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With Great Powder Comes Great Responsibility: Planning Your Next Ski Trip

Travel Team | Sep 8, 2023

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Group of Millennials skiing.

Dreaming of a snowy holiday season? Ever consider running off to a ski town all year?

There are places all over the United States and the world that celebrate winter year-round or maximize their long cold months with winter sports by embracing the snow in a unique way.

Here’s everything you need to know about planning your ski trip, the best skiing destinations, and more details for an epic winter getaway.

Did You Know? Ski Edition

Whether you’re already sold on skiing or still deciding, here are a few interesting facts about ski season all over the world.

There are more than 5,000 ski resorts worldwide, and 80 countries offer some form of skiing.

It’s estimated that 400 million people visit ski resorts around the world every year.

Austria, Norway, and Switzerland have the highest participation levels in skiing, with at least 25% of their population skiing.

37 U.S. states have ski resorts.

It’s true, that 37 states in the U.S. have one or more ski resorts. Skiing options stretch from east to west and as far south as North Carolina and Tennessee. Aside from well-known ski states like Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, you can also find ski resorts in states like Virginia, West Virginia, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

The best East Coast skiing is in the New England area.

You will especially want to visit resorts in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. Even if you don't feel like hitting the slopes, visiting the picturesque ski-towns in northern New England just for the lodges is a must. There's nothing quite like a New England holiday season.

Ski conditions are more extreme in the western United States.

West Coast skiers will warn of bigger mountains, steeper trails, and tons of fresh powder in higher altitudes, not to mention the weather is a bit warmer than the conditions in the East.

Is Skiing Safe?

Catching some air skiing.

Like any physical activity, skiing carries risks. Most of the time, tumbles will lead to a few bumps and bruises, and you might be sore the next morning. But there’s always a chance of more severe injury from falls, running into rocks or trees, colliding with another skier or snowboarder, or suffering major sunburn.

Skiing can be safe — and healthy — when done correctly. It’s always best to take safety precautions, make sure you have the right gear, and be aware of your surroundings so you can minimize the risk that comes with skiing.

Safety measures for skiing

  • Take lessons. If you’re a beginner or haven’t skied in a long time, schedule a lesson with a pro at your resort. You’ll ultimately get more enjoyment out of your time on the slopes and ski more safely.
  • Wear safety gear. Particularly if you’re downhill skiing, wear a helmet designed for skiing and make sure it fits correctly. Not all safety gear is about protecting you during a fall, though. Remember goggles to save your eyes from the sun's glare, and gloves and weather-appropriate clothing to protect yourself from the cold and other elements. It’s easy to work up a sweat while skiing and then get too chilled once you stop moving. The right clothing can help you avoid that.
  • Know your limitations. Black Diamond slopes aren’t for everyone. Choose difficulty levels that match your skills.
  • Pay attention to the weather. Storms can move in quickly, and you don’t want to be on the side of a mountain when they do. It’s also recommended that you check in with your resort or local authorities about avalanche conditions.
  • Take a friend. Never go skiing alone. If you do suffer an injury while on the slopes or cross-country skiing, you’ll need your buddy to get back to base safely or go for help.
  • Drink lots of water. You get dehydrated more quickly at higher elevations, and because the weather is cold, you don’t always realize how much you sweat.


How to Plan a Ski Trip

Like buying real estate, planning a ski trip is largely about location, location, location. But it's also important to time it right and make sure you have everything you need.

Choose the best ski location.

Where you ski impacts your trip in more ways than one. Ask yourself these questions to help you find the best place to ski.

  • How popular is the resort? If you don’t mind sharing the slopes with others, you’ll be fine going to one of the more popular — and therefore busiest — resorts. If you’re looking to commune with nature more, look for hidden gems off the beaten path where crowds are smaller.
  • What kind of skiing do you want to do, and how difficult do you want it to be? The type of powder, terrain, and temperatures all vary depending on the region you choose.
  • What’s your budget? Skiing can get expensive, so remember to factor in everything: flights, transportation from the airport to the resort, equipment rentals, lift tickets, food, accommodations.
  • Where will you stay? Sometimes the lodge at the ski area is just as impressive as the slopes themselves. They might have five-star restaurants or world-class spas. If that’s not high on your priority list (or in your budget), look for other hotels or vacation rentals that fit your needs better.
  • How will you get around? Depending on how remote the ski area is, you might need to rent a vehicle. The resort also might have a shuttle that can pick you up at the airport, saving you money and hassle.
  • What else is there to do? If you don’t want to spend the entire time on the slopes, or if someone in your group isn’t big on skiing, look for places with other activities like spas, shopping, hiking, or exploring nearby towns.

