Traveling the USA on a tight budget is definitely a challenge, especially when you plan to ski or snowboard. Ski resorts are very busy on the weekends and holiday’s. It is a hassle to find affordable accommodation and getting around by public transport.
I didn’t really plan my USA trip. When I entered the country, I only knew where I was going to sleep for the first two nights,that I will leave the USA two months later and what resorts were covered on my Epic Season Pass (at least I got that fixed ;)). Not planning ahead and not doing research cost me money… As I had to decide fast, I made wrong decisions and mistakes. Here are my learnings and some useful information how you can do it better!
📷 Northstar, Lake Tahoe
Planning wise and ahead is key
Be aware you are traveling during high season. December to February are the busiest months in a ski resort. Cheap accommodations are booked out early. Getting from A to B in the USA is not as easy as in Europe. To plan wise, think about the following points:
- Which ski resorts do I want to see?
- Do I want to travel around or am I fine with just one resort?
- Traveling around always means less snow days.
- Check the distances between the different resorts. I totally underestimated the travel time…
Choose the perfect season pass for you
Once you know, which ski resorts you would like to visit, check the options for season passes and reciprocal agreements between resorts. If you choose to travel around, there are several multi resort ski passes. I bought the Epic Season Pass. This pass gave me access to 12 American ski resorts. However, there is also the Mountain Collective Pass and the Max Pass, which are popular. Make sure you buy the pass as early as possible. Sales start already in March, the earlier you buy, the more discount you get.
📷 My ticket to ride – The Epic Pass
Book accommodation early
Once you know where to go, book your accommodation or get in contact with couchsurfer on couchsurfing.com. Hostels are not very common in American ski resorts. And of course you should always consider airbnb.com as an option.
How to get around
Renting or buying a car? Traveling by bus or plane? It’s a matter of costs. The best way to go is with a car. However, this was way too expensive for me, as I am traveling solo. Getting around by public transport is a pain in the ass in the country that has drive through everything. However, I managed it and there are definitely ways to do it. Even though Google Maps says: ‘No route available’. For example from Salt Lake City to Reno, I took the overnight train, operated by Amtrak. Consider domestic flights. If you book at least two week in advance, you can get flights for under US 100$. Need more advice on that? Send me a message.
📷 Sometimes the easiest way is to go by plane.
Bring your own equipment
You want to enjoy the mountain to the fullest? Then you are definitely better off with your own equipment. Most airlines accept your board bag. Prior to arriving in North America, I was traveling throughout Central America.
Therefore, I sent my snowboard gear from Switzerland to the USA with luggageforward.com. They picked up my bag at my sister’s place in Zürich and brought it to my friend’s place in Denver. At a price of US 330$ including taxes and taking care of the customs. A very good service, which I can highly recommend.
📷 I am in love with my snowboard! Renting was never an option for me.
Save on baggage fees
Pack wise, when brining your own equipment. Check weather forecasts and do not bring too much clothing. Make sure everything you need fits into your board bag and one hand luggage. Some airlines and bus companies charge extra, if you travel with two bags. Most airlines accept one item of ski or snowboard equipment as checked baggage. When you book, make sure you consider these costs and check their luggage policy.
📷 Planning ahead is difficult, when your motto is “Go with the flow”.
If you follow these tips you can enjoy a hassle free snowboard trip. However, it takes a lot of planning, researching and decision making in advance. Once you are in the country, there is not much space for spontaneous actions, when you’ve booked everything already.
This is the down side of traveling on a tight budget. However, I dropped one of my plans last minute. It cost me. Having the chance to see Whistler in full operation, was something that I did not want to miss. If you are like me, plan some extra money for unexpected circumstances 😉 Oh and one more tip, bring your own lunch to the mountain. I paid once US 7$ for a banana and a chocolate bar. You do not really want to pay that much for so little!
Enjoy the mountains and if you need more information or help, feel free to contact me. I am always happy to help!