Deciding when you want to take your ski vacation is sort of like choosing dessert. All of the options look scrumptious in one way or another, but you still need to pick just one.
School breaks and when you are able to take time off of work might factor into your selection, but it can still be a tough decision. We put together a list of everything you need to know about each window of the season in order to help you choose the best time for your next ski trip.
Early Season – Mid-November through Mid-December
You want to get out on the hill as early as humanly possible and you’re perfectly okay with the fact that all of the ski terrain is not yet open. With the exception of Thanksgiving weekend, this is one of the most peaceful, uncrowded periods for a ski trip and a wonderful way to usher in winter amid the snowy peaks and falling snow.
While parts of the mountain will still be closed, you’ll have plenty of room to spread out on the open trails, not to mention an easy time getting into your first pick of restaurants, many of which will be eagerly debuting their winter menus.
Holiday season – December 20 through January 2
As you might imagine, with schools on winter break, this is the most popular time of year for family ski trips. The lights are twinkling, snow is glistening, and ski towns are bubbling with festivities like tree-lighting ceremonies, ski-down parades, New Year’s champagne toasts and fireworks. There is no more magical place to spend the holidays than in a ski town.
While you and your family will not be the only ones embracing this reality, the beauty of the holidays is that you are surrounded by like-minded individuals thrilled to be away from the city and tucked into this winter wonderland. It doesn’t seem like a big deal to wait a few extra minutes for a dinner table.
Another upside is that, depending on the resort, many locals’ ski passes are blacked out between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, meaning more room to breathe on the slopes than you might expect. A key tip for planning a trip during the holidays is to book lodging early.
Other Holiday Weeks/Weekends – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (in January) and President’s Day (in February)
Although the busiest week of the ski season is between Christmas and New Year’s, Martin Luther King, Jr and Presidents’ Day long weekends are also popular times for ski vacations. Book lodging early and make restaurant reservations at least the day before.
Also, take a look at the resort map to plan a strategic route during your ski day. By mid-January, most resorts have opened all of their runs and there is ample room to spread out. The snow is deep and deliciously powdery. Again, some resort season passes are off-limits on these weekends, meaning that there are less people and there can be entire corners of the mountain to call your own if you aim your route higher and beyond the base areas.
Like any other weekend, the early bird gets the goods. Get on the first chair and you’ll probably have a delightful hour or so to yourself.
Mid-Winter – January through February
This is the snowiest time of the year in the mountains and ski conditions are absolutely divine. There are usually fewer people and you might very well glide into the magical experience of making turns from one end of the trail to the other with no one else in sight.
Powder days abound, as do one-of-a-kind special resort events, like beer and film festivals, snow and ice sculpture exhibitions, and professional sports competitions. Top resort restaurants still fill up this time of year, especially on the weekends, but you can pretty much meander freely and land a table without a reservation.
Spring Break – March
There is an unmistakable taste of “party” in the air this time of year, but since the nationwide school spring breaks happen on different weeks throughout the month, you don’t have to worry too much about there being too many people around. With warmer temperatures and lots of sun, that celebratory vibe is contagious and this could be the best time of year to make new friends on and off the slopes.
While sunscreen is a must and you might catch a few skiers and riders rocking T-shirts instead of jackets, March is historically a month of bountiful snowfall. So if you thrive on that savory combination of deep tracks and sun, March is your month to shine.
There’s a little secret among ski towns: April can be an amazing time on the slopes. While tulips are blooming and grass is growing at lower elevations, ski resorts are still in full winter mode. Most resorts, especially those at higher elevations (like Breckenridge), still have a thick snow base and the majority of the terrain remains open. Temperatures are warm in the afternoon and chilly in the morning, and powder days are not uncommon in April.
Once you get out on the hill and experience your skis gliding through that fresh velvet blanket of snow, you’d swear it was January. That said, the warm sun can create slush in the afternoon and hard-packed trails in the morning, so be prepared for variable conditions. Renting skis from Epic Mountain Rentals can ensure you have exactly the right skis for the conditions. There are plenty of lodging deals this time of year, not to mention restaurant deals and outerwear/gear sales.
Featured image provided by © Vail Resorts