Ski plans for the 2022 ski season

How to find powder and vacation with family and friends by putting together trips that work for everyone.

When I started this RV ski adventure the intention was to drive an RV around the country going to where the powder is at the moment. Meet up with friends and family along the way and share the great times. Well, unless you have the stamina (and gas budget) for driving 12-15 hour days; day after day after day after day…... This vision doesn’t match up with what the vast majority of what people would consider fun skiiing. My new friend Doug Fish (founder of Indy Pass) said,

Powder chasing is a myth. If you want powder, camp somewhere for three weeks in February and let it come to you.

I agree with the myth statement, but let’s see if we can refine the concept a bit and come up with several trip types that meet the needs of different people at different seasons in life. I’ll take a stab at defining types of people in a skiers life and then come up with trip concepts that would work for the different family and friend types.

  1. Fellow expert skiers that love powder and hate crowds. Some might be in your season of work life (maximum flexibility for me) and others might be hard charging mid career types where a vacation must be scheduled long in advance and can’t be longer than a week.

  2. Family members and friends that are in mid career. At most they can take a week off and it must be scheduled far in advance.

  3. Family members (spouse, sister, brother, cousin, uncle..) that would like to experience a nice winter mountain retreat and hang together but don’t downhill ski anymore.

  4. Super good ski buddy. Strongly compatible on and off the mountain.

Type 1 AND 2

Lets dive into #1 first. These are the people you love to ski with. There might be a difference in stamina, but they can all ski powder in a variety of settings. Steep, shallow, trees, bowls…. My son and I are a good example of this. He can go first chair to last chair but I can only go hard for maybe 1/2 the day. I can ski almost anything he can but just run out of gas long before he does.

With passes now dominating the ski scene it appears that mega resorts are only going to get more and more crowded. Sure, the first couple runs on a powder day are great but things get skied out quickly and 20-30 minute lift lines are a real buzz kill. So for me, second tier resorts are the way to go. Powder lasts longer and for most of them there are no lift lines.

I believe that most powder purists would put a priority on quality over quantity. I would strongly prefer 3-6 deep untracked runs rather than 10-12 runs of skiing increasing tracked up powder and standing in lift lines.

This still leaves the unanswered question of how one arrives at a location where there is powder. If money is no object, it is hard to beat Heli skiing. (Although I have been shut out on a Heli skiing vacation when fog rolled in.) The Doug Fish solution of going to one place that consistently gets snow and waiting/hoping will likely work but most people can’t or don’t want to sit around for weeks waiting for snow. The third solution is something that came to me just this year.

Back country skiing out of a wilderness Lodge/Yurt.

This has the powder “guarantee” of Heli skiing at a fraction of the cost. This trip will work for those who must schedule far in advance without sacrificing the guarantee of powder. Because you start at elevation in the backcountry, it is likely you will get one more run in than those that start at a trail head. A backcountry lodge trip is also way tilted on the scale of quality versus quantity. Virtually all runs will be untracked but skinning uphill is slow and a lot of work. Think in terms of three 2,000 foot runs in a day. More for young guns in great shape, less for those slowing down. To get maximum enjoyment being in shape is a requirement. Another unique aspect of a backcountry lodge skiing is time in the lodge. If you like majestic nature this is a dream. Some lodges have a back drop that is right out of fantasy brochure or dream. However, if you like going out to eat every night or strolling main street looking at fancy shops than this is not for you. But keep in mind this is considerable physical work so for most an early bed time is welcome. The biggest weakness of this vacation is the compatibility factor. Take precautions to not bring “that guy/gal” on this trip. Most backcountry lodges/yurts do not only allow an escape from the group so these should be people you enjoy spending time with all day and all evening.

I should also mention safety. Some friends of mine are pretty tuned into avalanche danger when skiing in the back country. Rightfully so. My version of this trip says it must be 100% guided. Safety in the backcountry is serious business, rely on professionals who ski the terrain all year, every year and set up the experience to be one of learning as well as skiing. I will likely never do serious backcountry skiing without a guide, but with some knowledge and more experience I could do low risk terrain with the help of some education and a bit more experience.

Best time of year for this trip is February. Snow should have filled in by then and the sun is not high in the sky negatively affecting the snowpack.

Type 3 (Family and non skiing friends)

There are other people in my life that are not skiers. I even love some of them! I’m guessing that might be true for you as well. Your spouse, siblings, other relatives, spouses of friends….

These are great people to be with on vacation. Just not a fit for squishing them into an RV. For these people you need all the trimmings. Hot tub, nice restaurants, everyone has their own bedroom and big comfy living room. You also need things to do during the day other than downhill skiing. Cross country trails, dog sledding, snow shoeing, charming town to explore, snowmobiling….You get the picture. This trip is best done in March to avoid the chances of an ugly polar vortex and -20 degrees. Just avoid the typical spring break weeks if you can. The magic on this one is to drive your RV there. Stay with the gang during the this trip then blast off for parts unknown when everyone leaves. In a previous post I detailed why spring is the best season to ski out of an RV

Type 4 (Ski Buddy)

First, let’s define what a ski buddy is. Here is a great article on that subject from Steve Casimiro, founder and editor of Adventure Journal. Steve is also the former editor of Powder Magazine.

Here is a snippet from the article.

Classic example: tree skiing. Skiing in the trees is the single best way to take the measure of a skier. You don’t go into the woods to burn someone or compete with them, of course, but the trees are a right fine place to see if your styles and attitudes are compatible. Maybe you find yourselves taking similar lines without stepping all over each other or intuitively stopping in the same places. After a while you always seem to know where they’ll be, and one day you realize there’s an invisible rope of trust connecting you, that you’d go anywhere with your partner, that you’d put your life in their hands with good faith. You probably don’t even call them your partner—it’s kind of a hokey, formal word—but that’s what they are.

My son and I still have some improving to do. Too often I don’t know where he is or Ryan comes swooping toward me from one side or the other and we almost collide. I get crabby but then we move and get better at it every time.

If you are skiing powder in trees a ski buddy is really a requirement for safety. If you hook a tree and fall your feet stay with the tree and your body falls downhill. Reaching uphill to release a ski is not easy. Or so I’m told. :-)

Your ski buddy could be in the first two trips or not. Doesn’t really matter. You could both be in the same RV or perhaps drive separate rigs. A key to being in the same rig is warm weather and long days. Even best friends can get a little stale when in very close quarters from 4:30 pm until 9:00 am the next morning.

The first 2 trips are likely one week each. This one could be as short as a week or go as long as you like until the resorts close. By now it is mid/late March and the weather is warm. Easy driving and easier living out of an RV. Now you can Après-Ski in your camping chair right out the RV door. BBQ burgers or steak on the grill Skiing is either corn or often good powder. I have had some of the best powder days of my life in April!

After the family trip is over, shuttle the family and friends to the airport and now blast off to where it is snowing or the sun is shinning. Meet up with your buddy and enjoy the final days of the season.

Now get out there next season.

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