Figure out your timing.

Once you know where you want to go, you get to decide the best time for your skiing adventure.

Remember that many ski areas have longer winter seasons, so if you’re all about the cold, you’ll have tons of options. But if you’re less enthusiastic about extreme cold, remember that the shoulder season can still offer good skiing with milder temperatures. You might just have to plan to travel closer to November or May.

When it comes time to book your ski trip and start putting down deposits, earlier is better. You’ll have a better selection of accommodations, and if the resort schedules a set number of lift passes per day, you’re less likely to get turned away because of capacity. You can also typically find better deals when you book farther in advance.

Know what to pack for a ski trip.

Perhaps the biggest question is what gear you need to pack for skiing. Even if you have your own skis and poles, does it make more sense to rent them when you get there? The answer might be in how you’re getting to the slopes. It is possible to fly with ski gear, but it can be a bit more complicated and cumbersome than just grabbing your overnight bag and going. Weigh the pros and cons, not only in terms of convenience but financial expense as well.

Pack a variety of clothing. You’ll need plenty of cold-weather gear — hats, gloves, ski pants, thermal underwear, outer layers, inner layers, ski socks — for when you’re skiing. But you’ll also want something comfortable for when you’re lounging around the lodge or exploring town. Remember, too, that sometimes temperatures can be dramatically different on top of the mountain versus at lower elevations in the town as well as during the day versus at night. Think plenty of layers for any situation. And don’t forget enough clothing to make frequent changes if you get wet and slushy.

Finally, if you’re renting an Airbnb or other home share, think about what you’ll need to pack to make your stay comfortable. If you plan to cook dinners for yourself or pack lunches — lodge food can get expensive — consider packing some basic ingredients and other supplies.

Make sure you have travel medical insurance with extreme sports coverage.

It’s important to remember that skiing and snowboarding are considered extreme sports and carry extra risk to your health. From broken bones to muscle strains and sprains, even the most experienced skiers face the risk of injury.

That being said, it’s important to invest in insurance for skiing, specifically travel medical insurance with extreme sports or adventure activity coverage. Don't get on the chairlift without travel medical insurance that will cover your skiing accidents. Medical costs are pricey, especially if you are away from home. Luckily, one month of travel health insurance with an adventure activity waiver can cost less than the price of renting gear for one day.

Most Affordable Ski Resorts in the United States

1. Beaver Creek — Beaver Creek, Colorado

Colorado-based writer/skier Jenna Blumenfeld spends her slope time at the Beaver Creek ski resort. Beaver Creek has diverse terrain and can be a good alternative to some of the other better known ski areas.

"[Beaver Creek] is about 30 minutes beyond Vail," Jenna says. "Just far enough to discourage 'Front Rangers' from venturing out for day trips.”

At the end of the day — and just stop reading now if you're cooped up and hungry at work — they also bake and distribute free cookies!

2. Eagle Point Resort — Beaver, Utah

In your ski daydreams, odds are it’s just you, the snow, and a majestic view. Eagle Point built their resort with the idea of providing clients with a place to “reconnect with nature and with each other … interrupted only by your breath, or maybe some very distant laughter.”

Maybe that distant laughter is the sound of your kids having a blast. Or maybe it’s your spouse laughing for joy at how much money you saved. The price tag at Eagle Point won’t shave too much off your bank account, and kids under six ski free!

3. Huff Hills Ski Area — Mandan, North Dakota

You might think North Dakota is too flat to have a downhill ski resort, right? That’s what makes Huff Hills one of the most unexpected ski resorts to pop up in the country. Situated on perhaps the steepest downhill slope in the entire state, Huff Hills is a 40-minute drive from the Bismarck airport and offers an affordable, family-friendly environment for you to ski while beating the crowds.

