By Megan Michelson
So you’ve planned a ski trip for your family, and now here you are—bundled up, boots buckled, mountain ahead.
Read on for some must-know strategies to ensure a seamless mountain experience.
1. Get schooled.
Everyone knows ski lessons can help you make your way down the mountain smoothly.
But did you know that they might also get you up the mountain in a hassle-free jiff?
Lessons for the whole family might entitle you to perks like skipping the lift line (which can be hefty during peak times like holidays) and insider direction to the best snow on the mountain.
2. Map it out.
At the lift ticket counter, grab a trail map for your pocket.
Although most resorts now have mobile apps offering maps and navigational tools, it can be hard to operate your phone in cold conditions with frozen fingers or bulky gloves—so old-school maps work best.
If you get disoriented, look for nearby trail signage or posted maps with “you are here” markers at the top of most lifts to put you back in place.
Also, ski patrol, lift operators, and other mountain staff (look for their official resort uniforms), can offer assistance.
Plan an easy-to-find meeting point (and possibly a time) for your family in case you lose each other—the bottom of the gondola, for example.
3. Timing is everything.
The middle of the day may offer the best conditions for skiers and riders who are learning.
Lifts usually open by 9 a.m., but in the early morning, frosty overnight temperatures can sometimes mean hard, icy snow and colder air.
Late in the day, when the sun dips below the horizon, the ice can resurface.
So consider having a leisurely morning, then heading out on the hill around 10 or 11 a.m. and calling it quits before 3 p.m.
4. Check the snow report.
When you wake up, check the resort’s website or app for the day’s snow report.
New snow fell overnight? Lucky you.
Skiing in fresh snow is fun, but it can also be challenging.
In powder, lean forward and drive your hands downhill.
If you get stuck in a flat spot in deep snow, make your way to another skier’s tracks; it’ll be easier to get across if you’re not breaking trail.
If you’d rather not ski deep powder, check the resort’s grooming report to see what trails were freshly groomed; these runs will be packed down and easier to ski.
Try two-way radios for keeping track of your friends or family on the hill.
Operating a cell phone on the mountain can be tricky—cell service can occasionally be spotty and good luck sending a text message in the cold while wearing mittens.
Invest in a good set of handheld radios and store the gadget in an exterior pocket on your jacket, so you can easily hear when a family member is paging you.
6. Lift-load smartly.
When getting on the chairlift, remove your pole straps and put both poles into one hand.
That’ll make it easier to grab and sit on the chair when it comes around.
If you need assistance, lift operators are there for a reason.
Just ask for help.
Once you’re on the chair, lower the safety bar, which is meant to keep you secure 30 feet above ground en route to a mountaintop.
Remember to raise the bar with plenty of time to spare as you’re approaching the off-loading station.
Most lifts have signage offering a reminder to raise the bar a few minutes before you unload.
7. Avoid the crowds.
Eat lunch early or late.
If you head into the lodge during peak lunch hour—noon to 1 p.m.—you’ll likely deal with a rush of crowds.
Instead, if you get an early start, head in for a midday break around 11 a.m. Didn’t get your first run in till 10:30 or 11 a.m.?
Break for lunch after 1 p.m.
That way, you’ll have your pick of tables, find shorter cafeteria lines, and see less of a zoo in the ladies’ room.
8. Yield to uphill skiers.
If you’re making turns across the hill or merging onto a trail, make sure you look uphill first.
The skiers coming downhill from above have right of way, so stop and let them pass before you proceed.
9. Watch where you stop.
If you’re coming off a tiring downward push, it might be tempting to just pull to a stop whenever you need to catch your breath.
But pay attention: Make sure you’re not stopping in a blind spot where you’re not visible from above, like below a rollover or behind a berm.
Make sure you can see the skiers coming down, and that they can see you, to ensure everyone’s safety.
10. Know when to call it quits.
It might be difficult to tear yourself away, but don’t overdo it into a state of misery or exhaustion, especially early in the trip.
You don’t want to burn yourself out for the remainder of your vacation.
The hot tub back at your condo will cure all that ails you.
Remember to hydrate with lots of water; you’re at high altitude.
Plus, there’s always tomorrow for sneaking in that run you didn’t get a chance to do today.