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Booking ski trips early makes sense.

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
I have heard some arguments on this forum on why you should wait till the ski season starts, check out the snow conditions, decide where you want to go and then make your reservations. I disagree. here's why:

1. Weather forecasts: long range forecasts are bogus. In fact - any weather forecast over a week out - is extremely unreliable. So lets say you want to go to JH in late January. Even if conditions are terrible on jan 10th - there is a large likelihood that between 10th and 30th - there could be 10 more feet of snowfall. Or vice versa.

2. Air fares - the best airfares are available 14 days out or sometimes even 21 days out.

there is no way you can make a determination of snow conditions 21 days out.

So - I say - if you want to go somewhere - plan it now and make your reservations now. have a good time no matter what the conditions are.
Unless you have unlimited funds available - and you don't care what it costs - then you can wait till the 2 day weather forecast is available and then book your tickets or better yet board your Learjet.

- Am I wrong?
post #2 of 14
Like all things in life you are both wrong and right. Here's where you are wrong: In places like Taos or Crested Butte (and maybe JH, don't know) there are good seasons and bad seasons. Sometimes the weather patterns take the snows south in a pinapple express mode and sometimes they favor the north/CO resorts. If you can figure out "what kind of season" it's going to be, you can make some better choices.

Here's where you are right: Will it guarantee a dump the night of your arrival? no, but it can keep you from skiing on thin cover.
post #3 of 14
Last year we booked, and PAID FOR, a trip to Whistler during the fall. It proceeded to rain the entire time we were there (January). We had plane tickets, a ski in ski out condo, lift tickets, a rental car, and babysitters at home for a week. Very expensive way to play cards for a week!! I vowed not to book early again and I'm sticking to it!!
post #4 of 14
Given the vagaries of snowfall across the country, and the incomparable ecstasy of several feet of new, there can be no question that making last minute reservations will get you the best skiing. With the exception of holiday weeks there are probably few places where you would have major difficulty finding a place to stay (assuming you are not picky) or getting a flight (assuming you do not mind a connection thru, say, Atlanta).

However, this also assumes you do not have a job, spouse, kids, mortgage, or anything else to keep you home-bound. In which case you should be living at the damn mountain in the first place.
post #5 of 14
Key advantages for earlier booking really is focused on airline.

Lodging - the rates I get for the packages I offer are based on "dates" whether you book them in August, or book them in November. The dilema sometimes comes in availability.

Lift Tickets - Again, price is set (for me) because I purchase large blocks of tickets.

The times I'm really able to "lock in" a great discount by booking early is when currency is favorable (for trips outside of US) and for large groups I can negotiate getting locked in because they want to secure the business.

I have to agree with Marty from another aspect as well though...I typically book my own lodging for the entire season in the summer. I negotiate a flat rate for X amount of stays with them. If I don't go...that's my fault, but if I do...I'm stealing the room.

racermom...OMG how awful that you fully pd for a card playing trip When a really big trip is in question, travel insurance might be a viable option. I had that happen to a client once (the weather was HORRIBLE) and I refunded most of their trip (all but airfare). It took a bite out of my business but they've been loyal customers ever since.
post #6 of 14

I'm gonna

I'd agree with Marty and book early, if you're going to a mountain that generally has good, consistent snow. My girlfriend and I have been going to Steamboat the past several years, and their Central Reservations offer financial incentives to book early. She really enjoys the Winter Carnival, so we go for a week in early February. Last year wasn't great during that period for lots of fresh snow, but it was still fully open and way better than just about anything in the East.

It would stink to not be able to ski on a ski vacation, but, like Marty says, it's still a vacation and there are other things to do. Besides, if the conditions were that bad, the g/f and I would stay in the motel and practice our pole plants (at least I think that's what the kids are calling it these days).
post #7 of 14
Since I live in the east, I book my trips whenever I get cheap airfares. Last summer, I was looking at flights to Denver or SLC, and found some tickets for $125 from Raleigh to Denver over Easter break. I snapped them up, and filled in all the other details later.

We also got some nice ($180) tickets to SLC for a week in Jan.

We are not too picky about hotels. We just want to get out there and do some skiing.

In our experience, we can always find a ski area in Utah or Colorado with good snow in Jan-March.
post #8 of 14
Your topic on weather forecasting sent me looking at threads from a year ago. There were early long-range forecasts at that time. Read these short threads, and judge for yourself how they turned out.

This one from accuweather predicted an early New England start and near normal PNW.

This NOAA based report suggested reduced snowpack throughout the California Sierra (wrong), but predicted good snow in Utah, Colorado and the Southwest (right).

