August 29, 2019

Colorado Ski Trip Tips for Newbies

Happy almost ski season y'all! I know it seems way too early, but here in Colorado the big ski sales are on and season pass prices increase next week. With only 1 ski season under my belt, I'm 0% expert. Hopefully I'll learn more this season but for now, here's some things I did learn last season that may be helpful to those planning your first trip to the Colorado Front Range in snow season.

1. WHERE TO STAY: Plan ahead. Get on vrbo or wherever you prefer to rent from, and get your condo rented. The best rentals go fast. If you are using points to secure your hotel, the point availability will go quickly also. With many of the hotels, there is a 14 – 30 day cancellation (not the standard 24 – 28 hours). So keep an eye on this if you need to cancel.

2. DISCOUNT RENTAL GEAR: Rent your gear online at least 24 hours ahead of time to get a discount. If you have a lesson in the morning, you may want to get your gear the day before or plan to get to the rental location extra early. I've seen some long lines at the rental places because each person may have to try on 1 – 2 sets of boots to get the right fit.

3. RENT GEAR NEARBY: If you can use a rental location at the base where you'll be skiing, I highly recommend this. Ski boots are a pain in the butt to walk around in and some restaurants don't allow ski boots. When renting at the base, you can drop your skis and boots off at lunch, get your normal shoes and then after lunch, grab your skis and boots again. Also, each night you can drop your skis and boots off at the rental location and not have to drag them back to your condo/hotel.

4. LUNCH ON THE MOUNTAIN: Sometimes it really is easier to pop into a restaurant at the base/town for lunch instead of eating at the mountain restaurant at the top (or bottom). The mountain cafeteria/restaurants at the top are so, so crowded. And yes, you should expect to pay $20 for a hamburger at the cafeterias. :( 

5. LESSONS: Ski/boarding lessons are essential for a great (and safe) vacation. They are pretty expensive, especially when booking for a whole family. But honestly, I can't recommend them enough. There is so. much. to. learn! Here's how to save: Ski lessons earlier in the season are generally less expensive. Some of the resorts will announce specials on lessons in December (Vail had half price last year for Epic season pass holders). Keystone has a family freedom pack (which is a 4 pack of lessons which you can use/divide any way you want). You can use these later in the season but the lowest prices are before September 2ndand then they stop selling them altogether in December.

6. WHICH MOUNTAIN IS RIGHT FOR YOU? All mountains are not created equal. Or I should say, ski runs. I quickly and painfully learned that a green at Breckenridge and the greens at Vail & Keystone are very different. Breckenridge has a lot of super easy greens at Peak 9. Keystone has very few greens in general. Keystone has a 3 mile “green” trail, so they get to claim they have a good percentage of green trails, but this is a more advanced green and the very end portion of it is terrifying (for total newbies, who are chickens like me). So if you aren't up to doing that (Schoolmarm), you will be stuck on 2 small green runs all day (Scout & Endeavor).

7. AVOID CHAIR LIFT CROWDS: If you are booking a lesson, try to book it for a Saturday (or whatever you anticipate to be the most crowded day of your trip). Ski lesson groups have their own ski chair line and have a much shorter wait for the ski chair. Also, some times there is a 2ndoption other than the “main” lift/gondola. For instance, at the River Run Village at Keystone, if you see super long lines for the gondolas, walk past those about 2 minutes to the chair lift. The lines are much, much shorter. 

8. DINNER: Book your dinner reservations ahead of time if possible, or add yourself to the waitlist asap if reservations at not accepted. If you are in Vail and find yourself without a reservation, try one of the many hotel restaurants. Vail is filled with upscale hotels and their restaurants are amazing and not nearly as crowded as the in town restaurants.

9. GETTING TO THE MOUNTAIN: If you are a major scaredy cat like me, don't take any road with the word “pass” in it. I didn't know what a “pass” was until this year. It's the road that will take you around traffic by taking you all the way to to the top of the mountain onside of the road and then bring you back down to the main road. But, many of these passes have no guard rails, are the first to be closed down when it snows (because they are so dangerous) and they have switch backs. Switchbacks are scary enough in perfect weather, add a little snow or ice and now they are terrifying.

There truly is something magcial about being in the mountains with the snow. We created so many family memories during our first season and are all excited to get back this year and create more.