Thursday, January 28, 2010

Steamboat vs Park City skiing

This is a comparison between skiing in Steamboat Springs, CO and Park City, UT. Keep in mind we are destination skiers from the east coast, so my impressions will not necessarily be the same as that of a local skier.

Most important of all the snow conditions. We have been to Steamboat twice, both times during the peak holiday season and both times we got plenty of good snow, plenty of crowds and plenty of really cold weather. We have been to Park City only once, during the peak holiday season in 2009. We were a bit disappointed by the lack of natural powdery snow and the really cold weather, which residents said was unusual for that area. We saw a few bare patches and got a few deep scratches on our skiis but for the most part the resort had snow machines working full time. Surprisingly, over Christmas, Park City did not have the big crowds we saw at Steamboat (not complaining) but people did show up after the Christmas day. Both resorts allow skiers and snowboarders.

Since we have young kids, we generally enroll the kids into a 5 day ski program. This way they ski with an instructor who knows the mountains much better than we do and learn new skills that allows them to explore the mountains much better.

Both Steamboat and Park City offer different ski school options. At Steamboat we have now tried the 5 day Desperado ski program as well as the private instructor. The 5 day (Desperado) ski school was fun. The best thing was the NASTAR race. There were approx 6-8 kids in each group, a bit too many in my opinion. The instructors would stop for hot chocolate and snack in the mid morning and then again for lunch. Since the same instructor stayed with the same group for all the five days, towards the end they would know each child’s strength and weakness and what they needed to work on. This program was much more affordable; it included lift tickets as well as lunch (so we did not have to worry about meeting up with kids just to feed them). During the morning drop off, we would find out which area/trails the instructors were going to ski that day and made it a point to ski in the same area so we saw the kids periodically during the day showing off their new skills.

The private instructor route was really nice too. The best thing was that the kids got to go on trails that the ski school would not take them on. Also, the instructor worked with each kid on their specific strengths and weaknesses. As expected, the biggest issue is the cost. Unlike ski school, private instructor program does not include lunch so you have to meet up with the kids a couple of times to feed them snack and lunch. Since Steamboat has kids ski free program with a paying adult, lift tickets was not an issue for either program. Given a choice, I think our kids will pick the private instructor over the ski school.

At Park City, we have only tried the ski school. There were a max of 5 kids per group based on sex, age and the skill level. The kids were assigned to a group every morning based on first come first basis. Sometimes they got the same instructor while other days they got a different one. Initially we were disappointed by the change in instructors. But on day 3 our son mentioned that he did not like his instructor as they were going on the same trails again and again and the trails were not challenging enough for him. So on day 4 we switched instructors and our son loved his new instructor (who took the group on trails and bowls we could not have taken our kids and taught the kids new tricks). Our kids did not mind new faces in the group either, after a while they noticed that there were only 2 or 3 instructors dealing with that age/sex/skill combination. So the kids basically rotated within those 2- 3 groups. Similar to Steamboat, the kids stopped for mid morning hot chocolate and snack and then again for lunch. Unlike Steamboat, the lift tickets at park City were not included in the ski school price. Therefore, the cost of ski school at Park City was significantly higher than at Steamboat. In both places, the instructors would meet with parents at the end of the day and give a detailed report of which trails they skiied, how each kid did and what each kid needs to focus on.

Bottom line, from a cost perspective, Park City Ski school was the most expensive followed by Steamboat private instructor and then Steamboat ski school. In terms of fun, our kids say they prefer going with the private instructor.

As far as the overall resorts go, both Steamboat Springs and Park city are awesome and huge resorts. Both are well suited for families with young kids and adults alike. They both have tons to offer in terms of variety of slopes, the terrain, the clubs and ski schools. We have been to Steamboat Springs a couple of times each for a weeklong trip and even then feel that we barely scratched its surface. The mountains are massive, and there was not enough time nor skills to really see it all. We found ourselves getting comfortable with a few trails in each section and did those trails multiple times a day. Steamboat seems to have more options for Green and blue-green trails. Park City has more options for blue-greens and blues. Park City is organized in sections and there was enough in each section to spend one full day.

The base area at Park City is really well developed probably because Deer Valley and Canyons are very close by. The restaurants, bars, lots of high end shops, were all approx a mile away from the ski base. There were free city buses running between the base and the town. Despite a weeklong stay, we never got a chance to visit Deer Valley or Canyons. The Park City Mountain is big enough to spend full 5 days of solid skiing without feeling that we have seen it all. The town area in Steamboat was further away. The Steamboat mountain itself had more restaurants to enjoy than the Park City mountain.

In Park City, we stayed at the Silver Star ( area. Really nice and upscale condos. The customer service was great. In the morning we would take the free shuttle from the condo unit to the base (a 3 min ride) in time for ski school and in the evenings we would ski down to the condo directly. Since we do not like to eat out everyday, the nightlife was not an important consideration for us. We reserve condos with full kitchens so we cook hearty breakfasts before heading out in the mornings and dinners several nights a week. Taking the shuttle to town to enjoy the occasional dine out, and shopping for souvenir was good enough for us.

For a destination skiier, the next category is things to do other than skiing. Park City has a mining history. The town has a museum to commemorate its history but other than that it is just like any other ski town. Salt Lake City and Utah itself have some great National Parks, abundant fossil sites and other fantastic site seeing places to make a great destination. Steamboat Springs has a small western town feel to it. It has several natural hot water springs nearby, which were loads of fun to visit on the day we did not ski. Both resorts have tubing nearby.

An important Park City tip we got from a local skier the day we were returning: You can buy lift tickets for Park City for less at the Costco in Salt Lake City than buying it from the resort itself. The costco is near the Salt Lake City airport and a short cab ride away.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

hi! I've been looking for interesting posts about trips to Steamboat to feature on our site. If you're interested, you can drop me a line at Brenda (at) Dwellable (.com).


SOTR said...

One of my most favorite places to ski is Park City, it's just perfect.

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