How To

Avoiding the Ski Season Blues: Ways to Beat the Crowds

Learn how to avoid the hassles and enjoy winter's outdoor pastimes to the fullest.

It’s that time of year again—time to bundle up and brave the winter weather in pursuit of some skiing and snowboarding action. Unfortunately, with snow sports getting more and more popular year after year, most of the population may be thinking the same thing. But that doesn’t mean you have to abandon the dream of a hassle-free ski expedition. Here are some of the best tricks for avoiding long lines, over-crowded lodges, and keeping your ski trip enjoyable.

Time manage

You’ll find that avoiding crowds is a lot easier than you think if you decide to ski when others are still sleeping or stopping for a break. So get there early, stay late, and skip lunch. The idea of rising before the sun and hitting the slopes as soon as they open may not sound appealing to everyone, and that is why those who decide to do it will benefit. While the less dedicated sleep in, early birds experience fresh powder, shorter lift lines, and fewer people sharing the runs.

In the same way, those who stay late, when the sun is setting and it is starting to get a little cold, will experience less of a crowd. As others are fighting to return gear and get out of the parking lot, tough it out and runs will open up.

Smart skiers also known that there is a bit of a break in crowds during mid-day. From about 12 p.m. until 2 p.m., most people head into the lodges to warm up and get something to eat. Instead, bring a portable snack or two and eat them in line or on your way up the lifts.

Ski during the week

One of the best ways to avoid crowded chairlifts is to ski midweek when everyone else is still at work. Planning a vacation during a non-holiday stretch or off-season can also help you avoid the hordes of snow-goers. Another advantage to midweek, non-holiday ski trips is the possibility of lift pass specials. Sun Valley, for example, offers a special midweek ski pass for skiers who don’t mind hitting the slopes on slower days.

Choose lesser-known resorts

Everyone wants to ski the big name mountains, but if there are two or three resorts in the area, chances are the runs will be similar, but one of them will be less crowded. Instead of Vail, for example, why not give Beaver Creek a try? Why battle crowds at Squaw Valley when Kirkwood or Heavenly offer great alternatives? Smaller resorts often tend to have better prices as well, and without the mobs of skiers crowding each run, can offer a more enjoyable experience.

Rent in advance

This rule applies to everything when planning a ski trip, especially during peak holidays. Making sure to reserve your flights early, reserve ski school slots, and make restaurant reservations will save you a lot of time and frustrations. No matter where you are going or how long your trip is, the best tip if you don’t own your own gear is to rent your equipment in advance. Most people don’t even consider this option, but, especially at high-volume resorts, renting equipment the night before can save you almost half the day. Not only that, but depending on when you get your gear, you may be stuck with less than desirable rentals. Start you day out right with your gear already ready to go, and it is sure to make your trip more pleasant.

Use technology

When all else fails, there are a number of resources online and apps that you can download that will help you predict skiing conditions. One such app is Alpine Replay, which offers a complete resort guide for skiers. This app not only provides users with the least busy days at almost all US resorts, it also breaks down hills by the shortest wait time.

Image courtesy wikicommons user Bernie Kohl

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