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RV Ski Tripping!

by | Destinations, USA | 23 comments

As the world starts to open up following the pandemic, people are beginning to plan for the year ahead. Motorhome ski trips are becoming increasingly popular and may be even more so in a climate of social distancing. Here are some of our top tips and ideas about where to go if you are thinking about winter camping in an RV.

Tiger Run view

“You must be bonkers!” This was the typical response when we first said we were going to go on a ski trip in our motorhome. Perhaps we were, but several years later we are now seasoned motorhome skiers and love it. Our latest motorhome ski trip in the US took in fourteen resorts across three states and lasted two months. We stayed at some of the best ski resorts in the western USA. I have shared our route here and would highly recommend it. But what are the benefits of RV skiing and how can you the avoid problems? Where can you stay? How do you prevent freezing when faced with temperatures of -30 c? And what sort of preparation is required before embarking on a motorhome ski trip?  As the world starts to open up following the pandemic, people are starting to plan for the year ahead. If you are thinking about a motorhome ski trip, read on!

RV in winter campsite

Preparing the RV for winter camping

Temperatures in ski resorts can easily drop to -30 c at night. Motorhome skiing can be great fun, but you and your RV will freeze unless you plan and prepare.

Insulation

We have a 28 foot Class C motorhome. It is not one of those huge, luxurious motor coaches or fifth wheels, but we manage perfectly well in this. Our windows in the habitation area are double glazed, but we still cover them with heat reflecting insulation at night. The windows in the front cab are not double glazed, of course, so in the winter, we close the cab off completely.

Motorhome ski trip insulation

Closing off the cab area to insulate the habitation area

The pink insulation foam is easily available from any hardware store; the ply wood top is also easy to acquire and cut down to size. Someone suggested to me that this was too much if you move frequently, but I would say it takes less than one minute to remove the foam and ply wood and about as long to put it back. When travelling between resorts, we do not put it away properly; we just put it on the bed! We insulate around the slide with extra carpet and foam pieces to prevent drafts. When we first decided to try winter camping, we bought some cheap carpet from Home Base for the floors. This makes the hab (habitation space) very homely. We thought we would remove it in summer, but we don’t. Another potential weak point is the step and the door to the hab as this is not insulated very well.

The door of the RV before insulation

The habitation door without insulation

We cover the step with pink foam and cover the door with the cushions which came with the RV for the beds over the cab (which we do not use). They fit perfectly, tuck neatly behind the grab handle and provide great insulation.

Motorhome door insulated for RV ski trip

The habitation door with insulation

I worried initially that this would be an impediment if we had to get out quickly, but in fact it would be just a matter of pulling the cushions out of the way. We also have an escape window in the bedroom area of the motor home.

Water

Water and waste tanks can present problems if you are not prepared. We have heated tanks and these are a must for winter camping. The heat pads come on when the temperature drops below 5c. In addition we have heat tape wrapped around all the water pipes. The pipes will freeze without this and it is no fun waking up in the morning to find you are without water and even less fun to find you have poopsicles and cannot empty the waste tank! All the lockers where there are valves and pipes have additional bubble-wrap insulation. It is absolutely essential to have an insulated and heat-taped hose if you are going to hook up to the city water. We made our own with foam pipe insulation and heat tape, but it is possible to purchase them ready made. The alternative is simply to fill the water tank and top it up as needed.

Heating

We have a propane furnace in the RV and this is very effective, but it is noisy and we do not run it unless we need a quick blast of heat, usually first thing in the morning. When we go motorhome skiing, however, we almost always have an electric hook up. This enables us to run an electric heater. Our choice is an oil filled radiator as we can leave this on over night without it making a noise. Some people swear by a heated mattress cover but we have never needed this. I do keep a hot water bottle though and find that this is sufficient to warm up the bed!

Choosing a ski pass: Epic or Ikon?

