How to get a ski newb through a week at a major ski resort?
December 13, 2010 1:42 PM   Subscribe

What are your best ski vacation hacks?

Going to a major ski resort with family(kids are tweens) for the first time. We've been on a few single day trips skiing to a nearby podunk ski area, but never to one of the biggies. We'll be staying at a ski on ski off property for 5 nights/4 days, plan on getting everyone at least a couple of lessons, and hope to have a lot of fun while remaining safe.

As total newbs to this kind of trip, what do's or don'ts can you come up with. To start it off, I'll suggest my own:

Packing energy bars as lunch substitutes to avoid meal hall rush and to maximize ski time.
posted by teg4rvn to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (37 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Rent gear and buy tickets ahead of time at somewhere other than the bottom of the slopes. You'll save money and avoid lines, and in terms of gear, it'll probably be in better shape. You'll also have time to really try it on and make sure it fits, and make sure everyone knows how to get in and out of their gear, as the bottom of the slope will probably have a queue of people waiting for gear, too.

But if you must get your gear there, go as early as you can, and have a leisurely morning. If you're not yet awake, have some coffee and relax, with gear beside you and tickets in hand.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:51 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

If the lift lines are such that singles can get on faster ... then EVERY MAN A SINGLE!

Seriously, we often zoom right through lift lines because we don't need to sit with each other all the time. But occasionally, this bites us in the ass if the line isn't organized.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:52 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'd honestly suggest taking some time to have actual lunches. If you've only ever done ski day trips, you're going to find 4 days on the slopes to be a lot of skiing, and fairly tiring. Some mid-day breaks will do you good.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:53 PM on December 13, 2010 [4 favorites]

Lunges and squats, starting now. The tweens will probably be fine but as a 32 year-old snowboarder, the better shape I'm in before I hit the slopes the happier I am. It's essential if you want to put in full ski days multiple days in a row. Also, my favorite chairlift snack is a baggie full of goldfish crackers and peanut M&M's. Pack enough to share with your lift-mates because everyone will want some.
posted by shornco at 1:54 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Take it easy. Forget the energy bars. That is, pack them, but go for lunch anyway. Skiing is not something to do when you're tired, because that's when you start breaking bones. Skiing is not something you can learn to do well quickly, but it is an excellent sport to have fun while doing it badly.
My personal preference: be amongst the first to hit the slopes - that's the safe way to extend your day.
posted by labberdasher at 2:00 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hacks? Hmm, not sure there are any hacks for skiing.

Where are you going? This will really make a difference to my advice (have lived in ski resorts off and on since college).

Biggies are- go home for lunch (you will spend way too much money for crappy food if you go to the resort owned restaurants on piste).

Ibuprofen, early, and often.

If you are at altitude, watch the alcohol intake- altitude really compounds the effects (good and bad).

Take it easy the first day or two- don't overdo it- you will want first chair and last chair, but the next 4 days you will be so sore you won't be able to enjoy it.

Lessons definitely a GREAT IDEA!!! You will learn the mountain, skip lines, and learn a little something about skiing.

Are you renting gear, or do you have your own? I would suggest bumping up the rentals from their regular fleet to demo gear, as it isn't crap (most rental gear is pretty crappy).
posted by TheBones at 2:01 PM on December 13, 2010

I just have to agree that ski lodge time is part of what makes the skiing experience so much fun, at least to me. :) Especially if you have more than a day. Take 2 hour lunches! 2 hour dinners! Drink hot chocolate or whatever suits the adults' fancies!
posted by iguanapolitico at 2:01 PM on December 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

Also, when are you going? This makes a difference to my suggestions as well.

Stay hydrated- seriously. Drink ALOT of water, more than you think you should. I've found skiing dehydrates me more than most any other sport.
posted by TheBones at 2:04 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also: will you be skiing or snowboarding, and have you all gone before?

