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There’s really nothing quite like a ski trip — especially one you can take with family or friends. There’s a healthy, central activity to do during the day but with a big wide mountain (or, several, to choose from depending on where you go), there’s also the freedom to spread out and do things your own way so you don’t get tired of each other by the second afternoon.
Then in the evenings, you get to regale each other with tales of your day on the mountain, soak in the hot tub and enjoy some apres-ski beverages as you plot doing it all over again the next day. You can take this type of ski trip and still stay in a hotel, but with a group, it can actually be much more affordable and enjoyable to headquarter out of a ski vacation home rental than individual hotel rooms.
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While there are similarities in what to look for in a ski vacation home rental and, say, a beach home rental, there are also some major differences. You’ll want to do all the normal things you do when looking for the perfect home rental such as read reviews, fully inspect the photos, etc. But, if you’re in the market for a ski home rental, here are nine specific things to keep in mind to find the best snowy house for your situation.
Related: Planning a ski trip with points and miles
Bigger is better
Coronavirus issues aside, generally speaking, ski houses become better deals the bigger you go. The really awesome, fully decked-out ski homes with pool tables, vaulted ceilings, hot tubs and chef kitchens are usually the larger homes with four, five or six bedrooms.
Not only are the larger ski houses usually nicer than say the two-bedroom condos, but if you are sharing the big house with another family or two, you’ll also come out better financially than if you are paying the full rate for a two-bedroom ski home or condo just for your family.
For example, we rented a 4,000-square foot home in Breckenridge that was rated for 22 people for $1,100 per night. That’s obviously a big number, but the home pretty comfortably held three families of four and three sets of grandparents. Start dividing that cost out by family and the true cost per person or family isn’t that hefty … and the big home had a sledding hill, foosball, good kitchen and a hot tub.
It’s also just much more fun to pile the friends, cousins, etc. all in together than it is to sit by yourself watching another Netflix series each night.
Related: Renting a ski home for 22 people
Do you really want ski-out
Shocking no one, ski-out properties are much more expensive than those a little further from the slopes. Of course, ski-in is much more convenient, but you need to put a price on convenience (unless you’re working without a budget). Ski-out is most valuable when you have young skiers, assuming they are able to even navigate the ski-out terrain. A first-time preschool skier may not be able to navigate the ski-out terrain to get to ski school at first, which may negate some of the value.
But generally speaking, if you are contending any nap times or lots of gear for little ones, ski-out becomes more worth it. It’s also more worth it if you are going to need to trade-off skiing to watch kiddos who are staying home.
If you decide you are going to splurge on ski-out access, triple check as to what ski-out means. Does it literally mean strap on skis and go, or is it still a several hundred-yard walk to the powder. Know for sure what location and access you are getting before you decide it’s worth the convenience upcharge to be “ski-out”.
Related: 7 mistakes to avoid on a ski trip
Consider parking — and plowing
When choosing the best ski home rental for your group, make sure there’s enough parking for everyone, especially if you are going to be coming with multiple vehicles. Equally as important is to research as the quantity of parking is what the street and driveway situation is in the event of winter weather.
For example, will you need a four-wheel-drive vehicle to access the home when there’s snow and ice, does the driveway and access road gets plowed in a timely way or are you on your own to get all the way to the rental when the snow begins to fall.
We actually had a really hard time accessing a ski rental home on an incline once as one of the rental cars just kept … sliding back down the hill since that neighborhood road was not plowed. It wasn’t just inconvenient, it wasn’t safe. So, know the situation so you can choose the best home for your vehicle and driving situation.
Related: Vail Resorts says this ski season is a go
Hot tub time
Video: This Luxury Cabin Comes With an Entire Ski Mountain Just for You — and It’s Only $100 a Night (Travel + Leisure)
If the marquee amenity for a beach home is a pool, the marquee amenity for a ski rental home is a hot tub.
