Western Skiing: Guide to Skiing out West

Skiing out west is the ultimate vacation, get started planning your big trip with our guide on what to expect and plan for.

Alex Bosco Grey Trees Powder Skiing at Stevens Pass

A skiing adventure out West beckons skiers worldwide with pristine powder laps, breathtaking dreamscapes of big mountains, and endless snow. This can be the trip of a lifetime for many skiers and riders, so it’s always a good idea to get your ducks in a row before diving in. There are many amazing, world-class resorts to visit in the West, and regardless of which of these you make your destination, there are a few essential things to keep in mind as you plan and prepare. This guide will navigate all that and more, offering key insights and tips for making your first skiing trip out West something to write home about. Keep in mind that Epic Passes typically go on sale in the spring for the following winter, so you can get the best pricing when you buy early.  

How Do I Prepare for Skiing Out West?

Some basic preparation is key for a successful and enjoyable skiing experience anywhere, but it is a must if you’ve never skied in the region before. If you’ve only been to the Midwest or East Coast or haven’t skied at all, here’s a quick checklist to help ensure you’re ready for whatever comes your way with big mountains and plenty of snow in play. 

Gear Choices

Investing in quality ski gear is a solid first step for any ski trip. Whether you buy your own equipment or rent, you want to make sure your boots fit properly, your skis are sized correctly, and your winter clothing is effective at keeping you warm and dry in variable conditions. If you’re a beginner, renting is likely the way to go. If you’re a seasoned skier, make sure you get everything tuned up before your trip. 


There is no better way of getting in ski shape than to get on the mountain, but that’s not realistic all year long. A good general fitness baseline is highly recommended before a trip out West. Focusing on strength, endurance, and flexibility a month or more before your ski trip will ensure you’re not stuck in the lodge with sore legs on your second day. Cardio is also essential and has obvious benefits that translate directly to the snow. 

Altitude Awareness

Be mindful of the higher altitudes prevalent at Western resorts. Altitude sickness is very possible and can ruin the first few days of your trip–even if you’re in good shape. Acclimate by arriving a day or two before skiing if you can, staying hydrated, and starting slowly so you don’t burn out, get a headache, or worse. The sun can also be more intense at altitude, so always bring good sunscreen with you and reapply it to your face several times throughout the day. An SPF lip balm is also a good idea. 

How Far in Advance Should You Plan a Ski Trip? 

Planning as far in advance as possible is sound advice. While pulling off a last-minute trip is technically doable, you’re much more likely to pay top dollar for everything that way. Ideally, aim to start your planning process at least three to six months in advance. This timeframe allows you to secure the best accommodation options, book lessons or rentals, and take advantage of any early-bird discounts available. Many resorts might limit lift tickets available to preserve guest experience during the season, so getting a pass or lift tickets well in advance is best.  

Resorts often release their winter schedules and events well before the season starts. By planning ahead, you not only ensure availability but also have the flexibility to choose the most suitable dates for your trip. Keep an eye out for package deals that may include lodging, lift tickets, and other amenities. 

How Many Days of Skiing Do I Need?

Determining the exact number of days for your skiing adventure depends on various factors, including your skill level, fitness, budget, and personal preferences. As a beginner, a three to four-day trip is typically a good time to shoot for and will allow you sufficient time to grasp the basics and gain confidence on the slopes. 

For more experienced skiers, a week or more offers additional time to explore the mountain or visit multiple resorts. Longer trips also afford more days to experience ideal snow conditions. You might get lucky on a short trip and have a powder day, but a week-long to a Western resort in the winter enhances your chances of fresh snow. 

Really, there’s no wrong answer here. But the longer you can make your trip, the better. Consider factors like travel time, the intensity of skiing you like, and the overall experience you want to have when deciding the duration of your trip.    

What is the Cheapest Month to Go Skiing? 

Generally, the cheapest months to go skiing are during the early or late parts of the season. This can be the most cost-effective time to hit the slopes, which is good to know for any budget-conscious skiers. The trade-off is that the snow conditions and coverage may not be as good in the early or late season. 

Early-season skiing, typically in November or early December out West, may offer discounted rates as resorts gear up for peak season. Late-season skiing, in March or April, can also provide budget-friendly options when resorts wind down for the year. However, be mindful of the weather conditions, as late-season skiing might entail variable snow conditions and melting snow.

Another tip to keep in mind at any time of the season is that mid-week stays tend to be more economical than weekends while also letting you enjoy the slopes with fewer crowds. If you have flexibility, planning an early or late-season trip during the weekdays can be the cheapest route. 

Get Inspired for Your Dream Trip

Skiing out West is more than just a vacation; it’s an immersive experience that can allow you to connect with nature and challenge your abilities. If you take the time to immerse yourself in the culture and stories of whatever resort you plan to visit, inspiration will build on enthusiasm. Watching videos or reading a book about the history of a region or resort is a great way to accomplish this. Taking a lesson from a local can also help you learn more about the resort or region you are skiing in. Getting excited about a big Western ski trip doesn't take much, but staying actively inspired, in addition to proper planning, can bring everything to another level.