Staying In A Mountain Resort Town For Your Next Ski Vacation - Is There A Better Option?
I’m one of those lucky guys who regularly travels with The Snow Chasers crew on their snowboarding holidays, and over the years we’ve ridden some amazing terrain together and stayed in some great places and very cool mountain resorts.
2016 was a little different; instead of just taking a couple of weeks for our ski vacation, we (my wife and I) grabbed ourselves some Epic season passes and left our ‘real life’ in Australia to spend two months snowboarding with the crew in beautiful Colorado. None of you will be surprised to hear that taking this amount of time off to ride big mountains and hang with our buddies was AWESOME, but there’s a little more thought and planning that was needed for a ski vacation of this length when compared to our usual fortnight sized shred sessions.
Usually we’d pick the mountain we want to ride the most and base ourselves in the mountain resort town attached to that mountain, like Breckenridge for example. This snowboarding holiday we decided to do something a little different and rented an apartment in a small town called Frisco. For those of you that aren’t too familiar with Colorado, Frisco is a little town of about 3000 people in Summit County.
While it doesn’t have a ski resort attached to it, Frisco is beautifully positioned within easy striking distance from a whole heap of awesome ski resorts and their mountain resort towns; namely Breck (Breckenridge), Keystone, A-Basin, Copper Mountain, and a little further away but still within easy driving distance - Vail, Beaver Creek and Loveland.
I don’t know if this is a real term, but I describe Frisco as a ‘feeder town’ because it gives easy access to all of those ski resorts. Because we usually stay in mountain resort towns I thought that it would be cool for me to let you in on my thoughts on the pros and cons of our feeder town experience.
Firstly I’ll hit you with some of the positives as I saw them:
Cost was a pretty massive consideration for us when planning a ski vacation for this length of time. Staying in Frisco for those two months cost us less than it would have had we stayed in a comparable apartment in one of the nearby mountain resort towns. Obviously you could 'down-spec’ your accommodation to get yourself closer to the mountain for the same money, but when you need certain things (for us it was a two bed, two bath with WiFi) you may get more bang for your buck in the feeder town.
Living like a local has benefits!
We took the opportunity to get involved in activities going on within the town. By doing things like volunteering at the local animal shelter, doing yoga classes (a life saver after a big day of riding) and getting ourselves a regular local coffee spot, we scored some serious cred with some of the town folk who made us feel like part of the community rather than tourists just stopping by. An added benefit was that we were supporting local small businesses that didn’t usually get as much of the tourist dollar as the mountain resort towns.
Living like a local also puts you in the driver’s seat for receiving the inside info regarding some very cool local events and ways to save some cash around the place. We learnt about where to find discount coupons for liquor stores, how to get free day passes to Loveland ski resort, how to get two-for-one passes to Copper Mountain, free coffees, the best local happy hour, and the list goes on. We also met guys that worked at the mountain resorts and got the inside scoop on some very sweet and lesser known areas to ride within their resorts. Major score in my book!
Maybe hunting for the best deal isn’t a big deal if you’re only taking a short ski break, but when you’re staying as long as we did every dollar counted.
While the ski resort towns usually have plenty of great eating out options, the choices for grocery shopping and local services may not always be as good or you may pay a little more for them. One of the major drawcards that led us to stay in Frisco was that it had a stack of supermarkets and retail options.
We had a Walmart, WholeFoods, Safeway, a heap of local restaurants and cafes, plus the usual fast food suspects to choose from. We also got to know our local snowboard equipment retailers and repairers really well and developed an excellent relationship with them (through continually having them fix or replace our well worn equipment!).
No lazy option
Being based in a mountain resort town means that it’s super easy to just ride that mountain instead of travelling to get the best runs; whereas if you’re based centrally you can check that all-important snow report the night before, check it again in the morning and then head to whichever mountain resort has the best snow is.
It’s weird, but last time we were in Colorado we also had the Epic season pass, so could ride most ski resorts in Summit and Eagle counties; yet when we lived in Breck we rode Breck. It was the same story when we stayed in Vail (except for a couple of days at Beaver Creek), and then again when we stayed at Keystone. We’re definitely not a lazy crew, but when you’ve got a mountain resort right there at your door step you tend to sleep a little longer and just make the most of what that mountain has to offer.
There was way less people to contend with in Frisco. We were ‘lucky’ enough to be in Colorado during spring break, and while the ski resorts were definitely busier than they had been, we barely noticed the difference in our little town.
The big difference came down to the number of folks floating around the ski resort towns and the flow on effects - like it being tougher to book a dinner table for the crew, very busy retail precincts or supermarkets, and the massive amount of foot and vehicle traffic.
Frisco was basically unaffected, so to me it was an oasis of relaxation after a hectic day on the mountain with the crowds of spring breakers and gapers trying to steal our freshies!
