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Your First Ski Trip

A guide to your introductory ski vacation

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Our 65+ Mountain Travel Experts have skied at our 120+ resorts, slept in the hotel beds and dined at the local restaurants.

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You're making a great choice. Few trips can compete with the adventure and scenery of a ski vacation. Unlike a beach vacation, a ski trip requires a bit more planning and coordination, but that's where Ski.com comes in. If left to your own devices, you could spend hours doing online research to collect all the info you need to feel prepared. That doesn't include all the time you'll spend trying to piece together and book all the components of your travel.

Our 65+ Mountain Travel Experts and our many guides (including this one) are here to give you in the inside scoop on what to expect. Once you've decided on where you would like to go, we're also by your side to help get your travel and lodging booked in one convenient place.

Common first ski-vacation questions


What should I expect?

Whether this is your first time skiing or your first time venturing from your home-town hill, a destination ski vacation is a truly unique experience and the trip you'll remember for a lifetime. Each ski region has unique ski conditions, weather, customs and culture, and we can help match you to the one that checks all your boxes. First, let's explore some common ski-vacation concerns and stereotypes:

I'll be cold the whole time. That's simply not true. Sure, New England and Eastern Canada can be nippy, but the rest of the world's top ski destinations are not as cold as you might think. The Alps, California, Colorado, Utah, Western Canada, South America and even Alaska see plenty of winter days where mild winter temperatures (25°F-35°F) and sunshine are plentiful. This is particularly true of California, Colorado, Utah and the Alps. When it's not snowing, conditions are clear and the mountain sunhine is warm and strong. Additionally, cold snaps are more common in December and January, but you can avoid this by booking your ski vacation later in the season, like March or even April.

I'll be forced to ski something that's too hard. Again, not true. Every resort, even the most challenging (like Jackson Hole), provide well-maintained groomers, so beginners and intermediates can explore and enjoy the entire mountain.

My travel plans could be affected by a snow storm. That's true. We all want our ski vacation to be a winter wonderland, but no one wants it to snow when they're trying to reach the mountains. Mother Nature doesn't always cooperate, but know that our Mountain Travel Experts will work hard to ensure you arrive safely and as quickly as possible. However, the ultimate assurance is purchasing travel insurance along with your ski vacation.

Riding a chairlift is scary. If you're afraid of heights, riding a chairlift can be a daunting task. You can rest assured knowing that the resorts employ the latest technology and safety protocol to ensure guests are extremely safe throughout the ride. Many Western, Canadian and European resorts have gondolas (or cable cars) or trams that provide a warmer and more relaxing experience, which is a great option for someone who is hesitant to ride an open-air chairlift. In gondolas, guests are contained within an enclosed cab, usually with seats (sometimes heated).

I could suffer from altitude sickness. Depending on where you go, that's a possibility, but you can easily avoid or reduce that scenario without having to compromise which destination you choose by following our tips. Regions with high-altitude resorts include: Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, parts of British Columbia, South America and the Alps. Lower-altitude resorts include: New England, Whistler Blackcomb and Sun Valley

Skiing in powder looks hard. With the right skis or board and a lesson or two, powder skiing is well within your reach. Once you've nailed down the technique, it's one of the most rewarding parts of skiing or snowboarding. However, if your not quite there, don't sell yourself short on a ski trip out West or to Europe. Thanks to highly sophisticated grooming machines, you can enjoy manicured runs and the spectacular views and local mountain culture unique to the Rockies or the Alps.

Which ski resort?

These days, most major ski resorts offer a laundry list of on- and off-mountain experiences, services and amenities. You can expect high-touch services, like free on-mountain tours; state-of-the-art facilities, like spacious lodges, ski school centers and cutting-edge lifts, gondolas and trams; and awesome activities, like groomed, lift-accessed snow tubing, snowmobile excursions and festive outdoor ice rinks. Additionally, world-class resorts offer a stacked-list of events, parties, festivals and concerts, which provide the perfect cherry on top of an awesome ski vacation. All of this and more is commonplace at modern ski resorts.

Choosing the right resort for you comes down to a couple things: your budget, the type of terrain you want to ski or ride, the atmosphere you want to be surrounded by and how easy it is to get there. Some people prefer end-of-the-road resorts, while others crave the convenience and high-energy buzz of well-visited destinations. The choice is yours, but we're here to help you make it.

Our 65+ Mountain Travel Experts are standing by to take your chat or call or you can learn more by clicking on the links on the right.


What kind of lodging?

Selecting your lodging will depend a lot on your budget, but the size of your travel party can also influence your choice. If being close to the slopes is important to you, ski in ski out lodging is recommended. It's a great option for first-time visitors, too, as it reduces the need to navigate a base village or town. Plus, you likely won't need a rental car or to schlep your gear on a shuttle if you're staying slopeside. However, ski in ski out lodging typically doesn't come on the cheap. You're paying extra for the center-stage seats.

If you're family or group is large, renting a private home or condo unit is also a great option. Everyone can congregate in the living rooms and common-area spaces and enjoy meals together in the fully equipped kitchens. Plus, when split between several people, a private home or condo can be more affordable than a hotel room or suite.

Do I need a lesson?

A lesson is highly reccommended for first-time skiers or snowboarders. Not only will you receive instruction on how to properly stop and turn, but you'll also get a tutorial on how to operate your equipment and load and unload lifts.

We also recommend a lesson for first-time visitors, even if you're expert. A lesson is the best way to get your legs warmed and fine-tune your technique and style. Plus, instructors provide a wealth of insight on terrain and off-mountain experiences that you can't get anywhere else. You'll also get to cut long lift lines when you're skiing or riding with an instructor.

What about gear?

When it comes to ski vacations, what you put on your body and your feet plays a large roll in how much fun you will have, which is why it's important to take our expert advice.

Outerwear + layering

For most ski destinations, you want to wear performance base and mid layers. That way you can shed or add a layer depending on the day's temperature and conditions. So you don't overheat or get chilly, base layers and mid layers should be moisture wicking (non-cotton) and breathable.

It's also important to have waterproof or at least water-resistant outerwear (jacket and pants) so you can continue to ski or ride when the snow falls. Other key pieces of gear include moisture-wicking (non-cotton) ski socks, insulated mittens or gloves—mittens are generally warmer—and a face mask, balaclava or neck gaiter. Learn more about layering and other items with the Ski.com Packing List.

Ski or snowboard equipment

For first-time skiers or snowboarders, we highly recommend renting. You want to make sure you love the sport before you invest in your own gear. We work with hundreds of rental shops across our 120+ destinations. To ensure you get the gear you want ahead of time, you can even add rental equipment to your ski vacation package.

If you have your own ski or snowboard equipment, we still suggest renting or demo-ing—at least skis. This way, you can try out gear that's best suited for that resort's terrain. However, if you really love your own equipment, take advantage of shipping services, like our partner, Ship Skis. That way you don't have schlep your ski bag around, and you'll pay less than the airline baggage fees.

Helmet + goggles

At Ski.com, we're big proponents for helmets. You might feel goofy wearing one at first, but keeping your precious brain safe is a top priority. Plus, the majority of skiers and snowboarders wear them these days. If you don't feel like buying your own just yet, you can rent a helmet just like you can rent skis. You can even include it in your ski vacation package. Ask your Mountain Travel Expert.

Goggles are an integral part of your skiing or riding set-up. They allow you to see the slopes in front of you better than you could with your own eyes, especially in an alpine environment. But they're not just for safety, goggles also protect your eyes from harmful UV rays, much like sunglasses do.

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