If you're all pretty green, you probably want to pick a park based on the person to slope area ratio. In other words, are the slopes packed? You may want to pay a bit more to get a less crowded park, just for less stress on the beginners.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:05 PM on December 13, 2010

I'd disagree with your first suggestion because taking breaks while skiing is very, very important. Especially if you're not used to skiing lengthy, powdery hills. It takes a real toll on your body and sometimes sitting down to have a meal makes it more apparent that you should slow down (when the adrenaline has time to subside for a bit). If you're going for 4 days, you really want to pace yourself or you'll be done by the second. While you might ski 15-20 hills a day at a small local resort with short slopes, the bigger resorts will have hills that might take you 20 or 30 minutes to get down, if not more. Take that into account while planning your day and don't over-extend yourselves.

If you're an east-coast skier headed out west, be prepared for the difference of skiing real powder vs. fake snow & ice. You go alot slower, but it takes substantially more energy and puts alot more stress on your knees.

Plan to take a break every 3 hours or so where it's warm and make sure you have alot of fluids with you.

I wouldn't try more than 6 hours the first day.

Other suggestions:
Lessons will make all the difference in the world. If you can get rentals at an off-site location, you'll get a better price and generally better quality. Don't drink.. skiing is very dehydrating. Hand and foot warmers (the little disposable ones you can put in your gloves while on the lifts). Glove liners!. Appropriate socks!!! Cannot stress this enough... You don't want thick wool socks, you want to go and buy a decent pair with wicking that aren't bulky. Good goggles that don't fog up. Soak in a bath or hot tub to soothe muscles afterwards.

Have fun!
posted by Raichle at 2:06 PM on December 13, 2010

Response by poster: OP update:

Colorado, Beaver Creek, renting gear (adults have own boots).

Thanks for the lunch suggestion. With sunset @~4:45 this time of year I thought about the energy bar idea. The local podunk area would have 1-hr waits in the food line. THAT's what I want to the better/bigger areas streamline the lunch rush any more efficiently?
posted by teg4rvn at 2:09 PM on December 13, 2010

It's probably cheaper to buy helmets now than to rent them over five days. Helmets are great, they're warmer and protect you from everything to the bar on the chair lifts, to other people smacking you in the head with their skis, to serious injuries. If you buy them new, you know they won't be smashed up, you can fit them correctly, and they won't smell bad.
posted by meowzilla at 2:11 PM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

Bring bright bandanas, tie to skies when you go in to lunch; rentals(and even your own skis) can be hard to locate when you come back out.

Pack some instant handwarmers. If there's a cold snap, it can be horrible, at least here on the East Coast. Even with good layering and good snow gear, handwarmers can make a big difference.

Really good socks.

Food prices will be way high. Pack bottled water, sodas, snacks, fruit, etc. Faster, better and cheaper.

If kids get tired and want a break, that's okay.

Hot tub/jacuzzi is wonderful for achy muscles.

My family skied a lot when I was growing up, and the meals together, some of them in a little shack at the top, were memorable. It's a good time to praise every family member for something, make sure everybody's warm and having fun, and re-fuel.
posted by theora55 at 2:11 PM on December 13, 2010

Get on the mountain as early as possible in the morning and do not wait until the lifts close to finish your day. The end of the day when you're tired and just trying to squeeze in that one last run before the lifts close is, inevitably, when you make a dumb mistake and break your collarbone (or other body part).
posted by The World Famous at 2:11 PM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: OP update:

Christmas week. all skiing and no snowboarding.
posted by teg4rvn at 2:12 PM on December 13, 2010

Now I see your followup. My family brought sandwich stuff, thermoses of hot chocolate and tea, fruit, cookies, etc. to beat both lines and cost.
posted by theora55 at 2:14 PM on December 13, 2010

Are you staying in a condo with a working kitchen? Are you flying in?

assuming you're not flying in:
Prep kitchen stuff, bring salt, pepper, (other random spices) small container of cooking oil/stick or two of butter, eggs, oatmeal, chocolate bars, oranges (or a box of clementines), sandwich stuff.