Your aching legs will really thank you for a good soak in the hot tub after a busy racking up runs down the mountain. Unless night skiing is on your agenda, there’s also the reality that ski days end pretty early with lifts usually shutting down by 4 p.m. or so for much of the season.
Unless you’re planning on going out at night (and I highly doubt that’s going to be a thing this season), you’re going to need some built-in entertainment at your lodging. A hot tub and apres-ski drinks at home is a great complement to other amenities such as a pool table, darts, etc.
Related: These are the best Colorado ski towns
Bunk beds are great, or awful
For a family ski trip, the best thing in the world is a room full of bunk beds for all the kids to have a great time and stay self-contained while the adults hang out with each other.
However, if you are traveling with a group of grown-up friends, then pay close attention to the sleeping description for the home as it may say it sleeps 22, but only if six of those are in bunk beds and the remaining 18 sleep two to a bed.
Then again, the swanky, new, ski-friendly W Aspen has bunk bedrooms it presumably markets to friend groups, so maybe a bunk bedroom could work after all for the right group.
Related: How to use points on vacation home rentals
Look for gear storage
A 10-person ski trip means 20 skis, 20 boots, 20 polls, 20 gloves, 10 jackets, etc. — much of which is often still dripping with melting snow when you’re done for the day. The best ski vacation rental homes have a dedicated spot for storing and putting on all that gear as soon as you walk in the house.
It may sound like a small detail, but it’s a small thing that makes a big difference when you are dealing with a whole bunch of damp gear that’ll need to dry overnight and be organized for the next morning.
At a ski home, especially this particular year, you are probably eating in the home more than if you were at a warm-weather destination where outdoor eating was easier. So, kitchens matter — especially with a bigger ski group.
It can be surprisingly fun taking turns whipping up a hearty stew or pancakes for 20, but only if you have the kitchen space to pull it off. So, factor in fridge space, dining table seating and just general elbow room if your ski house plan will include some meals at home.
Cancelation policies can hurt
Hurricanes can wreck your beach house rental, but winter ski home rentals aren’t immune from Mother Nature’s wrath. Snowstorms can stop you from getting in (or out) and an unlucky year can lead to a lack of snow. Of course, all of that doesn’t even factor in the unknowns of our current times.
Trip insurance of some sort is likely a wise plan for a large investment toward a ski rental home. That probably won’t cover you just changing your mind and not going because the conditions aren’t perfect, but should help if you can’t get there — or can’t get out. A pricier cancel for any reason policy is an option if you want to be able to back out if the snow doesn’t fall for your trip.
Otherwise, most ski home rentals are either non-refundable or have at least a 30- to 60-day out cut-off for cancelations.
Are there perks?
Some ski homes come with ski lift access. For example, one vacation home I have rented for this season in Colorado comes with a pass to ski at Winter Park. Other times, I’ve seen some property management companies with relationships tied to the ski resorts such as Keystone, Jackson Hole or Steamboat offer things like kids ski free discounts if you book your lodging through them.
Related: Resorts where kids ski free
If you want to save, look beyond the big names
If your search is finding that the prices for ski vacation rental homes is beyond your budget, first try shifting your dates away from the peakest of weeks. That week between Christmas and New Year’s can be three times pricier than a ski week in January. But if you’ve already tried that and still aren’t finding what you need, look beyond the really big name mountains and to some different areas that still have great skiing.
Remember to price out places like Wolf Creek, Taos, or Crested Butte where you’ll likely spend less not only on your home rental but on everything else ski-related, too.
Related: Best ski resorts for families
There are some amazing ski vacation homes out there, but some of them can run upwards of $10,000 per night — or more. If you are working without a budget, go for the best of the best and have an amazing trip. But, if you have to work with a budget and pick and choose what amenities and features to prioritize, you will need more of a strategy considering location, built-in perks and entertainment, sleeping space and more.
Finding the best ski vacation home can be tricky if you’re newer to skiing and boarding, but with these nine tips, you should be well on your way to a fun, memorable stay near the powder.
Featured image by anyaberkut/Getty Images
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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.