With 100-degree temperatures here in Utah this September, it’s hard to believe snowflakes and skiers will drape these same mountains in less than 100 days. Thus, NOW is a great time to sit indoors and plan your next ski trip. Here are ten tips you should use right now for planning (and saving) for your Utah ski vacation this winter.
1. Write Down These Five Words.
The single hardest thing about planning a ski trip is…the planning. It can be overwhelming (tickets, lessons, lodging, gear, transportation, etc.), but depending on where and when you go, it doesn’t have to be more miserable than navigating icy moguls.
The only question to ask is whether you want to ski this season. If so, grab a pen and write down these five words, “I will ski this season.” That’s it! Research shows that if you write down your goals, you are more likely to achieve them. Even if you’ve never skied, taking this single step makes you more likely to see it through. Why is it important to do it now when the asphalt is melting under your sandals? Because after you read the following ways to make skiing cheaper, easier, and so less stressful that you want to sneak in a second ski trip this season, you’ll kick yourself for not just taking a leap of faith and committing to it now.
2. Buy Your Ski Pass NOW!
Unless you like paying full price for daily lift tickets at the resort window, then purchase a heavily-discounted ski pass today. For those who rarely or never ski, buying daily lift tickets at the resort is the most expensive and least-convenient way to do so. I can hear you mumbling all the way from Atlanta, “I don’t live in a ski town, and I don’t know where, when or how many days I’m skiing this season.”
Lift tickets are expensive at some (but not all) resorts, but every Utah ski resort offers steep discounts from late spring through autumn on its lift ticket packages to season passes. Multi-passes (such as Ikon, Epic and Indy Pass) that offer multiple days at multiple resorts are similarly marked down preseason. More on the multi-resort passes here. Although the prices vary depending on which pass you purchase and when, you can generally come out ahead by buying a lift ticket package, season pass or multi-pass if you plan to ski three or more days this season.
If you’re purchasing for yourself or your family, this can mean saving hundreds to thousands of dollars on lift tickets alone. It also translates to skiing more days and enjoying additional ski trips in a single season. How? After shredding Snowbird in January, you discover you still have “days to burn” on your Ikon pass. You’ve already purchased the lift tickets (see below describing why you should buy skis and boots). With these costs covered and even more savings below, a spring trip to Utah is now an even more affordable vacation.
3. Get Great Gear at Great Prices!
Labor Day is the unofficial start of Utah Ski Deal Season, the time when locals and those in the know go on the hunt for jackets, boots, skis, snowboards and everything else ski-related. Retailers, consignors, outlets and online stores in Utah all sell great gear for rock-bottom prices. If you're in Utah, ski swaps are a great place to shop too.
Dream of owning your ski boots? You can and should. Any skier will tell you the single piece of gear to improve your skiing is a pair of well-fitted boots, ones molded to your toes and soles that give you the most direct contact with the skis. Stretched-out rentals that let your heels and toes slide around like a salmon swimming upstream will never provide enough control to maneuver through the trees or plow through the powder. Think of it this way, would you ever consider renting a pair of trainers to run a marathon? A pair of hiking boots to trek the Rockies?
Tip: Go to your local sports shop and slip on a few different brands and sizes before purchasing. Be sure they fit snugly, not like cozy slippers. Contrary to popular opinion, snug boots are warmer. Then, find a boot fitter like the experts at Cole Sport to customize them, often starting with simple insoles.
Skis? Yes, you can justify purchasing skis! If you consider the cost of renting skis and boots for last year’s week-long ski vacation, you can likely buy the same for the same price or even less at shops like Lone Pine Gear Exchange and Level 9 Sports. Not sure what skis are right for you, i.e., brands, sizes, styles? Contact the experts at Utah ski shops. They’ll ask you a list of questions and happily help you find the right gear for the right price.
4. School is in Session
Like lift tickets and gear, most resorts in Utah offer their best pricing and availability on ski lessons preseason. Check skiutah.com, each resort’s website and social media feed and each multi-pass benefit page for the latest deals.
Before you insist that you know how to ski, let me suggest that you can learn so much more. If you’re an East Coaster (aka "ice coast") or Cascade Concrete skier, a few hours with a Utah ski instructor showing you the glories of thigh-high powder can be transformative, physically and spiritually.
Also, if you’re skiing during holidays or find yourself on Utah slopes on a powder day or any other, having an instructor take you through priority lines means more laps and better ones. Instructors can also introduce you to runs on and off-piste that you didn’t know about or never imagined you could ride. They know where the ‘pockets of pow’ are stashed at Snowbird and can give you the coaching to get you through the trees at Deer Valley Resort.
Think of ski lessons as learning multiplication tables for novices and mastering calculus for experts. They allow you to do and enjoy much more on the mountain. But book preseason for the best price and availability!
