A Gold Mine of Planning Tips from the Pros
Group leaders, here are some valuable nuggets of inside advice that will come in handy when planning your next trip.
1. In the early planning stages, connect with local resources. Making the right connections will bridge the gap between the trip leader and the destination, resulting in a well-rounded itinerary. “It takes a village to host a ski club,” says Ann Cook, group services manager at Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort in Oregon, who points out exactly who to connect with and why.Resort representatives are the first place to start as they can get you in contact with their local partners and provide trip planning information. For example, Mt. Bachelor hosts a website for trip leaders with necessary information and materials. Visitors bureaus are another vital resource. A “must-do” for groups visiting Mt. Bachelor is the Bend Ale Trail, created by Visit Bend to guide visitors to local breweries. Tour companies enhance the trip by adding a discovery twist. Wanderlust Tours takes Mt. Bachelor guests to the only national park in Oregon, Crater Lake.
2. Build out your trip to create a memorable experience. Think back to a trip you still reminisce about. Odds are you didn’t do the same thing over and over, nor should you on a ski trip. Mary E. Manning, senior national sales manager at Aspen Snowmass in Colorado, tells how to create a memorable experience for your group.Plan a trip around an event. “Look at the calendar to see all the different events coming up,” says Manning. “It enhances the trip—events are an added value; they are already set up without you having to pay into them.” Events are often free and on-site. Aspen Snowmass has a variety of events throughout the season, including Bud Light Hi-Fi Concert Series, X Games Aspen and the Snowmass Mammoth Festival. Organize a group meal. Meals bring people together, not to mention it’s a great way to unwind and share all your stories from the day. Get into alternative activities. The list never ends when it comes to what you can add to your ski itinerary: snowmobiling, cross country skiing, ice skating, helicopter tours, mountain biking, horseback riding, etc. Aspen Snowmass has outfitters who can organize day trips for groups year-round.
3. Traveling to the Northeast? Rethink your ski equipment checklist. Considering the region’s consistent fall of fresh powder, higher chances of overcast and infamously cold temperatures, you’ll want to adhere to the advice of Lee Cohen, group sales manager at Killington Ski Resort in Vermont, when it comes to packing for your trip to the Northeast. Goggle Lenses: If you’re used to skiing in the sun, which is more common in the West, you most likely own a pair of goggles with dark lenses.
But, the Northeast sees fewer sunny days. “You’ll want goggles with yellow or clear lenses to be able to see clearly when there is overcast,” says Cohen. Skis: Of course, this one is dependent on the day and snowfall. But, if it’s a powder day, you’ll want powder skis. If the snow is hard packed, you’ll want carving skis. “If you don’t know what the weather will be like, you’ll want a good, all-mountain ski—not too thick underfoot and not too big (nothing over 100 centimeters underfoot),” Cohen says. Layers: Northeast slopes average colder temperatures than the West slopes. Pack facemasks, extra layers, hats, etc. If you think any part of your body may get chilly, make sure you have it covered. “If you aren’t used to zero-degree weather, pack layers or buy extra at the resort,” says Cohen.
4. Packing your own gear might not be your easiest option. Larry Young, senior sales manager at Steamboat Ski & Resort in Colorado, sheds light on why you won’t want to deal with the hassle of packing your equipment, paying to ship your equipment and trying to figure out where to store your equipment.
“With the increasing cost of airline baggage fees, we offer current-season rental equipment,” says Young. “Your equipment gets older; rent with us and get rentals no more than two years old. Also, most places offer free overnight ski storage.” At Steamboat Ski and Resort, you can rent from any of the four locations in the base area, and skis and poles are stored overnight at no cost. Steamboat Ski & Resort offers advance rental reservations.
5. Get the most out of group ski lessons. Conquer new ground and sharpen ski skills, all while reaping the benefits of group lessons. Emily Jackson, social group sales manager at Winter Park Resort in Colorado, explains how.
“Ski and snowboard lessons are a great bonding experience for groups,” Jackson says. “Whether it is a ‘never-ever’ lesson or a MAX4, the techniques and skills you can learn from a certified instructor are like no other.”
Taking a group lesson has several benefits, especially if you are new to the mountain. You will experience new slopes and lifts from someone who knows the terrain. At Winter Park’s Ski and Ride School, you are grouped with like skiers or snowboarders within your group. For kids’ lessons, there are usually eight to ten in a group for a full-day lesson. Winter Park Resort offers MAX4 lessons for adult groups with a maximum of four people for a half-day lesson. There are also full-day lessons for adults.
6. Don’t “white knuckle” your drive from the airport to the resort. “When it comes to traveling in the mountains, not a lot of people are comfortable in the driver’s seat, especially in the winter,” says John Dawsey, director of sales and marketing at Colorado Mountain Express (CME). “You want an experienced driver for a more secure and comfortable experience—you don’t want that white knuckle drive.”
Choosing a bus service not only provides a level of security and comfort, it’s convenient. Arrive at the airport, load the bus and off you go. You won’t need to refill gas for a rental or drop it off by a certain time, plus it’s a great way to be a part of the green initiative by sharing rides and easing traffic.
CME offers three main services. The Shared Ride Shuttles operate hourly to various resorts from Denver International Airport (or Eagle County Regional Airport for flight-specific arrivals). This allows for flexibility if your flight gets delayed or canceled. If your group is arriving together, CME Charter Vans are booked specifically for your group and routed directly to your lodging location. CME Premier Private Car Service takes your group (up to five) straight to your resort in a luxury SUV. CME also offers meet-and-greet services at the airport and on-site staff to help with large groups. As the largest ground transportation operator in Colorado with 260 vehicles, CME can adjust to weather conditions, delayed flights and flights diverted to other airports.
7. Consider this when skiing in Canada. When you take a group to a different country, there’s a lot to think about that would normally be no-brainers if staying in the States. Canada uses the metric system to calculate temperatures in Celsius and to signify speed limits. Road distances are indicated in kilometers and gas is sold by the liter. Know your time zones; this will come in handy when you have check-in times and scheduled tours. When it comes to money, be aware of currency exchanges, ATMs, credit card limitations and what’s customary for tips, sales tax and transportation fares. Aside from the technicalities, you’ll want to delve into the culture for the best experience. So, be sure to try the local favorites and ski like a local.
Ryan Elliott, manager of North American travel trade for Banff Lake Louise Tourism, says, “Try the local cuisine. In Canada, we like our beer in jugs and everyone loves the nation’s signature drink, the ‘Great Canadian Caesar.’”
“If you plan your trip during the week, you’ll usually have the resort to yourself. Dress in layers as temperatures can change quickly throughout the day, and pack sunscreen because you’re at a higher elevation and we have long, sunny days,” says Elliott. “With Canadian hospitality, you’ll feel like a local as soon as you get here.”