Words by: K2 Alliance Member McKenna Peterson
As soon as the snow starts to accumulate, it is inherent ski bum nature to begin obsessively checking the weather in every corner of the winter world, develop instagram envy, weigh the consequences of dropping everything to chase a storm, and then…. end up staying home to ski the thin local snowpack on the weekends and continue to peruse the gram from the comfort of the couch. We all do it. But… What if? What if you used up the vacation time that you have been hoarding and hit the road with a couple buddies?
Here is a secret; 90% of the skiers that you follow on Instagram, you know the ones traveling the world and always skiing the deepest of the deep?… well, they are just like you; incessantly checking social media and weather predictions, throwing together last minute trips, and, yes, weighing the consequences of draining the bank account. The only difference is, they pull the trigger and deal with the aftermath in the afterthought.
So next time you see that Japan is having a record season or that the snowpack in BC is unusually stable and absolutely blower… just send it. Seriously, what’s the worst that could happen?
Here are a few tips to help you throw together that last minute dream trip (think faceshots and après)
Location: Last minute storm chasing can prove to be the best decision you ever made, although it can have some hurdles. www.opensnow.com is a great one stop shop for snow predictions across the US and Canada. Learn to interpret a basic Doppler radar and keep an eye on what is happening, as forecasts can be moody and change on you. If you need more than a day notice for your ski getaway, look at the month-by-month snowfall history for your desired location and dates. Figure out where it has snowed the most and when over the past five years or so. Google is a big help with this one. For example, March is the best (and most unassuming) time to visit the Wasatch.
Travel: Driving seems easy but is time consuming, usually requires snow tires and 4-wheel drive, and it can be costly. If the drive to powder paradise is longer than 5 hours, look into flights. Tuesday is the best day to book a plane ticket (I don’t know why, but it’s cheaper). In order to avoid baggage fees; pack as much as you can into your ski bag until it weighs exactly 50 lbs and fill a carry-on and your backpack with the rest (anything that doesn’t fit, you don’t need). Always carry-on your ski boots. If traveling outside of the US, bus and train systems are easy to navigate and will bring you into the mountains for fairly cheap.
Lodging: Most resort towns have a city or a ‘non-resort’ town close by. Be willing to spend a few extra minutes on the bus in order to avoid resort inflation on the cost of a room. Online trip reviews and blog posts can be helpful in finding the right place to stay. Read up a bit on what has worked for the ski bums that have been there before. Package deals that include lodging, food and lift tickets are worth looking into.
Food and après: A long day on the hill is almost always followed by a bout of après. Try not to get too carried away; you don’t want to end up with empty pockets and a ski-hindering hangover. But definitely partake, meet people, have fun and reminisce on how rad you got that day. If in a foreign country, learn a little bit of the language. Think of the phrases you will use the most, ‘thank you’ ‘excuse me’ ‘beer’ and ‘coffee’ are key. The costs of food can add up, make sure to keep all of your leftovers (and friends’ leftovers) for lunch the next day. If it is possible, try and cook your own breakfast, it will save you time in the mornings and ensure that you get first chair.
Terrain: Make friends! Drop the shyness and get to know the locals. Starting up a conversation with someone at the coffee shop, on the hill or in the bar can be beneficial. Don’t be pushy about asking for beta. Usually, if you get someone talking about something they have a passion for (skiing, touring, etc) the info will eventually slip out and then you can start asking questions. If you are venturing off of the resort, definitely check the local avalanche forecast and avalanche history for that season. It is OK to ask questions, even in foreign countries where there is a language barrier; the ski community is friendly and wants to help you find the goods.
Social Media: Make sure to continuously post photos to your social media feed of you getting faceshots, standing at the top of cool lines, and drinking beer. Make your friends jealous. I bet they join you next year for another ski bum getaway.