One of my favorite parts of winter is our annual family ski trip.
While we ski most winter weekends (a definite perk of living in Colorado), spring break is when we venture further afield, if not afar, to sample new mountains and new resorts.
While planning a ski vacation should be fun, it also requires some work and attention to detail.
Today, we share some tips for planning your best winter getaway.
We all have lists of ski resorts we’d love to visit. We also have lists of favorite resorts we return to again and again.
When planning a ski vacation, you have to choose between the familiar and beloved and adventuring to a new destination.
Start with who will be going on the trip.
If children are coming, how old are they? Do you need services like childcare or ski school? While almost all resorts have dedicated programs for children, some, like Snowmass and Keystone, specialize in families.
If this is a girls’ trip, is it all about skiing or do you want shopping and spa, too? If skiing will be front and center, you might look into a women’s ski week or camp at somewhere like Alta.
While I’ve obviously never been on a guys’ ski trip, I hear it’s all about skiing, drinking and eating.
So here’s a question for the men: Do you want to be in the middle of the après action? Or, would you be okay with a more remote resort like Snowbasin, Utah that has great skiing, but no lodging base or nightlife?
Next, ask yourself how many mountains you want to visit. Do you want to stay at one resort and really get to know it or hop between several resorts and sample them all?
In Colorado, this could mean choosing between a multi-mountain destinations like Summit County or picking a more isolated ski town like Telluride.
Make a list of what you want and use it to narrow down your options. Ask your friends for their suggestions and look online for ski resort reviews.
Best Tip for Choosing a Resort: If you have a season pass, check for reciprocal deals with other mountains. You may find that you can ski for free or at a significant discount. This makes choosing the “right” destination a no-brainer.
As with any vacation, you have to know how you’ll get there, where you’ll stay and what you’ll need to bring.
1. Getting There
While driving has some serious advantages (think bringing your own gear and having maximum flexibility), flying can take you anywhere.
Whether you fly or drive, factor in how much time you’re willing to spend in transit.
Do you want to fly into a city and ski the same day? Are you willing to rent a car or take ground transportation to the resort?
If time is a major consideration, look for resorts with nearby local airports. Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Whitefish, Montana come to mind.
Best Driving Tip: Be prepared for winter weather. The Colorado Traction Law now requires passenger cars to carry and use chains (or their equivalent) during some storm conditions.
No matter where you are, check the state department of transportation website or download an app to keep you updated.
If you pack your boots in a duffle bag, or your skis in a box, you’ll pay. Plus, you have to check both skis and boots. We tried to fly with just boots and got dinged.
2. Sleep and Eat
Resort websites often have links to extensive lodging and last-minute deals. But for some trips, renting a home through a service like VRBO might be better.
Make a list of what you need and want.
Do you need a kitchen? How many bedrooms and bathrooms? If you’re staying off-mountain is there a shuttle or public transportation? Are there slopeside or ski-in/ski-out options?
Best Lodging Tip: Check out lodging in nearby communities to save money. For example, stay in Basalt if Aspen is too pricey.
Or take an urban ski trip. Stay in Salt Lake City (the Salt Lake SuperPass scores discounts on tickets and lodging) and commute 30-40 minutes by car or bus to four world-class resorts.
We recommend taking your own boots if you can. But leaving skis/poles or snowboards at home can make life much easier (especially when you’re trying to fit everything and everyone into a rental car or SUV).
Best Gear Tip: Make your life easy with ski and snowboard rental delivery services like Door 2 Door from Christy Sports. Reserve everything you need online. When you arrive, a ski tech brings the equipment and fits it to you at your convenience.
Online planning is key to maximizing fun and limiting ski vacation hassle. Study resort websites to find out what activities and special events are available.
Save money by purchasing lift tickets in advance on resort websites or from vendors like Liftopia.
Also, reserve lessons, dining and other special events (perhaps snowshoeing, a snowcat dinner in a remote cabin, or a western family BBQ) in advance to avoid disappointment.
Best Overall Tip: Be flexible. While it’s good to plan ahead, don’t schedule every moment and be prepared for changes. It’s a vacation after all, not a marathon. Whether you’re traveling with friends or family, let everyone set their own pace and agenda.
Then reconvene each afternoon to share stories, photos and fun (with an emphasis on fun).