By Michelle Schuman for the Orbitz Travel Blog
Sadly, ski season doesn't last forever, unless you're heading to the French Alps. Or Austria. Or Germany. But whether you're planning a last-minute jaunt to Whistler, a mid-summer Switzerland trip, or next year's annual Jackson Hole retreat, here's how to make the most of it.
Know your snow.
There's a huge difference between skiing on powdered snow and packed snow. (For instance, Aspen Mountain and Sierra-at-Tahoe are known for their powder.) A little research in advance will help you figure out where you should go, as you read up on slopes with frozen granular, wet packed, variable conditions, among others. If nothing else, you'll need to know what your poles and skis can handle.
Take everyone's skiing skills into account.
Maybe you're all beginners. Maybe you're not. Either way, make sure that there'll be something for everyone (including cozy hangouts to warm up après-ski). For example:
- Breckenridge: This famous resort has a great mix of easy, intermediate and difficult slopes, including bunny hills for first-timers.
- Vail: This Swiss-style Colorado resort has runs for all skill levels, but it's most notable for its challenging courses and the Back Bowls, a wide-open ski terrain.
- Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area: Located in the heart of Yosemite, this small ski area is perfect for families looking to learn to ski together.
- Crested Butte: Marked by a historical town, this mountain spot has some of the country's most celebrated extreme terrain. That said, it also offers plenty of slopes suitable for beginners and intermediate skiers.
Buy those lift tickets well in advance.
You can get some pretty great deals for doing so. Many ski resorts also offer discounts on full-day tickets, which are great for beginners and little ones who can handle just a few hours on the slopes.
Photo: The Lodge at Breckenridge
- Hotel Terra at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort offers fine Italian cuisine, a rooftop infinity pool and hot tub, upscale boutiques and some seriously cozy rooms.
- Four Seasons Whistler is known for being a stunner in the looks department. You'll never want to leave, thanks to the golf course, full-service spa and those famous Four Seasons beds.
- The Hotel Alyeska in Girdwood, Alaska is home to an aerial scenic tram, saltwater pool, a spa and AAA Four-Diamond restaurant.
- Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is perched at the edge of a mountain lake, offering picture-perfect views. The spa is definitely worth a visit, and you can always head outdoors for some dog sledding, ice climbing and snowmobiling when you're not skiing.
- Ritz Carlton Vail is essentially a transplanted Bavarian palace. Soak in those mountain views thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows, open-air fire pit and private balconies.
- The Chateau Deer Valley in Park City understands that it's the little things that make a vacation special--think heated towel racks, jetted tubs, and pillow-topped mattresses.
Location, location, location!
If it's important for you to be able to ski right out from your hotel room door, do it! But if you're on a tight budget, look for lodging a little further from the mountain. Many resorts offer free shuttle service, with stops around the village or town, so with some planning you can still easily get to the lifts.
- Wayside Inn in Breckenridge certainly isn't a mega-resort, but it is super cozy and charming all the same, thanks to its hot tub, free Wi-Fi and Egyptian cotton sheets.
- Fallridge at Vail offers something that most resorts do not: condominiums with full kitchens, fireplaces and balconies.
- Copperstone Resort's game room, barbecue grills and roomy, condo-style digs--compete with washer/dryers--are all tucked away in Dead Man's Flats, a quick drive from all the skiing in Banff National Park.
- PowderWood Resort in Park City offers roomy condos with gas fireplaces, kitchens, washer/dryer units and private balconies near the Tangier Outlets.
Make a list, check it thrice.
Santa's not the only one who rechecks his list. There's a lot to remember here, from packing several pairs of gloves, to snacks, to thermal underwear, to hand warmers, to goggles, to selfie sticks. Bring what you need, buy what you don't. A toothbrush will be easy to buy at the resort. A single left-foot ski boot? Not so much.
Consider renting your gear...
...and do it well before your trip, not at the resort. It's a lot cheaper than buying new stuff, and way more convenient. However, if you're a total beginner, check with the resort before buying OR renting: many beginner's packages include equipment rental, lessons and lift tickets.
Always bring a helmet.
And goggles. Skiing without a helmet is just stupid, and sunglasses will likely fog up, fall off or break, no matter what you do.
Dress in layers.
Depending on the temperature and amount of sunshine, you may need 6 layers, or you may need only 1 or 2. You won't enjoy skiing much if you're sweating enough to melt all the snow behind you as you whiz down the mountain. Choose moisture-wicking and breathable fabrics for your undergarments, and something moisture-repelling for the outermost layer. On that note: Dry out your gear and clothes immediately after taking them off. No one wants to start the day by wrestling on some cold, soggy long johns.
Keep rush hour in mind.
And no, we don't mean on the interstate. Lifts have rush hours, too, so unless you want to waste precious ski time standing in line, we suggest starting early.
Don't ski on the first day.
Your body will need time to adjust to the altitude, otherwise you may end up sick. So don't stay for three days and plan to ski for all of them, unless you want to be queasy. Take it easy your first day, or stay that first night or two at a spot halfway up the mountain, to get used to it.
Invest in a GoPro.
You're making memories here!
Make time to unwind.
Don't feel the need to ski every day--taking it easy is an important part of any vacation. And plenty of resorts offer enough amenities to keep you busy for days:
- Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort is a luxe, AAA Four-Diamond hotel complete with a private beach and Grand Lodge Casino, home to more than 250 slot machines and 16 gaming tables.
- The Post Hotel in Lake Louise, Canada is a wine- and food-lover's paradise: It won a Wine Spectator Grand Award in 2015 thanks to its 25,500-bottle wine cellar, which is paired with seriously upscale cuisine like milk-fed Quebec veal tenderloin medallions and pan-seared foie gras in a white port wine sauce.
- Fairmont Banff Springs isn't just a resort--it's an actual castle and a UNESCO World Heritage Site complete with black-lit bowling alley, 9 bars and restaurants and, indoor mineral pools and eucalyptus inhalation rooms.