The condo should have basic kitchen stuff, but bringing some food from home will help keep the prices down- mountian towns have elevated grocery prices to factor in the transport.

A sandwich+ orange+ chocolate bar can be stashed in your pocket and makes for a better lunch than a granola bar. And when you meet up, you can then split a hot bowl of soup/fries, rather than everyone getting the 10 dollar soup etc. Sandwiches should be dense things. You don't need to go crazy, but turkey+PB= power in a dense cheap form form of awesome.

If you're flying in, then just pick up some basic supplies at a local grocery store.

Carry a dirty/ancient/super uncool backpack every day to the lodge and make sure that you either find a safe space to stash it (see dirty-ugly factor) or get a locker. In this bag- extra socks for everyone and at least one extra set of mittens. Throw some candybars in here, the sandwiches, or cup-o-ramen soups. (you should be able to find hot water for free someplace). DO NOT ski with the backpack, as it will unbalance you. Seriously, it's pointless- you don't need to have your sandwich on you all day. (or if you do, just jam it in a pocket). I don't ski with a pack unless I'm hitting backcountry when I don't have the option of skiing down to a lodge.

Make sandwiches, and make sure that you meet every day in the same spot for lunch and then at 4pm. (the 2 spots don't have to be the same. is there a midlodge? a summit hut? you could do lunch at the top of the mtn and avoid all the lines at the base) That way everyone checks in, if someone get's lost along the way, you know where to meet. If someone misses a checkpoint w/o getting in touch by more than 30 mins(less likely if you've all got cellphones), you then know that something SERIOUS happened, and you can start contacting 1st aid/patrol. This applies to adults as well. I have traumatic memories of being 9 and waiting for my parents, who lost track of time and went for "one more run". I was at the meeting place damn it! and I got laughed at when I contacted the patrol about my missing parents

+1 on getting gear off the slopes- you'll get a way better discount. Also, unless you are intermediate or higher, getting demo equipment is not worth the extra cost.

You'll be getting up at 7-8ish, skiing all day and then having dinner at ~6pm. Go to bed early. You'll be exhausted, and you need the rest. If you have a hot tub accessible, make sure to go after skiing- it's the most wonderful thing in the world to sit in a hot tub for an hour after a hard day of skiing (or not falling depending on your level). I'd much rather chill at the hottub/pool/sauna after a ski day, then hang out in a bar watching sports. I'm sure your kids will agree.

Most mountain towns have a localish craft brewery. pick up a local sixpack.
posted by larthegreat at 2:18 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Beaver creek- alright- I know that mountain pretty well- it won't be as crowded as the other vail resorts, but it's gonna be crowded!!!

It is a vail resort and it's christmas week. There should be a christy sports. They are all over the front range- it might be the best/cheapest place to get rentals. They aren't great, but they do have a decent selection.

I think your pass is good for all vail resorts. So if you buy a day pass, you can ski vail, breck, a-basin, keystone as well.

Are you buying a 4 of 5 day pass? There really aren't any cheaper ways to buy tickets for vail resorts, unless you know someone with a season pass who is willing to part with their buddy passes (you get 5 a year per pass, and it only save you $10 or $15 a pass).

Beaver creek is a good resort, and the vail resorts are getting HAMMERED right now, especially compared to last year. Keep up with the snow report here. Joel does the best job out of anyone for predicting the storms.
posted by TheBones at 2:20 PM on December 13, 2010

As for local craft brew (as mentioned above by larthegreat), there's the breckenridge brewery, which is alright, but not fantastic. The real winner, IMHO, is dry dock brewing in denver. I'm guessing you are flying into denver. If you get a chance, stop off and pick some up.
posted by TheBones at 2:27 PM on December 13, 2010

The Beav! Step off the slopes at 3 and get a fresh baked chocolate chip cookie in the village! It's free!
posted by shornco at 2:34 PM on December 13, 2010

