We love skiing and we love going away in our campervan, (motorhome, RV – call it what you will!) so a few years ago we decided to combine the two and go skiing in our campervan! And now we are hooked! RV skiing is the perfect way to explore lots of different resorts and take advantage of those multi-resort season passes. But it is not without its challenges. In this post, I outline some of the places we have been on our RV ski trips and the RV Parks in which we have stayed, as well as offering some hints and tips for camping in sub-zero temperatures. RV skiing is great fun, but it is really important to be well prepared to get the most from it.
Multi-resort Season Passes are perfect for RV skiing
For the last six years, we have purchased the Vail Resorts Epic Pass in the US (although the pass can also be used in other countries where a reciprocal arrangement exists). This gives us access to many resorts in the US and also Whistler in Canada. RV skiing allows us to make great use of the multi-resort season pass.
There are different versions of the pass: the “full fat” version which gives unlimited access to all the resorts; and the “local” version which gives access to all the resorts, but limits access to Vail, Beaver Creek and Whistler; it also has some black-out days such as Christmas Day and President’s Day.
There is a new pass on the market called the Ikon Pass, which covers different resorts from those covered by the Epic.
Top Tip: the best deals on both the Epic and the Ikon are to be had by purchasing well in advance. Buy in April, pay in September is the best deal. After September, the price goes up – a lot!
So where have we been on our RV skiing trips?
Below I have outlined some of the resorts where we have skied using our RV, but we have since skied other areas and you may like to read up on these in RV Ski Tripping where you also find other advice and top tips.
The Epic Pass covers four resorts in Colorado: Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone. Until the 2019 season it also covered Arapahoe Basin, but it was removed for 2020 and A Basin is now available on the Ikon Pass.
Campsites in Colorado for winter camping
There is only one campsite that is set up for winter camping within easy reach of these resorts and this is the Tiger Run Resort which is near Breckenridge. This is a wonderful resort and great for RV skiing. There are hard-standing sites for RVs and also a number of chalets, many of which are available to rent. All the RV sites have electricity (essential for winter camping) and a water connection which is set up not to freeze (although you do have to be very careful with your own connection to your RV, more of which later). There is also a club house which has a pool, games room, laundry and two fabulous hot tubs! We have stayed at Tiger Run several times now. There is quite a community if you choose to join it, with social evenings and gatherings for events like the Super Bowl. The free bus stops right outside the campsite and it is easy to use this to access Breckenridge. It drops you off right at the gondola! The bus can also be used to get to Keystone and A Basin. Although you have to change in Frisco just down the road, it is also possible to use the free bus to reach Copper Mountain. (Note: Copper Mountain is not on the Epic Pass but is on the Ikon Pass.)
Top Tip: if you are in a motor home and do not have additional transport, ask for a site near the entrance to the Tiger Run Resort. It is quite a big park and although the shuttle bus stops right outside, walking up there in ski boots and carrying skis is no mean feat if you are at the far end of the park.
Breck, as it is affectionately called by the regulars, is a wonderful ski resort with a lot of variety in the terrain. Our favourite areas are Peak 6 (lovely hill with well-spaced trees, much of it ungroomed) and Peak 10 (mainly black runs, but they are groomed so fairly straightforward). Breck boasts some of the highest skiing in North America. The resort itself is very high and it takes me a few days to acclimatise to the altitude.
The town is characterful and there are some great bars and restaurants, not to mention a distillery and a brewery! We have also been lucky enough to see the snow sculpture festival each year.
The free bus goes to Keystone also, but takes a little longer than it does to get to Breck. There is a walk from the bus stop or the free car park to the main gondola, but red carts (also free) are provided for you to pull your skis along. The skiing is great, possibly a little more challenging than Breck.
The free bus also goes to Arapahoe Basin. The resort is smaller, but it has a reputation for being more challenging and there is some great skiing here. The blue runs in A Basin are like black runs anywhere else.
