Every year, millions visit America’s ski resorts. While some travel alone or with their family, many come with a group.
Traveling with a group to a ski resort is an adventure. Mid-Atlantic resorts offer a variety of slopes and trails that will accommodate every skier’s ability level. Bunny slopes abound for those new to skiing, while legendary slopes such as Timberline’s Off the Wall, Whitetail’s Bold Decision, and Snowshoe’s Cupp Run challenge expert skiers.
When planning a group ski trip, many factors come into play. The group’s size, travel time, budget, and individual skier ability level all have to be considered before deciding upon a resort. Secondly, the group leader must decide if he or she wants to include group members in the resort selection process. Whether the group leader chooses the resort, or the entire group makes an educated decision, DCSki’s Resort Profiles section provides valuable information on every Mid-Atlantic resort. I have found that printing information on each resort, allowing the group members time to study that information, and then voting on one resort works best.
While many youth look solely at the trail map, make sure to remind them that things such as lodging, price, and distance affect the decision. Once a decision has been made on where to go, contact the resort’s group sales office. They will help with lodging and dining arrangements, and even provide ski and snowboard rentals. But if you are looking to save money, independent ski shops such as The Ski Barn often provide rentals that are slightly cheaper than a resort’s. Snowboards are increasingly popular. If someone in the group chooses to rent a snowboard, keep in mind that most rental shops will require a credit card imprint to complete the transaction.
Most large groups, especially churches or Scout groups, will fund raise to help defray the cost of the trip. Many of us picture youth going door-to-door selling candy bars, but more profitable ventures exist. Innisbrook Gift Wrap offers enormous possibilities - traditionally, my group raises close to $2,000 selling Innisbrook’s quality gift wrap, candies, and designer stationary. Additionally, offering a free trip to the highest seller will motivate youngsters to sell more ambitiously!
If the ski destination is no more than a few hours away, personal vehicles are the most logical means of transportation. Buses or vans work well for larger groups. Hiring a passenger coach is the most cost-effective choice if the group is larger than 30. The group leader will not have to worry about finding drivers, less time will be spent travelling, and if the vehicle is a “Sleeper” bus, hotels will not be needed during travel. Around 11 p.m., the bus drivers will stop, convert the bus seats into bunks, load everyone up, and travel through the night. While the group is eating breakfast, the drivers will be busy converting the bus back to its normal configuration.
Many groups choose to eat at the resort’s restaurants. Just as many, however, choose to bring food and have several adults or youth prepare the meals. This will not only cut down costs, but it will also bring the whole group together, allowing friendships to grow even stronger and adding to the overall group experience. By eating in restaurants or at the resort cafeteria, food won’t have to be carried from home, and more time will be spent on the slopes. (Which is, by the way, the main reason for the trip!)
Both methods of eating have drawbacks. For one, resort food is expensive. In large groups, where many youth come with chaperones - not parents, money is tight. These kids can afford $10 a day for lunch, but not an extra $15-$30 for dinner. If you choose to dine in the restaurants, many resorts offer pizza and pasta specials that are not only filling, but cost effective. Preparing your own meals means washing dishes, lugging food from home to the resort, and taking group members off the slopes to cook food. While this could be done in a rotation - one group cooks, the next day a different group cooks- I do not recommend it. Adults are looking to enjoy time away from home while having fun with their group of kids, and most youth won’t enjoy cooking when the snow is right outside the window. With either meal plan, verify with the bus company that your drivers will shuttle you back and forth: from hotel to slopes or from hotel to restaurant to slopes. Buses are very expensive, and it is the driver’s job to accommodate you.
If your group plans on cooking meals, houses will be the only accommodation with cooking facilities. During peak season, a house that accommodates 14 people will cost $2285 for a three night stay at Snowshoe, one that accommodates 16 people at Timberline will cost $2300 for three nights, while a three night stay in houses that accommodate 8 people will run around $1400 at Seven Springs. Apartments and condos will be much cheaper, but they sometimes do not have cooking facilities. Check a resort’s web site or call the group reservations office for more information.
A chaperone should be in every room. Grouping three or four youth with a chaperone will work best. Doing this will keep everyone under control, and also ensure that the youth get a good night’s rest. Sleeping the entire ski day away would be pointless! Don’t forget that the chaperones will often get to know the youth better, and both youth and adults will enjoy the trip even more. Additionally, most resorts have a bar or restaurants that serve alcohol. Do not be concerned. If a young person attempts to purchase a drink, they will be carded and shoed away.
Most group leaders will have to deal with some sort of injury during the trip. As group size increases, so does the injury rate. I was skiing with a ski patrol buddy several years back. When I told him how many people came on the trip (roughly 35), he mentioned that his office would typically treat at least one or two. This is because most skiers that come with a group are inexperienced. They either ski outside their ability level, or are unable to adapt to changing conditions. Thus they careen down hill out of control, hurting themselves and possibly others. Be prepared to deal with split chins, broken bones, concussions, and most unfortunately, death. Though deaths at ski resorts occur rather infrequently, they are often caused by inexperience. If a skier has never skied before, do not allow them to “conquer” expert terrain.
If a member of your group is injured, do not panic. The ski patrol is made up of EMT’s, well-trained nurses and sometimes even doctors. Thus, minor things like stitching a split chin will be done very professionally, and in little time. If a group member is severely injured and has to go to the hospital, have a chaperone travel with them. If the injured person has to remain in the hospital for an extended period of time, have the group come visit. Also consider having chaperones trade off spending time with the injured person.
Before allowing anyone to hit the lifts or make their way to the ski school, be sure that everyone knows and understands the Skier’s Safety Code. Doing so will help to prevent accidents and will ensure that everyone stays safe. The buddy system works well. By requiring groups of two or more, your group will not only enjoy each other’s company, they will stay safe as well. On large mountains, the buddy system will also keep people from getting lost.
Many groups from states such as Florida and Georgia choose the Mid-Atlantic over the Northeast or out West. The drive is short, between 15 and 20 hours, and the cost is much cheaper. Additionally, a trip to the Mid-Atlantic will fit into Christmas Break or Spring Break much better than one to Colorado, Utah, or Vermont. Perhaps more importantly, the Mid-Atlantic offers those who only see snow during a ski trip a wide mix of terrain. The slopes aren’t as steep or long, and those who are inexperienced will feel much more comfortable on the slopes of the Mid-Atlantic than those of Utah or Vermont.
Your trip will be costly. However, most resorts offer group rates that help decrease expenditures. Plan on spending at least $400-$500 per person, excluding individual spending money. Skiing during non-peak season will be cheaper, the crowds will be minimal, and the snow will be superb! Additionally, eating at the cafeteria will be cheaper than a fancy restaurant that offers steak and potatoes.
In the Mid-Atlantic, carefully examine the amenities at Snowshoe, Timberline, and Seven Springs. Snowshoe has an excellent village and pool facility, not to mention 1,500 feet of vertical on Cupp Run and plenty of slopes for the beginners in your group. Timberline and Seven Springs are smaller, but both offer challenging expert trails and rolling beginner hills. By visiting any of these three, your group will have an excellent trip. Many other resorts are also scattered throughout the Mid-Atlantic.
At times, planning a group trip can be very frustrating. The group sales representatives are able to help with any questions, and want to make your group’s trip very enjoyable. Remember that plans might change mid-trip, according to the weather or other uncontrollable circumstances. However, thorough planning will provide for a great trip and allow many people the chance to enjoy skiing for the first time.