Are you interested in planning a ski vacation and not sure where to start? This guide to How To Plan a Ski Trip is here to help you!
A ski vacation can be a daunting trip to plan because there are so many components. There’s such a wide variety of ski resorts to choose from and lots of different reasons to go to each of them!
Some of the things you might be thinking are…
Should you rent skis or snowboarding equipment or bring your own?
Should you fly or drive to the mountains for your ski vacation?
Do you want to stay in a property that is ski-in, ski-out?
Living in a Colorado ski town and spending most of my career in the ski industry, I have expert advice to share and travel tips about planning a ski trip!
This guide will help you know which resort is best for you and your family. I’ll share tips on when the best time is to go, and suggestions on where to stay. Plus, so much more advice on planning a ski trip.
In This Article
- Here Are Some Questions to Ask Yourself as You Begin Planning Your Ski Vacation
- What is Your Ski Vacation Budget?
- How Many Days Will Your Ski Vacation Be?
- When Do You Want to Travel?
- Important Dates During the Ski Season That Determine Lift Ticket Cost
- November 20 – 30th (usually around thanksgiving)
- Festive Holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s), December 20 – January 7 (holiday high season)
- MLK Weekend, Mid-January (will vary by calendar year)
- President’s Week, Mid-February (will vary by calendar year)
- Spring Break (March) is generally mid to late March (depends on the school schedules)
- Dates To Get the Most Value Out of Your Ski Vacation
- Things to Also Consider For Your Ski Vacation Budget
- How to Pick your Ski Destination
- Are you an Epic or Ikon Season Pass Holder?
- Are You Interested in Nightlife?
- In Conclusion
Here Are Some Questions to Ask Yourself as You Begin Planning Your Ski Vacation
These questions will help determine the best ski vacation for you and your family!
What is Your Ski Vacation Budget?
Determining your travel budget for a ski vacation is one of the best things to do as a first step.
Knowing your travel budget will help your decision of which ski resort to choose. Your travel budget will also help you answer the rest of the questions below.
If you don’t have an exact budget yet, that’s ok! This article will help you know how much a ski trip costs. It will get you started thinking about when putting together your ski vacation travel budget. And it will all come together as you read on and think through the experience you want to have. If this will be your first time skiing, this article will be especially useful and help you with all future ski trip planning!
How Many Days Will Your Ski Vacation Be?
When you’re considering a ski trip, think about how many days you want your ski vacation to be. Do you want to ski for three days, five days, or more?
Keep in mind that you’ll probably want to take a day or two off in between your ski days. This is to rest your legs, explore the local area, or try another winter activity like snowmobiling or snowshoeing.
It’s also a great idea to take the first day of your ski vacation to acclimate to the high altitude, especially if you traveled from sea level. The first day is perfect for settling into your accommodations, picking up your ski rentals, unpacking, and buying groceries if you’re in a condominium or private home. It’s also a great time to review the ski resort trail map and plan out your week!
Once you’ve decided how many days your trip will be, you can think about how far you’d like to travel to get there!
If you’re taking a four-day ski trip, you may want to drive to a local ski mountain (if you have one nearby) or book the closest ski resort that you can fly to. If your ski vacation will be 6 to 8 days or more, then picking a resort that takes longer to get to is fine! You’ll still have plenty of time to acclimate, take some days off, and explore the area! Sometimes, the best experiences can take longer to travel to.
This post is all about how to plan a ski trip.
When Do You Want to Travel?
Picking dates for your ski vacation can be difficult.
Here are some things to consider as you look at the calendar to plan your ski vacation travel. Since lift ticket rates vary depending on dates, this is a very good consideration for your ski vacation budget too.
Important Dates During the Ski Season That Determine Lift Ticket Cost
November 20 – 30th (usually around thanksgiving)
Traveling to a ski destination around opening day is typically a great value. It’s exciting to be there when the lifts start running to kick off the start of the ski season!
The snowfall in November is unpredictable, so you could end up with lots of early season snow or not very much at all. If you’re okay with taking your chances on snowfall, then the early season is a great value as lift ticket prices and lodging costs are typically low.
Festive Holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s), December 20 – January 7 (holiday high season)
Holiday travel is considered high season, so prices will be at their peak rate. It’s a popular time to travel because children are usually on a holiday break. Because it’s a popular time, lift ticket prices and lodging costs are high. Book early in advance to make sure you can stay in your preferred hotel or property!
