When we imagine a "ski vacation," we don't think packed shuttle rides, uphill slogs while shouldering skis or the long drive home. Our brains just forget these inconvenient details, going directly from the slopes to a nice cozy lodge.
In order to make this vision a reality, you need ski-in/ski-out lodging which isn't cheap. You look at the price tag and always wonder – "is this really worth it?"
You could sum up all the advantages to ski-in/ski-out in one word: proximity. It's good because you're close to the mountain.
Minimal Walking: Ski boots, especially rentals, are uncomfortable. Carrying skis and snowboards is a pain. It's even worse as you worry about kids' gear. With ski-in/ski-out, you minimize travel and get directly to the snow.
No Shuttles: Think back to the last time you've been on a shuttle. Do you remember the wait in the freezing cold? Do you remember being crammed into the shuttle and jostling for a seat? While this is not always the case depending on the resort and your timing, it is definitely not a pleasant experience. You can avoid the hassle if you stay at a ski-in/ski-out resort.
Children: Kids can be difficult to wrangle and to coordinate. Their moods can be unpredictable, especially as they tire. If your room sits next to the mountain, it's easier to take breaks or even call it a day if necessary. Staying ski-in/ski-out can keep kids happier and reduce your stress as a parent.
Breaks in the Room: If you room is at the base of the mountain, you can take midday breaks in your private space. You can stop by your room for bathroom breaks, lunch, or even just to apply sunscreen. You can completely avoid crowded mountain restaurants.
The Feel: Ski-in/ski-out feels like a ski vacation. Being able to ski directly to the lobby or the pool really matches that mental image of a fun and relaxing ski vacation. This can be really important, especially if it's your big vacation for the year.
As convenient as ski-in/ski-out can be, it potentially has some serious negatives.
Price: As with all real estate, location matters. Location is what drives prices. As a result, ski-in/ski-out is typically more expensive than other options.
Let's use Park City, UT as an example. If you stay at Marriott's Mountainside in mid-January, you will pay about $500/night and this is cheap for a ski-in/ski-out resort. If you stay about a half mile down the road, you can get lodging for around half the price.
Access to Important Terrain: Ski-in/ski-out only promises direct mountain access. It doesn't usually describe what type of access.If you're with a complete beginner, but the access from your mid-mountain condo connects directly to an intermediate run, this could pose a problem. Some ski-in/ski-out property leads directly to a long cat track, which can be an annoying start to your morning or end to your day.
If you plan on taking lessons, beware that some ski-in/ski-out locations sit on the other side of the mountain from ski school. As a result, you either need to take 2-3 lifts or a long shuttle to get to the meeting area
Ski-in/ski-out signifies you're close to terrain, it doesn't tell you what type of terrain.
Less access to town: Sometimes, "ski-in/ski-out" is exactly what we picture: a beautiful resort with a path of snow leading right up to the back doors and a little ski town out front. Other times, it's a big cabin in the woods in the middle of the mountain. The second one can be lovely, but it doesn't really provide good access for apres-ski activities.
If you want to spend time in town after skiing, make sure your lodging has good access. You don't want to be stuck driving at night through a blizzard up a windy mountain road or taking an expensive taxi.
Double Check the Distance: Some places claim "ski-in/ski-out," but what they mean is "a short walk down the road." If ski-in/ski-out is important, double check the actual distance when booking. You're paying more for ski-in/ski-out, so make sure you get the benefits.
Ski-in/ski-out lodging definitely has its advantages. It has great views and immediate access to slopes. It also really gives you that "ski vacation" feeling. That said, it's expensive and can also be farther from important features like ski schools and apres-ski activities.
Whether ski-in/ski-out is "worth it" or not is completely up to you and your priorities.