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I know you’ve seen it before on TV: a fun-loving group of friends enjoying a weekend at a destination resort, rolling their SUV lazily into a parking spot next to the base lodge, waltzing up to the lifts with skis draped over their shoulders and coffees in hand, or laughing and sipping mimosas at their private table without a rush before hitting the slopes. It’s pretty. It’s attractive. And it’s not going to be like that.
Unless you have the ability to ride in the middle of the week and outside of the Holidays, or have the means to own a slope-side condo, chances are you’re spending most of your days shredding on the weekends or during Holiday periods, and that means lots of people. Which means crowds. Which means traffic.
So, if you’re stuck with enjoying the mountain during the busy periods of winter, here’s a few tips to beat the crowd and make the most out of your trip to the hill.
The Most Important Meal of the Day
Don’t let breakfast cause a delay. It’s important to fuel yourself well at the start of the day, but you do so efficiently! Prepare something the night before that you can grab on the go. Eat your chow on the way, or at the mountain while you’re waiting for the lifts to open. The point is to get an early start to get ahead of the crowd, so if you need that sit-down coffee and breakfast in the morning, get up early to give yourself the appropriate time.
Snow Gear Check
You know that weird feeling you get when you think you’ve forgotten something? Chances are you did, so make sure you don’t. Collect everything you’ll need the night before and run through your checklist:
Pack it up ahead of time so you can toss it in the car without thinking about it the next morning. Speaking of getting in the car...
Hitting the Road
Having your gear prepared ahead of time is important, but when you leave for the mountain can make or break your day. Most mountains start turning their lifts at 8:30 or 9:00 in the morning, which is exactly when the majority of visitors plan on arriving. If you wait that long on a weekend or holiday you’re asking to get stuck in miles of traffic, so get ahead of the herd. Check the time it’ll take to get to the resort and leave with the plan to arrive up to an hour early, (or more) to make sure you’re not caught in the inevitable traffic jam.
Be extra safe and check the road conditions, especially if there was recent snowfall. Leaving early to avoid traffic will only make messy roads less stressful and allow you to take your time to arrive safely. You’d be surprised how many people head to the mountains completely unprepared to handle snowy roads. Be sure your vehicle is well equipped to deal with those conditions. That means proper tires, four-wheel drive, and at the very minimum a set of tire chains to put on if necessary. Don’t be one of the people to make the drive more difficult than it has to be.
Search the road conditions, weather along your journey and always pack a supply kit for your car, just in case.
If you’ve successfully made it to your favorite mountain ahead of the crowd with no delay, then enjoy taking your time getting suited up, sipping your coffee, and eating that breakfast you’ve been itching to eat.
Stay a Little While
When the day winds down you have a couple of options: leave the mountain early for all the reasons you left your house early that morning, or kick back and let the chaos sort itself out. Human beings move from place to place in waves, and at around 3:00 pm folks will start leaving the mountain. This creates, you guessed it, more traffic and delays. Unless you enjoy wasting gas while waiting for the dozens of cars in front of you to get moving, why rush? Apres snowboard culture exists at almost any mountain you visit, so it can’t hurt to wait out the traffic by sampling the local fare. Grab some grub and a good drink to wrap up the day with your friends and family before making the trip home. Responsibly, of course.
Ultimately, it’s your experience. Enjoy it how you will. If you want to get the most out of it, however, just remember the 6 P’s, “Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.”
See you on the hill.