Help me plan a ski trip when I know nothing about skiing
June 1, 2004 11:51 PM   Subscribe

I'm planning a ski trip (North American) for myself and 3 friends for the week before Christmas. Problem: we know nothing about skiing. Help! [MI]

We are all under 25 and just want to get together after I finish my first semester of law school and do something fun. Skiing seems like a great option since none of us has done it before, and we all really want to try it. We want to go to a resort-type place to get the full experience. I'm thinking that renting a cabin will be the easiest and cheapest way for us to stay together and all have our own beds. We aren't really into clubbing or anything like that, we are mostly just interested in skiing/snowboarding.. and one of my friends really wants to rent a snowmobile. We want to keep costs low, but we live in Florida so the difference in cost between flying to Denver vs Canada are pretty negligible.

Any recommendations on where to go or any general tips? I know this is sort of a broad question, but I'm at a loss as to where to begin planning this one.
posted by gatorae to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total)
Silver Star mountain resort. Canadian bucks, which will save you some money. Not particularly crowded; most of the time I'm there, the line-ups are far less than five minutes. Tons of runs, with a very good variety of terrain from easy to suicidal. Decent snowboard park. House rentals up the wazoo, very swank.

Pick the right time of year, and you can go golfing the same day...
posted by five fresh fish at 12:03 AM on June 2, 2004

Oh, and there are great ski instructors, snowmobile rentals, tubing, skating, nordic skiing, and more.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:05 AM on June 2, 2004

I also recommend tubing and snowmobiles. Skiing is a bit of a chore compared to those types of activities, especially if you'll only be doing it for a few days. You might want to try snowshoes as well.
posted by Salmonberry at 12:07 AM on June 2, 2004

Whatever you do, get some lessons first (be it on a dry ski slope or - even better - an indoor snow slope).

The last thing you want to do is be learning how to walk up the hill and snow plough when you're on holiday. It's a complete waste of the time out there and will only frustrate you that you can't go off and at least do some of the green slopes.

The more you learn before you go, the more you'll enjoy it.
posted by ralawrence at 1:40 AM on June 2, 2004

if you're in the mood for hitting the rockies, i suggest big sky, montana. i learned to ski there. run by boyne USA. lots of easy slopes, lots of intermediate and harder slopes as well. it's every bit as good as some better-known spots, but less crowded and not as snooty as vail, etc...

and i sincerely second the "get some lessons first" bit. skiing isn't fun if you can't actually ski. if you've done some rollerblading you might be ok on the flats, and depending on how many hills you've skated down you might get a feel for the turns...

also make sure you rent good skis. bad edges make for more spills and less fun. some spots that's no problem, but other spots don't always have the best equipment up for rent.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:13 AM on June 2, 2004

Consider also Marmot Basin in Jasper National Park. It's one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and the skiing terrain is varied and accessable. Though it's been about a dozen years since I was there, they did at one time have an amazingly good Learn to Ski program. It's not really a fly-in destination, but you can get there from Prince George, Calgary or Edmonton relatively easily.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:28 AM on June 2, 2004

That's tough, being from Florida and all. What if you hate skiing?
posted by smackfu at 8:36 AM on June 2, 2004

if you're new, and want to stay on the mountain, I'll second fff's recommendation of Silver Star.

Canada would be a good deal for you, even though the exchange rate isn't quite as bad (good) as is was before.
posted by sauril at 8:37 AM on June 2, 2004

I have to recommend Utah. Seriously, it's my job. Anyway, I've skied east coast, west coast , canada, where ever and Utah is my favorite place to ski. I moved here about 9 years ago and can't leave now. You can't beat the access here, there are 11 different resorts within one hour of the airport. There are 4 within about 20 miles of the airport. If you're looking for something more rustic than the Park City experience, I would suggest the Big Cottonwood Canyon resorts. Right outside of Salt Lake but, you'd never know it. You have the low key but still awesome terrain of Brighton and Solitude resorts and one canyon over you also have Snowbird and Alta. If you need a cabin or any other information check out Come on give me some more hits.

