Skiing economics (part 1)

For many outdoor enthusiasts along the Front Range, the Labor Day holiday represents an important weekend to acquire season passes and gear at hugely discounted prices.  Those planning to stay in the mountains for several days at a time also start thinking about accommodations.   The trigger for me was an email from a few friends with whom I usually enjoy a 5-day skiing trip in Vail during mid-December:

My sister and I pooled our Starwood + Mariott points (and borrowed some from our parents) to make a reservation using points at the Hotel Talisa, the hotel formerly known as the Vail Cascades.  . . . we would love you to stay there or close by. . .

While I am sure the Hotel Talisa has been beautifully redecorated and reborn, I simply can not justify $800 per night for a hotel room in Vail.   So then I started thinking about the economics of skiing.  It seems like it’s either grossly expensive, or incredibly inconvenient.  The best way for a Denverite to enjoy the mountains, in my opinion, is over several days.  First, you drive up on a weekday, leaving at a time when you are normally awake and functioning, but before or after the morning rush hour.  Then, enjoy a languid (or adrenaline-filled, depending on your preference) day at any of the resorts along I-70.  Following an excellent day of skiing, you’d sip a hot chocolate or other beverage of choice, and finally retire to a nearby home or hotel.

Absent a flexible schedule and ample funds, though, how do you do have a great ski day?  Well, you’d leave Denver at an ungodly hour, maybe 5:00 or 5:30 a.m., to avoid I-70 gridlock.  Then, season pass in hand, go to your resort of choice.  Hopefully you’d arrive in time to get a decent parking space.  After skiing, you could either stay at a budget-friendly hotel (if you can find one!), or schlep your tired body and all of your gear back into your car and return to Denver.  Of course, you’d need to leave the mountain either before 2:00, or linger for happy hour or dinner and wait until around 6:00, to avoid the dreaded gridlock.

Sounds like a hassle, right?  Well, it kind of is.  I know there are some people that have it down to a science:  what time to leave home, how long to ski, what time to leave, etc. to minimize traffic and maximize your ski day.  So I’ve been thinking about alternatives.  I will discuss a few options next time.  Would love to hear yours in the meantime!

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