Whether you can believe or not, we’re already half way through Fall. It’s time to start dusting off those skis propped up in the corner of your garage!

It’s never too early to plan your holiday (or non-holiday) ski trip. In fact, the sooner the better. For some people, planning a vacation can seem like a daunting task… but it doesn’t have to be! Here’s a quick guide to help.

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Stateside Hotel at Jay Peak. PHOTO: Jay Peak Resort

Step 1: Set a budget (and stick to it).

Consider who is going and who is paying. Are you a family of four or is it you and three friends? Lodging and transportation will need to be booked in advance, especially if your trip is during the busy holiday season. Don’t forget to factor in the costs for food, rentals, and other on- and off-mountain activities.

Lodging

A condo slopeside? A hotel room at base? Someone’s couch? There are endless options for lodging depending on how creative you are and how high (or low) your standards are. Check out popular sites like AirBnB.com or Couchsurfing.com; you’ll be surprised at how much you can save by sharing a cabin with others. If you prefer to be in the middle of all the action, slopeside hotels or resort lodging may have deals depending on the dates of your trip.

Pro tip: Check with your credit card companies, AAA, or any other memberships you may have and see if they have specials running for lodging at branded hotels. If you have a Mountain Collective Pass, take advantage of lodging deals that come with the pass.

Transportation

A flight can set you back anywhere from $100 to $900 round trip depending on where you plan to fly to and where you are flying from. Places like Jackson Hole and Aspen are a little less accessible than Salt Lake City and Denver. If you’re on a tight budget but still want that destination trip, consider an airport farther away and renting a car.

Pro tip: Flying with your gear? Certain airlines like Alaska Airlines will let you have a free checked ski bag if you’re going to a popular destination like Salt Lake City. Do the research!

PHOTO: Nicola Albertini on Flickr

PHOTO: Nicola Albertini on Flickr

Food

I typically assume $10 per meal per day for one person. You may be able to do it for less if you love Cup O’ Noodles and sandwiches or you may do it for more if you like steak and shrimp. Consider your needs, but keep in mind the more food you make on your own to take to the mountain, the cheaper it will be.

Lift Tickets

When you plan ahead and book in advance on Liftopia.com, you can save up to 80%. Tickets, rentals, meal vouchers and more are available from over 250 ski areas in North America.

Step 2: Set a date.

Based on your budget, set your destination and your dates. If you’re planning to ski during the holidays, the best way to save is to reserve in advance. If you can’t afford the influx of holiday rates, consider going during off times, like the second week of January.

Pro Tip: If you are flying, set your dates with a combination of finding lift ticket deals and cheap flights. If a lift ticket price to a popular resort is out of your budget, try a smaller resort nearby.

Laura

Sugar Bowl on a Bluebird Pow day. PHOTO: Laura Cordaro

Step 3: Get ready for your trip.

Now that you have your dates and expenses set, it’s time to get ready for your trip! Here are some things to think about as you’re heading out the door:

Bring your boots and leave the rest. If you’re taking a flight that doesn’t allow for a free or cheaply checked ski bag, you might want to think of renting while you’re at the resort. It will save hassle in transport and may end up being less. Think of it as an opportunity to try this year’s newest gear out!

Know the forecast. Checking popular sites like OpenSnow.com and OnTheSnow.com will help you best gauge what to expect on the mountain. We hope you’ll be getting a few powder days in!

Pack accordingly. Now that you’ve taken a peek at the forecast through a few different avenues, make sure you are packing the proper layers. This is extremely important to ensure you have a good time. Think of the chairlift to the peak and pack appropriately so you can stay comfortable on the ride up. Remember, no cotton (or jeans).

Driving to the resort? Whether you are renting from the airport or road tripping, make sure your car is equipped with the proper tools and accessories. Do you have snow tires? Chains should be carried with you at all times especially if you’re in a two-wheel drive car. A shovel, ice picker, and some salt never hurts as well. Many rental companies will have various options for you when making a reservation.

Get to know the mountain. Are you going to a resort you’ve never been to? In that case, it’s extremely helpful to take a look and get to know the resort via their trail maps. While it will take a moment to acclimate when you arrive, chances are you will have a much better time if you’ve already looked over a map than having to constantly pull the map out to orientate yourself.

Make reservations. If you know you’ll be renting or putting the kids through ski school, save yourself some time and hassle by making reservations ahead of time. This can save you at least an hour in the morning–weekends and holidays may be even more!

Following these guidelines will not only get you fired up for your trip, but equally as fired up to plan it. What other things do you consider when planning a trip? Do you have any hacks that you’ve discovered as you’ve gone about planning your trip? Let us know in the comment section below!

Pray for Snow!

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Sub-Categories liftopia / More Snowsports / Ski / Ski & Snowboard / Snowboard
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  • Rob Webb

    Awesome Laura!

  • Brianna Luce

    Great article Laura, love the pro tips!

  • Alex

    Huge help and lots of good advice, thanks Laura!

  • Ernie Wilson

    Couchsurf all day err day!

  • Darren

    Nice article and great tips. But for lodging, also check the ski towns just off-site. Usually B&Bs and other places just 7 miles off the resort can save you TONS of money. Plus you get breakfast for free!

  • John Jaeger

    OK Laura, as a fellow southern NY skier I enjoy traveling west for great skiing. The cost of skiing just jumped higher with Vail now buying up some UTAH’s resorts. I used your advice and took only boots last spring to Park City only to discover performance rentals with poles ran around $80.00/day. Times that by three for my family and the cost of rental alone for five days was $1200.00. I think it will be cheaper to ship our skis and poles via FedEx or UPS before our next trip to Utah. United charges $150 for three skis each way so $300 is the watermark for shipping costs by ground. How about addressing this issue in your next tips.