When planning a winter ski trip to the mountains, the first question is, “Where do I go?” Once that is answered, the inevitable next question is, “Where do I stay?” If you’ve never been to the mountains before, or if you’ve never been to that particular ski resort, you may be overwhelmed by the sheer number of lodging choices from which to choose. There are a lot of options out there, and it’s a very competitive marketplace online. So how do you know what’s best lodging in ski country for you?
Most major ski destinations in North America have a variety of lodging in ski country, including traditional hotels, lodges, condominiums, private homes, and bed and breakfasts. Below, we analyze each type of lodging and let you know the benefits of each. We won’t pick your exact lodging for you (that’s up to you), but we’ll sure give you all the info you need to make an informed choice. Let’s take a look.
If you’ve never been skiing in the mountains, your first inclination may be, “Hey, I’ll just snag an affordable hotel room close to the slopes.” Well, that’s easier said than done for a number of reasons. First, some major ski resorts have limited hotels. You may think the mountainside near a ski resort would be dotted with every chain hotel imaginable: Holiday Inn Express, Comfort Inn, Super 8, Days Inn. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for lodging in ski country. Some ski destinations, like Aspen, have very few chain hotels nearby, and the ones that are offered are quite a distance from the resort. In Aspen, the closest budget hotel is 45 miles away in Glenwood Springs.
If there are name-brand hotels near (or at) your ski destination, expect them to be luxury brands like the Ritz-Carlton Club, Hyatt, or the Four Seasons. At these resorts, you’ll pay a pretty penny for a night’s stay, especially if you’re traveling during peak times like Christmas or President’s Week. (Many also have hefty minimum-night requirements, like 7 nights.)
If you do luck out and find an affordable hotel nearby, it’s best to make your reservations as soon as possible as those rooms are in high demand. Also, expect the hotel to be very busy during your stay. Remember: You’re not the only traveler looking for a steal.
Most hotels near major ski destinations are going to be independently owned. But don’t fret: Many of these hotels are family-friendly and affordable. Each hotel will have its own decor and personal touches, but should include all of the traditional hotel amenities, like a heated pool, ski lockers, Continental breakfast and transportation to and from the resort. The most popular hotels will book up first, so make your plans early for the most choices.
Sure, traditional chain hotels are limited, but there are plenty of mountain lodges and inns to make up for it. There are mountainside lodges and inns, and also ones in town and close to other activities. Prices may vary depending on where you choose your lodging in ski country. Mountainside lodges with immediate ski access will probably have higher rates than those found in town. Ski lodges and inns are typically independently owned and have their own style, ranging from traditional mountain lodges to ultra-chic contemporary inns. At a lodge or inn, you’ll have your own room and bathroom, much like a hotel, but will also have access to amenities like a heated pool and fitness center. Many lodges and inns also have on-site dining and full-service spa services. Think of a lodge or inn similar to a hotel, but chock-full of personal touches and added amenities.
Staying at a lodge or inn is a great way to stack up the amenities while keeping costs low. For example, skiers who want to test their mettle at Vail or Beaver Creek can stay at the Inn at Riverwalk in Edwards at a very affordable rate. The inn offers complimentary ski transportation to and from Arrowhead Village at Beaver Creek Resort, a short six-minute ride away. The family-friendly boutique inn is located in quaint downtown Edwards, and sits right along a flowing mountain river. Guests can ski all day and walk the river at night while taking in the dining and nightlife in downtown Edwards.
The White Buffalo Club in downtown Jackson, Wyoming, is another shining example of lodging in ski country with easy access to a nearby ski resort. The lodge offers luxury accommodations and unending attention to detail. Guests enjoy full concierge services and ski valet, an on-site restaurant and spa, and transportation to and from the ski resort. Not to mention top-of-the-line luxury suites with elegant bathrooms and plush towels, linens and bedding. The club also offers a number of great specials throughout the ski season.
“Condo” is a word you’ll probably hear a lot when planning your ski vacation. Condominiums are a fresh alternative to hotels and lodges, and there are plenty to choose from at most major ski resorts in North America for your lodging in ski country.
A condo is sort of like a hotel, except they are individually owned. Condos are typically found on AirBnB.com and other online sites, where owners can market their own property and set their own price. If you book a condo, many times you’ll deal directly with the owner, or through a broker. There are also property management companies that handle vacation rentals for customers and clients. Either way, you’ll most likely end up in a condo that’s individually owned and decorated to the owners taste.
While condos are individually owned, you’ll still be staying at a complex with other guests, and other condo owners. Typical condo complexes will have on-site parking and usually free Wi-Fi. Other perks may include a complex heated pool or hot tub. Just like a lodge or inn, amenities at condo complexes will vary.
Obviously, there’s a wide spectrum of condos out there, from really great ones to not-so-good ones. Many times, it depends on the individual owner and their level of assistance, if needed. At a hotel or lodge, if something breaks you call the front desk. At an individually-owned condo, you have to call the owner, who may or may not address the situation immediately. If you do rent a condo, it’s best to rent from a trusted property management company with on-site staff, maintenance and services 24/7. If a water pipe busts in your bathroom at 3 a.m., you want to be able to get a hold of someone, right?
Private homes are a good options for larger groups, or those who can afford it for their lodging in ski country. While pricey, private homes usually offer the most comfort and privacy. Private homes in mountain communities near the slopes usually range from two to seven bedrooms, although larger homes are available. Many homes have minimum-night stay requirements, especially during peak season times like New Year’s or Spring Break.
Again, renting a private home sometimes means you’re dealing directly with the owner. Expect to pay a hefty security deposit on top of your rental fee. It is recommended that you use a trusted third-party property rental company when renting a home, especially since you’ll be paying a sizeable price tag to do so.
Bed and Breakfasts near a ski resort are another lodging in ski country option, and very popular on the East Coast. Bed and Breakfasts provide a room and (usually) a shared bathroom, along with other shared amenities. If you’ve never been to one, it’s sort of like staying in someone’s home. Basically, that’s what it is. B&B owners open rooms up to travelers, and provide basic amenities like a warm breakfast.
Some travelers love B&Bs, while others do not. It’s merely a matter of taste. Those seeking complete privacy will probably not enjoy a bed and breakfast, as a large part of it is somewhat community living. Since you share dining space and often times a bathroom, privacy is limited. Most bed and breakfasts will only offer a few rooms to rent, usually less than 10 total.
The benefits of a B&B are definitely comfort and charm. With personal touches everywhere, it’s easy to feel at home at a bed and breakfast. Many bed and breakfasts offer impeccable in-house dining and a relaxing atmosphere. Many are traditional, historic homes with modern conveniences, while others are more contemporary. No matter the style, there are plenty from which to choose.