Finding a Ski Resort Near an Airport
When planning a family ski trip, you will need to budget for accommodations, lift tickets, meals and other expenses. Don't forget to factor travel expenses into your decision.
One option might be to find a cheap flight to a major airport, like Denver, and then choose a ski resort within easy driving distance. Another option is to choose a ski resort closer to a smaller airport. And a third option is to choose a resort that requires quite a bit of driving from the nearest airport.
How Much Is Your Time Worth?
There are good reasons to choose a ski resort that is reasonably close to an airport. The kids are probably out of school for a limited number of days. Parents likely have limited vacation days. Nobody likes to spend the better part of their vacation just getting to the destination.
Once you've landed in mountain country, there can be huge variances in the time you spend getting to the ski resort. Most Colorado resorts, for example, are at least a two- or three-hour drive from Denver International Airport, assuming there is no traffic (a major factor on weekends).
If you rent a car, add in another 30-60 minutes to get your vehicle.
Flying into smaller, more remote Yampa Valley Airport in Hayden, however, will get you to Steamboat Springs in around an hour. You've just earned yourself several more hours of vacation time that can be spent on the slopes or enjoying the resort.
Another benefit to choosing a resort that's closer to a small airport is that it will likely be less crowded.
Keep in mind that the example above assumes you can fly to the smaller airport directly, which should be doable from major hubs such as Dallas, Minneapolis, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and New York.
Most Accessible Western Ski Resorts
There are a few gems in ski country that are within a quick drive from an airport.
- Aspen-Snowmass is a great ski destination that's just minutes from the local Aspen-Pitken County airport. A 20-minute shuttle ride can take you from the airport to the ski village. If you're efficient you could actually be skiing within an hour of your plane's wheels touching down. Furthermore, Aspen's airport now has many direct flights. Flying into this airport can be pricey, however, so be sure you're booking well in advance or catching a sale.
- Salt Lake City is a major Delta hub that is just 45-60 minutes from at least a half a dozen major ski resorts, including Snowbird, Solitude, The Canyons, Deer Valley, and Park City. Not only does the area get great snow, but this major airport has direct flights from virtually anywhere in the country.
- Fly into Reno-Tahoe International Airport and an hour later you could be on the slopes at Northstar, Squaw Valley, Heavenly or Alpine Meadows.
- Further north in Wyoming and Montana, Jackson Hole and Big Sky are about an hour from small but well-serviced airports in Jackson and Bozeman, respectively. In Idaho, Sun Valley resort is serviced by the local airport just minutes away and is serviced by considerable seasonal flight selections.
By reducing your airport-to-slope time, you may find savings on family travel expenses, such as:
- Not having to rent a car, when a shorter commute to the slopes can be comfortably done in an airport shuttle or taxi
- Cutting back one night of lodging because the logistics of getting back home are simpler and more direct
- Reducing the risk of getting caught in a snowstorm or traffic jam trying to get to the slopes from the airport, reducing gas and incidental expenses
By factoring in airport-to-slope times into your plans, you'll be a step closer to achieving one of the goals of any family trip: To spend your time vacationing, not getting there.
Paul Johnson is the editor of Family Ski Hub, a website devoted to helping skiing families plan and enjoy family ski vacations.