Winter break, and the week between Christmas and the New Year can be the best, or the worst time to take a ski trip. Pros: Your family and friends have off from work, and you actually have enough time to go somewhere. Cons: everyone else is on the exact same schedule. Here’s how to make your break go smoothly, avoid crowds, and get the most out of your time on the hill.
Plan Your Ski Days
Christmas Day, when everyone is inside opening presents and tied to family obligations, can be one of the best, least crowded days to ski. The same can be said for New Year’s Day, when people are nursing hangovers. The day after Christmas tends to be really crowded. And, if you don’t want to battle lift lines, consider skipping first chair and getting out later in the day. The vacation crowds tend to flag (or hit the bar) early.
Hit a Smaller Hill
The big name mountains, which advertise heavily and push holiday lodging specials, will likely be blown out, so do a little bit of research about nearby hills that might not be so busy. For instance, instead of Alta or Snowbird, consider Powder Mountain or Solitude.
December can be tricky weather-wise. California is often still dry, while Colorado can often be pretty well socked in. And a lot of New England resorts ramp up their snowmaking before the holiday to guarantee that they have a good product. You can’t predict snowfall, but you can make smart choices. No one wants to get skunked on Christmas.
Gear Up Ahead of Time
Finding rentals when everyone and their mother is trying to get their hands on gear could leave you option-less. Book your gear ahead of time, or consider using a service like Ski Butlers, which will bring gear to you. If you’re traveling and have your own skis but don’t want to fly with gear, consider bringing your boots. They’re easy to schlep as a carry on, and they’re the most important part of the equation.
Leave Out the Lessons
A ton of ski bums get their passes by teaching a certain number of holiday ski lessons. That means your instructor, instead of being someone who is on the hill every day, could be a skid who only teaches 20 days a year. Hold out on lessons for a less busy time, when they’re not bringing in the second string team.
Cook at Home
Take it from someone who has waitressed at a ski town restaurant during Christmas. Waiting for three hours for pizza will be the norm, and the service won’t be as stellar as it otherwise would be. Book a condo with a kitchen, make a big pot of chili, and stay in. The company is the important part.