The snowfall and ski conditions are usually good by Christmas, but can still be a little unpredictable if it’s been warm weather leading up to the holidays.
MLK Weekend, Mid-January (will vary by calendar year)
The Martin Luther King Holiday weekend is considered high season. If you’re planning to travel during this time, expect higher pricing and hotel rooms to book up early and quickly.
President’s Week, Mid-February (will vary by calendar year)
President’s week in February is also considered a holiday high season. Kids typically are out of school for the President’s week holiday, making it a popular time for families to travel.
Thus, you’ll find lift ticket prices and lodging rates to be on the high side. Book early to avoid a property being sold out that you want to stay. The snow conditions in February should be great!
Spring Break (March) is generally mid to late March (depends on the school schedules)
Spring Break is a very popular time to go on a ski vacation. Kids are out of school during spring break and lift ticket rates will be on the higher side. Thus, Spring Break is also considered high season.
The snow conditions should be great in March for an incredible ski trip!
Dates To Get the Most Value Out of Your Ski Vacation
You’ll find the lowest pricing on lift tickets and lodging during the following dates:
Early season, opening day to Christmas week
Early January, after New Year’s and before MLK weekend
Late season, March after Spring Break
Late season, April to closing
If you want to dive deep into the best time to ski in Colorado, go here!
This post is all about how to plan a ski trip.
Things to Also Consider For Your Ski Vacation Budget
Will You Drive or Fly?
Will you drive or fly to the mountains for your ski vacation? Determining the cost of your transportation to the mountains will help you compare resorts and destinations.
Use a flight tool to price out the flight costs and compare different destinations. The best flight tools to search and compare airfare and flight schedules are Google Flights, Kayak, and Skyscanner.
if you’re thinking about driving to a ski destination, determining an estimate of gas costs will be helpful for your travel budget.
Figure out how many miles it is to your destination ski resort (using Google Maps) and then divide that number by the miles you get per gallon in your vehicle. This will tell you how many gallons of gas you’ll need to get there.
Add in some costs for meals and snacks and you’ll have a good idea of the road trip cost!
Rent Skis or Bring Your Own?
If it’s your first time skiing, I highly recommend renting your ski equipment. Renting skis gives you the opportunity to try out some different ski brands and see what you like.
It’s also a great idea to rent skis if your trip isn’t going to be very long. If you’re only planning on skiing for two days, renting equipment will be cost-effective and convenient! You can easily pick them up and drop them off at the rental shop without bringing them back to your hotel. You’ll also save money by not paying the additional bag charges on the flights!
If your trip is going to be a week or longer, and you’re an experienced skier, I recommend bringing your own ski equipment. You’ll enjoy your ski experience more on your own skis and will likely make fast improvements to your skills if you’re accustomed to your own gear! If you end up with an amazing powder day and you don’t have powder skis, you can also try renting them for a day.
How to Pick your Ski Destination
Next comes the fun part! Let’s take a look at some of the top ski destinations. Here are the top things to consider when choosing your ski resort.
Are You Traveling with All Skiers or Will You Have Snowboarders Too?
Some ski resorts do not allow snowboarding at their resorts! If you have any snowboarders in your group you’ll want to avoid Deer Valley and Alta in Utah and Mad River Glen in Vermont. These resorts do not allow snowboarding.
Will You Have Non-Skiers in the Group?
Is anyone in your group a non-skier? If yes, you’ll want to select a ski resort that has a lot to do other than ski. Some ski resorts don’t have much of a town or village. These resorts won’t be that much fun for the non-skiers in your group.
If you want something fun to do on the days you take off from skiing, it’s helpful to pick a ski resort that has lots of additional activities to explore. When thinking about how to plan your ski trip, it’s a great idea to include activities other than skiing!
If you have non-skiers interested in traveling with you, choose a resort with shopping, art galleries, restaurants, and other winter activities available. There is so much to do for non-skiers at ski resorts if you pick the right ones!
This post is all about how to plan a ski trip.
Here are some ski resorts that are great options for non-skiers:
Breckenridge was a mining town before it became a ski resort. The downtown area is lined with shops, galleries, restaurants, and bars. It’s fun to stroll down Main Street in Breckenridge and check out the local stores! There are bakeries, boutiques with jewelry and mountain fashion, bookstores, and home furnishings. You’ll also find lovely day spas if a manicure or massage is on your to-do list.