My absolute favourite! We skied Vail for several years on our annual skiing vacation before we ever tried RV skiing and fell in love with it. It is an enormous area with an incredible variety of terrain. There is something for everyone here. My favourite area is Blue Sky Basin, but I also like the area around the Two Elk Lodge. Blue Ox is a great run, and High Line is the hardest run in the world ( – according to me!). It is a wall of moguls, very steep and very long. I have done it twice in my life, both times when the conditions were perfect!
Parking is available either at Lionhead or Vail village, but it is expensive ($30.00 per day). I have noticed people parking at on the road at West Vail and presumably they catch the bus in to the centre.
This is a lovely resort, rather more “manicured” than the others, but with some great ski areas. Grouse Mountain is my favourite but I am also fond of the slopes down into the Rose Bowl. Every afternoon, freshly baked cookies are served up by chefs in full whites at the bottom of the slopes. They are absolutely delicious! An added attraction is the “glow worm” which takes place once a week. Children, accompanied by a parent, ski down the slope when it is dark carrying glow sticks. Quite a spectacle!
Top Tip: Parking in Beaver Creek can be expensive if you park in the village parking lot. Alternatively, head for the Elk Lot or the Bear Lot and catch the free shuttle. It still costs $10, but that is quite a saving. Even better is parking at Arrowhead. This is free and it is just a short walk to the lift from the parking lot. The only issue (minor issue in my opinion) is that you then have to ski back down to Arrowhead at the end of the day and it is quite a long way from the centre.
Park City and Canyons are connected, making an enormous ski area. There is skiing here to suit everyone. Plenty of cruisy blues, but also some very challenging terrain.
Campsites in Utah for winter camping
There is a winter campsite in Park City for RV skiing, but it books up very quickly and when we tried to book several months in advance, we were not able to get a reservation. The first time we visited Utah for skiing, however, we found the Mountain Valley RV Resort in Heber City about 20 miles away. This is a lovely park – clean, quiet, well-appointed, but it did mean that we had to hire a car in order to access the slopes. In the event this was not really an issue and parking at Park City was very easy: right at the foot of the slopes and free! We now just stay at Heber City as we like the campsite.
The first time I skiied at Tahoe will go down as one of my all-time favourite ski trips. The snow in this season in Tahoe was superb and there was lots of it. We also had mainly blue sky days, with a fresh fall of snow at night. I was spoiled! Tahoe remains one of my favourite ski areas.
Campsite in Tahoe for winter camping
For our RV skiing we stayed in Truckee at the Coachland RV Park. The North Star ski area is about three or four miles away. The site was good and the staff very friendly and helpful. Our usual problem of accessing the slopes was solved by hiring an “Uber” driver for several days. When he went on vacation, we hired a car, which also gave us the opportunity to ski at Heavenly, about an hour’s drive away.
We love North Star. There is some challenging skiing and there are also lots of lovely, scenic blues. An added bonus is that, every afternoon, free champagne is served up on one of the ridges!
Heavenly also has some excellent skiing, although it is decidedly busier than North Star.
As well as North Star and Heavenly, the Epic Pass covers Kirkwood in California. However, that is a much longer drive and we have not yet been there.
Vail Resorts bought Whistler Blackcomb in 2016 and we have since skied there twice using the Epic Pass. Each year was a very different experience. In 2017, the weather was not good, visibility was poor and the slopes were icy (and very busy). In 2018 we had fabulous weather and great snow! The skiing was excellent. This is a vast ski area with some incredibly long runs and we really appreciated last time just how much variety there is here.
Campsite in Whistler for winter camping
On both occasions we stayed at the Riverside RV Park. It is only about a 7/8 minute drive to the main lift/gondola area from the site, but it is too far to walk with skis. The first year we were there, the campsite operated a free shuttle to the slopes. This was fantastic. If you wanted to return before the scheduled shuttle, it was easy to catch the local bus. It was then a ten/fifteen minute walk from the bus stop. The last time we were there, however, much to our disappointment, the shuttle bus had been discontinued. We decided to book a taxi, but they do not take bookings: you call when you are ready and wait. On one occasion the wait was 45 mins. The buses are good and quite frequent, but it is a significant walk to the bus stop, especially if you are walking both ways. Unlike Colorado, the buses cost: in 2018 it was $5.00 each per round trip.
