I don’t know snow. Before going on my first ski trip the most snow I had ever seen was on a strangely cold Sunday in the middle of winter when I was 7 years old. My parents scrambled to build a snowman with all the snow we could find in the garden. I think the snowman reached my 7 year old knee. This was followed by a snowball fight and before midday everything had melted.
My husband is an avid skier, and even though he only started skiing in his mid-twenties he moves as though he grew up sliding down the mountain. I, on the other hand, have a healthy fear of death. And yet I throw myself down these mountains with him. This means that when we were taking our December trip to America skiing was a priority.
The WHERE of it all
There are a number of places that you can ski in America. We chose Colorado because it’s known for its outdoor sports and beautiful mountains. It also was also relatively close to my brother. Then we had to narrow it down. We didn’t want to be too far from Denver, and the airport. Not all locations guarantee snow. We also wanted to be in an area with slopes that could accommodate myself, the beginner, and my husband. Lastly, double check to make sure if the facilities offer down-hill or cross-country skiing. You don’t want to expect one and end up with the other.
Another thing to look out for when booking your accommodation is how far you will be from the actual slopes. If you have to drive from where you are staying to your slopes you might need to budget in daily parking and locker rentals. And will you be able to get the slopes if the weather is bad? Or get back home if you aren’t used to driving in snow.
We booked our accommodation at Arapahoe Lodge in Keystone via Summit County Mountain Retreats. The apartment was very close to the slopes, with lots of space and a great kitchen. There were also ski lockers downstairs to store your gear in.
Gearing Up: Buying vs renting ski gear
If you want to buy or rent your skiing clothing is entirely up to you. I knew I would be skiing a few times, so I bought my thermals, pants, jackets, dry buff, wet buff, inner gloves, outer gloves…you get the idea. If you have a friend who is roughly your size ask if they wouldn’t mind lending you a few things. On my first trip I borrowed ski goggles from a friend who couldn’t go. It saved me a little on my first trip, and on my next trip I only needed to buy goggles. When it comes to your ski boots, poles and the actually skis….it is an entirely different story. Unless you are super serious, and only going for the purposes of skiing, don’t.
If you won’t be spending your whole trip skiing, you will spend the rest of it lugging around a few kilograms of boots, and awkward poles and skis. Or you will be paying to lock it up somewhere. I recommend hiring what you need where you go.
Ask the locals, or the front desk of your accommodation where the cheapest place is to hire skiing gear. We got discount from Mountain View Sports thanks to Summit County Mountain Retreats. And if something doesn’t work right, you can just go back and someone can fix it for you.
Going Up, and then Downhill
We booked up ski-passes online before the trip. We did it because we were too nervous not to do it before the time. But it turns out that we got our passes for cheaper by buying them before the time.
Munching on the Mountain Tops
As with all small towns, food tends to be more expensive. In small skiing towns the food is a lot more expensive. If you are staying in a self-catering venue, stock up some meat and veggies in the nearest big town. We started with a good breakfast and went back to our apartment for lunch. I kept one or two protein bars on my person while we were on the mountain as the cold and the exercise really burns calories.
For the Non-Skiers
My parents joined us in Keystone. While we were skiing the explored the small, scenic town. My mom got some lovely photos, and they enjoyed poking around the shops, and exploring the nearby villages. They also bought a ticket to up the mountain, that included a free-hot chocolate with the view. We went up with my parents in the gondola, had a drink with them, and then carried on skiing while they took the gondola back down the mountain. Even though they weren’t skiing, they still got to see the mountain and some of its beautiful views the way that we do.
Snow tyres. And I will say it again: Snow. Tyres. They are worth the extra expense. We ended up driving through a snow storm, and there is no way that I would have been able to keep our car on the road. If the car rental company doesn’t offer snow tyres or chains, ask for them. The extra money is definitely worth feeling safe while on the road.
Even if you aren’t the best skier, a ski trip is still incredibly fun. I’m up there for the views and the mountains more than anything else, while my husband likes to push the extremes of what he can do. And even if we aren’t going down every slope together, it is still something special that share.