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Nothing compares to a ski trip; it’s the combination of freezing mountain air, the excitement of zipping down the slopes, and of course the fun of the après-ski. Ski trips can be magical and life-changing events, but just how long should you go for?
A week is often an ideal length of time for a skiing vacation but longer trips can be great for those who are really into their skiing. If you’re looking for something a little shorter, then you’ll want to give yourself a minimum of three days.
Choosing the length of your ski trip is an excellent place to start when planning your vacation. When deciding how many days to spend on the ski slopes, it’s useful to take into account some important factors that we’ll discuss here.
The Best Length of Time for a Ski Trip?
The best ski vacation duration depends on several factors. How much time can you take off from your job or school? What’s your budget? What is the general health of your family? For a first trip, we typically advise three days as a minimum but, ideally, a week is best.
If seven days on holiday with the family sounds alarming, maybe split your ski vacation into two excursions. Both a three-day and a four-day excursion can be successful.
There are no rights or wrongs about destination or which part of the season to go in. Each place and time of year have advantages and disadvantages.
However, with very young children, two shorter excursions could well be more manageable. If you’re thinking about skiing for four or more days, a ski pass will provide you with better value for money.
Your budget will determine how long your ski vacation will be. You need to budget for hotel accommodation, car, food, lift tickets, lessons, and equipment rental (if you don’t have your own). You can often save money by purchasing tickets and ski rentals in advance.
Buying new skis, goggles, helmets, jackets, and boots is an investment. Ideally, you would like to get at least 5-10 years to use out of your equipment, so if feel you’re not going to be a longer-term skier it’s probably best to stick with rental equipment.
Buying secondhand gear is also an option to consider. However, if you want to use your ski apparel and equipment for a long time, you should invest in high-quality gear. It might be a pricier outlay, but it should prove to be a good investment ultimately.
If you’re on a tight budget, costs such as accommodation and rentals can soon add up, and therefore a long weekend or a 3/4 day trip is probably better. However, if budget isn’t so much of a problem, then the world’s your oyster.
The weather is one thing you have no control over. By planning a longer trip, you can choose to ski when the weather is at its best, rather than feeling obliged to get out on the slopes every day.
In most mountainous areas the weather can change very rapidly. Here’s the lowdown on selecting the best time to go on your next ski adventure.
Key Takeaway: With many resorts providing discounted lift passes in early December, it may be an economical choice, however, the possibility of poor early-season snow is high.
Choosing a destination with a higher altitude is a good way to combat this problem.
After Christmas and New Year, January is typically an affordable month to go skiing with some fantastic last-minute discounts. Although it can be fiercely cold and with shorter days, it’s an excellent month for snow. It’s the time to go if you want amazing snow and no lines.
February is the peak powder period. There’s little risk of insufficient snow, which makes February the busiest month of the year. With the influx of people coming for a skiing holiday due to school holidays in both the USA and in Europe, prices surge. Avoid the ridiculous rates and crowded lifts if you don’t have kids.
March brings milder weather, which is ideal for some après-ski activities, such as visiting a charming village, going to a spa, playing sports, having drinks on the terrace, and even dancing on the table. High temperatures can result in a little slush, though, so you might not be able to take full advantage of the time to excel in your skiing skills.
When April comes, it usually means spring skiing. Expect slush and crud, so wax your skis so they will still glide smoothly over the wetter snow. Wide skis are also more advisable, as they still function well on slushy slopes.
Take the cold into account too. If you or other members of your group (such as kids) are uncomfortable in the cold, going for more than a week may not be ideal. If you feel as if this may be a problem, traveling in March/April may be a better idea.
Going to a ski resort where there are lots of entertaining things to do off the mountain would often translate to a stay of longer than three days. There’s really no right or wrong it all comes down to a matter of personal choice of how much time you spend skiing and how much time you enjoy leisure pursuits.
You can enjoy activities like skating, snow tubing, ice climbing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, swimming, trekking, dogsled tours, and sleigh rides without taking much time away from skiing if you stay for five days or longer.
Additionally, if you’re at a resort like St. Anton in Austria, there are other nearby resorts linked within the area that you can easily access by lift. More experienced skiers can even ski from one resort to another and even participate in a ski circuit.
Key takeaway: If you’re planning on skiing at a high altitude, it’s best to acclimatize at a mid-height resort for a couple of days before starting at the high-altitude resort.
You need to adapt beforehand if the resort is 7,000 feet or above, otherwise, you can experience mild symptoms of altitude sickness, which makes you feel groggy. Read this article to know more about how to prevent altitude sickness or Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS).
If you’re going to a smaller, out-of-the-way resort with not many facilities and/or slopes, you may find that 3/4 days is plenty.
Health and Skills of the Family
Advice: If you are an athletic family, then you will be better suited to a longer vacation. A family that is not physically fit will feel worn out after three days.
Does your family regularly participate in sports, or do you prefer lazy Saturdays binge-watching TV?
A longer trip can be a great option for a family who like to take breaks and enjoy other winter activities away from the mountain, instead of skiing for long periods at a time. For example, parents can go to the spa and have a massage, while the kids amuse themselves.
Another factor to consider is the skill level of the family. If you’re new to skiing, you will discover your ability will improve much more quickly if you have lessons on three consecutive days, compared to 3 individual days over a longer period.
If you are planning on taking part in ski school lessons, then you would have to ski at the same resort for around a week at least. The duration of your ski trip will be influenced by how many days you spend in ski school (at least three are recommended).
By continuously skiing over several days, you are likely to improve significantly. By the end of your trip, you may well be gliding through snowy terrain smoothly and effortlessly. If you only went for three days, then you may have to go home just when you’re beginning to love it.
The best length of time for a ski trip depends on several factors. Think about your budget, the time of year, the facilities the resort has, how busy the resort is going to be and the skill level of your group before deciding on the length of your trip.
While you can choose short or long trips, aiming for a 5-7 day trip is usually the best idea for a group that doesn’t have much skiing experience. That gives you enough time to enjoy your skiing but at the same time it won’t be too expensive or exhausting.
NewToSki.com is where over 1 million people a year come to learn more about skiing. I share everything I wish someone had told me when I was learning to ski. My name is Simon & I've been skiing since 2005. This winter, our family is taking a 3-month camper ski trip across the Alps. If you enjoy our articles, please join the free email club. We'd love to have you.
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