Planning a ski trip... A year in advance
December 19, 2013 8:23 AM   Subscribe

Help me figure out all the logistics involved in planning my very first big-boy vacation: A ski trip to the Rockies. I could use location recommendations or tour companies if any of you have experience with that. Details inside

So after starting my first job with an actual paycheck, and reading study after study saying that experiences are better than objects, I've decided that my first major purchase will be a ski trip vacation in the Spring of 2015. The problem: I've never planned a major vacation before. I need recommendations from people who have been there and done that. Here are some specifics:

-Budget: What cost am I looking at? I'll be saving my bonuses from this year and next. I'd like to keep it in the $3000-$5000 dollar range. That might be impossible, I really don't know.
-Time: I'd like to go in February of 2015, for about 7-10 days.
-Location: I definitely want the Rockies. My family used to take yearly vacations to Telluride, Colorado. I realize that's insanely out of my price range, but that's the sort of place I loved and the feeling I want to invoke again.
-My skiing ability is moderate. When I was 15, steep groomed blues were the peak of my ability. It's been 8 years and I've grown 8 inches since then, so I doubt I'll be at that level when I return.
-I'd like to use a touring company if possible. I'll be traveling alone or maybe with one other friend, so a built-in group of people to ski with and hang out with would be great. Anybody know any good package deals?

If I'm forgetting anything important, please let me know. Thanks!
posted by nickhb to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You might want to join a ski club in your area. They frequently organize ski weeks and you can get to know people throughout the year at mixers and meetings.

I went to Breckenridge and stayed at the Hilton there. It was ski-in, ski-out and it was pretty great all around. Breckenridge has a great little town that's very walkable, they also have a trolley that will take you around.

I organized the trip through American Airlines, and it included air fare, hotel, transfers and lift tickets. The lift tickets were good not only for Breckenridge but for Copper Mountain, Beaver Creek and Vail, so that was pretty sweet.

Breckenridge has a LOT of Blue runs, and you can take a refresher class if you like, before hitting the slopes in earnest.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:49 AM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

I agree with Ruthless Bunny, a local ski club would be a great way to find a trip, if they have them in your area. For instance a ski club in my area (Boston) is offering February trips to Sun Valley and Taos (neither of those is maybe exactly what you're looking for, but for a ballpark figure) for around $2000 including airfare from Boston, lodging, and ski passes.

Have you thought about whether you'll rent or buy your ski equipment? Presumably you don't want to use what you used when you were 15. You'll want to price that out. I am super-picky about how my boots fit, so I have my own equipment even though I don't ski a ton (I adopted my sister's old skis to save some money).
posted by mskyle at 9:15 AM on December 19, 2013

The ski club thing is a great idea. No recommendations though. You might look into a local ski or outdoor store to see if they have one. Ski warehouse here does trips all the time.

7-10 days is quite a long time at one resort. I would suggest the breckenridge area - you can purchase a lift ticket that would give you access to several resorts - Breck, A basin, Keystone, Vail and Beaver Creek. Breckenridge is a great little town with lots of lodging options that are probably more reasonable than Vail or Beaver Creek. We went with a VRBO rental last time we were there in the summer.

Or in other words, what ruthless bunny said.
posted by domino at 9:34 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you haven't skiied in 10 years plan on skiing only 2 days out of three if that. Maybe a dogsled or yoga class or just chill in the hot tub on rest days.

Also consider taking at least a one day lesson.
posted by shothotbot at 10:00 AM on December 19, 2013

I would recommend taking a weekend this year to rent gear, take a lesson, sort out your clothes and figure out if you actually WANT to go skiing. (I realize this is location specific, but if you're on the east or west coasts this is doable, south not so much) I am the herder of friends into ski trips, and I've found that some of them, while very enthusiastic about the trip, just flat out DON'T LIKE IT. and that's fine. but it's terrible if you get out there and you're stuck for 10 days at a resort with no escape.

I second the Breckenridge area as a great place to spend a week- should be cheap to fly into denver, then you can either take a van to the mountains, or rent a car and drive up (about 4 hrs).

(I plan elaborate ski trips every year, and this year we've got a 10 day trip at 1600 per person including flights, lodging(ski in ski out), transport, ski rentals and food estimate set up to the western rockies, so me-mail me if you want specific stuff).
posted by larthegreat at 10:21 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't ignore the Canadian Rockies- Alberta side and BC side- Lake Louise and Banff are easier to reach because or relative proximity to Calgary's airport (Jasper is less so but my God it's beautiful up there) and Louise is the biggest skifield, in area, in North America with an insane number of options for runs. Over in Fernie BC (and other BC Rockies resorts), which is obviously harder to reach, you have the most reliable snow in the Rockies on either side of the border. The Canadian dollar is softening a bit (at around 94 cents US right now) so don't ignore these places.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 10:39 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you want to go to Colorado, try to go in March instead of February. March is actually the month with the highest average snowfall in Colorado, and spring skiing is awesome, it's warmer than earlier months.

