Rules To Live By On A Holiday Ski Weekend

Lines at Jay aren’t as long as these at Whistler – which is why Jay is such a great secret.

One of our favorite people to follow on Facebook is “Skiology Matt,” who runs the “Northwest Skiology Group” Facebook page. If you haven’t “liked” his page, stop right now, go do it, and then come back. We’ll wait.

Matt does a great job tracking weather, predicting which resorts will get fresh pow (Yea! Jay has been getting puked on regularly this year), which resorts will be on the wrong side of the ice line (looking at you, Mount Snow), and where and how powder hounds can get the goods.

Matt has written some suggestions for those of you who will be visiting this President’s Day weekend and may end up experiencing the perfect storm (pun intended) of a fresh powder storm, a holiday weekend, and a full week of school holidays. The result usually is a mass of people on the mountain, and if you’re going to be one of them, his tips can help make things just a little better. His major tip to avoid resorts with Epic and Ikon passes makes Jay look so much better. So here’s his take:

A combination of an awesome week of widespread snow, good temperatures, and a 3 day weekend plus some school breaks are likely going to create record or near-record crowds at many resorts this weekend.

Saturday might have a bit of an early morning lull as people come in late or avoid the cold before the warm-up, but huge lines will form at the big resorts for sure. Sunday will likely be the busiest day, and Monday will be like a busy Sunday in the morning and start to clear out later in the day. The rest of the week will be more than tolerable, but some big resorts will start packing them in the following Friday as this is more of a 2-weekend holiday.

My survival method is simple…don’t do what the majority of people do. This is a game of strategy. So here are some Do’s and Don’ts:

DON’T go to a resort that isn’t blacked out on the holiday weekend on the base version Ikon or Epic. They will be packed. Trust me, the big guys are concerned about the crush and would prefer people to come and have a good experience at another time when crowds are more manageable.

DO consider a ski area that isn’t on a major multi-pass and isn’t well known. The small guys can use the business, holidays are very important for them, and it’s a great opportunity to explore some. Some smaller places will still be busy enough to have lines of course, but there’s no chance of a 30-minute line, and if you know your sleepers well, there might not be any lines at all.

DON’T miss the first chair and show up 30 minutes after open.

DO arrive 45 minutes before lifts start so that you can find a decent parking spot, get your ticket without a huge line, and get the first chair and experience the best terrain before the crush of traffic shows up.

DON’T only ride the main chair at the main base of a resort unless you want to wait in line far more than you are skiing or riding.

DO ride the main lifts only very early or very late in the day and otherwise look at the map and find the least accessible places on the mountain and go there even if there is only a slow fixed grip chair and not the very best terrain.

DON’T break for lunch at 12:30 and expect to find a table in the main lodge at a larger resort.

DO break for lunch at 11 a.m. where you can find a table easily and then go out and ski or ride in lighter traffic while the majority of people are eating lunch. Alternatively, ski through lunch and break at 1:30, then come back out at 2:30 when the lines have lightened up.

DON’T go 50 mph down a slope in traffic, don’t carve edge to edge, don’t pop off blind rollers and drops because the average skier and rider on a holiday weekend will have less skill and experience than a typical weekend and you could hurt or kill someone including yourself.

DO ski in control, and do so even more cautiously than usual giving people even more space and expect the unexpected. If people are down, stop and cross your poles or your arms to alert other skiers and riders, especially if they are below a blind drop.

DON’T give resort staff a hard time. They are likely not directly responsible for your source of grief and they dread extremely busy days probably more than your own displeasure. They are people with feelings.

DO let them know that you genuinely appreciate their help when you are asking for it. Sometimes your tone of voice can in fact take them off the edge and result in an even better outcome. Thank the lifties, give people a smile, and maybe even pass out an energy bar or two.

Things were ugly last weekend at Vail, with a powder day that led to long pre-opening tram lines. Things won’t be that bad here, but you may have to wait a little longer than usual.

We at the Phineas Swann can’t help you find a table for lunch, or make the lift lines any shorter. But we are going to do what we can. For this weekend only, we’ll be starting breakfast 30 minutes earlier, at 7 a.m., so you can get up the hill and get a jump on getting that first chair. Usually, our 7:30 a.m. start time works for everyone, but we thought that for just this Saturday and Sunday, a little head start might help.

Have a great weekend wherever you are, and be safe out there.

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