I once read that the Christmas and New Year’s holidays have destroyed the rhythm of the North American ski season.
In a sane world, December and early January (not to mention late November, hello Thanksgiving!), would rightly be considered “early season” with the best skiing and riding yet to come.
But because of the holidays, the ten days or so surrounding Christmas and New Year’s shoulder an unbearable burden — the snow must be perfect, the hotels must be sold out, the lift lines will be long, but the twinkly-light magic of all ski towns will be pleasingly perfect.
It’s the most marvelous time of the year, if you can afford the most expensive rates of the season.
For the rest of us, the holidays are a time to get away from the big name resorts and embrace our local ski hills while we wait for more snow and even better conditions come January, February and March (when those ski town twinkly lights will still be twinkling).
Most Skiing is Local Skiing
During the 2017-2018 ski season there were 472 US ski areas. While that number is down from 569 in 1990-1991, that’s still a lot of ski areas operating in 37 states.
The top three states in terms of the number of ski areas? New York with 51, Michigan with 42, and Wisconsin with 31. Colorado and New Hampshire tie for 4th place, with 30 ski areas each.
What this means, is that unless you live in one of the 13 states without skiing, you don’t have to travel far to ski over the holidays. You can ski local (or close to local). The point is, you can save money on skiing and find skiing options that don’t require a jet-set lifestyle or income.
Love Your Local Mountain
We live in Colorado and have a cornucopia of local/nearly local mountains to choose from. Yet, our strategy during the holidays is to stay close to home at our nearby, family resort. Powderhorn Mountain Resort has fun terrain, a high-speed lift and 1600 acres to explore, but it doesn’t have a high-profile. And that’s a good thing when the other resorts are teeming with visitors.
A few years ago, I wrote a really bad “Ode to Local Skiing.” The rhymes were lousy, but the sentiment was heartfelt. Luckily, I deleted it, sparing you the pain. But here’s the gist of it, in less flowery language.
1. Local mountains are where you meet your friends and family, whether you planned to ski together or not. There is delight in knowing that even if you’re on your own, you will find a ski buddy.
2. Local mountains are where you and your children learned to ski. You took your first turns here, or you watched eagerly with a tad of trepidation when your bundled up darling took his or her first turns.
3. Local mountains are where you’ve skied the most. You’ve got invaluable knowledge about this ski area. You and your family know the all the secret stashes, the trails into the trees, the powder fields and more. You have favorite runs that never get old and favorite features in the terrain park. Even if your local mountain has just a few hundred feet of vertical, you know how to squeeze the most fun out of every one of those few hundred feet.
4. Local mountains are where you get the most value. Even if your local mountain is internationally famous, chances are you are getting discounts and deals that visitors cannot (school district passes or 5th grade passports, anyone?).
At many local mountains, odds are the lift tickets are but a fraction of the cost of an internationally known resort and so are the ski and snowboard lessons. Best of all, many local mountains have inexpensive season passes that offer deals and free skiing at other local mountains, expanding your benefits to other resorts, in other states, as the season rolls on.
All of this praise for local mountains does not mean that I’m dissing the fantastic, wonderful institution of the family ski vacation or holiday. If you’ve read Braveskimom for any amount of time, you know I believe holidays together are special times and a not-to-be-missed family skiing experience.
But for those of us at home for the holidays, this can be a season to embrace what we have nearby, to avoid some of the crowds, and take pure delight in the joy of making turns, together –where ever we may be.
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