So you took a ski trip and it … wasn’t perfect. That’s OK, we’ve been there, too.
We’ve had ski trips with busted knees, illnesses, bad equipment, long lines, winter weather that cut the trip short (or trapped us there) and experienced tears or complaints from kids (or partners) that just weren’t loving the experience. And yet, we return to the mountains year after year because when things go well, they can go really, really well.
If your last ski trip wasn’t a picture of snow-capped perfection, don’t let that discourage you from trying again. Here are seven actionable ways you can make the next ski trip better than your last.
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It wasn’t very fun
Solution: Get a lesson
Skiing and boarding go better and are much more fun when you know what you’re doing. It’s a sport with a learning curve that can sometimes feel frustrating for a minute before it all clicks. It’s much better if you — or your kids — can get over that learning curve with a professional instructor instead of battling through it with a family member. (It’s also much safer this way, see busted knee example above.)
While group ski lessons are more than fine and the pathway most take when learning how to ski or ride, a true shortcut to learning can be found with a private lesson.
Related: Right age to get kids ski lessons
Private ski lessons can be used by one person, or a small group of friends or family members. This a great way to bunch together all the similarly skilled kids in your group, or even split the day with kids in the morning, adults in the afternoon. No matter how you slice it, getting some one-on-one attention can cut several days off the learning curve.
Your instructor can also tell you the best runs for your skill level and while you are with them, odds are high you’ll be cutting the lift line.
The roads were a touch terrifying
Solution: Don’t drive
Many a gray hair has been sprung by someone driving in snow on vacation to get to the mountain when they really aren’t skilled snow drivers. Or, perhaps the driver does have snow-driving experience, but the rental car doesn’t have the appropriate tires or power for the job.
A good way to skip all this is to not drive yourself to the mountain. Major ski areas, such as those throughout Colorado, can be reached by booking transportation through Epic Mountain Express, the Ski Train to Winter Park or the Snowstang bus. The options will vary based on where you head for skiing, but if driving in winter weather makes you nervous, strongly consider skipping that step and leaving the driving to someone else.
Related: All about Colorado’s traction law
It was a hassle
Solution: Stay on the mountain, have gear come to you
Driving back and forth to the mountain, waiting in a long gear rental line, fighting for a good parking spot, lugging all the skis and boots back and forth, etc. can be a lot of work on vacation. This is at least doubly true if you have younger skiers in the mix.
If you want to dramatically reduce the hassle-factor, stay on the mountain and rent ski gear in a way that it comes to you.
At some mountains, you will find true ski-out vacation rental homes right on the runs. If you want true ski-out instead of simply just “walkable to the runs” then ask lots of questions on precise location before booking, but you can have the conveniences of a rental home on the mountain — for a price, of course.
Alternatively, there are several hotels where you can redeem your hotel points and have very convenient ski-out mountain access. The Park Hyatt Beaver Creek (30,000 Hyatt points per night), Westin Snowmass (40,000 to 60,000 Marriot points per night), St. Regis Deer Valley (70,000 to 100,000 Marriott points per night) and the Sheraton Steamboat (30,000 to 40,000 Marriott points per night) are all examples of legitimate ski-in and out hotels.
When it comes to getting your rental skis and snowboards, skip the rental shop stop and book a service that brings everything you may need to your hotel or home rental. Ski Butlers and Black Tie Ski Rental are two companies that you can book online and then do boot fittings and more when they come to you.
I didn’t feel great
Solution: Plan for the altitude
Some ski resorts can be located close to two miles above ski level and that high altitude can take a toll on how you feel if you aren’t used to it, especially if you physically exert yourself shortly after arrival.
Headaches, muscle aches, nausea, shortness of breath and more can all accompany mild altitude sickness, according to Healthline (owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures).
While there’s no guaranteed way to avoid altitude sickness, you can reduce the chance of being impacted by it in a few ways. First, take it easy for at least the first day or so upon arrival to a high-altitude location. Second, stay well hydrated. If those tips aren’t enough, consider some of the lower altitude ski resorts that can be a full mile lower in elevation than some of the higher elevation resorts.
For example, Steamboat sits at a lower elevation than many other major Colorado ski resorts. Whistler in British Colombia is another example of a high-quality but lower-elevation mountain.
To counteract symptoms of high altitude, you can also look into visiting an oxygen spa, such as the oxygen treatment room at the St. Regis Aspen. That room is included with spa treatments or is $75 per day to access (along with the rest of the spa facilities) for hotel guests. It’s an investment, but one that makes the trip much more enjoyable if it eases your symptoms.
The snow wasn’t good
Solution: Let history be your guide
We could say wait until the last minute to plan a ski trip to chase guaranteed powder that has already fallen, but that’s not necessarily practical — especially this year.
Instead, go somewhere that is known for getting consistent snow, with good snow-making capabilities as a back-up — and go in the middle of the season. There’s a reason British Columbia, the Sierra Nevadas, Utah and the Colorado Rockies are known for their ski resorts — the snow.
Smaller resorts in places that may or may not get great snow in a given year can be home runs when things work out, but if you want to increase the odds of good snow for a big ski trip, research the spots that get the most snow year after year and cross your fingers that things work out in your favor.
If that still isn’t good enough, look to mountains that have snow guarantees, or you could even purchase cancel for any reason travel insurance, so you can cancel and get some of your money back if the snow dances just haven’t worked this time around.
It’s too crowded
Solution: Skip peak weeks, make special bookings
That holiday week between Christmas and New Year’s, MLK Weekend, President’s Weekend and spring break weeks are going to be crowded on the ski mountain. Capacity may actually be controlled more this year than in previous years in some spots, but those weeks are the busiest ski weeks of the year. If your last ski trip was too crowded, skip those weeks and shoot for a weekday trip in late-January or early-February instead.
If you want something even more private or serene, book a fresh tracks type of mountain access and be one of the first on the mountain for the day. Sometimes, such as at Aspen or Snowmass, these programs don’t even cost extra, though may require advance reservations or being one of the first in line for the day. Other times, such as at Whistler, early access may cost a little extra, but it’s often a pretty low price and may even include breakfast.
Related: How to choose the best ski lift pass
If that’s still not private enough, maybe you and your buddies could go in on renting an entire ski mountain. Believe it or not, that’s possible starting at just $4,500.
I want to do more than just ski
Solution: Snowmobiles, sled dogs and sleigh rides
If you like to ski or ride but want more than just that one activity out of your ski trip, then book other activities. Many mountains offer snow tubing or even maybe a mountain coaster, but you can branch off the mountain for other cool activities.
In Vail, you can take a snowcat up the mountain to a nice five-course meal. In Keystone, you can take a horse-drawn sleigh ride to a western-themed dinner.
Also in Colorado, out in Leadville, not that far from places like Vail, Beaver Creek and Avon, you can book a private dog sled ride for your whole family.
If you and your kids want some time off skis or on snowmobiles, then outside of Park City and Deer Valley in Utah, you’ll find Summit Meadows Adventures.
There’s no reason that a ski trip has to consist of just skiing until your legs can’t take it anymore. Mix things up with other very memorable snow-adjacent experiences that can elevate the trip to the next level.
Ski trips can be more work (and cost more) than a trip to the beach, so you want to be sure it’s worth the effort. If you have had a ski trip that didn’t go exactly as you planned, don’t pack away your boots and mittens for good, just solve for the problems you faced and ensure things go smoother on the next trip down the mountain.
Featured image by Henrik Sorensen/Getty Images