The campsite itself is good and it is well located with lots of excellent walking trails close by. It is easy to walk into town (once you have ditched the ski boots!) and Whistler itself is a great town with a lively vibe.
Coping with the challenges of winter camping and RV skiing
At night in Colorado, the temperature can easily drop to -30 C. That is cold by anyone’s standards. The main challenge of RV skiing, therefore, is keeping warm and stopping the van from freezing.
Our camper is built to Canadian spec: it is well insulated, has double glazed windows and heated tanks. That is a good start, but it is not enough.
Insulation is key
There are going to be cold spots in the van. The first year we tried went on an RV ski trip, I used the footwells in the cab and the step to the habitation door (both of which have to be closed off) as storage. Everything froze – the potatoes, the onions, the beer….Lesson learned. The windows in the cab area are not double glazed so you have to insulate this area from the main body of the van. The first year we used a special curtain, along with the spare bed cushions which we were not using and this actually worked fine. Since then we put in some insulation boards to make a more substantial barrier between the cab and the habitation area. This is more effective insulation, but it does mean that access to the cab area is not as easy. We also cover the windows in the cab with special reflective insulation sheets both inside and out.
The door and the step area are not as well insulated and at night we tend to close the step off with an insulation board and cover the door with one of the spare bed cushions (it fits very well there, as if it was made for the purpose). I should add here that we do have an escape window in the bedroom area of the van, so if we needed to get out quickly, we do have an alternative route.
At night, we also cover the double-glazed windows in the main body of the van with the reflective insulation. Peter cut the pieces to size so they fit perfectly. In anticipation of winter camping, we carpeted the floor of the van. We use small pieces and strips of spare carpet as draft excluders around the slide.
We have an effective furnace which runs off propane in the van, but we cannot run that all the time. Having experimented with various space heaters, we found the best solution was an oil filled radiator which we picked up in Walmart for about $35. We run this 24/7 on a thermostat and it maintains a constant temperature. We use the propane when we want a quick blast of extra heating, especially first thing in the morning. Yes, I do wear a cardigan indoors, but as someone who hates being cold, I can honestly say that the van is snug and warm.
The main challenge at low temperatures is water.
We have had several frozen pipes. Fortunately, they are plastic and have some give, but we have been lucky not to have anything burst. We now do everything we can to prevent them freezing.
Top Tip: don’t forget to bring a hair drier. You may need this to help thaw any frozen pipes!
- The water pipe leading to the van from the outside tap (spigot) requires care. This is actually quite easy: you just need a heated pipe. You can buy them or make one up as we did using heat tape and foam insulation tubing, both readily available from the Home Depot, Lowes or another hardware store. It is important to make sure that the connection to the actual tap is covered by the heat tape. The alternative is to simply fill the water tank and not have a permanent hook up to the tap, just refilling when needed.
- The pipes inside and underneath the floor of the van may need heat tape also and we have quite a lot of it around known cold spots. We also have extra insulation in different parts of the van, such as some of the storage cupboards outside where the pipes are sited.
- We struggled most with the hot water pipe leading to the bathroom under the floor and this froze several times until Peter managed to gain access to apply some heat tape. In the meantime, we followed the “slow drip” advice: just leave the tap on a very slow drip overnight and it will stop the pipe from freezing.
- Care also needs to be taken with the sewage pipe from the camper. This must be completely emptied when you drain – unless you want to deal with “poopsicles”!
It helps with the internal pipes if you leave the furnace running over night, but we find the noise of it clicking on and off is disturbing so we tend to have the thermostat set very low to avoid this.
You can find more detail (and photos) about how we insulate our RV by following the link to the post RV Ski Tripping!
(For RV storage and organising ideas generally, check out Caravan Hacks and Modifications by MyRig Adventures)
RV Skiing – are you up for it?
An RV ski trip is great fun and is perfectly possible with just a little bit of forethought. Let me know in the comments if you have tried it. Enjoy!
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