And if you enjoy cross-country skiing, most of the Peace Garden State transforms into a cross-country ski course in the winter.

4. Schweitzer Mountain — Sandpoint, Idaho

Schweitzer Mountain has all the perks of a big resort, but because it’s still relatively unknown, there’s no dealing with "tourists" or long lines.

"You can have the mountain to yourself," says attorney Lee Patterson. "And you don't need to drive to Idaho! It's easy to fly into from Spokane, and it's a quick jump to beautiful Coeur d'Alene."

Best International Ski Resorts Across the Globe

1. RED Mountain Resort — British Columbia, Canada

Billing itself as the “last great, unspoiled resort,” RED Mountain Resort is known for its short lines and awesome times. With 110 runs to choose from, covering almost 3,000 acres, this is a resort you’ll want to return to with friends. Just don’t tell too many people, we don’t want to spoil it — they’d have to change their tagline!

2. Grindelwald Ski Resort — Grindelwald, Switzerland

Swiss Grindelwald Ski Resort is the place to go for the ultimate alpine experience. Grindelwald’s setting is a mixture of fairytale and rugged beauty … every day.

Samuel Fischer, a Swiss teacher and ski enthusiast put it this way: "The beauty and the majesty of the mountains overwhelm me every time I'm on the slopes, even though I grew up here. The panorama is simply breathtaking. Grindelwald and its three ski mountains are a top-notch ski resort with the newest technologies and the most diverse options. You can ride perfectly prepared slopes in every category, nicely shaped fun parks, or go back-country all in one day."

3. Catedral Alta Patagonia — San Carlos de Bariloche, Río Negro, Argentina

When researching South American ski destinations, all ski poles point to Catedral Alta Patagonia resort in Argentina’s Lake District. Catedral is famous for its deep powder and incredible tree skiing. It is South America’s most developed ski resort and the only one with a full-service base village.

Catedral features varied terrain, more than 40 ski lifts, and 1,480 skiable acres. It’s truly a skier’s paradise.

4. Ski Antarctica — Antarctic Peninsula

This continent is the least accessible and developed, so there won’t be any ski resorts to book for a winter getaway. However, if you’re ever-so-adventurous and have the funds to back it up, consider Ski Antarctica. Expedition yachts get you to the backcountry where you’ll experience untouched slopes and the only “crowds” you’ll see are flocks of penguins.

5. Nieseko Hirafu — Kutchan, Japan

Some of the best skiing in Asia can be found in Japan, which has a thriving ski and snowboard culture. Nieseko Hirafu tops a lot of lists thanks to its 30 ski trails, 15 lifts and gondolas, and active nightlife. With its abundance of fresh snow, paired with breathtaking scenery, this mountain resort should top anyone’s list during Japan’s winters.

6. Mt. Hotham Alpine Resort — Victoria, Australia

Snow is scarce Down Under but not unheard of. Mt. Hotham has been dubbed the "Powder Capital of Australia." Explore more than 790 acres of snow fields featuring everything from downhill runs to cross country trails and terrain parks. Hotham is perfect for expert or inexperienced skiers. The resort also offers sledding and snow tubing for those less interested in skiing.

Being in the Southern Hemisphere, head to Mt. Hotham for skiing in the summer. But if you’re there in the winter, there’s still plenty to do, including hiking, cycling, and fishing.

7. Oukaïmeden resort — Oukaïmeden, Morrocco

Until about a decade ago, the Atlas Mountains of Morocco had been home to some of Africa’s most remote villages. Today it’s become a hidden gem for travelers and a popular place for beginners and intermediate skiers. The Oukaïmeden ski resort is just 50 miles from Marrakech. If you’re looking to explore more of the area — and why not? — book one of the resort’s excursions to Toukbal National Park. And, because of its remote location and low light pollution, it’s a prime spot to see the Milky Way in all its unfiltered glory.

Choose the Best Insurance for Ski Trips.

Protect the money you spent for your ski trip with the right travel insurance. If you’re hitting slopes outside your home country, you’ll want to make sure you’re also covered in case you get hurt or sick. Visit SevenCorners.com to get a quote or talk to one of our licensed experts to find the best insurance for your next winter escape.

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