I have learned from many past ski days, ski trips and road trips that having an excellent time often depends on getting an uncomfortably early start.
Getting out of bed 20 minutes before the alarm goes off and jumping right into the clothing and gear you laid out the night before makes all the difference for an early start. Let's say the lifts open at 8:30 a.m., you should show up at 8:15, or even earlier if you can. Almost everyone else tends to show up at 9 a.m. after the lifts open. This way you are already ahead of the crowd. Usually, the crowds at the rental shops are the busiest first thing in the morning. Think about getting there to get your ski or snowboard equipment before the crowd at 8 a.m. instead of 8:30 a.m. The lift ticket window lines can be brutal during holiday periods first thing in the morning. The earlier you start, the earlier you will get on the mountain without having to wait an hour in line.
Know your mountain or the mountain you are going to. Get to know where most of the people ski, and most importantly of all, find out and get to know where people don't like to ski. You are better off to find the blue square trails rather that the most popular black diamond trails everyone else is wanting to take advantage of. Yes, I know the blue square trails are not as challenging as those black diamonds, but I would much rather have the open space with less bodies on those trails that most people wait until later in the morning to ski.
Most mountains these days have multiple lifts to get people to the top of the mountain. Try to get away from the main lifts and instead find the best edge you can give yourself when it comes to the lifts. If most skiers are skiing one side of the mountain, ski the other side.
Ski mountains and resorts can be very busy, especially when they host special events, such as world cup races or freestyle events. Try to book your ski trip in between major holidays to avoid the pesky crowds. Make sure to check beforehand that there are no special events planned during the time you plan your trip, unless that is what you are looking for.
Another way to avoid the holiday crowds is to ski on the actual holiday itself. Most people stay home to spend it celebrating with family.
Here are some additional tips to help better prepare for your ski trip:
• Be aware of peak times.
• Don't forget about "alternate" resorts. Splurge on lodging and skip the hotel. If rowdy scenes and hotel-room neighbors stomping down the hallway in ski boots make you crazy, then check out home rentals or locally owned inns or bed and breakfast.
Here are some good alternate times to plan your ski vacation:
• Jan. 3 – 10: Most people leave town on Jan. 3 after the holidays, so it will be much less crowded.
• Jan. 24 – Feb. 7: After the Martin Luther King weekend (one of the busiest ski weekends of the year) things calm down until Presidents Day weekend.
• Feb. 21 – March 6: This is a better, more relaxed time to come between Presidents Day and spring break.
• April: Depending on the conditions and if they are still good, this is a great time to take a trip to the mountain. Usually, more families are vacationing on their kids' spring breaks.