5. Bookmark Google Flights
Getting to Utah’s collection of renowned ski resorts is faster and easier than anywhere else in North America. Salt Lake City (SLC) is an international airport and Delta Air Lines hub, an hour or less from 11 of its 15 alpine venues. This means you can fly from as far away as Boston on Friday morning, arrive at 10 a.m. and be on the lift at Park City Mountain or Alta Ski Area by lunch. Then, ski Friday afternoon, Saturday and even Sunday before taking the nonstop flight back to Logan, touching down just after midnight. Now, that’s a weekend to remember!
SLC isn’t the only way to visit and ski Utah’s best. Las Vegas is approximately three hours from Brian Head (as well as Zion and Bryce National Parks) in Southern Utah. The ever-expanding airport in St. George (SGU), with direct flights to Denver, Phoenix and Dallas, is even closer.
Now, let’s make getting to Utah cheaper.
First, track prices on Google Flights. It will email you alerts on airfares to SLC from anywhere else in the world on a certain date or at any time. You can also check Delta’s website for SkyMiles and fare deals. Skyscanner is another useful site for finding the lowest prices among the major airlines. Many airlines offer some of their best deals two to three months out, making autumn a perfect time to plan discounted winter travel.
Second, know when to go. The peak times (peak = expensive) to fly to Utah ski resorts include Christmas/New Years, Martin Luther King weekend, Sundance Film Festival, Presidents’ Weekend, and Easter (if it falls early). That sounds like a lot of holidays, but it’s relatively few days over a season that spans over six months from mid-November to mid-April (or beyond at Snowbird). If you avoid those peak holidays, you can score great deals—and conditions—at Utah ski resorts.
Tip: Early February, tucked between Sundance Film Festival and Presidents’ Weekend, is a great time for great conditions at lower prices.
6. Get Ready for Black Friday
From gear to airfare to lift tickets, just about everything ski-related in Utah is on sale on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Fall is the time to subscribe to newsletters and social media sites (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter) for updates on who will sell what for how much (or little) on historic deep discount days. Subscribe to individual resort sites, retailers, and airlines and be ready to click “Buy Now.”
7. Pack Like a Pro
For some, skiing is a giant schlepp of boots, skis, heavy clothing, and a lot of other…stuff from one time zone to another and then up a mountain. From someone who frequently drags kids, grandparents and out-of-town visitors to the slopes, organization is liberation, freeing you from the stress and hassle of getting from Point A to Powder Paradise.
Avoid ski travel stress by organizing your gear now so you can grab and go later. The best way to do this is to have a dedicated ski bag for each skier. This oversized backpack is designed to hold a pair of ski boots, mittens and other clothing, snacks (don’t forget food and water) and a helmet. Keeping everything in each person’s ski bag eliminates looking through a giant, cumbersome family tote for a single child’s sock. Each skier carries his/her/their ski bag to the resort and can check the bag in a locker at the resort base or just stow it in the car.
Tip: Attach a checklist to each ski bag to inventory items quickly before and after skiing each day.
Note that airlines allow you to check one ski bag per person as luggage. So, depending on your carrier and status, you can check the ski bag and a suitcase for little or no additional cost.
8. Tuned Skis Will Sing
If you own skis, get them tuned in the off-season when ski shops are slow (and often offering discounts) or, at a minimum, before you take your first turn this winter. Call your local sports stores or make an appointment for a tune at or near your Utah resort. Ski tuning ranges from a basic wax to a “full tune.” If you can’t remember the last time you had a full tune, you need a full tune. Ski shops will sharpen the edges and strip and replace what wax remains with premium material appropriate for the conditions (yes, you want suitable wax; the resin is surprisingly temperature sensitive). You’ll notice the difference immediately, regardless of your skiing ability.
9. Research the Rest of the Best Utah Offers
By the numbers, ski resorts are not the most visited attractions in Utah. The Beehive State is also home to five National Parks and dozens of State parks, which draw millions of visitors each year although not as many crowds during ski season. Take advantage of it!
You can easily combine a Snowbasin ski trip with an excursion to Zion or Arches…or both. Trails are less crowded than during the popular summer months, and lodging is more available and affordable, too. With few exceptions, most parks, trails and attractions in Utah are open year-round. Research a few now and fold them into your winter or spring ski trip.
10. Download the Ski Utah App!
The Ski Utah Snow Report app is the one-and-done mobile application for everything you need to plan and execute your Utah vacation year-round. From trail maps to weather forecasts — even powder alerts — the Ski Utah Snow Report app can track your stats and give you up-to-the-minute information about resorts, rentals and restaurants.
“I will ski this season.” You’re halfway to your ski vacation with these five words. Let Ski Utah help you take care of the rest. The only thing you’ll worry about is which amazing Utah resort to ski this winter and, with big savings, next spring.