Renting a condo or an Airbnb for a ski vacation is a great idea. The choices are amazing: you can get anything from a cozy cabin to a sprawling ski lodge to a small studio condo. And the benefits are terrific, too: lots of room to spread out; a home-like environment; more privacy than a hotel; even facilities to cook your own meals, which can save you a lot of money.

But renting can also be a bit of a gamble. Sure, the pictures on line can look amazing, but pictures don’t always tell the whole story.  And while it helps to check the reviews — in fact, I highly recommend it — not everyone has the same standards. One person’s A-plus might be another’s C-minus.  It’s all a matter of personal preference and expectations.

Over the years, I’ve rented my share of properties. Some have been terrific; for example, there was the 6 bedroom/6 bath slopeside lodge with a game room, movie theater, hot tub, and restaurant-quality kitchen — exorbitant on paper, but surprisingly affordable when split among a large group. And there have been clinkers, too, like the place with exactly 5 pieces of cutlery; the one with a coffin-like shower and filthy carpeting; and more than one with less than adequate heat.  Along the way I’ve learned that the more information you have going in, the less likely you are to face problems once you turn the key.

Some Rentals are Mansions, But Get What’s Right for You

So let’s take a look at some of the things you’ll need to know before you decide to rent a condo or an Airbnb for your next ski vacation.

Liftopia now offers lodging options near all the best ski destinations.

Where is it, Exactly?

As they say in real estate, location is everything. And the better the location, the more you’re likely to pay. Renting a place that’s ski in/ski out can be more expensive than renting a condo away from the hill, but renting in town can put you closer to restaurants and shopping.  Also, keep in mind that ski-in/ski-out can mean everything from walk out your door to the lift to skiing to your condo via a long network of green trails that may be miles away from the main lift. It helps to look at a map to see exactly where your rental is located.

What Amenities are Included?

Be sure to ask what’s included, and prioritize the ones that are important to you. Some of the things you might want to know: Is there a hot tub, and if so, is it private or shared? Is there parking at the unit and if so, how many spaces?  What about a washer-dryer? If there is one, is it in the unit or someplace remote? Is there ski storage? What about wi-fi?

Are Hot Tubs a Necessity? Some Say Yes

Is it on the Shuttle Route?

Renting a car can be expensive, so if you want to save some money, you’ll want easy access to the mountain shuttle. Once you determine whether or not a shuttle exists, be sure to learn the distance from your rental to the closest stop.  Also, does the same shuttle serve both the mountain and town? Is it free? How often does it run? And can you take a shuttle to go grocery shopping or out to dinner?

Location, Location, Location

What’s the Cancelation Policy?

Life can be messy, and sometimes things come up at inopportune times. Cancellations policies vary from renter to renter, so it pays to have a clear understanding of this going in. Otherwise, you could risk losing your deposit or even be liable for the entire amount. Pro tip: travel insurance can save you a lot of financial heartache. I highly recommend it.

Are There Any Policies I Should Know About?

If you want to bring Fido along, be sure it’s okay with your renter. Are you a smoker? It might be against the rules, and if you could face a hefty cleaning fee if you light up. Want to invite all your ski friends over for an après ski blast? Some places don’t allow parties, so you’ll want to know that going in. In short, know the rules and restrictions and be prepared to obey them — or pay the consequences.

What’s the Payment Schedule?

Some places require the entire amount up front, some provide a payment schedule — for example, half the rent by a certain date, and half later on. It helps to know what that is so you can adjust your budget accordingly.

Are There Any Special Fees?

You’ll probably have to pay cleaning fees. That’s pretty standard. But there could be other fees, too, like parking or resort fees. Make sure you know about these up front.

Are There Any Special Deals?

Sometimes you can get a special deal: rent 6 nights and get the 7th night free. Or lift tickets could be included. It’s worth checking out. You could save some money.

When is Check-In and Check-Out?

Know these before you arrive. For example, if you’re planning to get there at 10AM and check-in isn’t til 4PM, you may be stuck unless you’ve made prior arrangements.

Cabins Were Meant for Winter

How Long Do You Have to Stay?

Some rentals or Airbnbs only rent out for a set number of days.  For example, some may require a seven night stay. Or some may require both a Friday and Saturday for the weekend.

Options are Limitless in Ski Country

Looking for Something in Particular?

Don’t want to stay on the ground floor? Only want queen beds? Is a fireplace essential? If it’s not noted in the description, be sure to ask about it rather than risk being disappointed once you arrive.

Renting can be a terrific experience and one I highly recommend. Just be sure to get as much information as you can before you sign your lease. And have a wonderful time!

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