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Ski Vacations, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

By Trevor Paetkau

Colorado, Vermont, Whistler? Ski publications have a grand ol' time pumping the virtues of one ski destination over another. Come fall, their pages are full of the glories of "this" mountain, "that" village and the joys of dumping cash at either. Of course, it's pretty much all meaningless.

As most skiers will attest, the ski experience is dependant on a whole raft of factors, destination being only one of them. This is something a wise vacationer will keep in mind before blithely submitting a non-negotiable deposit for this year's ski vacation. What are these factors?:

skier's ability

skier's temperament

skier's demographic

skier's pocket book

Skier's Ability

All else being equal, a novice skier will be happier at Mont Tremblant, than Jay Peak. Likewise, SilverStar will treat the novice better than Whistler and vice-versa. No matter what a resort's brochure will tell you, every mountain has its own character and suits a particular ability of skier. Never rely on the ski press or marketing machines as your primary source of information... it's just not in their interests to tell anybody to not go somewhere. This of course means work... there are legitimate online consumer review sources that pretty much shoot the straight goods.

Skier's Temperament

Skier, know thyself.

If you hate crowds stay away from any resort ranked #1 by any ski-publication. Mont Tremblant during any holiday week is a prime example... you won't be able to move, much less turn.

If marketing excess turns you off, stay away from any resort ranked #1 by any ski-publication. 'Nuff said.

If you're a fashion plate (or enjoy ogling fashion plates) any resort with direct air connections to a major airport should suffice. If the opposite applies, it needn't be said... the harder a hill is to get to, the fewer people will make the attempt.

If you've got a tender tush stay away from the east in mid-winter and stay away from the coastal resorts during the early season. Horrible weather will apply in either case. Conversely, spring is warm anywhere, but be aware, it arrives at different times in different places.

Skier's Demographic

This one is easy... young people ski at big mountains with busy bars; families ski at mountains with great kids programs; and empty-nesters ski at mountains with good restaurants and groomed runs. If you know yourself, you'll know your mountain. Ignore this advice and you'll feel as uncomfortable as a fish out of water.

Skier's Pocket Book

The best ski vacation is the one that where your expectations and pocket book align. Don't go to Beaver Creek if you're on a hamburger budget; you won't eat. And likewise, don't go to Jay Peak if you're after anything more than pizza and a family buffet; your cash will burn a hole in your precious Prada one piece.

Once the package has been paid for, it's the cost of the extras we all remember... and remember, there is a hell of a difference in the price of a beer between Aspen and Le Massif.

The truth is, a ski-vacation is a great way to spend a week, and in my opinion wins out over a week on the beach anytime. I also know, however, that of all the vacations I've had, the good ones are the ones where everything has been in alignment. It's not always easy or obvious but a bit of self-awareness, research and ability to ignore the ski-industry's marketing magic should put most vacationers in the right ball-bark (or ski-hill as the case may be).

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