Multi-resort season passes are ideal for an RV ski trip and in the USA there are now two major ones from which to choose: the Epic Pass and the Ikon Pass. Both cover lots of different resorts across North America (and even some resorts other countries!) When planning a trip one of the first decisions to be made is which pass to buy. The best deals are to be had by purchasing before a cut off day in April as then the pass includes “buddy passes”. These provide cut price deals for friends and family. After April the buddy passes are not included, but the real deadline to watch out for is usually in September when the cost of the passes increases enormously.

Covid update: special arrangements are in place this year so that skiers can wait much longer before committing to the season pass and still get all the benefits which usually only come with early bird purchases.

There are also different levels of pass available: the full pass, which gives complete access to all resorts with no black out days, and the local or base pass which has some black out days (eg. President’s Day weekend) and some restrictions on certain resorts. For instance, on the Epic Local pass, skiing at Vail, Beaver Creek and Whistler is restricted to a total of 10 days.

So which pass to buy?

This depends very much on where your RV ski trip will take you. For our latest trip we bought both the Epic Local and the Ikon Base passes. This was perhaps rather extravagant, but there are resorts on the Ikon pass which we had never skied and really wanted to try. At the same time we were reluctant to give up on the opportunity to ski at some of our favourite resorts on the Epic Pass. It is worth noting that one day at many resorts can cost $200 and more, so buying the season pass makes absolute sense of you are going to ski more than 3 or 4 days. Next season, however, we will have to choose! Epic local is $729 for season 2020/21 and $699 for an Ikon Base (cheaper if this is a renewal) but check the latest prices on Epic and Ikon

The Motorhome Ski Trip: our route

This is the route we took on our last motorhome ski trip.

RV Ski Trip Stop #1: Tiger Run RV Resort, Breckenridge 

The Tiger Run RV Resort is one of our favourite places to stay in winter. It is located about three miles from the gondola at Breckenridge and is fully winterised. Every site has an electric hook up and the water spigots are designed so that they will not freeze – although a heated, insulated hose is required if you hook up to your RV. There is a club house with a pool, fitness centre and two hot tubs. There are also social gatherings in the club house every week where ski adventures are shared and RV woes solved. We have made many friends there over the years. On non-ski days there are some great hiking trails in the area.

Tiger Run club house

The club house at Tiger Run RV Resort

 

From Tiger Run we skied the following resorts:

Breckenridge 

Breck is on the Epic Pass and is a firm favourite, an absolutely fabulous mountain with something for everyone. Favourite run: Whale’s Tail and Peak 6 if there is fresh snow; anywhere on Peak 10 if there isn’t. Getting there:  There is free parking on Airport Road and shuttle buses ferry people up to the gondola. There is pay parking next to the gondola and a new multi-storey parking lot is currently in the planning. There is a free bus which runs to the gondola every half hour from outside Tiger Run.

Vail 

Vail is on the Epic Pass. It is difficult to beat the Vail back bowls and this remains my favourite resort. There is a vast range of terrain with wide open spaces, tree covered slopes, long groomers and a plethora of mogul fields. Favourite run: Sundown Bowl or most of the runs in Blue Sky Basin Getting there: The only downside to Vail is that parking is expensive ($30 dollars per day) and there is no free parking. Depending on traffic, it takes between half an hour and 45 minutes to Vail from Tiger Run.

Skiing at Vail on our motorhome ski trip

On the piste at Vail

Beaver Creek

Beaver Creek is another great resort with some really challenging terrain as well as some lovely, relaxed slopes. It is on the Epic Pass. Don’t miss the freshly baked cookies at the base every afternoon at 3.00 pm – they are free! Favourite run: the front side of Grouse Mountain, especially if there is fresh snow. I am also fond of Rose Bowl. Getting there: Parking is expensive if you park in the village, but Elk Lot and Bear Lot are $10 per day with a free shuttle up to the base area. Even better, parking at Arrowhead is free and just a short walk to the nearest lift. It is at the far end of the resort and the way back is along a slow ski road, but that is not really a hardship. It takes 45 minutes to an hour to drive to Beaver Creek.

