Is this the year you pack up your crew and head to the mountains for that long-anticipated family ski vacation? If the answer is yes, then congratulations, you have just taken the first step toward an iconic and memorable winter holiday. Our family usually sticks to budget vacations, but because there are some die-hard skiers among us, we have been forced to splurge on occasion. There are many factors to consider when planning a trip like this. Here are a few planning tips to get you out the door and onto the slopes.
Create a Family Ski Vacation Budget
Money. It’s that pesky stuff that runs the world economy, and unfortunately, our vacations. There are many decisions to be made about your ski trip that are based on how much money you have or want to spend. Your budget will help you determine some of these questions: Will you fly or drive to your ski destination? Where will you stay? How long will you stay? Will you buy or rent your equipment?
If you are planning this trip a year or more ahead of time, you are in good shape. Start with a ballpark figure of 5% of your household’s yearly income. This can be a baseline figure for you to work with, but of course every family’s situation will be different. Now based on that initial figure, decide how much you want to contribute to your ski-trip savings plan each month. This can be tweaked throughout the coming year as you answer some of the questions mentioned above.
Research and Pick a Location
Again, this depends on many factors. If you live in sunny Florida or the south of Texas, you will probably have to fly to your skiing destination. If you are a Vermonter (like me), your trip might be a bit shorter (and cheaper). When choosing the perfect ski mountain, there are a few things you should take into consideration:
Skiing ability – If you are a family of beginners, make sure the ski mountain offers lots of beginner trails, lessons, and off-the-slope activities. If you have advanced skiers in your group, you will want a good mix of challenging trails. Ski mountains in the east, while smaller, often have to deal with icy or slushy conditions, making for challenging skiing. Mountains in the west are often sunny with perfect conditions, but the trails are steep and avalanches are a concern.
Activities off the slopes – Perhaps you plan to spend all day, every day on the mountain perfecting your technique. If you are going on an extended vacation, you may want to find out what else the area has to offer, especially if you have kids. Many ski resorts cater to families and offer sleigh rides, sledding, snowshoeing, movie nights, shopping, dance parties, and more. Find out what the surrounding towns have to offer as well.
Outfit Your Family with Equipment and Clothing
If you already own ski equipment, you are ahead of the game. Now is the time to have your skis sharpened and waxed in preparation for you trip. If you are new to the sport, consider renting your skis, boots, poles, and a helmet. Many mountains offer rental packages to go with your lift tickets. As for clothing, here are the basic necessities for most ski trips:
- Ski goggles – found at many sporting- goods stores or online
- Socks – thick wool or synthetic (no cotton)
- Face mask – for cold or windy days
- Snow pants
- Ski jacket
- Mittens or gloves – warm and waterproof
- Long underwear– top and bottom, made of synthetic material, wool, or silk
- Fleece top – for layering
- Hand and feet warmers – lifesavers on cold days
Where Will You Stay?
Ski resorts and the towns that surround them offer a myriad of lodging options depending on your budget and your personal needs. Here’s a look at some typical accommodations.
Condos – Most resorts offer slope-side condominium rentals. This allows you to be close to the action. There is no commute to and from the mountain and if members of your group are tired or need a break, they can head back to the condo for a rest. Most condos come equipped with full kitchens and housekeeping services.
Cabin rentals – Families and private companies often rent cabins near the ski mountain. These cabins can usually accommodate large numbers of people and offer a level of solitude that you won’t find at a big resort.
Hotels – Often the cheapest option, there will usually be many hotels to choose from. Generally, hotel rooms will not have kitchens, so be prepared to dine out most nights.
Airbnb – Have you tried our Airbnb yet? There are people all over the world with extra rooms, apartments, and whole houses to share with you! Whether you stay for one night or a whole week, you’ll often discover significant cost savings. Your host will usually be a local, with helpful tips about the area where you’re staying. It may not be for everyone, but it’s worth researching Airbnb rentals near your mountain of choice.
The Best Time to Take a Family Ski Vacation
If you have school-aged children, you may be limited as to when you can travel. Many mountains hike their prices during popular school-vacations and holidays.
My vote is for early spring – late February to late March, depending on where you’re going. Spring is often the best time to find ski deals. When most people are turning their focus to warm-weather activities, the mountain resorts will be clamoring for your business. Spring skiing can also be the best skiing of the year, with warm, sunny days and layers of fluffy, powdery snow.
Have you ever taken a family ski vacation? We’d love to hear your tips for making it memorable in the comments, and if you’re a pinner, we’d appreciate it if you would share this post.