The snow is falling in the mountains and the time for turkey has passed. The holidays are officially upon us, and with the seasonal sweet treats and festive lights comes an even bigger holiday for many: ski season is officially here!
For most of us, the holidays are the best time to hit the slopes. School is out of session, we have vacation days away from work, and family is in town to visit. However, those very same reasons make the resorts busy and crowded. What’s a skier to do when the mountain is crawling with people? Fortunately, we have some insider tips that will help you escape the madness and find plenty of face shots amidst the chaos.
1. Support Smaller Mountains
States like Utah and Colorado have dozens of ski resorts to choose from but many visitors have only heard of the most popular: Vail, Park City and Breckenridge, to name a few. Fortunately, there are plenty of smaller, local mountains that have unparalleled snow with fewer people. And while it may take some digging to find the local hot spots, the juice is definitely worth the squeeze. Pro tip: check out Snowbird in Utah or Monarch Mountain in Colorado. Both are great ski hills where the people are few and far between.
2. Flee the Lodge
Many tourists are learning how to ski or board, so the majority of their ski vacation is spent on the easiest green runs on the mountain. If you can handle the big stuff, find the more difficult blue and black runs that are farther from the lodge. Not only will beginner skiers not be able to handle the intensity, but fewer people will think to take four chair lifts to find the powder. Trekking cross-mountain may seem like a pain, but deserted back bowls on a holiday weekend make the chair time totally worth it.
3. Pack Your Lunch
If you’re anything like us, the crowded cafeteria is enough to ruin a ski vacation! Screaming kids, clanging food trays and jam-packed tables are the quickest way to a mid-day meltdown. Fortunately, lunch doesn’t have to cause a migraine.
Pro-mountain biker and Utah resident Amanda Batty gave us this piece of beta: ski with a backpack and carry your own snacks. Not only will you avoid the pandemonium in the cafeteria, but you will have the lunch hour to yourself. While everyone else stands in line for their french fries, you can snag some solitary turns.
4. Ski On The Actual Holiday
It may seem counterintuitive: the holiday season is busy yet the actual holiday is quiet? However, it’s the truth. Tourists flock to ski resorts for week-long vacations, but both visitors and locals tend to spend the holiday morning at home with their families. If you can find the gumption to press glass on Christmas morning, you may find wide open slopes on the mountain.
5. Find the Secret Fast Pass
This is a new concept for the 2014-15 shred season, but we think it may take off. Word on the street is that Copper Mountain in Colorado debuted a new “Secret Season Pass.” For $100 more than the regular season pass ($509 vs $409), skiers can access the mountain 15 minutes earlier than mere mortals. Additionally, many of Copper’s lifts will have separate lines for Secret Pass carriers so they don’t to wait around to catch a chair. Sure, $100 isn’t pocket change, but there are only 24 hours in each day. Who wants to waste precious powder time?
6. Arrive Early or Ski Late
Just like the hottest hours of the day, the busiest ski hours on a mountain are from 10 AM through 2 PM. If you have the moxie to set a pre-dawn alarm, you’ll likely miss the majority of the traffic. Likewise, most shredders don’t have the muscular endurance to last the full day. The 90 minutes prior to close are fairly quiet. If you can arrive early or ski late, we bet you’ll miss the mob.
7. Shred the Backcountry
If all else fails, veto the resorts and head into the pristine powder of the backcountry. Crowds are nonexistent and while it definitely takes more work, the solitude is worth the sweat equity. Pro tip: don’t try this unless you have the proper safety gear and are well-versed in avalanche and snow science!