How to Plan Your First Ski Vacation

If you’ve never taken a ski-focused vacation, you may be missing out on one of wintertime’s most fun diversions, said Nadine Davidson, a travel planner with the Los Angeles travel agency TravelStore who specializes in ski trips.

“Skiing is an opportunity to be immersed in a beautiful snowy environment,” Ms. Davidson said, “and you don’t have to be a die-hard skier to enjoy a ski getaway.”

Here, she shares her advice on planning a first-time ski trip:
BUDGET WISELY Although ski vacations can accommodate a range of budgets, travelers should be aware that trips usually involve paying for lift tickets, which are around $100 a day at many ski resorts, as well as equipment rental, which runs from $75 to $100 daily. Additionally, Ms. Davidson recommended that novice skiers sign up for a few lessons to learn how to ski safely — these can run $50 an hour for group lessons and $100 or more for private sessions.

FACTOR IN TERRAIN AND CROWDS For beginners, Ms. Davidson said, a successful ski getaway means picking a resort with manageable terrain and minimal crowds, because packed slopes can be daunting for newcomers. Aspen, Colo., for example, isn’t the ideal destination for inexperienced skiers because Aspen Mountain is full of challenging terrain. And although an area like Mammoth Mountain in California has plenty of beginner terrain, it is usually crowded, whereas June Mountain, about 30 minutes away, sees fewer skiers but also has gentle terrain. Ms. Davidson said new skiers could also buy an all-inclusive ski trip from a reliable ski operator such as; these trips take factors into consideration that are relevant to novices.

CONSIDER YOUR GROUP When choosing a ski destination, the needs of your fellow travelers matter. If children are in tow, for example, you will probably want a resort with a day care or a ski school for children. Also, if you’re with young children or older travelers, it’s smart to pick a resort where the walk from the resort to the ski area is no more than five minutes. “Kids and older skiers may find it challenging to carry bulky and heavy ski equipment too far,” Ms. Davidson said.

PLAN ALTERNATIVE ACTIVITIES You may plan your ski vacation months in advance, but you won’t know what the conditions at your destination will be until just before your trip. “Some areas like Whistler in Canada can go from great snow one day to rain the next, which means that skiing is out,” Ms. Davidson said. To avoid disappointment, have nonskiing activities planned as backups such as snowmobiling, dog sledding and ice skating. Also, some popular destinations have a vibrant cultural scene such as Beaver Creek, Colo., which is home to the Vilar Performing Arts Center, which hosts high-caliber plays and music performances. SHIVANI VORA