This is the way to play the ski reservation system

When Steve Conney first heard that ski resorts were using reservation systems to maintain social distance, he thought it would mean fewer people on the hill. No luck.

“I’m surprised at how busy the resorts are,” says the founder of PowderChasers, a snow forecast website and an enthusiastic sampler of what he predicts.

In combination with the ongoing rush to go outside, the various crowd control systems make skiing more difficult. You can’t just show up at the ticket office in the morning, says Conney. The resorts often sell out their daily ticket quota days or weeks in advance. In some resorts, even having season tickets or booking in advance is not a guarantee.

But don’t let the challenges put you off a spring ski trip – not even a spontaneous one, says Conney. He has traveled several times this winter to seven resorts in the western United States, including during a 100-inch storm in February in Snowbird, Utah. He often books a week or less in advance.

“If you really want a reservation, you can usually get one, but you may have to be persistent and patient,” he explains.

How to play the system:

Know the rules

Almost every resort has some kind of limiter to control the number of skiers. Most major resorts, including all Vail hotels, use an online reservation system. Some restrict day pass sales. And some, like Snowbird, control numbers with reserved parking spaces. Check the resort websites to see what you are up against.

Read the fine print

Many resorts require reservations for day passes, but not season passes and some multi-mountain passes. But that too differs from resort to resort. For example, Jackson Hole does not require reservations for Mountain Collective Pass holders on their two days off, but rather for Ikon Pass holders.


Start the weekend

No wonder book weekends first. Often weeks in advance, says Conney, and Snowbird has sold all of its weekend parking passes for the entire season. His advice: reserve the weekend portion of a trip first, and then work from there.

do not give up

Travel plans are in flux more than ever. That said, reserved tickets are too. “People are booking and canceling all the time, especially at large resorts,” says Conney. If he can’t find the dates he is looking for, Conney keeps updating the search. “Availability usually shows up,” he says. “A lot of people cancel the day before or even this morning.” If they do, act quickly or someone else will catch them.

Abort culture

If you do not want to use a reservation, you have to cancel it. This not only gives other skiers the opportunity to go, but the ski resorts also pay attention to it. Ski resorts can and can prevent skiers who do not use reservations from making future ones.

Book beds too

Don’t assume that travel industry worries will spread to ski city hotels. “If anything, hotel room rates have gone up,” says Conney. “There is a lot of demand.” His trick to finding affordable accommodation: look a town or two away.

To get used to something

Some ski industry insiders saw reservation systems before the pandemic to cope with the growing crowd in large ski resorts. It is possible that they are the new normal. “I don’t see any reservations going away anytime soon,” says Conney.

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