There’s no doubt about it: winter is fully upon us. Looking at the social media feeds, it seems as if just about every resort in the country is swimming in freshies, making a ski trip a necessity, not a luxury.
For those who can’t just call in sick and high tail it to the mountains on a moment’s notice, holiday weekends are the easiest for sneaking in some skiing and riding.
The only problem? Everyone has the same holiday weekends. This can translate to longer lines and much busier slopes.
It doesn’t have to be like this, though.
To help you navigate the hassles of a peak weekend without loosing your cool, we’d like to offer the following advice. You can thank us when you’re back in the office on Tuesday.
1. Location, location, location
It stands to reason that the ski resorts that are most easily accessed from a city are going to be busier on a holiday weekend. Therefore, consider a resort that might be a bit farther away or slightly more remote. Though it may take some additional time to get there, you could reap the rewards for your persistence with fewer folks on the slopes.
2. Buy your tickets online, in advance
Standing in line is annoying. Standing in line for lift tickets is annoying and avoidable. Whether you go through the resort’s website or utilize a site like Liftopia for deals, you’ll save time and money by purchasing your tickets ahead of time. Walk-up lift ticket prices are the most expensive and can run you more than $125 in some locations.
3. Find a buddy
Speaking of lift ticket prices, another option for saving some money on peak weekend is finding a buddy with a season pass. Many season passes include a certain number of “buddy passes”: discounted lift tickets for friends. If you have a generous friend, that can save you money, too.
4. Timing is everything
The best way to navigate the crowds is to be where they aren’t. Though the lifts might open at 8:30 or 9 a.m., the morning rush is usually around 10 a.m during holiday periods. Be one of the first in line and consider your route carefully, based on elements like grooming, snowfall and lift speeds.
Another key time to ski is during the lunch period. Eat early or take a snack for the lift ride and get in some less-crowded runs while everyone else is breaking for lunch. Does your resort offer twilight or night skiing? This is a great opportunity to fit in a few more runs when others are stumbling back to their hotels.
5. Cheap eats
It’s no secret that eating on-mountain at a resort will set you back in the wallet department. If the idea of an $18 cup of chili leaves you cold, bring your own lunch and save a few bucks (plus it makes it easier to munch on the lift).
Fresh out of sammy makings at home? Not a problem—there are still some deals to be found at resorts. Some restaurants have special lunch prices in base-area locations, not on the hill. Can you hold out until après? Many places include snack specials along with happy hour pricing for après.
6. Get high
When you look at a ski resort, where do most of the crowds seem to congregate? At the bottom. While everyone has to start somewhere, one of the easiest ways to avoid the crowds is to get high fast. By sticking to the upper reaches of the mountain, the back bowls or the more advanced terrain, you’ll be able to avoid much of the crowds—especially the beginners.
7. Link up with a local
While many folks who live in a ski town avoid the hill on holiday weekends, it doesn’t mean that they don’t know what’s up. Chat up your bartender, waiter or shuttle driver (nicely) and get their picks for alternate routes on the mountain, locations for cheaper eats and other helpful suggestions. Tip well after you pick their brains; karma is real.
8. Be patient
In the end, a busy day on the mountain is still better than a day in the office. Take a look around you, enjoy the spectacular scenery and be sure to yield to those downslope of you. It’s going to be a great weekend.