Finding the perfect group ski destination can often be a bit of a challenge. Each group is different, and each group presents its own special challenges. But with proper planning, your trip is sure to be a success. Here’s a checklist of questions to get you started on planning your next group ski trip.
What is the size of your group?
Are you planning a weekend ski trip for a youth group of 15 or conference retreat for an organization of 300? When you’re planning a group ski trip, size definitely does matter. For starters, you’ll need to consider how your group is reaching the destination. Smaller groups can reach remote areas fairly easily via small airports or motorcoach, while large groups are better off with resorts near major cities like Denver and Reno, where the larger airports can handle more people. You’ll also need to book your group with plenty of time to make sure the resort has enough room for everyone, and always book more space than you think you’ll need. If you’ll need conference areas or group meeting facilities, make sure to reserve those ahead of time, as well.
What is the age and skill level of your group?
Do you have a group of expert skiers, or is this a first-time ski trip for your group? Is your group made up of teenagers, young adults or middle-aged business professionals? All this must be considered to make sure everyone in the group has the best time possible. Advanced skiers will not enjoy themselves on beginner trails, and beginners will be lost on a hill of black diamond trails. Will the group be interested in lessons, or do they just want to conquer the slopes on their own? If your group is made up of various levels of ski experience, Sports America Tours director of special events Sarah Sonders suggests choosing a destination that best fits the average skiing ability of your group.
Children and older folks may need an extra minute or two to relax between runs, so consider a resort with gondola rides up the mountain or nearby warming huts. Marcie Hawks of ski.com suggests for young adult groups to choose resorts like Aspen, Vail, Whistler and Breckenridge, where easy access to the slopes, varying terrain and nightlife add plenty of extra excitement.
Does the resort have activities to keep non-skiers busy?
Chances are that not everyone in your group will want to ski. “So many groups have participants with spouses and/or friends that would love to travel with the group, but are not big skiers,” Sonders said. For groups like this, she suggests resorts like Jackson Hole, with nearby Yellowstone National Park, or Taos, which offers a variety of local cultural excursions.
It’s also a good idea to have some different activities for relaxation, down time and after hours. Your group might enjoy some tubing or ice skating for a change of pace. Will your group be looking for more action after the lifts are closed? Then look for a resort with night skiing or a nearby town with a booming nightlife.
When do you plan to take your trip?
Is there a special event your group would like to attend, such as the Alpine Championships or the Iditarod dog sledding race? Plan your trip around something special, and get your group psyched up about attending. Be sure to plan your trip for a time when you know there will be snow. Rates might be cheaper in November, but snowfalls have been coming later in recent years, and you don’t want to miss what you’re coming for. January is a great time for group ski trips, with almost guaranteed fresh powder and limited crowds.
What are your group’s preferences?
Does your group want to be near a major city, or isolated up in the mountains? Consider surprising your group with somewhere they might not travel on their own. “Look past the big names to places less traveled. These places might take an extra flight to get to but offer some great lodging/lift packages, and your participants get to add a new name to their ‘I’ve skied it’ list,” Sonders said. “Every resort offers a different vibe, so know your group and what fits them best.”
What’s your budget?
Is your group limited on funds, or are you looking to break the bank with this trip? Either way, it’s best to look ahead for deals and group discounts. Early Booking Opportunities, or EBO’s, are a great way for groups to save money. Most resorts cut prices drastically if you book your trip far in advance, so begin looking for EBO’s for the next season as soon as the current season ends. You should also take advantage of group sales personnel. Look for resorts that will work with your group to provide you with the best prices.
How are you going to get there?
Decide on travel arrangements far ahead of time. Is your group going to fit on a single airplane or tour bus, or will you have to send multiple groups in order to get everyone to your destination? If you’re short on time, it’s best to consider resorts like Steamboat or Telluride that have nearby local airports. If your group is very large, look for resorts near major cities with large airports to increase the chances of getting all your travelers to their destination on the same day.
With this checklist of questions, you’re well on your way to choosing the perfect destination for your group. Download our free print guide here for more helpful information on planning your group ski trip. We can’t wait to hear how it turns out!
By Stephanie Schmidt