Some resorts let Santa ski for free.
posted by L'oeuvre Child at 2:38 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

a million times with the eat lunch! with a ski in ski out place to stay you can run back to your condo, eat lunch and be back on the slopes in no time. take advantage of it.

if you don't want to do that, rent a locker in the base lodge and shove some sandwiches in it for lunch or eat your energy bar late morning and then hit the lunch lines at an odd time like 1 30 to miss some of the rush.

listen to the sock advice. wadded up, sweaty socks are the harbinger of DOOM.

make sure your gloves, hats and anything else you will be wearing day after day dry out every night.
posted by domino at 2:59 PM on December 13, 2010

Eat lunch early or late, definitely go inside for a rest and a drink at some point!! Come inside before the very end of the day- I feel that the low light combined with general tiredness leads to the most injuries happening at the 'last minute'. Definite avoid rental lines at peak times and have fun!!!! (Also the pre-arranged meeting spots/times are a great idea, seconding that.).
posted by bquarters at 3:01 PM on December 13, 2010

Get as many lessons as you can afford, and get them first thing in the day. The instructor will take you straight to the best runs for your ability level, given the weather and the snow conditions. This will save you spending the whole day on the same two runs next to your apartment. Especially important for people who are short on confidence.

After a lesson, spend a bit of time working on the exercises the instructor gives you - you'll get much more out of the lessons this way. Don't be embarrassed to ski down the slope on your own holding a ski pole in front of you (or whatever).

If your family is fairly mixed-ability, consider making friends with other folks you meet and splitting your group so the less competent or less confident or less fit people aren't holding back the others all the time. Especially if one or both of the kids turns out to be braver than both adults. Obviously, you may not be comfortable letting your kids go off without you, but it's always a shame to see gung-ho kids held back by one really nervous family member or just by adults who want to take things more slowly.

In the same way, a mixed-ability group will benefit from splitting up for lessons.

Don't be to proud to go to bed at 9pm. You can stay up late at home.
posted by emilyw at 3:01 PM on December 13, 2010

Nthing the suggestion to plan on eating a real lunch, rather than an energy bar. If you're staying someplace ski-in/ski-out with a kitchen, planning on meeting back at the place for lunch. Otherwise, pack sandwiches or be willing to spend the money on lunch. A midday break with food is worthwhile.
posted by andrewraff at 3:21 PM on December 13, 2010

Get out there first thing in the morning -- as soon as the place opens and the lifts start running. That's when you get the best skiing. Plus, you'll ensure that you absolutely have plenty of time to take a real lunch break and still get in a full day of skiing. For that matter, skiing for a long time is tiring -- you're going to need the break.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:28 PM on December 13, 2010

larthegreat has some great answers. Bunch of other ones up there too.

The one I haven't seen yet but is a key for my happiness while skiing: Don't overdress. It's easier to get comfortable by adding a layer when you're too cold than by ditching a layer when you're too hot; sweaty clothes get heavy and ultimately wick heat.

I always feel warmer after about 15, 20 minutes out. Since you have ski-on/ski-off accommodations, I'd go out for a couple runs dressed lighter than you think you might need, with plans to swing by the condo to layer up more if you're still chilly.

But also keep an eye out for the signs of frostnip/frostbite, and take care of things right away if you're getting numb anywhere or your ski buddies see any change in your skin. Neck gaiters and/or balaclavas are small enough to stash in a pocket and easy to get on if you think you're getting nipped, and I almost never leave the lodge without one on me.
posted by Opposite George at 5:39 PM on December 13, 2010

Keep goggles on your face to reduce fogging. Dry your boots out every night as best you can. Pick up rentals early. As everyone else says don't get too tired, keep "one in the bag". Chocolate milk afte r the day is good. As far as meal replacement bars, after trying to gnaw a frozen power bar like a squirrel I find softer ones (cliff bars) a bit better.
posted by jade east at 5:46 PM on December 13, 2010

I think others have said similar things, but to reiterate -

Rent your gear BEFORE your first day on the slopes, or be prepared for a slow start and just go with the flow. Nothing is worse than rental shop rage, and seriously, the rental shop is like the most stressful place ever -- you're hot and sweaty from wearing so many clothes, someone always loses a mitten and by the time you leave your goggles are all foggy. ugh.

