Deciding whether to book a North American skiing holiday this winter or next? Here are some tips on when and where to book for both the USA and Canada.
When deciding on a skiing holiday to North America, this usually means a special trip or a longer trip, compared to somewhere closer to home, where even weekend skiing is possible. Here are some tips to consider when thinking about booking a skiing holiday to the USA or Canada:
- WHEN TO BOOK? Book Early! We’ve said it before and will repeat it here – the largest savings for ski holidays to North America is to book as early as possible. Normally the largest discounts on accommodation and lift tickets are offered up to August 31st, then there are further special discounts through mid-November. Some of the long stay specials are valid all season.
- WHEN TO TRAVEL? One good aspect of skiing in the USA and Canada is that the seasons are long, with most resorts opening mid-late November and closing mid-April. Whistler Blackcomb has glacier, so they can offer skiing year round at Blackcomb Mountain. The costs of accommodation and lift tickets do vary considerably through the season, with the lowest prices in the early and late season. Also good value is the period after New Year up to mid-February, which is a popular time for foreign visitors, given the skiing conditions are usually excellent and the packages are well priced (as this period is out with major US and Canadian school and college holiday periods).
- WHICH RESORT? Pick the resort most suitable for your abilities. Some resorts cater more to beginners and intermediates, with more suitable terrain for learning and special ski school programs for all ages. Also within the resorts themselves, it’s advisable to get advice on the best locations for accommodations when booking children’s ski school, as sometimes kid’s classes are offered in specific locations or mountains.
- WHICH AIRPORT? Check flights in/out of smaller regional airports. Many ski resorts have a smaller, regional, airport located closer than the larger international airports. Aspen Snowmass has an airport 10 minutes from both Aspen and Snowmass and, although it can sometimes close due to bad weather, for the majority of people this is the fastest and easiest way to travel to/from the resort. Denver Airport is 4 hours away and the transfer can be the same cost as the extra flight into Aspen Airport, which is served by several of the large airlines. Other resorts with regional airports located close to the resorts include Vail, Steamboat Springs, Crested Butte, Telluride and Jackson Hole. For resorts in Utah, including Park City, Canyons, Deer Valley and Snowbird/Alta, the transfer to/from Salt Lake International Airport is only 45 minutes and it’s one of the closest international airports to several major ski resorts. In Canada, Kelowna Airport is located near to Big White, Silver Star and Revelstoke resorts, with connections to Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto. Transfers are available to/from all major resorts and in most resorts a car rental is not needed. There are very efficient and frequent bus services in most ski towns and it’s easy to use these shuttles to travel to/from the different ski areas included in the lift ticket and also around the town itself.
- HOW LONG TO STAY? Consider staying slightly longer than a week. Normally a stay of 10 or 11 nights is recommended, given the long journey times to North America from other parts of the world. The other option for stays of more than 10 nights, is for a ski safari or a two resort trip, e.g. Vail and Aspen is a popular twin centre ski holiday. Both these resorts are connected by a daily shuttle service, which will pick-up and drop-off at your accommodation in each resort, with a journey time of around 2 hours. A week spent in both Aspen and Vail is a special ski holiday to remember! Another popular ski safari in Canada is to combine Banff, Lake Louise, Kicking Horse and Revelstoke or a combination of those. With regards to accommodation, many properties offer long stay specials and this is commonly 1 night free for a 7 day booking or 2/3 nights free for 10-14 day stays. Lift tickets also become less expensive the more days you buy.
- LIFT TICKETS OR SEASON PASS? Nowadays Season Passes can be cheaper than a weekly lift ticket and also offer many resorts. Now with the popularity of the Vail Resorts Epic Pass, it is more common now to see the resorts offering season passes at highly discounted prices (again the more discount the earlier you book the pass). For example, the Epic Pass for 2016/17 is currently still on sale for $849 and includes unlimited skiing in many resorts in the USA, as well as several days in a selection of European resorts and 5 days at Whistler in Canada. This would equate to the same price as a 7-9 day Vail Mountain lift ticket, depending on the season. However, note that season passes are usually on sale only up to the opening of the resort, after which regular lift tickets are sold. Also they are normally non-refundable though insurance is available in some resorts. More info on the Epic Passes here.
- FAMILY DISCOUNTS. Some resorts offer ‘Kids Ski Free’ offers, including Steamboat Springs, Aspen Snowmass and Winter Park. Kids receive a free lift ticket (and sometimes ski rentals too) for each adult booking the same duration.
- ACCLIMATISING. It will take a day or two to acclimatize to the altitude, adjust to the time difference and rest after the long journey. For example, Breckenridge in Colorado is one of the highest ski resort towns in North America, at an altitude of 9,600ft (almost 3000m) at town level. Also the air is very dry in many resorts in the western USA and Canada and keeping well hydrated is a must throughout your stay. Staying off alcohol in the first few days will help as well.
- SKI GUIDING. Most resorts offer a basic ski resort orientation most days, usually for 2-4 hours duration. These “Ski Ambassadors” are volunteers who guide groups of skiers and snowboarders around the ski slopes (for strong intermediates to advanced levels). These are highly recommended as a good way to learn the terrain and find out where the good snow conditions are throughout the day. Small groups of 6-12 can receive additional ski guiding via this special offer. Another great benefit with skiing in North America is that lift queues are virtually non-existent most of the season and the ski slopes are much less crowded in general, compared to many European resorts.
- CONSIDERING HELI-SKIING OR CAT-SKIING? Some people ski every year, but never try skiing outside the ski areas on guided backcountry tours. This can be the highlight of any ski holiday. Many resorts offer either heli-skiing or the less expensive option, cat-skiing and some of these operators are based in the ski resorts. Resorts that offer cat-skiing close or at the ski resort include Aspen Snowmass, Keystone, Steamboat Springs, Winter Park, Park City and Alta in the USA. Heli-skiing is available at Jackson Hole and Telluride in the USA. In Canada, most resorts offer cat-skiing and heli-skiing, either from the resort itself, or within 30 mins of the resort. For either of these activities it’s necessary to make advance booking in order to secure the space. More info on cat-skiing in the USA and Canada here.
SUMMARY. With good forward planning, it is easy to put together a ski holiday to the USA or Canada at a good price. The most important things to remember are to pick the resort wisely and try to book as far ahead as possible.
Remember if you have never skied in North America, here are the top 3 reasons to go!
- Very uncrowded slopes compared to Europe.
- Excellent snow quality and piste maintenance.
- Unrivalled customer service and facilities.
Coda Travel offer expert advice on planning and organizing your North American ski holiday.
Get an online quote or contact a ski specialist to assist with requests and queries by phone or email us.