I think you don't need a tour group to meet people. In addition to the ski club option already mentioned, many resorts have a daily group ski/tour of the mountain to help people meet each other. Plus the social scene in ski towns is lively.

The budget will be related to the overall vibe you're looking for. Do you want a big resort with lots of luxuries (someplace like Vail or Aspen)? That will be more expensive. Do you want easy access? The Breckenridge area is easy to get to from Denver. Or would you like some place more off the beaten path, possibly more run down and harder to get to? Wolf Creek has some of the best snow in Colorado but requires another flight or a longish drive. What kind of lodging do you want? Go out to eat or cook for yourself? We can give some more specific recommendations if you can describe what your priorities are.
posted by medusa at 11:14 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I like Utah because the snow is nice and you don't need a car. They have a good bus system for the mountains.

A million-time-sing local ski club first though- GREAT way to meet people and also get tips on exactly this sort of topic.
posted by bquarters at 12:05 PM on December 19, 2013

I belong to a local ski club that organizes trips. I've taken my winter vacation that way for the past fifteen or so years. I live close enough to small ski hills that my club can also offer weekly lessons to prep me for my annual ski week.

Having said that, some resorts will offer a ski week program. You get the same instructor and same group for the week. Lots of folks socialize that way. Taos, NM is one that comes to mind for that sort of week.

I ski about 15 days a year. 6 of those days are on my ski week. Lots of those weeks have been in Colorado. My estimated annual cost for skiing is about $5000 so your estimated cost sounds reasonable.
posted by TORunner at 12:24 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

nthing the suggestion that Breckenridge sounds like a good place for you. There will be lots of runs well within your ability, a town that is compact and walkable from the slopes with lots of other things to do, and a price point that is commensurate with your budget.

The other Colorado resort to consider is Steamboat. Overall I personally like it better than Breckenridge. But it's not as good for beginner / intermediate skiiers, it's relatively isolated from other resorts (if you get bored with Breck, you can quickly drive to Vail/Keystone/Abasin) and the town, while great-- I like it more than Breck -- is not as well integrated physically into the ski area. But your budget will go a long way at either place. And as you intuit, Telluride and Aspen may be harder to hit you budget line at (they are always above my budget, so I've never been.)

posted by u2604ab at 12:40 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

VRBO and/or AirBnB can be great, especially if you're staying for a full week. Or you could split your time between a condo and a hotel (if you want some recommendations on good mid-week condos, let me know). Vail Resorts owns Vail, Beaver Creek, A-Basin, Breckenridge, and Keystone, which are all within a short drive of each other. If you buy at the right time you can get combo passes that will reduce your day-to-day cost significantly.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:41 PM on December 19, 2013

I've been a certified ski instructor for 20 years, and actively teaching for the last 12 years. Let's assume you sort out the logistics. Based on the kinds of questions you've asked before, I strongly encourage you think about your physical condition. In all of my students I see this as the biggest factor in how much they enjoy skiing, how quickly they learn new skills and how resistant they are to injury from minor falls. Don't worry about how you look -- focus on endurance and functional strength (especially legs and core). If motivation and discipline are problems for you, you might want to budget for group fitness classes or the occasional personal training.
posted by wutangclan at 10:09 PM on December 19, 2013

Going from nothing to a 10 day ski trip sounds like madness. You are going to want to take things in smaller chunks. Luckily for you is that as long as you aren't requiring super close opulent accommodations, you can stretch your dream budget into a whole lot more than 10 days worth of skiing.

Granted you are young and have the chance for endurance but let me say that what you are planning is a large amount of skiing especially for when you will essentially be new to the sport again. I'd recommend taking a couple of smaller trips in the 3-5 day range. The counter to that is that at 10 days of skiing it often makes sense to get a season's pass. The counter to that is that you have to buy that pass in Fall when you have no idea if the skiing will be good in Feb/March/April.

As far as packaged tours and what not, I've never been a big fan but it certainly will be cheaper traveling with a few others where you can split costs of rental cars and hotel rooms. I'd recommend that when talking with your friends and acquaintances about travel and hobbies, feel them out to see if you can find some kindred spirits. Once you have that, consider watching airfares and travel deals at the end of March beginning of April for some deals and going skiing in 2014 for a long weekend.
posted by mmascolino at 10:10 PM on December 21, 2013

I work in the Canadian ski industry. Rates are about 17% cheaper now for a yank than at the beginning of the season. Business is down in Canada and a late easter isn't going to help. In Banff-Lake Louise the season runs into late May, with good snow to be had at Sunshine Village through all of April (Lake Louise can get a bit crappy near the end). Message me if you want some more info.
posted by furtive at 10:00 PM on March 5, 2014

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