Coping with the holiday ski crush

Don't let tourists keep you from savoring the slopes


Christmas is a time for giving.

At Colorado ski resorts, thousands and thousands of out-of-state revelers take over for about two weeks before disappearing again until spring break.

For some locals, the holiday rush is a reason not to ski.

For others, it is one of the few chances for family and friends to hit the slopes together. Even if that is the case, there is no reason to suffer.

Here are a few simple steps to make enjoying the ski season a breeze.

1. Pay to cut the line Yes, there is a way to skip that 20-minute lift line. It’s called a lesson. Sign up for an all-day group lesson, which costs between $90 and $130, depending on the mountain. The higher your level of skill, the more likely you are to have the lesson to yourself. Use your instructor as a guide to powder stashes, then let him or her escort you to the front of the line.

2. Ski Cooper Sure, this tiny ski area owned by the city of Leadville doesn’t boast much in terms of acres or vertical feet, but it packs plenty of family fun while being easy on the wallet (Free parking, discount tickets at Maybe best of all, the Cooper crowd is almost strictly locals, so the Christmas rush doesn’t amount to much.

3. Quit early If you paid an ungodly sum for a lift ticket, ending the ski day at lunch may not have much appeal. But skiers with a season pass should eschew the deteriorating snow conditions after lunch and instead go ice skating, snowshoeing or window shopping. It will keep your legs fresh for the next day and maybe keep you out of the emergency room, since most ski accidents occur in the afternoon.

4. Forget about presents Christmas morning is one of the few windows of sanity in the holiday rush. While the rest of the world is unwrapping gifts, strap on your boots, catch the first chair, tell the kids to stop crying, and tear up the snow until the crowds hit the slopes at about 11 a.m., then retire for a festive Christmas lunch.

5. Tailgate Skip the lines and the outrageous prices at on-mountain restaurants by packing your own grub. Our favorite trick: Wrap bratwurst, sauerkraut and a splash of beer in foil and throw it on a portable gas grill. Keep your lunch items in a cooler to keep them from freezing.

6. Fire it up Several ski areas hold torchlight parades that snake down the dark slopes on New Year’s Eve. They are cool to watch, but even cooler to be in. Only Monarch makes it easy for regular old folks to be one of the torchbearers. It’s fun, challenging, and the best way to find out what 200 road flares all burning smells like. Just remember to wear old clothes. To register, call 800-996-7669, ext. 5050.

7. Once in a blue moon New Year’s Eve in resort towns often means restaurants and bars charging outrageous covers. Why not spend an evening in the great outdoors? New Year’s Eve 2009 is not only a full moon, it’s a blue moon (the second full moon in a month), perfect for a moonlight snowshoe or ski — libations for toasting the new year optional.

8. Teetotaler Skip the alcohol-fueled revelry on New Year’s Eve so you can revel in short lift lines New Year’s morning. Most people sleep in, nursing hangovers. Catch first chair and you can have a few hours of crowd-free skiing.

(c) 2009, The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.). Via MCT.