Planning a successful powder ski or snowboard vacation is an art form in itself. With the weather being perhaps the most unpredictable variable affecting a potential ski or snowboard trip, chasing powder is unpredictable by nature. Snow lines, orographics, timing, and a plethora of other factors go into the makings of a heroic powder day and that’s not even mentioning the travel aspect. So to unpack this very complex and intricate art form, Ski.com is laying out a step-by-step guide to chasing and catching the ultimate powder day. We start with…

1) Checking the NOAA Climate Outlook

Powder outlook for winter, how to powderchase
The 2021 February outlook is looking good for Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, and Colorado | Image: NOAA

The first step any seasoned powder hound takes prior to deciding to plan a powder chase is opening the laptop and checking out the NOAA long-term forecast. Thanks to meteorological advances in the past decade, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center has become a go-to for long-range forecasting based on the most diverse models and data points in the world. So with the admission that planning a powder vacation over a month away is perhaps leaving a lot up to chance, we think that this is a good place to start in terms of initial planning, yet still a ways away from booking. You can find the month-long outlook from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center here.

2) Next up, who’s got the deepest base?

Base depth powder chasing how to
We’d call this a “healthy base depth” | Photo: Donner Ski Ranch

While somewhere may be forecasted to see significant snow, it’s vital that you make sure there is something for that powder to sit atop of, especially as it concerns early-season or end-of-season powder chasing. After narrowing down your choices to a few states via the long term outlook from NOAA, find out which three resorts have the deepest base depths by checking each resort’s individual website for the most up-to-date data. Now, you have three very viable candidates to track as the powder chase really begins.

3) The 7-Day Forecast

How to chase powder | Weather forecast vail

Ask any meteorologist and they’ll tell you: it’s nearly impossible to accurately forecast snow totals for a specific location further than 7 days out. So with your three options in hand, go to weather.gov and begin your 7-day research by typing in the name of a resort into the search box in the upper right-hand corner. There, NOAA will give you an illustrated 5-day forecast with details up to seven days out. You can also use the NOAA Satellite Forecast Radar, which shows estimated snowfall totals across the United States for up to 5 days out. Once you’ve found out which forecast looks the most promising, a Ski.com Mountain Travel Expert is standing by to help you figure out the rest, which includes…

4) Flights, Lodging, Ground Transfers, Powder Skis

Powder chasing flights
Up-up-and-away! | Photo: Jake Burchmore

There’s nothing like having someone back you up in terms of your powder ambitions and one of Ski.com’s 65+ Mountain Travel Experts knows exactly what conditions are like on the snow. Once you’ve picked your powder paradise, a Ski.com Mountain Travel Expert will customize the entire journey including flights, slopeside lodging, and ground transfers. Many times, you can take advantage of last-minute rates as long as you avoid busy weekends or the holidays. If you need equipment, we can point you in the right direction of the demo shops nearby so you can float on the best powder skis available.

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5) Pack Right

Traveling with skis
Many airports close to ski areas even have a portion of their baggage claim dedicated to skis and snowboards | Photo: Sheila Scarborough

Packing is often overlooked and underappreciated as a crucial element of the powder chase. A veteran chaser knows that traveling with ski equipment via plane, train, or automobile can be difficult if you’re not adequately prepared. A couple essential items for those chasing powder include a good boot bag and a rolling ski bag if you’re bringing your own planks. If you’re only bringing one pair of skis (powder), you can typically get away with using just these two luggage items for the entire chase. Just make sure to carry-on your boot bag with your ski or snowboard boots, ski pants, ski jacket, ski socks, goggles, thermals, helmet, and whatever else you might need to get on the slopes for day one. This way, if the airline misplaces your luggage, you still have everything you need on hand to rip up the powder.

Related: Ski Trip Packing List From The Experts

6) First Tracks and Much More

We love powder. It’s that simple. | Photo: Ben Saheb

Once in-destination, you may be surprised that you can actually pay to skip lift lines altogether via priority lift line access and/or first-tracks options. Taking advantage of one or both of these options can seriously make for an epic day on the slopes. Whether that means signing up for an early tram at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort or adding on first-tracks guided service at Aspen Snowmass, a Ski.com Mountain Travel Expert will make sure you stay ahead of the crowds.


Ready to plan the perfect powder vacation? You can browse our top inventory or simply fill out a free quote to be matched with a Mountain Travel Expert today.