Expert Tips on Choosing a Ski Resort

Kathleen Roberts
Ski guru Adriana Blake

Choosing a ski resort is very important for the most enjoyable ski trip. If you pick one that isn't the right fit, you may not have a very good time and your trip will be a waste. LoveToKnow was able to speak with ski expert and marketing director of Taos Ski Valley, Adriana Blake, about things to keep in mind when choosing the right ski resort.

Choosing a Ski Resort: Interview with Adriana Blake

About Adriana Blake

What is your background?I was born and raised in Taos, New Mexico which makes me part of a very small club. My paternal grandfather is Ernie Blake, the founder of Taos Ski Valley. Last season was officially my 25th year as a Taos Ski Valley employee, which means I was 12 when I started working for the resort! My first job was handing out free hot chocolate to guests.

Ski Resorts

How many ski resorts are there is this country?According to the National Ski Areas Association there are about 500 ski resorts in the United States.

Are all ski resorts the same in terms of what they offer?

No. Ski resorts vary hugely from one to the next. Everyone offers skiing, of course, but the terrain of the resorts plays a significant role.

For instance, in some places the mountains are small and the slopes are easy, say Boyne Highlands, Michigan for example. Elsewhere the mountains are enormous and the slopes are very difficult. Jackson Hole, Wyoming is a good example of this.

Nearly every ski area offers skiing and snowboarding schools, but each one is different in teaching style, and in the range of classes available.

Lastly, each resort offers different amenities, and many are known more for their "off snow activities," than for the actual skiing. Resorts offer everything from spa treatments to sledding, sleigh rides to shopping.

How would you categorize the different ski resorts?

Size is a big differentiator for ski resorts. Taos Ski Valley is a medium ski resort. NSAA separates ski resorts both by their regions and by the number of "skier days" that they do. A "skier day" is one person skiing on one day. Taos does approximately 250,000 skier days a year; some of the big resorts in Colorado may do nearly one million skier days in a season.

Choosing the Right Ski Resort

What are the most important features that resorts should offer?

Perhaps I'm biased, but in my opinion every resort should concentrate on offering the best skiing and snowboarding possible, not just be a resort with the most bells and whistles.

To make a resort enjoyable for guests it must make the mountain accessible to skiers and riders of any level. That means having a variety of terrain and a ski school for both adults and kids that nurtures a love of the sport and the mountain. Also, a quality resort must have good backup facilities, like rental shops that supply everything skiers and snowboarders need to enjoy their day on the mountain.

What should be kept in mind when choosing a ski resort?

Before choosing a resort, skiers should decide several things:

  1. How are they going to travel? Will they fly to a ski resort far away or drive to one closer to home?
  2. What level of skiers are in the group? If everyone is an expert, going to a more difficult mountain is a better choice.
  3. Are there kids in the group, and if so, are they learning to ski or snowboard? If so, look for a resort with kids classes. If the kids are too young to ski, find a resort with quality childcare options.
  4. What amenities are essential for the group to enjoy their trip? Is nightlife important? Shopping?
  5. Where do you want to stay? On the mountain or further away from the slopes?

A good place to do research is at OnTheSnow.com. This website has information about ski resorts across the country and can help skiers narrow down their choices.

What should be avoided?

Unfortunately, some select a ski vacation based on nothing more than name recognition. Just because an area is well known, does not mean it is the right fit for every skier and rider. I want nothing more than for people to have a fabulous time skiing, so when I hear about people who went to the "wrong" resort for their ability or interests, I'm upset for them!

Trip Planning

Is it possible to enjoy a great ski resort without spending a fortune?

Definitely. For the best deals, you should ski early or late in the season. This doesn't mean sacrificing quality though. At many areas in the Rockies, the conditions in the last two weeks of the season are often the best of the year. Since numbers of skiers fall off between Thanksgiving and Christmas and after the spring break rush, many ski areas offer discounted rates for everything from tickets to lodging.

Check the websites of your chosen ski resort for package deals. Many times you feel like you have the mountain to yourself and the skiing is great.

What tips can you offer for planning a ski vacation?

Every ski resort has great things to offer, but they aren't all the same. It's important to figure out exactly what you are looking for and then narrow down the resorts accordingly.

Enjoy your time skiing, even if you are a beginner. It's important to enjoy the natural beauty of many ski mountains. I think sometimes this gets lost in the drive get as much done as possible, every day. Remember that a ski vacation is still a vacation; it should be relaxing!

Top Choices

Where are your top picks for the best ski vacation?I like the places I ski to be steep and not crowded. I am not very interested in "see and be seen" atmospheres. So, like lots of people who love to ski and snowboard solely for the sport, my top four choices are:

  • Taos Ski Valley (of course)
  • Jackson Hole, Wyoming
  • Telluride, Colorado
  • Crested Butte, Colorado

What else should readers know about choosing a ski resort?

Ski school is an important part of skiing. Many people attempt to save money or believe they are "too cool" for lessons. Then they don't enjoy themselves nearly as much as they would have if they had taken a lesson instead of struggling to learn, or they're stuck on a section of mountain because they don't know where else to go.

Even for expert skiers, a lesson is a great way to familiarize yourself with a new resort and get the most from your vacation. Kids programs have improved tons, and the skills children acquire will lead them to be lifelong skiers and snowboarders.

In addition, in most places, the resort staff is there because they love the mountain they work on. Take advantage of their knowledge and willingness to help you and get great tips and information about the place from all resort staff, not just guidebooks or the concierge.

What else would you like to add?

Finally, keep in mind that most ski areas, especially those in the Rockies, are located at high altitude. Give yourself a day or so to acclimate, and drink plenty of water, and you will enjoy your trip more. Rushing right out to do as many runs as possible on the first day is not necessary nor healthy.

Enjoy the mountains and everything these resorts have to offer.


LoveToKnow would like to thank Adriana Blake for taking the time for this interview. Please visit Taos Ski Valley to learn more about her ski resort and see if it's the right fit for you.

Expert Tips on Choosing a Ski Resort