4 weeks in USA - Feb 2013
Replies: 24 - Last Post: Dec 21, 2012 12:10 PM Last Post By: smartcookiee
Dec 20, 2012 2:27 AM
4 weeks in USA - Feb 2013Hi all,
I'm a 28yo male living in Darwin, Australia. I have a month off work coming up (effectively the entire month of Feb 2013) and am going to head to the USA. I've been to the US a couple of times before, and have been to LA, San Francisco, Vegas (but not the Grand Canyon), New Orleans, New York, DC and Orlando. I'll be travelling solo; my buddy and I found getting time off work at the same time impossible in the end. My general plan is to spend a week to 10 days or so skiing and the rest (2-3 weeks) road tripping around by hire car.
My in-country budget will be around $5000. I'll be staying in hostels where possible, both to save money and meet some new people. I'm interested in trying out the local food/beer, seeing some great scenery, and generally just exploring.
My questions are:
1: Any recommendations for where to go skiing? I have done a couple of day trips to the snow in Australia when I was younger, but never bothered getting lessons. This time, I would like to do it properly. I'm looking for somewhere beginner friendly with some cheap accommodation (hostel) available. Based on the research I have done so far, I'm leaning towards Breckenridge, CO. A budget of $1500 (accommodation, lift pass, gear hire, a few lessons) seems reasonable for 8 days.
2: Is it a good idea to stay away from the north of the country that time of year if I'm driving? The cold doesn't bother me (it will be a nice change after living in Darwin) but I have never driven through that sort of weather and the thought of learning all about snow chains and driving on ice by myself in a foreign country does worry me.
3: Assuming the worst on point 2 above, the route I'm leaning towards is heading from Arizona or New Mexico west to San Diego, then up the coast to San Francisco. I'm interesting in stopping at Tuscon ( I have read it's a nice town and I'm interested in seeing the plane graveyard there and doing some hiking), San Diego, Joshua Tree, LA (briefly), and the coast road up to San Francisco, where I'll spend a few days. I'm also considering starting in Las Vegas and going via the Grand Canyon before heading south to pick up that same route. Does that route sound reasonable? Is there anything else that anyone would recommend in that area?
Thanks in advance for the replies,
Dec 20, 2012 4:41 AM
In fact, if you start in CO, you could drive the whole thing in something like this rough route.
Expect winter along the route.
Dec 20, 2012 5:02 AM
2yeah. "Cheap skiing" sounds like an oxymoron.
My ski friends tell me that skiing in the NE (VT, NH, NY) costs less than skiing in the rockies, but I don't know personally.
I believe (mid?) California and Massanutten VA are the warmest places you can ski, or rather, the ski places with easiest proximity to fair-weather locations
Edited by: LongIslandBob
Dec 20, 2012 5:33 AM
Dec 20, 2012 6:40 AM
4Your plan sounds reasonable.
As a novice adult skier you will probably find that 3 - 4 days are plenty. You'll be using lots of muscles in new directions, so take advantage of those hot tubs. If you search on novice adult ski instruction you'll find a Frommers site discussion with several specific recommendations. What you want ideally is a place that has separate areas and lifts for beginners.
You don't mention having seen Yosemite National Park. You could arrive San Francisco and either drive or take public transport to Yosemite and use their Badger Pass shuttle to/from slopes daily. It looks like as an adult if you want to learn to ski at Yosemite, you'd arranging private lessons. http://www.yosemitepark.com/badgerpass_skischool.aspx
Then drive your planned route in reverse - San Francisco, coast, LA, Tucson, ending with Grand Canyon / Las Vegas.
Dec 20, 2012 7:47 AM
5If your going to be in Southern California in February, I would definitely take in Death Valley. Its great at that time of year, and you have a good chance at seeing the wildflowers.
I cant comment on how beginner friendly the skiing is , but there is one or more hostels in the Lake Tahoe area (as well as very cheap weekday hotels in nearby Reno). Plus you will be closer to your intended road trip destinations.
I believe there are also some hostels convenient to the skiing in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, though this is further north so you end up driving longer in potential bad weather
If you do get to the Tuscon area, checkout San Xavier del Bac, The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, the plane graveyard, and the Titan missle museum
Dec 20, 2012 8:07 AM
6Skiing is not cheap in most places, especially solo, but I would suggest this. Go skiing in Taos New Mexico, north of Santa Fe, this is cheaper, the skiing is great snow in Feb in this area, more powder, and the area is also less aggressive overall, for a novice, not that you cant get Double Black Diamond runs. There are also more typical hotels, Bed Breakfast and even chain hotels nearby. The other option, is Heavenly Valley or Lake Tahoe.
As for the rest of the trip, the drive from San Diego to LA areas is congested, but once north of LA, its beautiful, go up the coast taking your time to SF, also, besides Yosemite, keep going north to Napa/Humboldt areas too.
But if I were you, since it is Feb, unless skiing is a priority, why not go to Costa Rica or Guatemala? Its 50% less than the US, nice and warm, great surfing in CR if thats your thing, and nice culture, in Guatemala, Mayan Ruins, ethnic villages and a great backpacker scene of like minded travelers, as US and these places above, going solo will be a tad lonesome IMO.
