Skis are tuned and waxed; squats and lunges are done; and the GoPro is fully charged – it’s time to hit the slopes. But what’s the best way to plan and coordinate the travel details to get the most out of a ski trip adventure? Here are a few helpful planning tips to ensure ideal ski conditions.
The week between Christmas and New Year’s is always the busiest time of the year to ski, regardless of which mountain you choose. It’s certainly a great way to enjoy the holiday season, but you’ll need to plan ahead. You should book your ski vacation a year in advance to secure the best accommodations and rates for this time of year, especially if you are planning to fly to your destination. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend in January and Presidents’ Day weekend in February are also popular ski travel times. It’s best to secure your travel arrangements by late summer, especially if booking at the larger resorts.
If your travel plans fall outside the holiday windows, the best time to book your ski trip is in September or October. “Keep in mind [flights] into small regional airports like Aspen and Vail sell out quickly on Saturday and Sunday,” advised Richelle Blanken, owner and vice president of Alpine Adventures , a global travel agency specializing in ski and winter getaways. “Book early or consider midweek arrivals or larger airports like Denver or Salt Lake City.”
Booking early isn’t only a good idea for lodging and airfare. Reserving your ski rentals in advance ensures the rental company will have the equipment you need in stock and will make your arrival hassle-free. For those skiing with kids, be sure to reserve their spot in daycare or ski school prior to your arrival as space is limited and can book up quickly, especially during prime ski travel times.
Although planning in advance is generally the wise thing to do, booking late does have its advantages. Travelers interested in hitting the slopes towards the end of the season, when the sun is bright and the temperatures are mild, should wait to book until February to take advantage of bluebird rates. Not only can springtime skiers score late-season deals and maybe even a few added perks, but booking late provides the luxury of gauging weather patterns and maybe even benefiting from an end-of-season snowstorm.
There’s no guarantee that Mother Nature will cooperate with travel plans made well in advance, but researching the prime time for a particular resort is your best chance at ensuring favorable ski conditions. Prime skiing times vary depending on the region: while January is a prime ski time for Steamboat , March often provides the best ski conditions at Beaver Creek . Vermont skiers can expect the greatest snowfall in January, but most powder hounds prefer this region’s springtime ski conditions.
Historical weather data, along with an analysis of elevation, latitude and the direction of the slope, are a good indication of when resorts offer the best in powder and pristine trails. Many resorts publish this data on their websites to provide skiers with a reasonably accurate indication of the best time to ski a particular resort.
If your goal is to avoid crowds and long lift lines, make sure that you build some flexibility into your travel plans. The general rule: avoid Saturdays. It’s not only prime time for out-of-towners, but it’s also the day many locals are looking to spend on their hometown mountain. Late Sunday afternoon, the crowds slowly begin thinning out. That steady decline will progress into the early part of the week. Mid-week is the ideal time on the mountains when you can enjoy not only shorter lift lines, but also reduced ticket fares.
According to Myra Foster, senior manager of marketing and communications at Stratton Mountain in Vermont, “Midweek is the secret season for skiing and snowboarding, with savings on lodging and lift tickets. The slopes are quiet, you’ll feel as though the mountain is all yours.”
No matter when you decide to hit the trails or how favorable the ski conditions may be there’s one thing for certain – a day on the slopes beats a day spent just about anywhere else.
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