How To Execute a Ski Trip

Seasoned advice on planning your winter travel with the equipment, transportation and lodging that factor into the right ski resort experience.

So, you’ve made the first, easiest decision: It’s time to head out skiing or riding. Once you’ve blocked out the time, rounded up the right gear, and committed the dollars, rest assured that you’re in for a great time, joining the more than 22 million other skiers and riders in the country taking part annually in one of winter’s best pastimes. But if you’re planning for more than a quick day-trip, a successful multi-day foray takes a little more legwork. To save those legs for schussing the slopes, here’s some seasoned advice on how best to execute a ski trip.  

Pick your crew 

Do you plan on skiing or riding solo, bringing the family, or reuniting with friends? The size of your travel party will determine everything from your budget to your destination and lodging. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. If solo and you’re on a tight budget, consider staying at hostels (like the Hostel in Jackson Hole, Wyo.) where rooms are cheaper and you can meet like-minded ski partners in the ping pong room or tuning shop. If with a group (family or friends), consider going later in the season and outside holiday weekends for better deals on lift tickets and lodging, or searching for package deals at resorts.

Determine the destination

In today’s era of multi-passes (Ikon and Epic, most notably) that link days at mega-resorts nationwide, partner resorts (and the number of available days for each) play a big role in budgeting your trip. If you have a multi-pass, check the fine print to make sure there are no black-out or other restricted days at your chosen resort. If you don’t have one, try not to pay full retail at the ticket counter; research discounted tickets, package deals and other bargains beforehand, either directly from the resort in question or such outlets as ski.com and On the Snow. Also, look for every bit of extra value like a lodge that offers free breakfast (which will save time and money every morning), shuttles and more (some even offer free happy hours).  

Check the snow reports 

Unlike car camping and other excursions with friends or family, good skiing or riding depends on good snowfall. Check the resort’s snow report for recent snowfall, as well as such apps as Open Snow for upcoming snow forecasts. Hint: Try not to travel during the storm, but have it hit right when you arrive.   

Drive or fly? 

How far your chosen resort is from your hometown will largely determine whether you drive or fly. If you have the time and don’t mind big road trips and winter driving (with the  possibility of mountain pass closures), your travel perimeter grows considerably. 

Flying

The right travel equipment streamlines packing and flying with ski gear (hint: carry your boots on with you). Flights will be cheaper on certain days than others, so factor that into your booking—and avoid flying on or near the holidays, if possible, as that’s when everyone else has the same idea. Also, line up your transport in advance, from your airport arrival to the resort; there’s nothing worse than arranging that last leg onsite with screaming kids and a pile of gear.   

Driving

Depending on the distance from your chosen resort, driving might be the better option. Make sure your car is winterized and has snow tires (or chains) and that all your gear can fit inside or on the rack (hint: cargo boxes can fit a lot of gear). If you’re driving with kids, make it fun. For instance, play the alphabet game for skiing, coming up with words related to skiing or riding that start with different letters, going from A to Z. 

Equipment essentials

Whether you have your own or need to rent, there’s a few final considerations to get you outfitting and on the hill.

BYO

If you have your own equipment, great. It’s familiar, affordable, you know it works, and it’s with you all the time (hint: double-check you have everything before leaving on your trip). Beyond the conventional skis-boots-poles checklist, add helmet, hat, gloves, ski socks, ski pants, ski jacket, and underlayers. And, oh yeah, pack some sweatpants, slippers and a swimsuit.  

Rentals

Assess your options ahead of time. Most resorts have rental shops at the base, with independent retailers (including Public Lands locations) offering rentals at the resort and nearest town. Some services, like Black Tie Ski Rentals and Ski Butlers will also deliver rentals right to your door. If your hometown is close to skiing, you may also be able to rent at home and bring your gear with you—look for seasonal ski and snowboard packages to avoid returning for gear every trip. And don’t fib when filling out your ability level on the rental form; it determines how loose or tight your bindings should be set.  

Factor transport from lodging to resort 

This is a biggie. Are your accommodations within walking distance of the slopes? If so, enjoy the Holy Grail that is ski-in/ski-out lodging. If not, is there a hotel or city bus that can take you? If possible, avoid driving your own car every day and dealing with (and paying for) day parking; it’s your vacation after all.  

Research the resort 

Know beforehand where to meet family members if you split up. Also learn about ski school, child care, on-mountain restaurants, and other resort activities and happenings (it’s always fun to pair the trip with a concert, festival or competition event that’s happening while you’re there). From there, learn the mountain to maximize your days on-hill. Traveling with a group, family or friends often means differing abilities, with some people wanting to head off on harder runs. And all bets are off if it’s a powder day (“no friends on a powder day”).  

Have a meeting plan 

Make sure your cellphones are charged and keep them insulated and warm so you can communicate easily with your party throughout the day. Or, consider a handheld (walkie-talkie) or otherwise on-the-go communications system that can attach to everything from your helmet to backpack. Gadgets aside, establish a meeting point for both the end of each run and lunch, as well as for the end of the day should people get separated (this can often be at the base, a bar, the car or even lodge).  

Stay hydrated 

Water, water, water. You’ll likely be heading to a higher elevation, so you can’t get enough of it. Drink it regularly and often to combat the effects of high altitude. Hint: Tone down the alcoholic libations the first night or two until you get acclimated, and go one-for-one beer/water when you’re in the hot tub. 

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.

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