In This Guide
- What is a Group Ski Trip and Who Goes on Them
- Ski Travel Terminology
- When To Start Planning and Booking
- How To Pick a Ski Resort
- Travel Considerations: Flights and Ground Transportation
- Tips on Itinerary Planning
- Selecting a Travel Agency
- Communicating With Your Group
- Collecting Payments From Group Members
- Safety Tips
So what’s stopping you?
Oh maybe it’s the crazy amount of planning or organizing required to make the trip a success. Yeah, that can be pretty intimidating.
We put together this ultimate guide to planning group ski trips for you – the group leader (the visionary!). We’re diving deep and giving you the information you need to make your group ski trip dream a reality!
What is a Group Ski Trip and Who Goes on Them
Group ski trips allow any group to get away for a few days and enjoy beautiful ski resorts together. Trips like these almost always result in a greater level of bonding between group members as each person creates lasting memories and experiences with one another.
Groups of all kinds can go on a ski trip, but common skiers include:
- Youth Ministries
- Church Groups (Men, Women, Families, Bible Studies)
- College Fraternities or Sororities
- Colleagues or Coworkers
- Big Families
There’s really no rule on how big or small the group has to be, although groups of 20 or more can usually unlock some great wholesale pricing.
Benefits of a Group Ski Trip
Different groups utilize ski trips for different things, but the experience always brings friends, family, or team members together.
Ski resorts offer groups a unique opportunity to bond with one another. The wide-ranging accommodations make it easy to meet the wants and needs of various people. Plus there’s just something special about being out in nature, experiencing something you don’t get to do very often.
Life creates demands and difficulties for people of all ages. Ski trips offer the kind of break everyone needs from the troubles of normal life.
Ski Travel Terminology
If you’ve never planned a group ski trip before, you might need a bit of help ironing out the terminology. Here’s a quick list of some of the most common words and phrases with a simple description.
Lodging is the term group travel agencies use for where your group will stay for the duration of the trip. This could include condominiums at the base of the mountain, houses and cabins across town, and traditional hotels. Pricing for lodging is primarily driven by distance from the slopes, but, of course, will be impacted by the number of beds, type of finishes and amenities.
Ski lifts get you on the slopes and you need tickets to get on them. Many resorts now use automatic RFID keycards while some still have attendants scanning barcodes.
Skis, poles, snowboards and boots. This equipment is very costly to purchase and since most people only go on one or two trips a year it makes more sense just to rent. Even if you have some equipment at home, transporting this stuff is a huge pain! When renting you just pick it up on your first day of skiing and turn it in on your last.
For more on what to bring on your trip, check out our ski trip packing list.
When to Start Planning and Booking
The majority of group ski trips in Colorado take place between December and March. There’s a certain weather quality that makes this a pretty natural conclusion. (It’s snow)
But this doesn’t mean you should wait to book your trip until you’re unpacking your winter clothes.
Most group leaders begin planning their trips in the summer to make sure they give themselves plenty of time to organize their group, gather the necessary payments, and ensure they have the best rates possible. Typically, the further ahead you plan, the cheaper the trip will be, though we know one group travel agency can get you a good deal no matter when you book.
Lastly, the most common and best value trip is usually one that stays for 3 nights and 4 days. Add your travel time to this to get your total trip time. Shorter or longer stays are still possible, depending on availability.
How to Pick a Ski Resort
Most resorts in Colorado are well run and have a lot to offer. Finding out which resort to go to is kind of like if someone asked you what 5 star steakhouse you want to eat at: you’re not going to make a wrong choice. However, there are a few things to consider to find a great fit for your group.
Look at skiable acres, number of runs and number of lifts. This can really help you get some perspective on the size differences between resorts. Higher quantity acreage, lifts and runs does not always mean higher quality but it is something to consider. See how they compare.
When it comes to lodging you’ll want to think about proximity to base. “Ski in/Ski Out” means you’ll be within walking distance to the lifts. These are the priciest options by far but provide added convenience. The further out you go from the base the less expensive things will get. Large groups often have unique needs (i.e. meeting space, many rooms, etc) and some lodgings are better suited than others. Also most resort towns have great public shuttle systems that can transport thousands of skiers like a well oiled machine.
Location and Travel Time
Travel time to the resort is a big consideration because time off from work or school is usually in rare supply. We talk more about travel options later but for now, just keep in mind that travel costs (and time) is a big factor. A cheap resort in a distant location or a high end resort in a convenient location can come out to be similar in total cost when you factor in travel. If you’re flying to Denver, check out this chart to see how far each resort is from the airport.
An experienced ski travel agency can take all of these things into consideration and find the best value resort for your group’s specific needs.