Park City, UT
With a vibrant historic downtown Main Street, Park City is the perfect destination for the non-skier! The town of Park City has abundant shopping, art galleries, dining, and bars. If you’re looking for fun, adventurous activities Park City has those too! Snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snow tubing, and visiting the Utah Olympic Park are all easy to plan in Park City, Utah.
Aspen Snowmass, CO
Stroll the historic streets of Aspen, Colorado and you’ll find salons, high-end shopping, fun restaurants, Aspen coffee shops, sports stores and so much more. You can stop in at Blazing Adventures on Durant Street and learn all about Snowmobiling and other activities during your stay!
Or, find some unique and special boutiques in Aspen to explore the latest fashions. Aspen also has a history tour that takes you around town explaining how Aspen became the iconic ski town that it is. You can read more about the Aspen Historical Society and its tours here. Like many of the ski resorts in Colorado, Aspen is filled with mining history!
Steamboat prides itself on its winter activities and that doesn’t just mean skiing! Snowshoe on Rabbit Ears pass, take a hot air balloon ride, rent a snow bike, or soak in the local hot springs at Strawberry Park Hot Springs to name a few.
There’s plenty to do in Steamboat Springs for the non-skier. Strolling down Main Street is a fun activity where you’ll find shops and galleries, cafes for breakfast or lunch, historic shops, yoga studios, and more.
Vail Village and Lionshead Village are the perfect settings for non-skiers. Take a stroll through each village and find shops, restaurants, Vail coffee shops, sports stores, and gorgeous views of Vail Mountain everywhere you turn! These villages were designed to resemble European ski villages and you’ll enjoy the ambiance of strolling through them.
When you travel to Whistler you’ll find so much more than just skiing. Yes, the skiing in Whistler is amazing, but Whistler also has snowmobiling, snowshoeing, ziplining, and an incredible village to explore. Shopping, restaurants, arts, and wellness spas are available for your non-skiers.
Or, for your “rest” days off the slopes! The Peak 2 Peak Gondola is available for scenic rides of Whistler Village, lakes, glaciers, and forests. Read more about Whistler’s things to do here.
Skiing and Snowboarding Ability (of the group)
What type of skiers and snowboarders will you be traveling with?
Knowing everyone’s ski ability is helpful so you can choose a ski resort that provides terrain suitable for everyone! There are ski resorts that offer varied terrain spanning all abilities. These resorts are terrific options if you have a mix of abilities.
These ski resorts offer a very diverse mix of terrain that cater to all ski abilities. This list just a sampling! There are many more.
Park City, Utah
Copper Mountain, Colorado
Do You Have Children in your Group?
If you have children in your family or group, select a ski resort with a great ski school. Ski lessons for kids are a lot of fun for them, and give the adults a chance to get in some skiing on their own! A ski resort that also has kids’ programs and activities will also keep the children entertained.
These ski resorts offer children’s programs and highly rated ski schools:
Heavenly, Lake Tahoe, NV
Beaver Creek, Colorado
Are you an Epic or Ikon Season Pass Holder?
If you’ve purchased either an Epic or Ikon Pass, then you’ll want to consider traveling to one of the ski resorts included on your pass. This way, you’ll get the most bang for your season pass buck! To see a list of all ski resorts included on the Epic Pass, go here. If you’re holding the Ikon Pass and would like to review their list of ski resorts, go here!
This post is all about how to plan a ski trip.
Are You Interested in Nightlife?
On your ski vacation, will you be looking for a dance party, live music, or the best historic bar to belly up to? Or, do you prefer going to bed early so you can rise early and greet the ski day early after a good night of sleep?
There are ski destinations with an array of fun bars and nightlife options to choose from. Here are a few of our favorite ski towns for nightlife:
Aspen, Colorado (read about Aspen’s best bars and nightlfe here)
Vail, Colorado (read about Vail’s best bars here)
Planning the best ski vacation for your group can be challenging and my hope is that this article helped you plan the right ski trip! There surely isn’t just one perfect resort for every group. There are many! And, there are ski resorts that are best suitable to match your skiing ability, ski school needs, nightlife, travel budget, and other winter activities!
If you’re looking for just the right hotel to book in Vail, check out this post. Or, best places to stay in Aspen Snowmass here.
Packing for a ski trip can also be daunting, so check out this awesome guide of ski trip essentials How to Pack for a Ski Trip!
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