Keystone

Keystone is on the Epic Pass.  It is a great resort with every kind of terrain you could wish for, although some of the runs have quite a long flat run-out at the end. Favourite run: anywhere over on the Outback side. Getting there: Keystone is easily accessed by the free bus service. It is on the Swan Flyer route and takes about half an hour from Tiger Run.There is extensive free parking in Keystone, although it is then a bit of a trog through village to the lifts. The free carts to pull the skis along make this rather more palatable though.

Arapahoe Basin

A Basin is now on the Ikon Pass although it used to be on Epic. A Basin is a fairly small resort and is regarded as one of the most challenging. The slopes are very steep and there are very few green slopes. The blue slopes in A Basin would be black in other resorts, in my opinion. When there is fresh snow though, there is no where better. Favourite run: anywhere in the Montezuma Bowl Getting there: A Basin is on the Swan Flyer Bus Route and is about 10 minutes further on than Keystone. Most of the parking at A Basin is free.

Copper Mountain

Copper Mountain is on the Ikon pass. We really liked Copper. There are some very long runs and no flat run out at the end as you find in some resorts. Favourite run: Triple Treat. This long run had good sized bumps when we were there and lots of loose snow. It was challenging, but not overly so. We also enjoyed Copper Bowl, although some rocks were showing through when we went. With a good fall of snow, this would be a fantastic bowl to ski. Getting there: Copper Mountain is just 15 miles from Tiger Run and accessible on free bus from the campsite, although it does require a change of buses in Frisco. We had a hire car, however, so opted to drive. There is free parking at Alpine lot and it is then just a short bus ride (free) to village and lifts. A major plus is that the buses are like airport buses and very easy to get on and off whilst carrying skis.

Winter Park

Winter Park is on the Ikon Pass. We only skied one day at Winter Park on this trip but loved it and will definitely return. I think we saw it at its best! It was a day of wall-to-wall sunshine and clear blue skies, but very cold. The snow was excellent and strangely, it was incredibly quiet! There were no lift lines and often we had the slopes to ourselves. Our favourite area was around the Panoramic Lift: long runs with well spaced trees and easy bumps. However, I am particularly proud that I skied down from the Eagle Wind lift, a steep area with close trees. I was out of my comfort zone as I am not comfortable in dense trees, but I managed this without too much difficulty. Getting there: It takes about an hour and 20 minutes to drive to Winter Park from Tiger Run. There is some easily accessible free parking (and some pay parking) and a cabriolet gondola to transfer skiers up to the base area. It is then a walk through the village area to the lifts, but there are carts on hand to help with the skis.

Sking at Winter Park

Blue skies and empty slopes at Winter Park

In the trees at Winter Park

In the trees at Winter Park

Aspen – a possible addition

We considered adding Aspen to our ski trip itinerary whilst we were at Tiger Run. It is on the Ikon Pass. However, it takes almost two hours to drive to Aspen from Tiger Run and we ran out of time on this trip so I have included it here as a possibility for the future.  From what we have heard it is a fabulous resort and we shall make every effort to get there next time.

RV Ski Trip Stop #2: KOA Steamboat Springs

The next stop on our Motorhome Ski Trip was Steamboat Springs. It took about two hours to drive from Tiger Run to Steamboat and was a lovely scenic drive – although we did have beautiful weather. We stayed here for four nights and skied at Steamboat two days. (Our visit coincided with a black out day for President’s Day which trimmed our skiing for one day). The KOA Campsite is fully winterised so there are no issues with water or dumping and, of course, there is an electrical hook up.

