STORY: S-Media

BY: Steven Threndyle ILLUSTRATIONS: Max Dalton

Whether you’re looking for fine dining or fine eye-candy, champagne powder or the best champagne cocktail, the biggest drops or avoiding flops, corduroy groomers or your future groom, we have the goods on how to plan the perfect ski trip.

When it comes to planning winter vacations, we live in a strange and complicated world. We’re constantly inundated with information — from snow reports sent to our iPhones, too good-to-be-true deals in our e-mail inbox and cryptic text messages from friends “calling for 15-20 tonight, u good for blowing off work tmrw?”

We have all the planning tools at our hands to ensure the perfect ski vacation, but we still agonize before clicking on the ‘confirm payment’ button. (“Will there be an even better deal next week?” “What if this storm system doesn’t materialize?”)

Planning a ski trip isn’t as much about immaculately groomed runs, high altitude sunshine, or hot tubs on the deck as much as it is about managing expectations. Not just your own, but those of friends and family members who might not see the mountains through the same rose-coloured goggles that you do. Minimizing rude surprises (“what do you mean, our kids are too young for daycare?”) and not blowing your budget (“what is this 15 percent tax that was added to our hotel bill all about?”) are two examples that can make or break a trip. In short, successful ski vacations are lessons in project management. While Trip Advisor has become the go-to website for lodging reviews, ski travel sites like have useful reader-sourced opinions. The more complex your plans are, the better off you are in utilizing the services of a ski travel professional.

Profile: Resorts where you can “pop the question”


The first major test of the ‘compatibility’ of a relationship — a romantic getaway into the mountains. However, a poorly organized ski trip can make or break a budding relationship, causing romantic emotions to melt like snow during a mid January thaw.

Pre-trip planning: We’re going to assume something, here — that it’s “the guy” who is asking the girl to get away for the weekend, or longer, to pop the question. Guys: be smart about this one, lightly suggest, don’t ‘inform’ your date that you’d like to go on a ski holiday (if they don’t ski, you might try the softer term “winter vacation” instead).

Dream destinations: Banff-Lake Louise, Mont Ste Anne (stay in Quebec City, but avoid “Carnaval”), Taos.

What Makes It

  • Soaker tubs, chilled champagne, and puffy, matching terry cloth robes in the bedroom closet.
  • Stunning scenery that will take your mind off the perhaps less-than-ideal snow conditions.
  • Room service, complete with croissants, coffee, and Eggs Benedict.

What Breaks It

  • Skimping on lessons by teaching your significant other how to ski
  • Lousy communication (“I’ve been waiting at the sign board here for 20 minutes and I am %# freezing!!”)
  • You want a spa treatment (that’s what a ‘man’icure is, right?) and she wants to hit the First Tracks breakfast. Go for it. You don’t have to spend every waking hour with each other.

Guys: be smart about this one, lightly suggest, don’t ‘inform’ your date that you’d like to go on a ski holiday (if they don’t ski, you might try the softer term “winter vacation” instead)

Profile: The family that skis together


A wise grandfather once told his expectant son and daughter in law, “Don’t ever confuse skiing with children with how you approach skiing now.” And it’s true — of all the types of ski vacations out there, the family ski trip has the greatest potential for disaster. Epic planning months in advance is of extreme importance. Ski resorts know that parents’ wallets of are particularly vulnerable on vacation (“Oh, Dad, look, they’ve got mini snowmobiles here! I want to go on, can I, can I, can I??).

Pre-trip planning: The man of the house might have done most of the ski trip planning in those forgotten years BK (before kids), but it’s mom who is far more in tune with the little things that can blow up and make a trip an all-out disaster. Therefore, trip planning has to be a collaborative effort in which the needs of the tiniest become the most important. And remember, vacations are not a great place for punishing cranky, unruly behavior. Pay a bit more at the front end (for ski boots that fit, a condo that’s walking distance from the lifts, and all day lessons for the kids) and you will not regret it. A successful family vacation is a hassle free vacation. Let the resort worker bees in daycare and kids’ camp work their magic.

Dream trip destinations: Big White, Copper Mountain, Gray Rocks/Mont Tremblant

What Makes It

  • Hearing your young Jack or Jill exclaim, “Daddy, skiing is so FUN!!”
  • Hearing your young Jack or Jill say, “Daddy, can we come here again, next year?”
  • Of course, you can always put the kids in lessons and sneak back to the room at lunch hour (hey, it’s your vacation, too).

What Breaks It

  • Long flights, shuttle rides long travel with young toddlers.
  • Poor medical/emergency facilities nearby (“damn, we forgot Jill’s inhaler!”).
  • Stuffing too many people into, say, a tiny one bedroom (forget the granite counter tops, a spare bedroom will make all the difference in keeping family sanity).

Profile: when money is no object


American author F. Scott Fitzgerald did not ski, but he wrote a famous line: “Let me tell you about the very rich, they are different from you and me.” Except, of course, at ski resorts, which actually have a pretty high percentage of affluent people because, well, skiing isn’t a cheap sport. However, plotting aspects like personal security detail (if you’re a politician or movie star) or choosing a resort that can accommodate a time-share executive jet does add a layer of complexity to vacation planning.

Pre-trip planning: Best handled by a personal assistant, who can negotiate things like bodyguards to ski incognito with the kids so that they’re not kidnapped.

Dream destinations: Deer Valley, Yellowstone Club, Aspen

What Makes It

  • A luxury hotel with a top not