How to Navigate a New Mountain

By Travel Tips and Deals Feb 21, 2018
Explore a new ski area with confidence using these tips! Last week I teamed up with Sandy, a host at the largest ski resort in the U.S.
How to Navigate a New Mountain

Skiing or riding a new mountain is exciting! But there’s something comforting – and efficient – about sticking to known trails. So when I first started skiing, I’d stick to familiar areas rather than face fumbling around on new terrain. Heck, I was even afraid to ride a new lift my first season…perhaps because my ski technique still included “Pizza – French Fry – Pizza.”

However, it didn’t take long before my skiing improved, and I wanted to explore. To reduce my anxiety and have more fun, I formed a strategy to find the best runs, food, bathrooms, and efficient routes.

Mountain hosts are the bomb! 

Spoiler alert…mountain hosts are the bomb! But don’t stop reading; I have lots to share! Then I’d love your tips for navigating a new mountain, so I can grow this post into a better resource for all of us.

Here I’ll share all of my tips, plus feature a growing list of mountain host programs guaranteed to help you feel comfortable fast on a new mountain. Bookmark this post, because I’ll add new information about Utah’s resorts over time!

Ready to explore?

My Top Two Tips for Learning a New Mountain

Take A Lesson

This is the best way to up your confidence and learn a new mountain at the same time; especially if you only get out skiing once or twice a year. An instructor will also be able to give you other tips such as where to find a nice dinner or good grocery for cheap eats. But sometimes logistics and cash don’t pan out for hiring a pro, so my next suggestion is tied for 1st place…

Ski with a Mountain Host

Our Mountain Host Sandy Melville - Historic Ski Tour Park City

Outside of hiring an instructor/guide, skiing with a mountain host is my top suggestion for learning a new mountain. The first time I skied at Powder Mountain, a geographically massive resort, I stood dumbfounded in front of the map not sure where to go first. That’s when a mountain host named Roscoe slid over and offered to help. Thanks to a couple of hours with him, I had one of the best ski days of my life…read about it HERE

If you ski with a host, understand that they may have restrictions, such as staying on groomed runs. Also, there are no rules on whether to tip or not, so I suggest trying to tip your host, especially since many are volunteers.  

Complimentary Utah Mountain Host Programs

Alta - Ski with a Ranger

Snowbird - Mountain Tour

Brighton - Tour with a Ranger

Deer Valley - Mountain Host

Park City - Mountain Host

Powder Mountain - Complimentary Tour

Sundance - Host Tour

Other Suggestions for Learning a New Mountain

Research Ahead

Before leaving home, spend some time on the resort’s website, but don’t stop there. Often the best info is from third-party sites. To find these, simply do a quick web search for, “ guide” or “best runs at .” Large resorts will turn up ample information.

Ask Lodging Hosts, Wait Staff, and Retail Workers for Information

When you arrive in town, don’t be shy about asking anyone who will listen if they have suggestions for your stay. In a ski town, you have a great chance of getting good “intel” from locals.

Grab a Map

At the resort, find a map and stuff it in your coat pocket. It will be a back-up when all else fails or a fun way to show your friends back home what you did.

Start Out Easier Than You’re Capable of Skiing

In theory trail ratings from place to place should be the same, but in practice, this isn’t true. If you’re anything short of an expert skier, warm up on a green or blue and work your way up. It’s possible that the black runs you skied at one resort could be rated blue at another.

Be Friendly on the Lift

Pull out your ear buds and strike up a conversation with your chair-mates. Even if you’re local, this is an effective way to get real-time condition reports for sections you haven’t visited yet.

Drink with Locals

If you strike out on the all of the ideas above, head over to a nearby après ski destination and either pick the brain of the server (likely a skier or boarder), or buy a local a drink (like how I slipped in taking care of the locals?). Just be sure to get your beta early before things get sloppy. Also, moderate your consumption if you’re not used to high elevations or the next day will be headache city.

What are your techniques for learning a new ski mountain? 

Over to You…

What are your techniques for learning a new ski mountain? Please share in the comments below so I can grow this collection of ideas.


Utah Mountain Host Programs

In this section, I’ll add specifics about mountain host programs I’ve personally checked out. It will start withPark City Mountain, and I’ll add more over time, so like I said earlier…bookmark this post.

Park City Silver to Slopes Historic Mining Tour 

Visiting the largest ski resort in the nation for the first time can be mind-boggling. The Park City trail map unfurls like a centerfold revealing more mountain than most could ski in a day. With over 7,300 acres, 348 trails, 41 lifts, it’s a good thing guests have a couple of options to explore the mountain with a host.

Wanting to learn more about Park City’s mountain host program, I signed on for the guided intermediate-level Silver to Slopes Historic Mining Tour. I expected to learn a little about navigating the mountain and maybe a bit of trivia, but it was so much more! Read the full story  and learn the top Park City tips shared by my host - hint, there are secret meal upgrades if you know how to ask. 

How to Navigate Deer Valley

Deer Valley Resort is known for its hospitality, service, perfectly groomed runs, and lovely powder stashed trees. Oh and food – they have delicious food! Like any mountain, finding your way around Deer Valley has a learning curve. As the name implies – it has valleys and there are some tricks to getting around.

When visiting for the first time, you’ll want to make sure you get the whole experience without wasting too much time learning your way. The best option to do this is starting with either a lesson or a complimentary mountain host tour. Here are the insider's tip's I learned on the mountain host tour!