Steamboat Springs

We really enjoyed skiing at Steamboat. It is on the Ikon pass. The snow conditions were great when we were there and we had some fabulous skiing. There are a lot of trees which makes it very picturesque and provides the opportunity for glade skiing, if that is your thing. There are some very challenging slopes also! I had to take a deep breath when I found myself at the top of Chute No 1 and the only way was down! Favourite run: The Ridge from the top of Morningside Peak

Skiing in Steamboat Springs, the next stop on our RV ski trip

Great snow at Steamboat Springs

Getting there: the KOA campsite is situated about a mile outside the town and at the opposite end to the ski resort, but the free shuttle bus comes right into the campsite and goes up to the gondola station. The bus even has racks for skis on the outside! It runs every ten minutes and takes about half an hour to get to the gondola station from the campsite. The benefit of not having to park makes this trip well worth it.

RV Ski Trip Stop #3: Mountain Valley RV Resort, Heber City, Utah

It is about 280 miles from Steamboat to Heber City and it took us about 5 hours to drive in the RV. The road was very easy, but again, we had great weather. The Mountain Valley RV Resort is a great site with good facilities – two outdoor hot tubs, private showers, two well-equipped laundry facilities etc. It is fully winterised. There is an RV park in Park City which is closer to the ski resorts but we like the Heber City park, as do most of the RV skiers we know. It takes about half an hour to drive up to Park City and Canyons, less to Deer Valley. We had a hire car.

From Heber City we skied the following resorts:

Canyons 

Canyons is on the Epic Pass. There is a lot of variety at Canyons – bumps, groomers, trees, pistes of every level. Favourite run: the runs off the Tombstone Express Getting there: it is an easy half hour drive to Canyons and there is plenty of free parking at the base. A cabriolet gondola transfers skiers up to the lift area.

Park City 

Park City is also on the Epic Pass and is joined to Canyons by a gondola, making an enormous ski area. Again, there is great variety of skiing at Park City. Favourite run: Sundog from the top of McConnkey’s Getting there: it takes less than half an hour usually to get to Park City from Heber City. There is free parking very close to the lift area. This is one of the easiest resorts as far as parking is concerned.

Deer Valley

Deer Valley is on the Ikon Pass. It was the first time we had skied at Deer Valley on this trip and we were very pleasantly surprised. I had assumed it was a small, family style resort and indeed, it appears to have excellent ski school and nursery facilities for children, but actually it is really quite extensive with some very challenging runs. There are lots of mogul fields and some steep slopes. Interestingly, snow boards are not allowed: Deer Valley is a skier only resort. Favourite run: the runs from the top of Bald Mountain, especially Orient Express and Paradise. Getting there: Deer Valley is the closest resort to Heber City, only about a fifteen minute drive. We parked at the Jordanelle parking lot (free) and a shuttle runs the short distance back and forth from there to the Jordanelle Express Gondola. Other parking is available by approaching from Park City.

Snowbird

Snowbird is on the Ikon pass and this trip was the first time we had skied there. We thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a challenging mountain with some very steep terrain and “hard core” skiing. Our favourite area: Mineral Basin, not least because it is in sunshine from early morning. Getting there: It takes about an hour to drive up to Snowbird from Heber City. The drive involves skirting around Salt Lake City so it would be possible to camp there if preferred, but we decided to just drive up from Heber. There is plenty of free parking at Snowbird and easy access to the lifts.

Alta

Alta is also on the Ikon pass. It is possible to ski over to Alta from Snowbird – so we did! As parking is so easy at Snowbird, we still parked over that side when our main goal was to ski Alta. Access to Alta is from the top of Mount Baldy and involves passing through a scanner which checks for the correct lift pass. Alta feels very different from Snowbird, despite the fact that the two resorts are adjacent. Perhaps one reason is that there are no snowboarders in Alta. Again, it has some challenging skiing and we really enjoyed it.

