Major ski resorts are known for a lot of things; crowds, glitz and glam, and sky high lift ticket costs. Ski vacationers seeking the ultimate party scene or snapshot of themselves in front of an iconic peak may flock to these resorts, while others avoid them simply because an understated scene is more their style. But we've got to say: vacationing at major ski resorts has some serious perks. Yes, there may be crowds during holiday periods, and yes, there may be an all-pervasive corporate vibe that doesn't exist at mom-and-pop mountains. But if you're looking for the multi-dimensional ski vacation, the best package deals, and a resort that will please everyone in even the pickiest families, vacationing at a major resort may be the best decision you make this season. Here's our list of ten benefits of vacationing at major ski resorts:
1. Off-Slopes Activities
One of the challenges of vacationing with family or friends is finding common ground when it comes to daily activities. And for ski vacations? If you've got a non-skier with you (or a ski-for-2-runs-in-the-morning-and-call-it-a-day kind of skier), they'll be much happier at a major resort where alternate activities like wellness centers, spas, skating, snowshoeing, yoga, and cultural excursions are readily available. These kinds of things are also a perk if you're vacationing for 1 week or longer: you'll appreciate some time off the slopes and a chance to experience the resort in different ways.
2. Fine Dining
Major ski resorts cater to foodies. Head to Jackson Hole for authentic western fare, Squaw Valley for hip healthy cuisine, and Courchevel for a taste of the best of France. If you're seeking a luxury experience, resorts like these deliver when it comes to dining. What's more, you'll likely dine in style with some of the best mountainscape views in the world – something that's just not available outside major resorts (or in, like, New York City).
3. All-Inclusive Deals
For the deals that include lodging, lift tickets, ski rentals, and sometimes even meals and travel, book at a major resort. Bundling all aspects of your ski vacation saves time, energy, and money; the all-inclusive deal is the best option for a major ski vacation with very little planning stress. While the best deals can be found for off-peak weeks, hotels at large resorts almost always have some discount deals going. (We can help you with that here.)
4. Top-Notch Ski Schools
Ski schools at major resorts are well-oiled machines. Take Vail, for instance: over 700 instructors make up a team that teaches people of all ages and ability levels skiing, snowboarding, telemarking, and adaptive skiing every day of the season. There are clinics for women, camps for teenagers, specialty instructors for park and pipe enthusiasts, and socially-focused weekend getaways that include après hour as a fundamental part of the "lesson." Major resorts have the most – and best – options for those interested in honing their skills or just getting out on the mountain with someone who knows it best.
5. Professional Staff
Resorts owned by large corporations – or even resorts owned by families that just happen to be multi-million dollar operations – sometimes have a reputation for being impersonal and dry when it comes to customer experience. But from ski school instructors to cafeteria cashiers to lift attendants, you can count on the staff to have professional flare. The best resorts in the world train their staff to offer the best customer experience – and that means cultivating knowledge about the workings of the resort itself, the surrounding area, and how to serve you in the best way possible. Full-time and some part-time staff are usually receiving lift pass and other benefits, so they're happy to working and playing in the mountains – and happy to help craft a great customer experience.
6. Terrain Variety
European resorts are known worldwide for their colossal peaks and hundreds of kilometers of marked trails; the Rocky Mountains also boast resorts that offer enough in bounds terrain to keep skiers spinning laps for days and still finding new powder stashes. In New England especially, heading to a big-name resort ensures the most terrain and terrain variety. This is essential for families and friends of different terrain interests and skiing ability levels.
Granted, some of the coolest resorts in the world are less accessible than others, but know this: if a ski resort is thriving, it means they've done a lot of work to pave the way for ease in customers actually getting there. Resorts like Aspen and St Moritz boast private airports, while places like Tahoe offer door-to-door shuttle service from the closest international airport. Direct flights from major cities like New York to smaller regional airports like that in Jackson Hole increase every season.
8. Après Scenes
Shotskis and massive outdoor concerts in Colorado; cocktails in igloos in Switzerland; dancing all night to deep house at underground clubs in France: if you're intension is hitting some of the best parties in the world on your ski vacation, book at a major resort. Since the beginning of – well, since the 19th century – après ski has been in integral aspect of ski culture. Socializing over drinks on the sun-washed decks of the Alps or the old time bars of the American West offers opportunities to mix with locals, tune into resort life, and appreciate the cultural roots of the pastime. For the biggest parties, head to the biggest resorts.
9. Insider Perks
Within the ski industry, insiders take care of each other. Even if you don't work for a major resort, there are ways to enjoy the "small world" effect of the ski industry. Holding a season pass at one resort can get you discounts at an affiliated resort; frequently booking the same hotel chain can score you a free night or two on your next vacation. Major resorts are the places most likely to offer these kinds of deals.
10. Budget Options
Large, well-known resorts sometimes have the reputation of being ultra expensive; for the most part, yes, this is true. Major resorts offer plenty of opportunities to live in luxury for a week, but they are also most likely to boast a variety of options for lodging, lift tickets, and food. Students often receive discounts on lift tickets; families can find plenty of mid-range options for hotels. All-out elegance is great, but most big resorts cater to a wider range of customers with varying budgets.