Leap's note: We have hoppin’ news! The ski resorts are reopening for the 2020-2021 ski season, but some resorts are limiting capacity to control crowds. It's more important this year than ever to pick the best time to ski and get a jump on advance reservations. Check out the changes to the Epic Pass, and hop over to our post on what to expect during the Vail Resorts reopening for the latest news and information, including the new online ski reservation system.
If you've been hopping with us for awhile, you know we frogs like to visit theme parks when crowds are at their lowest. OK, really, who doesn't? When it comes to hitting the slopes, we're no different. We like to pick the best time to ski so that there is plenty of powder and we're not having to fight for space on the slopes or afterwards at the après spot.
With a shorter season, families don't have quite as many options when deciding the best time to ski — but overall, there are better times than others. Just like with theme parks, kids' school schedules and holidays are the biggest predictors of crowd levels — and prices! If you can schedule your ski trip around times when the tadpoles are in school, you'll find fewer crowds, more hotel availability and better rates. With working remotely or online education, you just might find yourself with more travel flexibility this year to take advantage of the best times to ski. Now that we're selling discount hotels and lift tickets to some of the top family-friendly ski resorts in the U.S., we thought it would be a most excellent time to talk about the best time to ski in Colorado, Utah and Lake Tahoe. Let's go!
Busiest Times to Ski
Before we get into the specific best dates for the 2020-2021 season, we'd like to talk more generally about the busiest times to ski. These are the days after Christmas and through the New Year, around Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents Day. Generally, these three times are considered peak season. Spring break is a popular time to hit the slopes, as well, but because it varies by school district, it isn't always considered peak peak season. The week leading up to Christmas is also a busy time (and an especially expensive time for booking a hotel), but it's not quite as busy as these others.
Keep in mind that some major ski resorts, such as Vail Resorts, have an advanced reservations system this year. So if you plan to ski during the busiest times, it would be best to purchase an Epic Pass early and take advantage of the Priority Reservation Days. During that priority period, from Nov. 6 through Dec. 7, you can book up to seven days (depending on your pass limits) for the core ski season. If you have a 4-Day Epic Pass, you can book up to four days in advance.
Regular lift tickets at Vail Resorts go on sale Dec. 8. The tickets will be for specific resorts and dates. No further reservation needed.
Least Busy Times to Ski
Not to be confused with the best time to ski, the least busy times to ski and the least expensive times to ski are generally at the beginning and end of every ski season. While the resorts have powder-making capabilities, we generally wouldn't plan a full-on ski vacation months in advance for November or early December. You just can't predict mother nature! If the mountains get an early snowfall, then toadally go for it! Keystone usually gets good early season snow.
The same can be said for mid-to-late April. Sometimes there is a lot of powder and the season can get extended, but that's not something you can plan ahead for. We like to think of it as a bonus — perfect for a last-minute getaway or a way to get a little more milage out of those Epic Passes. Breckenridge generally has snow until the end of May and sometimes into June! We love spring skiing with sunshine and warm temperatures, but you can run into some slushy situations at lower elevations.
Throughout the season, weekdays are generally less expensive and less crowded than weekends.
If you get the Epic Pass this season, you might be motivated to make an early season visit to one of the Vail Resorts. From resort opening day until Dec. 7, only Epic Pass holders can make reservations and access the mountain.
2020-2021 Predicted Vail Resort Opening & Closing Days
Here are the predicted ski season opening and closing dates for the Vail ski resorts. Note that all open and close dates are tentative and subject to change!
Resort — Opening Day-Closing Day
Vail — Nov. 20, 2020 - April 11, 2021
Beaver Creek — Nov. 25, 2020 - April 4, 2021
Breckenridge — Nov. 13, 2020 - May 31, 2021
Keystone — Nov. 6, 2020 - April 4, 2021
Park City — Nov. 20, 2020 - April 4, 2021
Northstar — Nov. 20, 2020 - April 11, 2021
Heavenly — Nov. 20, 2020 - April 11, 2021
Kirkwood — Dec. 4, 2020 - April 4, 2021
Crested Butte — Nov. 25, 2020 - April 7, 2021
Best Time to Ski
When it comes to ski conditions, generally, early January through early March (minus the holidays) is the best time to ski. It's peak powder time, and the slopes are less crowded. Some of the resorts closest to major cities such as Breckenridge will see more crowds from local skiers on weekends, but generally it's smooth sailing. January tends to be the coldest month. Late February and early March are perfect because of warmer temps, more sunshine and more snowfall.
Now that we've outlined the general best time to ski in Colorado, Utah and Lake Tahoe, let's look at what we expect to be the best dates and the busiest dates for the upcoming ski season.
Busiest Days to Ski in 2020-2021
New Year's Eve - Dec. 26, 2020 - Jan. 3, 2021
MLK Day — Jan. 16 - 18, 2021
Presidents Day — Feb. 13 - 21, 2021
Moderate Ski Crowds in 2020-2021
Christmas — Dec. 20 - 25, 2021
Spring Break — March 6 - April 4, 2021
Best Days to Ski in 2020-2021
Jan. 4 - 15, 2021
Jan. 19 - Feb. 12, 2021
Feb. 22 - March 6, 2021
Now you know the best time to ski if you're headed to Colorado, Utah or Lake Tahoe this winter. Need help deciding on the best places to ski? Look no further than our handy ski resort matrix, created with families in mind! Then book your discount hotel and lift tickets with us. Don't froget to make your ski reservations as soon as you know your travel dates.