I like to do two lunches. One at 10:30, one at about 2. Timed to be either side of the lunch rush, just eat a little bit at each. I actually disagree about the "real lunch" idea... Too much food at once will make you lethargic. I usually do like, gatorade + noodles and later water + a cookie or something like that. Just enough to feel not-hungry and energized. Breaks like this structure your skiing in about 2hr increments, which I find works pretty well. Be careful about trying to do too much when you're tired, it is a really good way to get hurt.

Bring LOTS of ski socks. And boot driers. Your boots WILL get damp, and it's nearly impossible to dry them completely overnight. It helps a lot a lot a lot to pull out the liners (if you don't do this already). Cold toes are just miserable.

Ski lessons - if you're relatively novice, ski lessons are great. Do it your first afternoon after you get your gear? It'll get you familiar with the resort and on the skis.

Rental skis -- agree about having some way to ID them at the lodge. Because they're rentals there will be lots of duplicates around, and someone could easily walk off with yours (this has happened to me). The idea of some bright tape or something to tie on them is good.

Most importantly, don't feel you have to ski every minute your ticket is good. I know it's expensive to get out there, but I promise everyone will be happier if you just take it easy and go in when you're tired or cold and not to worry too much if the rental shop takes forever. You have four days of skiing... doing all back-to-back as a 1-day skiier normally is more taxing than it sounds like it should be. Just enjoy the snow and the mountains and the hot chocolate, interspersed with some skiing.
posted by annie o at 5:49 PM on December 13, 2010

Beaver Creek is a grant place and very swank. Any place that offers you escalators instead of climbing stairs in ski boots is A-OK to me.

Since you are renting equipment, try to pick it up the day you arrive rather than the morning of your first day skiing. It is so much easier and less hectic to try on boots and get fitted for skis when you aren't fighting with everyone else on the mountain to get out there as soon as possible. Every place I've rented from offers this service free of charge.

The Beav does offer free hot chocolate at the top of some lifts in the early morning. Likewise they offer freshly baked cookies around 3:30-4. Not a bad prelude to drinks/hot tub/dinner/etc.

Things can be crowded around the base areas and the beginner/intermediate terrain. The way to counteract this is to start as early as possible and get in some quality skiing before the regular joes wake up. This is doubly important if there is a lot of fresh snow over night. Beaver Creek is known for small crowds due to its high prices and long distance from Denver, but if the Beav was the resort that got hammered with snow, then the crowds will show up.

Starting out early is also helpful because it gives you more time to take a break. You will need the breaks. Four days skiing in row is hard work for most people especially if your only skiing experience is single days at a "podunk hill". Most runs at BC will probably be 4-5 times as long as what your local hill offers.

As for packing food, sure you can do that to save some time/money but you really are going to want to stop and drink. One way to avoid the insane crowds is to stop for food/drink at a place that is up on the mountain vs. down at the base. The crowds will be smaller and there will be less people waiting for the lifts when you are done. One place for example would be Red Tail Camp near the base of Larkspur, Grouse and Birds of Prey lifts. They will have free water (as I imagine all the other on hill locations) but you might have to look a little bit to find it.

Speaking of this area, if you have any strong skiiers, these three lifts have great terrain and since there are three lifts, it spreads crowds out quite a bit. Don't be fooled by the blue run called Camprobber Road on Grouse Mountain. It is a narrow, unfun cat track. The rest of that mountain is steep and deep moguls. Be warned if that's not your thing.