Additional Activities Offered at Resorts
Got people in the group who don’t love the slopes? No problem. Most resorts offer tons of activities on and off the slopes. As a group leader you can help set up activities for your group or go a simpler route and let them handle it if they have the desire. Here are some examples of what you can find around most resorts.
- Ice Skating
- Snowcat Tours
- Hot Springs
- Sleigh Rides
- Dog Sled Tours
- Guided Ski Tours
- Cross Country Skiing
- Horseback Riding
- Night Skiing
Travel Considerations: Flights and Ground Transportation
One of the most complicated parts of a group ski trip is actually getting to your destination. Most resorts make it easy to get around once you arrive, but the trip can be a challenge. We’ll help you sort through all that!
You have three options to consider:
- Driving Yourself
- Charter Bus
- Air Travel
Many families and smaller groups prefer the option of driving themselves because it’s often the most economical. Especially if you have access to a van or bus already. The flexibility of having your own vehicle once out in Colorado is nice, too.
One thing to consider if you are driving yourself is stopping along the way. If your drive is long, you may want to stay overnight as you are driving to Colorado. Picking a place that is a little more than half way allows you to have an easier second day. Most lodgings have check-ins similar to hotels, which is around 4pm.
Driving your own group can be cost effective and pretty flexible, but it can be difficult to fit everyone and all their luggage. It can also be hard on your driver who has to stay alert for a variety of mountain and wintery conditions.
A charter bus is a huge bus that will take your group all the way from your city of origin to your resort. Charter bus companies utilize professional drivers with training and experience.
These buses also offer a high level of reliability, safety and comfort on the road. They are spacious and often have a bathroom on board. They can be especially nice if your group is driving overnight. They have room for luggage beneath the main area and overhead storage like an airplane.
Unfortunately, benefits like these do come at a pretty hefty cost. Plus, compared to flying, taking a charter bus or driving yourself can add to your total trip time which means more time off from work or school.
Flying can be the right option for your group based on certain trip details.
Flying into a city like Denver and getting an airport shuttle bus may actually be more cost effective depending on your group size. Your total trip time could be a day or more shorter than driving, which can be a big cost saver.
Some travel agencies can even arrange your airport shuttle to take you to your resort. What we’re calling an “airport shuttle bus” is essentially a big charter bus, but just going to and from the airport.
The viability of flying also depends on which resort you have decided on. For example – if you are skiing Winter Park, Keystone, or Breckenridge, then flying into Denver makes sense. However, if you are skiing Crested Butte, you’ll want to fly into Gunnison airport. There are fewer flights each day to the smaller airports and more expensive, but since it is so much closer to the resort, you will save on ground travel in the end.
Airfare fluctuates greatly depending on the time of year. Airfare might be too high for your group if traveling during holidays, but if you are a group that is skiing during less busy dates, then you might find that flying not only saves you time but also money.
What About Getting Around at the Resort?
Most resorts have a free public shuttle bus system, so groups that have arrived on a bus or plane can still get around freely at their resort.
Telling your group travel agency your wants while deciding on the lodging location can help them direct you to locations that can accommodate for a lack of transportation at the resort.
Staying at the base, while the priciest option, will be the easiest since skiing, shopping, and restaurants will be within steps. A lot of options away from the base are still quite convenient, though, because of free shuttle access and can save on cost.
Tips for Itinerary Planning
Charter buses seat around 50 passengers. They can drive overnight and usually have a bathroom on board. These can be great if your group is the right size but just be sure to compare all your options – driving yourself, charter busses, and flying.
Airport Pickup & Dropoff
If you fly into Denver you’ll need to think about transportation from the airport to the resort and back again. If you take an airport shuttle to the resort, pickup time should be determined after all flights are booked.
Check In & Check Out
Check in is usually at 4:00pm and checkout at 10:00am (mountain time). To prevent showing up too early at check in you might stop for lunch on the way. Showing up late to check-in is no problem.
There will be plenty of dining options on and off the mountain but this can get expensive if you’re eating out for every meal. Consider stopping at a grocery store in Denver to stock up for your week. You can focus just on breakfast and lunch, then plan to eat out at night. Or if you have a chef in the group, by all means, plan for dinner too! With the exception of some hotels, most condos/cabins have kitchens.
Rental Pickup & Dropoff
Most resorts like big groups to all be fitted for rentals at the same time. You’ll be given your fitting times before arrival. Your fitting will be on your first day of skiing. Rentals must be turned in on your last ski day, by the end of the day.
Selecting a Ski Travel Agency
Have you ever tried to plan a ski trip for 20 or 30 people? Keeping up with names, rentals, logistics and countless other details can be a mess, even for the most experienced leaders. Because of the complexities of group ski trips, even the resorts don’t offer much support in this area.
Group ski trips are epic and so worth it! But we would not recommend going it alone.
