Ski Trip 101: The Basics of Planning a Trip

When it comes to planning a ski trip, there’s a lot to figure out, from location to gear to lodging to lessons. It can be a bit intimidating, especially for skiers new to the sports. There’s a lot to figure out, from transportation to rentals to après-ski action. This post will help you start to figure out a few basics: where to go, what to pack, and how to save some money along the way.

Skip Trip Group

Where to Go on Your Ski Trip:

When deciding where to go, consider the ability level of the folks in your group. If everyone is fairly new, you can go just about anywhere and find plenty of challenging terrain. If your group is more advanced and sticks to the blacks and double blacks, you’ll probably want to choose a mountain that’s a bit steeper and bigger to ensure there’s plenty of terrain that isn’t too easy for you. A quick search along the lines of “beginner ski mountains” or “most challenging ski resorts in the country” should give you some good suggestions.

Just remember that every resort has beginner terrain, so choose your mountain based on the skill level of the best person in your group. As a general rule, bigger mountains have more terrain of every ability level, but usually, you can go to a resort’s website and check the trail maps – they’re often viewable by “level of difficulty” and will tell you what percent of the trails are rated green, blue, or black.

You’ll also want to take into account ease of getting to a mountain. While Colorado may be a mecca for skiers – and honestly, it’s easy to see why with resorts like Breckenridge and Arapahoe Basin – it’s not super easy to get to. The closest airport is Denver, about two hours from the major resorts by car, which means you have to both rent a car and sit in heavy traffic to get to where you’re going. It’s always a good idea to map how to get to the resort from the airport before making your plans.

A few quick suggestions: the resorts of Lake Tahoe are about 30-45 minutes from Reno/Tahoe International Airport, many Utah resorts are within 40 minutes of Salt Lake City International Airport, and you can be in the base of Jackson Hole from the airport in 30 minutes.

What to Pack for a Ski Trip:

Ah, what to pack, what to pack. There are so many factors at play here that it’s impossible to give a hard-and-fast answer, but here are a few basics of dressing for the slopes.

  • Don’t wear cotton. Cotton dries slowly and absorbs moisture (both snow and sweat) which makes it get cold. And cold and wet fabric against your skin makes you cold. Opt for fabrics that regulate temperature like Merino wool or synthetic nylon and rayon.
  •  Keep it tight (your base layer, that is.) Your base layer should be fairly fitted to ensure can effectively trap heat. As you move from your base layer to your outer layers, the fabrics can get looser, but keep in mind that a baggy jacket will not keep you as warm as one that fits properly. A few great options are Hot Chillys, on the more affordable end, or high-tech SmartWool, better for all-day, stop-and-go ski sessions. (They also make amazing socks!)
  • You need waterproof gear. There’s a reason everyone makes fun of skiers who wear jeans – they’re the most impractical fabric there is and makes you look like you ended up on a ski lift on accident. You need outer fabrics that repel water. While you don’t need to pony up for a GORE-TEX® jacket right away, you should buy something made for snow sports.

  • Accessories: You need waterproof gloves – don’t wear your fleece city gloves on the slopes. You’ll also probably want a beanie for evening wear, socks specifically made for skiing or riding that are tall enough to extend over your boot, and some sort of face cover (a buff, mask, balaclava, etc.) in case it’s cold and windy.
  • Goggles: Get this right, because not being able to see properly is going to be a huge bummer on your trip. We have a handy guide you can use to finding the right goggles if you need help!  
  • Helmet: You should wear a helmet. At this point in the world of skiing and snowboarding, wearing a helmet is cool – people who don’t wear them look like they don’t know what they’re doing. You need a helmet specifically for skiing or riding, but if you don’t have one, you can rent them from every ski and snowboard rental shop.

Ski Trip Packing

Tickets and lessons:

Skiing and snowboarding are, unfortunately, not inexpensive sports. So, if I could sum up ticket and lesson buying in one piece of advice, it would be this: buy it in advance. You’ll find the absolute best ticket deals at the beginning of the season, and since many resorts sell four-pack bundles (four lift tickets that can be used at any point in the season) you don’t even need to know exactly when you’ll be going to buy the tickets. If you’ve only got a few days or a week to plan, you should still buy your tickets in advance online; you’ll never pay more for a lift ticket than you will at the ticket window at the ski resort.

Consider doing the same thing with lessons, especially during January, which is Learn to Ski and Ride month in the U.S. Many resorts offer extremely affordable rental and lesson packages as a way to attract new customers to the sport.

 

Kids Ski Trip

What to do for non-skiers:

One things I always like to consider when planning a group ski trip is what to do that isn’t skiing, either for non-skiers in the group, for anyone who gets hurt or needs a break, or if weather impacts operations and the slopes aren’t open. As a general rule, larger resorts will have more non-ski options. You’ll find cross-country skiing and snowshoeing nearly everywhere, but at bigger resorts, you’ll also find galleries with art classes, curling lessons, ice skating, casinos, or even a water park, in the case of Vermont’s Jay Peak.

While most resort websites will have information about what’s available on-mountain, you can check area tourist information websites or chamber of commerce sites to see what non-mountain activities are available nearby.