Tip: Survival Guide for Visiting Big Resorts
By Tammie Thompson
Planning a vacation to a big resort such as Whistler, Killington or Vail? Use these tips for a stress free visit.
1. Think slopeside when booking your lodging. No driving. No parking. Easy access. You'll spend more but it will be well worth it.
2. If you aren't slopeside consider using the shuttle bus. If Dad gets tired early he can take the little one home for a nap (tee-he), and Mom can shred with the tweens until dark.
3. Equipment: Have everything ready the night before. If renting equipment, visit the store the day before for sizing. Most shops are quiet in the afternoon. Or better yet, make reservations online and just pick it up when you get there. Pack extra gloves, etc., in your backpack.
4. Do some planning. Most resorts have trail maps online. Study the map and make a game plan. You'll feel much more comfortable exploring when you have some idea on the lay of the land. Plus you won't miss that secluded glade if you know where you're headed.
5. Arrive early. Very early - like a half hour before the lifts open. You can get organized, and make the first chair. You'll hit freshly groomed snow or powder freshies. You'll have the slopes to yourself for at least an hour. Ski a couple of hours, then head into the lodge for a hot chocolate and snack.
6. Decide on a meeting place before heading up the hill. Choose a central location, with inside access (café, lodge, arcade, etc.) so you can stay warm while waiting. Consider meeting times throughout the day in case someone gets lost.
7. Carry a cell phone or radio. Beware; cell phones are not reliable on the mountains. If you carry two-way radios, don't hog the airways with chitchat. Use only for locating the rest of your group.
8. Pack a backpack with extra clothing, goggles, and lunch. Find a locker or safe place for the pack, preferably at a lodge at the top of the mountain. While it's nice to dine at a resort restaurant, it can often be very crowded at lunchtime. Bring your own, or eat early (11 am) or late (2pm).
9. Different ability levels? Choose a chairlift that offers varied terrain (greens, blues and black diamonds). That way you can ride together and explore terrain you are comfortable with. This is also a good option for older kids who want to ditch their parents. You can keep an eye on them if you are riding the same chairlift.
10. Identify which chair you are headed to BEFORE you ski the trail. If someone does get lost, plan on meeting at the bottom of the chair.
11. Ski school - book it now. Many ski schools fill up early. You can usually cancel a reservation more easily than making one at the last minute.
12. If you hit the slopes early, you can depart before 4pm (yes it's allowed, especially with all the action on the high speed quads). Usually if you are off the mountain by 3pm, you can beat the traffic. Or plan on some après ski - a cocktail, movie, the arcade, shopping, or other resort amenity. Grab an early dinner (the kids WILL be hungry), and then head back to the condo for a hot tub and a movie.
13. Take time to explore other activities. Take a day off or quit at noon. Try snowshoeing, tubing, dog sledding, ice-skating, or something different. It's all part of the experience.
14. Don't forget the digital camera... and smile!
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