Ski Trip Stop #4: The Fireside Resort at Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Confession time: we had not originally intended to go to Jackson Hole on this trip. We had planned to go to Tahoe and ski Northstar and Heavenly. We had skied these before and I have written about that trip in Skiing in our Camper Van. This would also have been the opportunity to check out Squaw Valley, where we had not been. Squaw is on the Ikon Pass. However, the snow reports coming out of Tahoe were dreadful so we made the difficult decision to change plans and head up to Jackson Hole in Wyoming. So pleased we did! We stayed at the Fireside Resort in Jackson. The Fireside Resort is quite basic in the winter, but there are electric hook ups and there is water available in the park. However, there is no dump. Instead, guests are directed down to the Shell garage in the town which has a dump (for a fee). We knew this in advance so arrived with empty waste tanks and a full water tank. By using the camp showers we managed to avoid having to dump for the four nights we stayed. RV guests are not allowed to use the hot tub, which is reserved for cabin guests.

Jackson Hole

We loved Jackson Hole! It is a steep mountain with long runs and great bowl skiing as well as glades where the trees are wonderfully spaced. The tramcar ascends over 4,000 ft in 9 minutes and takes skiers to the very top of the mountain. A word of warning: the weather can be very different at the top from how it is at the base. On the second occasion we ventured up there we arrived to a howling gale and thick fog. Visibility was almost zero! However, the snow was great at this altitude and the conditions improved as soon as we started descending. The snow conditions were good when we were at Jackson Hole, but not fantastic. I would love to visit when there is a foot of fresh snow! We shall definitely return. Favourite Run: Rendezvous Bowl is probably my favourite run, but I also enjoyed Laramie Bowl Getting there: the Fireside Resort is approximately 3 miles from the ski slopes. A bus stops a couple of hundred yards from the entrance to the campsite. The cost of the bus varies depending on the time of day, but it is only a couple of dollars, I believe. Alternatively, there is free parking down at the transit station and a free shuttle up to the slopes. Free parking is also available at the Ranch Lot, provided that you have 3 or more people in the car. Otherwise it costs $15 during the week and $20 at the weekend. We were very lucky in that our neighbours at Fireside had their truck and invited us to drive up with them. (Even luckier that they proved to be great company and excellent skiers so we skied together every day we were there.) We parked in the Ranch Lot and there is then a free shuttle for the short ride up to the lifts. These run constantly. We never once had to wait.   So there we have it: 14 ski hills over three States! An epic Motorhome Ski Trip. Roll on next year!

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RV Ski Trip

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23 Comments

  1. Enjoyed your article. Thanks for the ego boost regarding our skills on the slope. ???? We picked up brand new Nordica skis in Steamboat Springs, but due to Covid, we never got a chance to try them out! Hope to see you both at Tiger Run next season! Our backseat is always available. Be well.

    Reply
    • Really hoping we are allowed to travel in time for the ski season Sue. Yes, Tiger Run here we come!

      Reply
  2. i don’t often say this, but I am envious of this trip you took. your camper looks so cool and besides the Toyota hiace we haven’t camped in a real motorhome before. it’s on the bucket list as is this trip!!

    Reply
    • Thanks Oli. Hope you get to try it!

      Reply
  3. I am not a winter sports person but I’m so impressed on all the ways you insulated and kept the RV warm!! You guys are super handy. And smart! Sounds like they’ve been wonderful trips!

    Reply
    • Thanks Lannie. The RV life suits us and we are keen skiers so it made sense to put the two together!

      Reply
  4. I love this idea of a skiing road trip! It’s a great way to explore the sights and enjoy a unique skiing experience each time.

    Reply
    • Exactly right! If something doesn’t suit, we can just move on.

      Reply
  5. Oh wow, you guys are awesome for camping in the snow! It never occurred to me to do it but such a great idea of going skiing. This makes me want to get a RV!

    Reply
    • Thanks Vanessa. We did not know how winter camping would work, but have never regretted it.

