9 Elements to Consider When Picking a Ski Destination

Posted by Jill on December 2, 2013

Growing up my family would “take ski vacations from this vacation."  Being raised in a ski town was an amazing experience.  Most of my friend’s families didn’t consider going on vacation to another ski destination.  However, my family sought out other ski areas as our annual family vacation.  The beauty of any ski destination is that each resort has its own personality. Utah, for example, hosts eleven ski areas within an hour drive from Salt Lake City.  Each resort is unique and offers terrain, amenities and experiences distinctive from their neighbors. The nuances of every ski area worldwide are what make choosing a ski vacation exciting and challenging.

I have had the opportunity to travel to resorts around the world for work, play and competition.  I honestly can say that each resort I have encountered has offered a unique experience and was worth the trip.  When planning a ski vacation, consider the following factors to help narrow down the plethora of winter choices at your fingertips:


  • Skiing/Boarding can be an expensive sport, especially when traveling with your entire family.  Create a budget prior to making travel arrangements and this will help guide the decision making process for your vacation.


  • Where do you want to go?  How accessible do you want the location to be?  For example, do you want to be in a cabin somewhere in the backcountry that you took a plane, train, automobile and helicopter to get to?  Do you want land in an airport have a ½ hour or 2-hour maximum driven time?  Do you want drive-to-only ski destination? Do you want to be in North America or travel to Europe?


  • Like snowflakes, each ski area around the world is unique. What do you want your overall experience to be? Growing up we would alternate going to Vail, Aspen, Taos, Sun Valley, Copper Mountain and Keystone.  Taos, for example, was our immersion trip. We stayed at the base in the St. Bernard, and skied, nothing else: we ate, drank, slept and skied. Vail, on the other hand, offered more amenities for our entire family. Vail was our destination for three generations to enjoy the resort atmosphere and village - my grandparents would cross-country ski while we downhill skied, we would dine together and explore the village at night and stay in a condo so we could enjoy the entire family.


  • Speaking of three generations traveling together, amenities may be a very important factor when selecting a destination.  If you are traveling with friends or family members that may not be die-hard skiers, alternative activities are key to making a destination enjoyable for all.  In addition, there may be a day or two that you decide not to ski and would like to enjoy another activity.  Visit the local tourism bureau for ideas and additional activities for the surrounding area.


  • Green, Blue, Black, Double Black... What color is most prominent in your planning?  Do you want a resort that offers all levels of skiing or more specific terrain such as extreme terrain, terrain parks, first-time skier terrain, etc?

Time of Year:

  • When do you want to travel?  There may be early bird or late-season deals.  If you are planning a vacation during peak periods (Christmas, New Years, President’s Week or Spring Break) book early and plan for more crowds.  Consider traveling when there is a festival, such as the Sundance Film Festival.  


  • Are you a foodie or a brown bag type of traveler?  Dining options on and off the hill may be a priority.  Consider what type of dining experience you want and design your trip accordingly. Once again, if you a vacationing during peak travel times, make reservations!

Après Ski:

  • This often plays a huge role in deciding where to vacation.  One of the most dominant traditions in a ski vacation is the après life.  Are your traveling with friends and want to enjoy cocktails, hot tubs, fondue and nightlife?  Or sharing s’mores fireside with your family?  What do you want to experience post-ski each day?

Learning Opportunities:

  • Ski school or a specialty camp might be the main focus when picking your destination.  Research the resorts opportunities for on-hill learning and clinics specializing in specific skills or training.  If you are traveling with children, look into the children programs available.

From my personal experience, it is well worth trying new resorts, as well as, continuing to return to your favorites.  Regardless, any ski destination will be an adventure and well worth the trip!


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