Dec 20, 2012 8:20 AM
- Yes, skiing cheaply is not really possible given lift ticket prices, but you can try to find deals. If I were you, I would find an area with a hostel. Tahoe has one for example: http://www.hosteltahoe.com. And there are many ski resorts in Tahoe. You can also find discounted lift tickets at http://www.liftopia.com if you buy a few days in advance. Tahoe is about 4 hours from SF, so you'll be closer to everything else you want to do.
- Another option is Big Bear about 2 hours from Los Angeles. There is a hostel there. http://www.bigbearhostel.com/pictures.html
- If you're interested in being on the east coast, there is a hostel in Burlington, VT which is also close to the slopes (45 mins from Stowe, VT for example). http://www.theburlingtonhostel.com/ Lift tickets tend to be slightly cheaper than west coast resorts, but skiing is generally not as good (lower mountains and icier).
- Another option is to stay at a hostel Salt Lake City and ski at Park City and nearby resorts about 35 mins away. Lots of hostels in SLC. http://www.hostelworld.com/findabed.php/ChosenCity.Salt-Lake-City/ChosenCountry.USA
- I really think you should pick a hostel for this because $1500 is pushing it for 8 days of skiing if you want lessons and to rent gear and includes accommodations etc. Lift tickets at most resorts are pushing $90 per day nowdays and if you don't stay at a hostel, you'll be paying at least $100 per night for accommodations. And hostels near the slopes tend to offer skiing deals. Another option is to try to find a room in someone else's place via Airbnb.com, but that's difficult if you want to be close to the mountain. Also, the cheapest way to do this is to go Sun-Thurs. Weekends are more expensive for everything because that's when locals tend to go in the winter.
Hope this helps.
Dec 20, 2012 8:24 AM
8If skiing includes cross-country skiing, then costs are considerably less (most cross country ski areas with groomed trails cost around $15 - $20/day to use). If you are set on alpine skiing (lift-assisted, down-hill skiing) you going to pay an average of $50/day lift ticket cost (and more in the upper end ski areas - add about $35/hour for lessons).
Dec 20, 2012 8:32 AM
9Park City is actually a good recommendation. I recently priced lift tickets at various ski resorts across the country (personal research) and Stowe was not cheaper than west coast resorts. In fact, it was one of the more expensive places. Park City, Taos, a couple places in Montana and even Mt. Bachelor (where I ski) were more reasonable. February is a slower part of the year, so if deals are to be found, that is a good time to look for them.
Eight days is a bit excessive for skiing. I'd look for a pass that gives you lift access 3 out of 4 consecutive days, preferably mid-week. You'll find that to be sufficient. Most people find it difficult to ski every single day of a ski vacation. Also, lots of resorts have learning programs that include rentals and/or lift tickets. Bachelor does "Ski or Ride in Five" which gives you five lessons plus rentals and lift tickets for $200. Maybe look for something like that. On that, Mt. Bachelor in Bend is a good place to learn to ski, but there is no hostel, the town in 20 miles from the mountains and there is no lodging on the mountain at all. Bear that in mind. Plus Bend is difficult to get to.
Dec 20, 2012 8:32 AM
10The Tucson Gem Show runs for two weeks in February. Well worth a visit!
Plenty of regional hiking. Pick one or two of the following: Catalina State Park, Sabino Canyon, either section of Saguaro NP.
Also consider a short day trip to hike Madera Canyon (trees and steep trails!) and (my favorite winter hiking) and/or the Cochise Stronghold area in the pretty Dragoon Mountains an hour east of town.
There should be plenty of Skiing around Flagstaff. That would save you quite a bit of time. Look into it.
Check flight and car rental prices and see if it makes sense to fly into Phoenix, or maybe even Tucson. No point in wasting an extra day driving south from Vegas, then north again.
When renting a car, make sure they are telling you ALL of the fees and BS charges they like to attach at the last minute.
Dec 20, 2012 8:49 AM
11Hey col656, how the hell Darwin these days? One of my favorite towns. The least expensive skiing in the West will be Tahoe or Salt Lake city area. Both offer several ski areas with reasonable lodging. You can find discounts for lift tickets and ski rentals. Plenty of shuttles to the ski areas so you don't need a car. SLC is the best with incredible powder, but the night life sucks. Tahoe is good though the snow gets a bit thick but much better night life. Don't bother with Big Bear in LA, might as well ski Australia.
Dec 20, 2012 9:26 AM
12There is good nightlife in Park City. In Tahoe, nightlife is only in certain areas and you need a car to get to them if you're not staying nearby. Tahoe is huge.
What's wrong with Big Bear exactly? It's a decent mountain.
Dec 20, 2012 10:28 AM
13Hey Cookie, yeah it's decent nightlife in PC but it's an expensive area and the skiing is soooo much better on the East side, Alta, Snowbird, Solitude, Brighton. Better/cheaper lodging options as well .
For Big Bear I just never cared for it. Small mountain, very icy and a pain to get to IMO. I would rather spend a couple more hours and go to Mammoth.
I agree Tahoe is nothing great for nightlife but it does have some versus SLC.
Dec 20, 2012 10:50 AM
14Big Bear is not typically icy. Maybe you were there at a bad time. Either way, I think the important part here to consider is availability of hostels since they cost around $30/night. And this mountain happens to have one. Mammoth is very expensive to stay even though it's a great mountain. There are lots of great mountains I did not list because it wouldn't work with the OP's budget. I tried to keep that mind.
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