Winter is a magical time to visit the USA.
From the picturesque slopes of Vermont to the awe-inspiring peaks of Colorado and the revered summits of Utah, the country brims with places to embrace the winter weather. To make the most of your ski or snowboard trip to the USA, you need to be prepared. Here are seven pro tips on how to gear up for winter and hit the slopes.
Pack for Cold Weather
Yes, winter in the USA can be filled with charm and beauty. It can also get very cold, particularly in the mountains.
And there’s nothing worse than arriving at a wintry wonderland and realizing you forgot your wool socks. (Though, if you do, you’ll find many great outdoor outfitters across the USA.) In addition to your usual clothing, toiletries and accessories, pack cozy clothing, such as sweaters, gloves, hats and scarves.
If you plan to ski or engage in other outdoor activities, you’ll also need to pack or buy wool socks, waterproof pants, goggles, a sturdy coat and a ski helmet or hat. Some of these items may be available for rental as well, but check ahead with your resort/outfitter. Don’t forget sunscreen: It may be cold outside, but the sun’s rays are still powerful, especially when they’re reflecting off the snow.
Bundled up in warm clothing on a ski outing in Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Build in Time for Winter Delays
Don’t let snow and ice put a damper on your vacation. Budget extra time at the airport to navigate any weather-related delays.
Snow and ice are beautiful to look at, but they can put a freeze on travel plans and make outdoor activities a challenge. That’s why Brett Snyder, president of the Cranky Concierge online air-travel support service, recommends that travelers plan ahead and give themselves extra time when traveling to and around the USA during winter.
Snyder suggests buying tickets for nonstop flights whenever possible and arriving at the airport well ahead of departure time to account for any weather-related delays. It’s also wise to purchase travel insurance, just in case: “It’s going to get you paid for the inconvenience (of a cancellation or delay)” Snyder says.
Snow-covered mountains surrounding Vail resorts in Colorado
Rent an Appropriate Vehicle
Once you land in the USA, rent a car with all-wheel drive, which will help you navigate snowy or icy roads. If you don’t have all-wheel drive, you may need to get snow chains to ensure your safety; in some cases, you won’t be allowed to drive up to the mountains without the chains. Make sure your vehicle is always filled with at least a half a tank of gas and is stocked with water, snacks, warm clothes and a mobile phone, in case of emergencies.
Taking a scenic drive on the Beartooth Highway, which passes through Wyoming and Montana
Book Your Trip Early
Colorado Ski Country USA’s Jennifer Rudolph recommends booking your ski vacation early. “Ski areas operate much like airlines: The earlier the reservation, the better the bargain,” Rudolph says. Many ski resorts offer incentives for booking in advance, including discounted lift and lodging packages.
Rustic ski lodge resort on a winter day in Vermont
Book Your Trip Strategically
School breaks and work holidays – generally that means mid- to late December, Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend (the third Monday of January) and Presidents Day weekend (the third Monday of February) – are some of the busiest times at U.S. snow resorts, so plan your trip for weekdays and off-peak times. It’s easier to avoid the crowds and find deals midweek. Early January, after the winter holidays, as well as early spring are great times to avoid crowds and find some good deals on airfare and lodging.
Skiing and snowboarding in the mountains of New Hampshire
Learn Some Lift Ticket Secrets
Rudolph suggests doing a detailed search for the best deals on lift tickets. “Decide what your pass budget is, and get the best value by purchasing early,” she says. “Friend and follow your favorite resorts (on social media) to get access to flash deals and special discounts.”
Rudolph says the best option for visitors usually is the standard daily lift ticket, but even that can be purchased online – often for a lower rate than you would find on-site. “If you’re enrolling in ski school, check to see if your lesson includes the lift ticket,” Rudolph suggests. Don’t forget to find out whether additional discounts are available for children and seniors.
Winter activities in the mountains of Taos, New Mexico
Consider Renting Equipment Instead of Bringing Your Own
Rudolph recommends bringing your own boots and then renting equipment once you get to your destination. “(Boots will) be easier to travel with than a full set of ski equipment and will provide the same feeling of customization and comfort as your own bed,” she says. Once you get to your destination, you’ll be able to rent whatever you need, such as skis, snowboards, bindings and poles, from the resort or a local sports outfitter.