Here is Colossus178 looking forward to a November start at Lake Louise. L7 replies "The hill will be open, it really doesn't ever miss"

Anyway, history shows its hard to make long-range plans.
post #9 of 14
Originally Posted by Rdy2ski

racermom...OMG how awful that you fully pd for a card playing trip When a really big trip is in question, travel insurance might be a viable option. I had that happen to a client once (the weather was HORRIBLE) and I refunded most of their trip (all but airfare). It took a bite out of my business but they've been loyal customers ever since.
Luckily we were with really good friends who believed us that Whistler can be great! To add insult to injury though, my youngest childs Junior Development Team race back home was cancelled --- too much snow!
post #10 of 14
somebody has to say it, so it might as well be me, for my $$$ I'll take a chance on a flight into SLC. I have skied there the weekend after Presidents Day in February and it has been very good to excellent for the past 10 years. 40:60 on the powder. I do remember 2 trips to SLC years ago, when the conditions were wet with very worn out snow even in prime season, but I would think that is pretty rare in the Little Cottonwood. The worst you will probably get at LCC from Dec to April is "hasn't snowed in two weeks, moguled up, but covered and skiing is overall fine". (That's not saying i wouldn't love to ski the other places and I have and do.) Snowbird and Alta report 100 inches a month or 2 feet a week during season. And that is mid-mountain. It often snows much more higher up(and sometimes for no good reason except the salt lake)

To me, what skiing is all about, ALL ABOUT, is floating down a nice steep pitch(just normal steep), with my skis floating on some soft snow. Although I consider myself a mogul skier, I really don't like it when it hasn't snowed and all the moguls are steep and hard.
post #11 of 14
Thread Starter 
Mom and Racer mom

My point is there are "good periods" and "bad periods" in Good snow years and Bad snow years.

Lets take Whistler last year. Bad Season - but ask anybody who skied after March 20 - they had the best April/may in a long time.

If you ask any JH local about last year - they will tell you it was a good year. We went there in the first week of February. no snow in 10 days, high pressure leading to sunny but cold days - hard/icy all over. (but we had a great time)

Point, I am trying to make is - especially from an airfare point of view - you cannot wait till the last week to see ski reports before you decide on where to go.

Of course if you are single, have a flexible job and a flexible budget - you can make last minute decisions.

This is also a complete non-issue for holiday weekends - becos you HAVE to book air/lodging months in advance.

It all boils down to how lucky/unlucky you are.
post #12 of 14
Planning too far out is silly.

Gotta wait and see how things are shaping up for a given locale.

Exceptions: Early holidays like Thanksgiving thru New Years. If you must ski during these dicey periods, booking early is essential. So just pick a high % spot like LCC, and take yo' chances.
post #13 of 14
We all know there is a probability distribution of conditions for each area at a particular time of year. Raising the odds of hitting the 90th+ percentile (fresh dump) requires responding to a 3-5 day forecast at most. That means flexible job and budget, and probably drive vs. fly.

For advance planning you want to know how bad that bottom 25th percentile or so is, and I personally won't accept that high a chance of significantly restricted skiing on a destination trip. So with areas with average low snowfall or moderate snowfall but deep cover needed (CB and Taos are good examples, Banff and Big Sky might be comparable northern counterparts) you want to go later in the season anyway. So if you're going in March why not wait until January to book and raise the odds a little? That strategy would have kept you out of Alberta in 2001 and 2005 and the Southwest in 2000 and 2002.

For Christmas you really want someplace with a good early historical record, like Steamboat as discussed in a recent thread or my Inside Tracks article http://webpages.charter.net/tcrocker818/fam_ski.htm. No criticism for those who went to Whistler last year; it's good by Christmas 90% of the time and last year was the first time in its 40 year history that mid-February to mid-March was bad. I barely dodged that bullet myself, arriving at Whistler March 20.

Sometimes you get screwed by the 5th percentile or worse (like my 3 days snowcat skiing after the Tropical Punch rain in B.C. last January) and that just falls in the category of $#!@ happens. But an expert skier who goes to Crested Butte at Christmas needs the 85th percentile for the North Face to be open, so that makes no sense to me.

Each week earlier than Christmas the odds of inadequate coverage rise significantly. Fortunately the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is so slow in the travel business that you can always get a lodging deal, and also wait up to the 21 or preferably 14 day limit for air tickets. So it pays big dividends to wait and see who gets November snow. Thanksgiving is so speculative that my opinion is if you can't drive to it, don't book it.
post #14 of 14
I don't have the snow research that Tony does, but I agree with the logic. Fortunately on Oct 5th I'll be able to book 3 seperate frequent flyer trips for 7-14 Jan and use the one that ends up with the best snow. SLC & Reno are definates, but I'm still deciding on the 3rd.
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