That’s why groups turn to travel agencies. Agencies have established relationships and systems that make your trip as seamless as possible. Nailing down the right agency for you can feel a bit challenging, but here are a few simple questions to help you get started.
Do They Specialize in Group Travel?
Not every ski trip is a group trip, and some agencies focus most of their efforts on couples and small families. They might take on larger groups occasionally, but they don’t have the expertise that an agency specializing in groups would have.
How Long Have They Been Doing This?
Experience isn’t everything, but it sure does help. An agency that has worked with the same resorts or locations for 20+ years will know the best recommendations, tips, and tricks to ensure you have an excellent time.
What’s Included in the Package Price?
The bottom line is group travel done right should save your group time and money. The more people coming, the better deals you can get, and the top travel agencies can help you get access to wholesale pricing. Make sure you compare apples to apples in terms of what’s included and how much time you have to spend planning.
What Kind of Support Do They Offer?
Agencies make your life easier. That’s literally their entire job, so you want to make sure you choose one that will actually help alleviate your burdens. Top agencies should offer itinerary guidance, planning tips, and even a dedicated staff and website to help you manage your trip with sign-up pages, payment portals, and other features.
Finding the right group travel agency will reduce the burden of planning your trip. That means time you would have spent researching, standing in line, and sorting through everything can now be enjoyed on the slopes. Money you would have spent booking somewhere else can now be used in the pro shop (or the coffee shop? you know who you are).
Communicating With Your Group
Announcing, communicating and marketing your trip are critical if you want to gather the most amount of people possible. There are a few simple marketing tools you can easily apply to make your communication stand out a little bit.
As a rule of thumb, it’s much better to over-communicate than under-communicate when trying to reach a large number of people.
Use Email Templates
Wording is everything for gathering a group of people together. You want to make sure you communicate all the necessary information with the least amount of words while sparking the most amount of interest. It’s a pretty daunting task, actually.
You’ll probably want to send emails on at least three occasions:
- Announce the trip and request registration
- Reminders as the registration deadline approaches
- Inform registrants of the itinerary and expectations
Spend some time on crafting your emails instead of just whipping ‘em up and sending ‘em out. Go back and check to make sure you covered everything.
You can also use our free email templates that outline every piece of information for these three occasions. All you have to do is fill in the specific information for your trip. Download the email templates here.
Posting some pictures with your email or social media announcements is very effective and highly recommended. Grab some photos of past trips if you’ve done them, or you can use sites like Unsplash to download free stock photos. A quick search for “ski” on Unsplash pulls up plenty of good options!
Another powerful tool for marketing and announcing your trip comes with some simple graphic design. Text overlays on images are great, but simple well done graphics without images can do just as good.
Don’t freak out here. Even if you’re not a designer, or if you don’t have one on your team, you can easily make simple announcements using design templates from sites like Canva. The free service is incredibly easy to use, and a good design can go a long way, especially if you’re planning a youth group ski trip.
This is undoubtedly the least fun part of the trip-planning process, but it is absolutely necessary. Group leaders are responsible for collecting payment from each group member. Then, the leader will pay the agency in one payment or installments.
You can ask your group for one payment or allow them to pay you in installments. Either way, it’s a good idea to remind them early and often.
Here are 4 easy tools for payment collection. There’s not a significant difference between each one, so it comes down to the group leader’s preference. We’d recommend giving your group only one option, so you don’t have to keep track of multiple accounts.
Generally, these apps wont charge fees between family and friends. However, these are third party services so read their fine print before committing to one.
Safety Tips on the Trip
Group ski trips of any kind have the potential for danger, and it’s important to keep your people as safe as possible. We’ve listed a few common safety tips for skiers of all ages.
Be Aware of Slope Etiquette
The slopes are full of beginners and advanced skiers, and that mix doesn’t always go well. New skiers should get a basic understanding of slope etiquette before venturing out.
Find a Buddy
No one should ever ski alone. Not only is skiing in groups more fun, but if you get into a sticky situation having a friend around can be a life saver.
Everyone in the group should drink plenty of water. The altitude alone can mess with people’s systems, and adding the strenuous activity of skiing into it only makes it more challenging. You should hydrate before, during and after a long day of skiing.
Don’t Overdo It
Skiing and snowboarding are technically extreme sports. That’s why lessons are such a good idea. Lesson or not, get your snow legs figured out before jumping into blues and blacks. You can get hurt or worse – you might end up walking down the mountain!
Well Worth the Effort
If you made it this far in the guide you’re going to do great! We know this can all sound like a lot, but it’s all worth the effort. Your group ski trip will be something everyone remembers and cherishes for a long time.
Working through a travel agency makes all this even easier, and Ski Daddy has been helping groups like yours plan, coordinate, and organize amazing group ski vacations for over 20 years.
We’d love to work with you to plan the best trip possible. Connect with us right here!