denver are 9 hours direct or 11-12 hours with 1 change at a significant saving (Consider the latter as in the 2 hour difference you do immigration so the delay is a lot less than that).
I would recommend Winter Park as the perfect family destination with lots for all your party: it's a big resort with stunning skiing only I.5 hours from Denver (closest big resort); great nature, aside from skiing all the normal activities plus snowshoeing, cross country, dog sledding, snowmobiles on the Continental divide, cowboy cookouts, snowcat tours etc etc etc. I like it so much I keep a home that sleeps 6 there 100m from the lifts and slopes.
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Topic last updated on 23-May-2015 at 09:13