      Reply
  6. Thanks for the writeup. We have debated doing this in our group with an RV rental. Need to make sure it is winterized enough if we do. If you go to Utah again try Powder Mountain and Snowmass in Ogden. We like them a lot more than Park City and Altabird.

    Reply
  7. We don’t ski but I always enjoy camper trips as it reminds me of when my parents owned one and our holidays in it. We are hopefully hiring one in Septemeber to travel between Sydney and Melbourne. I’m hoping we won’t need the insulation though 🙂

    Reply
  8. What an amazing trip. We’ve done a bit of motorhoming in New Zealand, England and France in the winter but never anywhere near -30˚. That is just insane. Your ‘poopsicle’ comment did make me laugh. Your images of the snowfields are stunning.

    Reply
  9. What a fabulous way to explore the maximum amount of ski resorts. Lots to think about to be sure but it certainly looks like you’ve nailed it! Some excellent tips in here if others are thinking of doing the same.

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  10. I love winter adventures and this looks amazing! The sunset over The club house at Tiger Run RV Resort looks stunning and now I want to visit.

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  11. We’re not campers or glampers; although we’ve been considering renting an RV this summer. I never thought to rent during the winter. Will have to keep that in mind.

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  12. Such great advice. I’ve always wanted to travel by RV but always thought of it in summer times. It’s a great option for winter if you take the right precautions! Thanks!

    Reply
  13. So, I am not going to lie, I hate the COLD! But I do love a good adventure so a motorhome ski trip sounds pretty cool especially to either Breckinridge or Jackson Hole, Wyoming! Plus with the Jackson Hole trip, you can take a side trip into the Grand Teton National Park and that place is one of Darcee’s favorite places in the whole world!
    I guess I would have never thought about winterizing your motorhome but it makes sense! Do you have to leave the water running over night so it doesnt freeze?

    Reply
    • The fall-back position is to leave a tap on a slow drip overnight, but the best solution is insulation and heat tape. I don’t like the cold either – but I love skiing!

      Reply
  14. Our kids are drooling – this is their kid of trip! All is so helpful to plan a ski/snowboard trip even if we don’t RV it, your route looks fantastic! Although the RV does sound very cozy & fun!

    Reply
    • It is, but does not look like we will be able to use it next season! Covid preventing trans-Atlantic flight. Hope you get to try out some of these places.

      Reply
  15. Hi loved your article. You guys walk the true path. I am trying to talk my better half into a ski safari a la cheap. I mean of course the two passes are obviously the way. But living in an RV in the winter, she no like the idea. I think that I just have to get her up to Whistler again. So much fun with the canadians! Then we drift down the powdr hwy and OMG we are in Steamboat!, it’s been so long! Dropping into the very nice Denver suburb skiing, as you described, Hang a right a Utah, and then endure a cruel sundrenched spring in tahoe and mammoth (thats where I learned to ski). I think it sounds like a great plan!

    So with really good expensive snow tires, was driving the beasty totally slow safe and predictable, or are the rear duallys as bad in the snow as I have been told? Hairy driving is really my biggest concern.

    Thanski

    Pat, still meditating on being the turn, see the turn, be the turn, free your mind your ankles will follow.

    Reply
    • Hi Pat. Sounds like you have a great route planned there. If you get the chance to do a detour into California, I would certainly try to take in Tahoe. It is on the Epic pass. We have a class C motorhome and have good “mud and snow” tires. We have never had a problem, but we have also had the luxury of consulting weather reports and choosing when to travel. That is the beauty of being in a RV: you have flexibility. Delay or bring forward the driving days to take account of any really bad weather would be my advice. Inevitably you will have to drive on snow at some point, even if it is just in a resort/campsite so just take it easy. We always carry chains but have never had to use them. Good luck!

      Reply

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Hello

Hello!  I’m Jane. I live in the Lake District in the north of England with my husband, Peter. We love to travel, but this is a great place to call home.

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