Have you been lucky enough to go skiing/snowboarding this season? I’m so jealous of all the Facebook posts of ski lift selfies, action shots, untouched snowy slopes, and beautiful snowcapped mountain tops in the horizon. Tahoe feels so close and yet so far away this season, and I cannot believe winter is almost over and we haven’t taken the opportunity to go to the mountains for a mini vacation. But hey, the season’s not over yet, is it?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love snowboarding… a lot. Back in Colorado, skiing was honestly part of growing up—and all the cool kids switched to snowboarding by 7th grade (myself included). We’ve always considered ourselves locals on the mountain (sometimes with too much arrogant pride), and we like to joke about the tourists and how easy they are to spot.
What are the signs of a tourist, and how do you know what to do for the best and least expensive mountain day ever? Here’s a list of 13 ways to act more like a local on the mountain—in other words, advice to make the most of your skiing/snowboarding experience that’s easier on your wallet.
1. Rent your ski/snowboard equipment at off-site rental shops.
Do not rent your skis at the resort because it is overpriced with long lines. There will always be small rental shops a few miles down the road, and they’ll likely have better equipment at a lower cost. Pick them up the night before or the morning of so you have one less crowded hassle on the slopes—the shops are usually good about offering multi-rental day deals, as well as 24 hours to return same-day rentals.
2. Do your research on ticket pricing and purchasing before you head to the resort.
It’s approximately $130 for a 1-day adult pass (obviously depending on where you go), but you can sometimes find cheaper online options. Even if the online purchase isn’t cheaper, I highly recommend purchasing online—that way, you can skip the long ticket lines and jump to the deserted “Pick Up” line. If you anticipate skiing more than once, seriously look into a multi-day pass. It will save you a lot of money!
3. Bring your own booze.
Drinks are expensive at the resort restaurants and you’ll end up spending too much time at the bar when you could be on the slopes. Bring a flask, plastic water bottle, or plastic airplane bottle(s), to store in your jacket/backpack (before and after you’re done—don’t trash the place). Be careful how much beer you drink—it’s not so easy to pee when you’re on the mountain (especially for girls!).
REMEMBER: You are at very high altitude and you will absolutely feel liquor faster. Be safe, be smart about how much you drink. It’s fun to ski with a buzz, but it’s reckless and dangerous to yourself and others to be drunk on the mountain.
4. Eat breakfast and snacks to skip the lunch crowd.
The restaurants are packed between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. You know where those people aren’t? On the slopes. If you hold out after 2 p.m., you will get so many more runs in and get more of your money’s worth! Eat a good size breakfast (but not too big where you feel sluggish afterward) and store some granola bars in your jacket/backpack to munch on until later in the afternoon.
5. Hand and foot warmers are your best friends. If it is really cold outside, you can tuck hand warmers in your inside jacket pockets for extra warmth. I also recommend wearing a hat under your helmet, if it doesn’t mess with the sizing. And always, always bring a gator, scarf, or face mask. The tops of the mountain get windy!
6. The map does not dictate your day.
Sure, you want to make sure you know the general direction of where you’re going if you don’t feel up for finding yourself on a Double Black Diamond. But there’s a balance between memorizing your designated precise path back to the bottom and having no clue what direction you’re heading in. Give yourself some freedom to explore—you’ll be okay and make it to your group’s pre-set meeting spot at the bottom (…usually).
7. Be cool on the chair lift when you’re riding with strangers.
That means not talking their ear off if they clearly don’t want to talk to you, or speak/act inappropriately with your friends (especially if there’s a kid on board). Lean back and enjoy the ride with small talk. Who knows, they may be a local and share some good tips with you!
8. Just like if you’re driving, pull off to the side of the slope if you’re going to stop.
DO NOT STOP IN THE MIDDLE OF A CAT WALK. I repeat, do not stop in the middle of a cat walk. Or at the bottom of a jump (you will make someone eat it and then get yelled at—and you can’t even get mad back because it’s your own fault for stopping there in the first place). And when you stop at the top of the hill, make sure it’s actually the top of the hill where other people can actually see you.
9. Arrive on the early side.
Those ski tickets are too expensive to dilly dally and it will take you an hour between parking the car and hoping on the first ski lift. It might not be necessary to be the first person out there (although seriously consider that, because the snow is magical and amazing when you’re the first out there), but if you don’t arrive until 10am… you might as well just have lunch now.
10. Wear appropriate gear.
Jeans on the slopes make you look ridiculous and you will awkwardly adjust your sunglasses with your big gloved hands all day. It’s a simple solution: Wear snow gear, thick under clothes, goggles, and a helmet. Yes, a helmet—trust me when I say it really hurts to hit your head on the snow. Helmets are inexpensive to rent or sometimes even free with your other rental gear, if you don’t have one. So… no excuses to not do exactly what I’m not doing in some of these photos.
11. Keep the make up to a minimum, ladies.
We all want to look good (especially for those hot snowboard guys), but when you’re out on the slopes all day it’s just not going to happen because that eyeliner and mascara will smear no matter how waterproof it claims to be. Now, you could get dolled up and sip Bloody Marys all day indoors, but then you’re a snow bunny. Guys that go for the snow bunnies are not the kind of guys you want to go hot tubbing with later.
12. Make the ski lift lines go a little faster by jumping in the singles lane.
You may not have an exhilarating conversation with your friends on the way up the mountain, but you’ll get there a lot faster! The singles line moves faster, so I suggest you seriously consider it if you’re antsy to get to the top!
13. And last but never least… If you french fry when you should have pizza’d, you’re gonna have a bad time.
Please don’t go to the Colorado mountain slopes if you don’t know what this means.
Oh, and BONUS: 14. Turn to your friend at the end of the day and say, “Let’s get some Apres.” (This bit is from a friend, who I then asked what ‘Apres’ means. He said it’s a term any local knows and I’ve apparently been in California too long. Totally schooled! I’m not even going to tell you what it means, you have to Google it just like I did.)
Thank you to my cousin for letting me post her photos and to my local friends who contributed to these tips.