Other than Utah, I definitely agree with the Big Sky idea, that place is sweet. Or I'd also say Grand Targhee or Jackson Hole.
posted by trbrts at 8:38 AM on June 2, 2004

Go to Tahoe, CA/NV you can gamble on the Nevada side.
posted by thomcatspike at 9:56 AM on June 2, 2004

I just learned how to ski this past winter. I took a private lesson the first day, and was having a blast on the (gentle) green runs by lunch time.
My advice would be to just go for it, take a lesson the first day and then take it from there. You might fall a lot at first, but it's still a huge thrill and lots of fun.
I totally kicked myself for not learning sooner-- I turned down a lot of opportunities for fun ski outings because I "didn't know how".
Skiing's fun, even when you're learning, and if you're out on the slopes all day, you'll pick it up fast. Good luck!
posted by bonheur at 10:07 AM on June 2, 2004

...we are mostly just interested in skiing/snowboarding...

Though it pains me to write this, I would recommend avoiding snowboarding if you only have a few days. The initial learning curve tends to be much steeper than for skiing: most people can be having fun on skis after a half day of lessons, whereas the first few days of learning to snowboard kick the shit out of most people. The exception would be if you have experience in a board sport (surfing, skateboarding); you might learn faster in this case.

That said, a week is certainly enough time to become competent on a snowboard (if you're not too sore to keep it up for the whole week), so if you really want to learn, go for it. Also, these are all generalizations, your mileage may vary, etc.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:45 AM on June 2, 2004

Rent good shape skiis and take a private lesson. You'll be up and flying in no time at all.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:00 AM on June 2, 2004

If you go the Tahoe route, I suggest Squaw Valley. Their High Camp is a great beginner area at the top of the mountain, so it's got lots of snow even early in the season, has spectacular views, and less traffic than many beginner hills usually found at the lower elevations. They (as well as most ski resorts) offer a "First-timer" package, which includes lift ticket, rental & lesson.

Once you pick a resort, you can usually work backwards to find lodging that offers discount packages for/transportation to your chosen mountain.

as fff mentions, shape skis are becoming the rental standard, and make learning to ski in an hour or two MUCH easier than in the old days. (and as mr_r said, if you try snowboarding, be prepared to spend a lot of time on your ass in the snow. Not that there's anything wrong with that...)
posted by obloquy at 11:19 AM on June 2, 2004

Get an apartment and get one which is ski-in-ski-out. Saves hassle.
posted by skylar at 11:43 AM on June 2, 2004

If you're in Florida and don't even know if you like skiing, why not go to one of the slopes in the Appalachians? There are lots of slopes and resorts; IIRC the better ones start in North Carolina and extend to Vermont (and presumably Quebec / Maritimes?). Mostly manufactured snow at lower altitudes, but so what if you've never done it at all?

I haven't been, but my impression from brochures and friends is that Appalachian slopes are friendly to tubing, tobogganing, etc, if you find you don't like skiing.

And you're only a long day's drive (12--15 hours) from Asheville, saving on airfare. And then if you don't like skiing, you can just toot around Asheville or Boone or Charlottesville, none of which are bad towns, or screw the whole thing and go to DC or Charleston or Savannah.

There's a place in WV that has downhill slopes for different purposes, cross-contry runs, and snowmobile areas. I can't remember the name, but it wasn't the Greenbrier.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:52 PM on June 2, 2004

AFAIK, you can't not rent shape skiis on the bigger BC/Alberta mountains. Well, it's shape skiis, double-tip trick skiis, or stubby skiis. The old-style skiis seem to be history.

Whatever hill you pick, be sure the lineups are going to be short. Nothing sucks quite so much as spending sixty bucks on a daypass, only to spend the majority of your day waiting in a freakin' lineup.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:33 PM on June 2, 2004

Mary Jane in the Colorado Rockies is a great beginner's mountain.
posted by Fupped Duck at 7:39 PM on June 2, 2004

I lived and worked in Whistler for a few years back in the early 90s. Great place, and back then was frequently rated #1 in North America by various skiing mags. Great place, and close to Vancouver.

Downsides are that it's expensive and a little tony these days, and the snow cover can be somewhat undependable because of its proximity to the coast.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:22 PM on June 2, 2004

I would echo the suggestion of Silver Star, but I'd recommend you also take a look at Big White. It's the sister resort of Silver Star, and located quite close actually.
It's bigger than Silver Star and is geared relatively well towards learning. They typically have rather good early season conditions also. (I think they've opened in October the last 2 years)
posted by sinical at 7:53 AM on June 3, 2004

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