And that brings me to trail markings. In general a black or double black at the Beav means it is steep or is through the trees or has moguls and is generally ungroomed. One exception of this is the trail marked Golden Eagle which is generally groomed but very steep. It is the World Cup downhill course and if it is groomed then it is a much more skiiable run for the average person. It is downright fun to rip fast turns on that slope and still realize that the pros are finishing the runs probably five times as fast as you are going to. does offer a helpful Mountain Layout description which will help you understand what terrain will be good for your ability. Also, there will be a ton of on-mountain hospitality staff that can make recommendations for you and there will also be daily mountain tours that you can sign up for.
posted by mmascolino at 5:52 PM on December 13, 2010

annnnd going to second building leg strength as much as you can in the next weeks before you go. You'll thank us once you're there and can still sit down on day three :). lunges, squats or stairs are the way to go.
posted by annie o at 5:53 PM on December 13, 2010

Third on building leg strength. You'll still be sore, but not nearly as bad as if you hadn't prepared ahead of time.

Also, if you ski aggressively enough to need drinking water on the slopes, use a Camelbak (or similar backpack water system) to keep hydrated on the slopes. (You might also get a drinking tube insulator to prevent the water from freezing in the tube.) It's MUCH more convenient than carrying water bottles, won't go flying (or jab you in the side) if you fall, you can sip water without stopping,... I won't ride without mine.
posted by LordSludge at 8:28 PM on December 13, 2010

Buy a helmet before you go, there are too many people not paying attention to risk just a hat. Besides, they are nice and warm.
Collect rental gear the day before, so you can take the time to set up and not waste the morning.
Try and catch the first lifts while half the resort is still sleeping and finish early if you get tired - it's always that last run that gets you hurt.
Take the time to eat a lunch of some description, energy bars are no way to enjoy your holiday!
Ski locks are cheap, I have a small cable one that won't stop a serious thief, but it does stop someone else accidentally running off with your skis.
Drink lots of water and wear your sun screen.
posted by arcticseal at 10:38 PM on December 13, 2010

Frst thing: don't jam up the runs! If you're going to stop, try to do so as far off to the side as you can. And stop *before* going over a ridge, so anyone descending at speed will have plenty of time to see and avoid you. This is exponentially more important the bigger of a group you're skiing in. Aim to stop downhill from your buddies—not above or of alongside them—to keep the run more open and save you from accidentally skiing into someone. The easier slopes are generally more crowded with worse skiers, so this is for your sake and theirs.

I like to a backpack with water and food. Or two, depending on the size of your group. I would advocate packing lunch and eating it at the most picturesque spot you find on the mountain, weather permitting. This spot is rarely one of the lodges or restaurants. Having a place on the slopes might be perfect and save you from needing to backpack all your lunch/snacks. But nothing beats finding a beautiful spot with a view, skiing there, kicking off your skis, and eating lunch or relaxing for a few minutes. Especially as your legs start giving out.
posted by kjell at 12:56 AM on December 14, 2010

Bring* a backpack
posted by kjell at 12:59 AM on December 14, 2010

If you're staying at a ski-in/ski-out place, I definitely wouldn't bring a backpack. Part of the joy of staying at such a place is the fact that you don't have to lug around much gear at all. If there's something you want (more sunscreen, a drink of water, an extra layer, etc.), just drop by the condo and pick it up.

Also, having food at the condo and not only will you save a lot of cash, you won't have to wait in any lines, either. If you want to eat out, go out to dinner in town after the lifts have closed.

Of course the best part of ski-in/ski-out lodging is having access to a jacuzzi to take breaks in in between runs, and often a fireplace to dry out your socks.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 12:43 PM on December 14, 2010

If you're skiing a back and forth pattern for a while and want to break pattern and ski over to one side of the hill, please glance back over your shoulder to check for traffic before doing so. Bottom line: Ski predictably so that others can avoid you.

Always leave some room between yourself and the edge of the trail. If somebody is over-taking, say, on your left, and you ski all the way to the left of the trail, you'll either run them off the trail or get run over.

This one may not apply, as you say you're a newb, but please please please check over your shoulder before doing a parallel stop.
posted by LordSludge at 2:57 PM on December 14, 2010

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