If you wanna go on a ski trip, there’s gonna be some planning involved. But luckily, planning for a ski trip is a lot of fun. The only thing more fun than planning for the trip, is going on it. Hanging out with friends, drooling over aerial photos and maps, fantasizing about conditions — it’s very exciting stuff.
Ski trips come in many shapes and sizes. Flying to a remote area, taking a boat to the terminus of a tidewater glacier, hauling your gear for a full day up the glacier, setting up basecamp, and skiing 60 degree couloirs in the surrounding mountains for a couple weeks is one example of a ski trip. Skiing the hill in your backyard is also considered a ski trip.
Not too surprisingly these two ski trips require very different planning and preparation. The simple chart below can help you determine the level of planning required for your trip. This chart, however, doesn’t cover every type of ski trip. For example, maybe you are planning a backcountry ski trip, but you’re going to stay in the front country and maybe you’re hiring a guide or you’ve got a local friend in the area who is going to act as your guide. There are a lot of factors that will dictate the amount of planning you need to do, so this chart simply serves as a good jumping off point.
The Five Ws of Planning a Ski Trip
The questions below are a great place to begin your ski trip planning.
Who am I bringing with me?
The right answer: Good company
The Bluebird answer: If you wanna bring 199 of your closest friends and rent out the entire mountain, you can do that. If you wanna bring your furry quadruped friend, feel free — as long as they are a dog and not a donkey or gorilla (or any other type of quadruped). If you wanna bring your friend who has never tried backcountry skiing before, please do! If you want to bring your chess club (and get discounted rates if have more than 10 in your group), come on down! Friends, family, significant others, you can bring whoever you want, as long as they are either a well-behaved human or dog.
Additional thoughts: Bringing a compatible crew is key to a successful ski trip. If you’re an experienced backcountry skier and you’re taking your significant other to Bluebird for their first time backcountry skiing, but you want to go ski the Pucker Chutes, it might be a frustrating experience for all parties involved. If you adjust your objective from “skiing the Pucker Chutes” to “helping my significant other learn to backcountry ski,” then you’re more likely to have a positive experience (though the jury is still out on whether teaching your significant other how to backcountry ski is a good idea, so if you’d rather leave it to the professionals then you should check out our backcountry lessons). If you really want to ski the Pucker Chutes, then you might want to consider bringing a friend with a similar level of experience.
What am I bringing with me?
The right answer: A positive attitude (it goes a long way)
The Bluebird answer: If you got ‘em, bring your splitboard or skis with backcountry touring bindings, skins, snowboard boots or ski touring boots, beacon, shovel, probe, and backpack. If you don’t have any of this gear, no worries, we rent all of the above items (except snowboard boots). Of course you will also want to bring warm winter apparel (it can get quite chilly at Bear Mountain), your brain bucket (a.k.a. helmet), and snacks (we do have some snacks available onsite, including FREE BACON at our mid-mountain warming hut, The Perch). And if you’re staying with us, you should also bring a sleeping bag and headlight.
Additional thoughts: Leaving gear at home is a bummer. Take a page out of Saint Nicholas’ book: make a list and check it twice.
What are my goals/objectives?
The right answer: Be safe, have fun
The Bluebird answer: Maybe your only objective is to be safe and have fun. That’s great. At Bluebird, we work hard so that it is easy for you to achieve this goal. With on-site ski patrol and constant monitoring of terrain, Bluebird allows everyone to enjoy backcountry skiing and snowboarding regardless of your avalanche education. We know the backcountry can be intimidating, so we created a place where you can ski more & worry less.
Maybe you’re coming to Bluebird for a backcountry lesson or an avalanche course and your goal is to learn something new. This is another great, achievable goal, as all of our instructors have a wealth of knowledge that they are excited to share with you.
Additional thoughts: Like in any endeavor, it can be fun to set lofty goals for your ski trip, but the only way you get to those goals is by setting smaller, more achievable ones. You have to walk before you can run.
When am I going?
The right answer: Whenever you can
The Bluebird answer: Between Opening Day and Closing Day (usually late December to late March) and between Thursday and Monday (since we don’t operate on Tuesdays or Wednesdays) — because showing up when we’re closed is a lot less fun. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to say specifically when the best time to come to Bluebird is. We tend to receive greater snowfall during the months of January and February and we tend to have more sun and spring-like conditions towards the end of our season in March. Though we’ve had warm sunny days in January and cold stormy days in March, so all you can really do is roll the dice (and sleep with pajamas inside out and backwards before and during your visit — a tradition proven to increase the likelihood of heavy overnight snowfall).
Additional thoughts: If you’re going on a front country ski trip to a resort, another consideration is crowds (don’t worry — you won’t find those at Bluebird since we limit the number of skiers and riders to 200 a day). If you can avoid going to a major resort during the holiday season or a holiday weekend, you will likely spend less time waiting in lift lines and more time skiing.
Where am I skiing?
The right answer: A mountain (unless you’re planning a cross country ski trip)
The Bluebird answer: Bear Mountain – of course that’s not too specific though. With over 1000 acres of ski-patrolled and avalanche-managed terrain and 3000 acres of guided-only terrain, there’s a lot to explore. It’s not a bad idea to narrow your scope to a specific zone like West Bowl, The North Face or The Far Side and Pucker Chutes.
Additional thoughts: Don’t forget to plan this part of your trip. It’s hard to go somewhere if you don’t know where somewhere is. Or it’s very easy, depending on how you look at it.
Where am I staying? (for multi-day trips)
The right answer: Some place warm.
A place where the beer flows like wine. Where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. I’m talkin’ bout a little place called… As-pen.
Lloyd Christmas (Dumb and Dumber) quotes aside, Aspen is a great place to stay if you’re skiing there (it doesn’t make as much sense if you’re skiing at Breckenridge). But the important piece here is, “some place warm.”
The Bluebird answer: The Grizzly Hostel, a Skin-to Dome, a Basecamp Dome, a Campfire Cabin, a Brown Bear Cabin, in your camper in our parking lot. You’ve got options. The great thing about all these options is that they’re warm (hopefully your camper is too) because they all have a heat source (hopefully your camper does too). They’re also all ski-in/ski-out, a.k.a. no driving necessary.
Additional thoughts: Staying close to where you’re skiing makes a huge difference. Unfortunately the closer you are to the skiing, the more you usually pay. This isn’t always the case (take Bluebird for example), so if you can find lodging that bucks this trend then you should snatch it up.
Because ski trips are fun!
Recent studies have shown that planning a trip (it doesn’t matter if you don’t even go on that trip) is good for your mental health. So don’t stop at planning one real ski trip this winter, plan five fake ones that you’re not actually going to take -it’ll make you happier.
Happy planning! (literally, it’s scientifically proven)