Here’s what to know when you plan a ski vacation for the first time. Skiing is a wonderful sport with millions of people taking to the slopes each year. There are around 3,500 resorts in Europe, and when you factor in North and South America together with East Asian resorts, you get the picture that skiing and snow-related sports such as snowboarding are extremely popular.
Skiing is expensive. You want to be sure you do it right and as cost-effectively as possible. You also want to be safe and ensure everyone in your group has an amazing experience. As someone new to the sport, what should you look out for when choosing the right skiing vacation? Let’s find out. All of this applies to snowboarding as well.
Workout the Level of Your Group
Before you start your hunt for the best ski resort, work out the level of each skier in your group. Keep it simple. Think of it in terms of beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Most resorts will offer something for everyone, but it is always wise to check. The last thing you need is an intermediate skier bored at the level of challenge provided by your chosen resort.
Understand the Trail Signs and Etiquette Before You Go
Know the difficulty ratings of the slopes. Look up the rules for other countries and specifics for the ski resorts you will be using. In North America, this is typically:
- Green circles for beginner runs
- Blue squares for intermediate terrain
- Black diamonds for expert runs
It’s also important to know skiing and snowboarding etiquette for loading the chairlift, safe skiing, what to do when you are skiing among many people, what do you do if you need help, etc.
You May Need to Buy Lift Tickets in Advance
Many resorts are only selling lift passes and ski lessons in advance. Even if it seems silly to buy lift tickets and ski lessons ahead of time, doing so could save you hundreds of dollars. Here are three reasons why you should consider buying lift tickets and ski lessons in advance.
1. You Can Save Money
Buying lift tickets and ski lessons early gives you the opportunity to find deals. For example, there are often discounts offered during the weekdays versus weekends, and you can sometimes score lower prices if you purchase online rather than at the resort.
2. You Don’t Have to Wait in Line
If you forget to book lift tickets and ski lessons, you’ll likely end up waiting in line at the resort’s front desk — and possibly pay full price for your ticket. This can be stressful when dealing with gear, kids, and cold temperatures.
3. You Might Get Last Minute Deals
Some resorts offer special promotions that make it worthwhile to reserve lift tickets and ski lessons weeks in advance. These deals include free nights’ accommodation, discounted lift tickets, and free rentals.
Also know you likely won’t ski everyday. You may need a rest day.
Take Advantage of Equipment Hire
As a beginner, it is a good idea to rent equipment. One, you may not know if you want to go on another skiing vacation and how far you want to develop your abilities, and two, you don’t want to carry this equipment on and off the airplane.
It would be best if you got a good pair of ski boots, however, as the wrong choice is a painful one. When renting your boots, ensure they are professionally fitted.
Check with the resort to see what they rent. Oftentimes, you’ll need to bring your own googles or eye protection as they may not rent them. The ski shop will also sell these items. Be sure to pack items from home you can layer. When the sun comes out and you’re skiing, it gets warm. Bring sunscreen as well.
Budget for ski lessons for the beginners in your family. A refresher lesson can also be helpful for those who haven’t skied in awhile. It can just be an hour or two morning class, and then you will feel more confident hitting the slopes. Kids will be in a children’s lesson while teens and adults will be with their age groups.
Lessons are also an excellent way for kids to learn to ski the right way. They will learn safety tips and ski etiquette from the instructors. Ski instructors are excellent with kids and have likely taught hundreds of children. This means you won’t have the stress of trying to teach them.
Another benefit of putting kids in lessons is the adults can get a few runs in on some of the more challenging slopes while your kids are having fun with their peers.
As someone new to skiing or snowboarding, you want a resort where you can learn the basics. Most all beginner classes at resorts will be good. You can check the online reviews if you are deciding between a few resorts in the area. While you’re checking these, take a look at the instructors. Are they experienced? Have they been coaching long? Generally, a strong ski background matched by several years hands-on coaching experience is what you are after.
Whether you are going with several families or just your own, you may want to see if there are ski camps. This can be a morning, afternoon, or full day of skiing for kids. The instructors will be with them and they will enjoy meeting other children as well while the adults go off on their own.
Check the reviews for the kids’ ski camps online when deciding between several resorts.
Think About Location
You may have your heart set on skiing in the same country where you live. And why not, it is convenient, and you don’t have to worry about customs and visas and the like.
You may, however, want to sample some culture and have a different experience than what you would get back home. If looking overseas, paying attention to sites that give a range of hotels is a good option.
In these troubled times ensure that you can get your money back should travel restrictions suddenly come into force. You don’t want to lose your money which may happen in today’s climate.
When looking at locations, check out the transport links. How easy is it to get from the airport to the resort? Are there shuttles of some kind or are you left to make your own way? This can be a real mixed bag with some resorts within easy reach of the airport, while others may make you feel like you’re going on an artic hike. Again check reviews, look at maps, make a decision.
Ski Lifts and Lockers
The better resorts provide excellent ski lifts that can whiz people up mountains allowing you to spend more time skiing down them. If your resort isn’t close to the lifts, you’ll hopefully have lockers where you can store your equipment, so you don’t have to carry it on a shuttle bus. If you have a chance to use lockers ensure you do.
When checking out the resort, ensure that it is clear how close it is to the ski lifts. If it isn’t on your doorstep as it were, see if they lay on shuttle busses and how frequently they run.
Skiing, like other kinds of vacation, offers different levels of accommodation. Here, you can share with others or rent a luxury chalet which features everything you could wish for. If your group includes children, it is a good idea to rent a whole chalet so you know you’ll have it to yourself.
Although the sport has a reputation for being on the expensive side, with a little bit of fact-finding you can find good, affordable deals that compare with different kinds of vacation, so it pays to do your homework.
If you are staying at a ski resort, be sure there are slopes to match the abilities of everyone in your group.
Skiing has a deserved reputation for offering excellent nightlife. Apres Ski tends to be a feature of most European ski resorts, and some have founded a reputation for offering excellent nightlife. For some, this is actually more important than the quality of the slopes!
If you want to ski your heart out and party to the wee hours, ensure you do your research and chose the right resort.