Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on December 13, 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
There are few experiences as magical as spending the holidays at a ski resort—fresh snow blanketing the ground, family and friends gather together to create irreplaceable memories of exhilarating days on the slopes, afternoon apres celebrations and evenings spent relaxing in front of a crackling fire. It’s the perfect getaway, a brilliant way to spend the oh-so-fleeting days of vacation.
It’s so brilliant, in fact, that everyone has the same idea.
The holidays are a busy time at ski resorts, with everyone scrambling to make their dreams of a winter wonderland a reality. As a result, your idyllic getaway may involve overcrowded restaurants, throngs of people meandering through town and lift lines that seem to stretch into the next zip code.
However, it doesn’t have to be like this. Here are 8 ways to avoid the crowds and successfully navigate the craziness that descends on resorts during the holidays.
1. Timing is everything.
The very beginning, and the very end, of the day are prime times to get in some secluded skiing. Riding on the first few chairs of the day means that you can seek out the fresh powder or newly groomed trails. Take a break (if you need it) during the mid-day rush and head back out again at the end of the day. Not only are the crowds already heading to apres, but catching the last chair of the day means that you can take your time and enjoy the near solitude on uncrowded slopes for your last run.
2. Go for a hike.
“Chat with a local and find out of some of the best ‘hike-in’ runs, such as Goat Path on Whistler or Spanky’s Ladder on Blackcomb, to work off last night’s beers and earn your turns in a hike-in only run. These tend to be harder to access, which means less crowds,” said Jess Smith of OutsidePR.
3. Avoid munching mid-day.
Most of the mountain will clear out mid-day as famished skiers and snowboarders head into the restaurants to refuel. Have a big breakfast or pack a snack to eat on the chair and ski straight through the prime lunch hours of 12 p.m. – 2 p.m. You’ll be amazed at how empty the runs will seem.
4. Go big, early.
“Ski the tough stuff first,” said Suzie Dundas, Marketing Manager at Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort in Incline Village, Nevada. “Most people will work their way up to double diamonds and cliffs, but if you know you’ve got some hucking to do, do it early while everyone else is still working up the nerves to get there.”
5. Love the nightlife.
Extend your ski day with night skiing. Not only does night skiing give you another four or five hours to explore the mountain, but it’s often less crowded as most people will wear themselves out during the day.
6. Be single, look to mingle.
Even though you may be skiing with friends, the singles line can be a great way to bypass the crowds.
“Lift lines can take forever, but on bigger chairs like six-packs, you’ll find that two or three people from the singles line get on per chair, versus one group per chair,” said Dundas. “Divide up your crew and you’ll all get to the top faster.”
7. Get schooled.
Think you don’t need a ski school lesson? Think again. Ski school has a special line that allows instructors and their groups to access the lift more quickly.
“If you want to jump the lift lines, take a lesson and get your own dedicated lift line,” said Smith. “There are expert and specialized classes, so it won’t be all ‘pizza and french fries’ if you don’t want or need that.”
8. Enjoy responsibly.
There’s nothing better than starting the New Year with fresh turns on uncrowded slopes—just make sure that you keep your eye on the prize and don’t let ringing in the new year foil your ski day.
“New Year’s Eve takes its toll on party goers who sleep in late and are too hungover (pffftt…amateurs) to enjoy first chair and uncrowded slopes,” said Thomas Prindle, Director of Marketing for Attitash & Wildcat Mountain resorts in New Hampshire.
These are just a few of the tips and tricks that can help you avoid the crowds during the holiday season. Other options include heading to the slopes early (many resorts have special pricing for the week leading up to Christmas) or trying a different type of snowsport, like cross country skiing, for a serious decrease in crowds.