Planning a ski vacation for your family can be either a lot of fun or a chore. It's all about what you know. So, in the interest of making your ski vacation planning simple, here are a few tips on how to plan a great trip and save money all at the same time.
- Choose a Resort. Mountains in the West are steeper and longer with more difficult runs. They also have more natural powder snow. For those interested in cross-country skiing, the terrain is far more difficult in the West. In the East, mountains are generally not as tall and steep, so the runs are shorter for downhill skiing, while the flatter terrain is better for cross-country skiing.
For downhill skiing, be sure to find out what types of runs are at each resort. Some resorts will have better runs for learning (green circles). Blue squares signify intermediate-level runs, while black diamonds are expert-level runs.
- Decide Where to Stay. You can stay either in a resort, a nearby cabin or motel, or on the slope during your ski trip. Resorts are extremely expensive. If you have more than three or four people, a cabin on the mountain may be your best bet.
For downhill skiing, a more expensive option known as "ski-in - ski-out" means that you'll be staying right on the slope. This option costs more but may be worth it to avoid driving up and down the mountain any more than you absolutely must. Similar options may be available for cross-country skiing as well.
- Decide On Skis. One of the hardest decisions may be choosing whether to buy or rent your skis. The answer's pretty simple, though. Especially if it's your first time, rent your skis, and be sure to pay for the damage insurance plan just in case something goes wrong. If you're determined to buy, then check out eBay. You can get former rental skis, boots, and bindings for a fraction of the normal cost.
- Buy Lift Tickets. If you are going downhill skiing, you will need to buy lift tickets. You can buy lift them at the bottom of the slope, or you can buy ahead of time. Multi-day tickets usually cost less per day. You can also buy vouchers on eBay to save some money. Often, local stores will offer specials on lift tickets if you purchase a certain type or number of their goods.
- Look For Deals. Keep an eye on Expedia, Travelocity and similar companies to look for deals on combination packages including airfare, hotels and lift tickets. In the off-season, especially, you can find some great deals. Cross-country skiing deals are not common on these websites. However, you can watch the resort websites for their specials and find good deals on both types of skiing. For deals during ski season, check out Travelzoo. They open up their ski section in September and close it in the early spring.
- Cross Country Skiing. Most families are looking for downhill skiing deals, but many also enjoy cross-country skiing, particularly families with older children. You can often find deals for cross country skiing, but they are not as prominent as those for downhill skiing. Every once in a while you may be able to find a combined deal, but generally speaking, the resorts and states cater to their most common guests -- downhill skiers.
Once you have everything planned, you just need to get your family together and head out on the road for a spectacular ski vacation. Have fun!