A different perspective
Staying in Frisco was a unique experience, as it was a town filled with interesting characters and places to see and photograph when compared to the resort towns. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a thousand photos of towns like Breck and Vail and there's no question they are spectacular, but our little town (see, I called it OUR town!) had it’s own vibe and points of difference that were more chilled and felt more real to me than some of the more tourist driven towns we've stayed in over the years.
Doing something like hiring fat bikes from a local shop and riding the trails near town was an experience I’ll never forget; particularly riding across a frozen lake. I’m not sure that I would have taken time out to do something like that if I was tied up with the more touristy retail type environment of a ski resort town.
I could go on and on…
But I’d better list off some of the things that could be viewed as negatives. For anyone thinking of taking the feeder town option, I say check out the issues below and see if there are any deal breakers for you or your travel buddies:
The most obvious issue is that you need to travel from the feeder town when you want to ride or ski. It's always awesome having the mountain within walking distance from your accommodation, or even better - the luxury of ski-in-ski-out accommodation! Who wouldn’t want to sleep in a bit longer, or to be able to head home for some lunch before heading back out to smash some afternoon runs?
We had to hire a car so we could get around the place and that was another expense, but at a push we could have taken one of the free buses that ran between the ski resort towns in the area.
If travelling by car to a ski resort it means that you may have to pay for parking, or maybe get there super early to snag the free parking that may be available. I’m an early riser, so getting up early is not too big a deal, but paying USD$25 to park for the day at times was definitely a bummer and because we were there for so long we had to do it quite a few times.
This meant that the cost of parking became another thing to consider when deciding whether to ride somewhere like Vail for example. Of course if you’re car pooling then the parking cost will probably be shared, but it’s still another expense that may cut into your alcohol budget!
Another travel related issue was that if a member of the crew wanted to finish riding earlier than the others, they needed to wait around or amuse themselves in town while the die-hards rode till last chair, or take the option of catching the bus back home by themselves. For some that won’t be a big deal, but there’s certainly other folk who wouldn't want to take any of those options and would instead disrupt the crew's riding by asking for a lift home... Awkward! If you live in a ski resort town that just isn’t a problem because they can walk themselves home whenever they want.
The après action
Staying in a ski resort town gives the whole crew the option of getting involved in the on-mountain après ski shenanigans without fear of being arrested for DUI or wrecking your car! Living in a feeder town means that you’ve at very least got to have a designated driver to get the crew home after they’ve partied till they can’t party no more... And who wants to be that guy?!
There’s no doubt that we did a lot more après partying when we stayed in places like Breck and could easily walk home afterwards. We had some awesome crew get togethers back at our condo complex in Frisco, but there’s something very cool about coming straight off the mountain to an unplanned drinks session. We all know that it’s sometimes those surprise sessions that are the best!
On mountain food
It’s no secret that food on the mountain can be expensive, and if you’re doing it every day it adds up. Living close to the ski resort means that you at least have the option of cruising home for lunch rather than paying USD$15 for a sub-par burger. We tried to counter this by getting to the mountain for first chair and riding straight through until 2 or 3 pm, then heading home to have a late lunch. When the riding was really good that strategy didn’t work, so we definitely spent our fair share of cash on mountain resort eating.
If you’re travelling with a crew then you really want to all be living in the same town, and in the same area of that town. The ski resort towns generally have an abundance of accommodation options to choose from, so you’re pretty likely to have an option to suit your group. Smaller towns that aren’t necessarily geared for tourists may not have the same options.
So that’s a few pros and cons for staying in a town other than a ski resort town. Which would I prefer when doing a snowboarding holiday with the crew? That depends... If I was doing a short ski break, say a couple of weeks, and I had a season pass, I’d probably look at the options in a ski resort town that placed me within a reasonable distance of the other ski resorts on my pass. If I was doing a longer snowboarding holiday like the one we’ve just finished, I’m pretty sure I’d go for the feeder town.
My Frisco experience was overwhelmingly positive and I really did fall in love with the place in a way that I don’t think I ever have with a ski resort town. Hopefully I’ve given you some things to think about when planning your next ski vacation…
My advice is to not overlook the feeder town, as it may just be your perfect mountain resort alternative!
What do you think? Which will you choose for your next ski vacation? Let me know in the comments below!
Dan is a devilishly handsome and tall gent with a passion for travel, laughs, animals, and hanging with friends and loved ones. After falling in love with snowboarding around 8 years ago in New Zealand, he's made it his mission to hit the snow somewhere in the world each year, and so far he's doing pretty well! When he's not travelling, he lives in the beautiful sunshine state (Queensland) in Australia... A place with a distinct lack of snow!
You can find Dan on Instagram.
Save this on Pinterest! Just hover over the image below and click the Pin It Button.