Ski season is just around the corner. How ready are you to hit the slopes?
Preparing for ski season can be daunting, but like all great pastimes in life, the planning and preparation are worth it. We're betting that at some point during your ski vacation years, you've experienced what it's like to not be prepared when the snow starts flying: that moment when you click on your skis and the dried-out bases stick hopelessly to the snow, or you wait until the week before your Christmas ski vacation to book your favorite instructor to find that they don't have any availability until February. This pre-season to-do list is not only here to remind you of those things you may forget: we've also got you covered for all those things you may not even know about. Read on for 25 things to do in the next two months to prepare for your best ski season ever.
1. Hit the gym. Getting in ski season shape is crucial if you’re going to be charing big mountain lines. (It also can’t hurt even if you’ll be cruising the groomers). Build strength and mobility gradually so that by the time you hit the slopes, you (not your quads) will be calling it quits at day’s end.
2. Book a deal. Early season deals abound through October; take advantage of huge discounts on lodging and airfare, as well as locking in a popular destination during a peak week.
3. Choose a weekend getaway. If you’re not ready to book a week long ski vacation, consider organizing a weekend trip. It can be local, luxurious, or a first-time visit to a new resort – just plan it early so that you’ll have slope time to look forward to.
4. Find your dream spring break. March and April are a long ways away; booking a spring break ski vacation now won’t just save you money – it will give you something to look forward to through the cold, dreary days of January. Check out resort calendars for spring break concert series and festivals when booking.
5. Get geared up. Make your checklist and take inventory of last year’s gear. Are your ski boot toe pieces worn down? Is your helmet moldy from a summer of storage in the basement? Do you need to upgrade to heartier skis because you improved tenfold from the start of last season? Start checking now to keep the stress low.
6. Research flights. Price trends in flights continue to fluctuate, but when it comes to ski season, booking early is advisable. Most popular (and convenient) flights are the priciest and book up fast; if your travel dates are rigid, book seats early.
7. Make restaurant reservations. Popular restaurants book up weeks, and sometimes months, in advance for peak periods like Christmas and Presidents Weekend. If you’d like to dine at the hottest spots in Jackson Hole, Vail, or Squaw Valley, book far ahead for a prime time reservation. You can usually cancel 24 hours ahead with no charge.
8. Look into lodging. Know your options (hint: they don’t just include hotel rooms and condos). Private homes are a great options for traveling with friends and family, while local B&Bs offer homey rooms and local hosts. If mainstream hotels are more your style, know that package deals often include one night free.
9. Book ski lessons. Got a favorite instructor? Have an idea of what type you’d like? Mountain sports schools will match you with a ski instructor that suits your needs – but your best chance of landing the perfect match lies in making requests now. That will also give you both time to establish a connection, plan on-hill dining, and craft the best skiing plans.
10. Find a dog sitter. Or a kid sitter. Or a house sitter. Ski vacations are so much better when you know everything at home is taken care of. Call up your regular sitters with potential dates so they can pencil you in.
11. Order firewood. If your slopeside A-frame heats with wood stove, get your firewood ordered and stacked before the season gets cold and wet. Dry wood is crucial for those quintessential cozy winter nights (and drying mittens after a snowy day).
12. Purchase lift tickets. If you don’t opt for a package deal, another way to save is bundling lift tickets and purchasing at least one week ahead – but earlier if possible. There’s no reason to pay full price at the ticket window when you arrive at the resort; book ahead, save big.
13. Connect with friends. Ski vacations are better with friends, especially when it comes to splitting slopeside mansions and nightly babysitters. If you’re daunted by logistics of organizing a trip with 2 or more families, start with the basics: dates, destination, and deals. Planning is the stressful part: an epic ski vacation with your best buds is worth it.
14. Size up the kids. Connect with gear specialists in your local ski store to be sure your kids are outfitted well. They’ll most likely need new skis, boots, and poles each year during prime growing years (ages 7-14). Be sure that their helmets are comfortable as well – these are outgrown every few years.
15. Check out events calendars. Ski resorts host major events: concerts, competitions, holiday parties, art openings, and more. If something specific interests you (or you simply want to make sure you’re vacationing when “something” is going on), check the resort calendars and book accordingly.
16. Renew your passport. Going to Europe for a ski vacation in the Alps? Be sure your passport is up-to-date. You likely won’t need a visa, but you will need a passport valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled trip.
17. Tune your skis. Wax ‘em, sharpen ‘em, get them set for early season conditions. Ski bases dry out over the summer (especially if you didn’t wax them at the end of the season). Edges rust. If you don’t have your own equipment, take them to a shop and ask for a stone grind.
18. Dry your boots. Take the liners out and put them on the boot dryer, or let them air dry for at least a few days. Buckle the boot shells in the meantime so they keep their shape. Moisture works its way deep into the liners over the off season – dry them out before booting up to avoid chilly feet.
19. Change the tires. Snow tires: essential for Colorado blizzards, and helpful for New England nor’easters. All season tires perform well in most weather situations, but checking in with a mechanic about winter tires doesn’t hurt. Each set is different.
20. Buy a season pass. Locals, hop to it. Season pass sales started in summer, and will likely end by early October. I know dishing out hundreds of dollars hurts, but if you put it off until later your season pass may well hit the $1,000 mark – or higher.
21. Change transceiver batteries. Replace the batteries of your avalanche beacon (or put new ones in if you removed at the end of last season). Always check the percentage before heading out into the backcountry. You want full – or almost full – power.
22. Raise your dins. Dins should be lowered at the end of ski season when skis are put into storage: it preserves the tightness of the spring in the binding. If you remembered to do this, be sure to raise them again before hitting the slopes – otherwise you can look forward to a pre-release and consequent yard sale all over the hill.
23. Score retail deals. Until the beginning of December, ski shops display last season’s clothing and gear at major discounts: 40-70%. Skip paying full price for the same coat in a “new” color and browse the best of last season. You can put your savings towards something more important – like rounds of après beers for your friends.
24. Check school vacations. Check and double check your kids’ school vacation dates. It’s happened before: families book based on assumed full-week vacations or the thought that vacation weeks will be the same year to year. Don’t get caught with massive cancellation fees for lodging and airfare.
25. Get stoked! We get it: planning is stressful. But when all is said and done, the pre-season organization makes for prime ski season fun. Start early, and don’t sweat it: there are so many bluebird powder days, après beers, and adventures in the winter ahead.