Off Season Skiing: Interview with Donna Sozio

Donna Sozio
Donna Sozio

When it's time to put the skis away, some people are keeping them around for a little while longer. Resorts are offering off season skiing for the enthusiasts and spring breakers who want to do a little something out of the ordinary. For more information about skiing in the spring months, meet our expert skier Donna Sozio.

About Expert Skier Donna Sozio

Donna Sozio has written over 40 destination ski reports, feature articles, and gear guides for Ski-Europe.com, Snowboard UK, Onboard, Wahine, and Surf Life for Women. Feature interviews include snow legends: Shaun White, Keir Dillion, Jason Brown, Cara-Beth Burnside, Shannon Dunn-Downing, Tara Dakidesa and more. She is an expert skier and lived in the French Alps for three years including Les Duex Alpes and Chamonix.

Skiing During the Off Season

LoveToKnow (LTK): What are the benefits of skiing off-season at a destination ski resort?

Donna Sozio (DS): The upfront benefits are less crowds and lower costs. You might also want to consider skiing mid-week and on weekends outside of major holidays during the regular ski season. Resorts often offer amazing mid-week deals on everything from lodging and lift tickets to all-in-one packages. Lift lines will also be a non-issue and slopes will be wide open.

Some other off season benefits are: quick cafeteria lines at lunch, a relaxed resort vibe, and you can meet and mingle with locals. You’ll see more than one lift operator in a Hawaiian shirt and locals in board shorts and bikinis. You’ll be able to get a reservation anywhere for dinner.

Also, there are some amazing storms in November and in the spring so you can get fresh lines almost all day. At Mammoth Mountain, I have skied in two feet of powder Halloween weekend and enjoyed amazing corn snow conditions in June.

Planning an Off Season Ski Vacation

LTK: Where can people ski during the early winter or spring?

DS: When deciding where to ski off season, you definitely want to keep a few things in mind including: elevation, average snowfall, current snowfall, partial mountain closures if any, and mountain size.

If you can plan your trip last minute, that’s great. You will have up-to-the minute snow records and know how much of the mountain is still open. However, if you need to plan your ski trip in advance, then pick a ski resort with a high average snow record and a high elevation. They are most likely to have the best and longest seasons. A little research can go the distance and get you more bang for your buck.

LTK: In your opinion, where is the best resort for off season skiing?

DS: If I had to flip a coin, Mammoth would be heads. Whistler would be tails. I would be thrilled with either one. Both resorts have very long seasons and work hard to keep as much of the mountain as open as long as possible by making snow. Both ski towns are also bustling and have quite a social scene.

LTK: What are some of the disadvantages of planning a ski vacation during warmer months?

DS: Lack of snow is always a risk along with exposure to rocks and “snow snakes” (twigs) in between the trees and on the slopes. You might also risk the ski resort being a “ghost town” if the season is primarily over, which is just another reason to consider booking your ski trip during a popular end-of-season event.

LTK: What other activities are available for people taking a ski vacation during the off months?

DS: If you have a car, you can drive to lower elevations for some amazing hikes and a soak in the hot springs, which is always an adventure and a welcome reprieve for sore muscles. Snowshoeing is like a snowy hike through the mountains and can offer up some amazing views. Sledding or tubing hills are always fun, especially with young ones. Check out a resort’s website and it will list exactly what activities are offered such as: snowcat tours, private dinners in yurts or mountain chalets, full moon snowshoeing and more.

For spring skiing, consider booking during a resort’s end of season ski party or late spring pro competitions. They are some of the most fun ski vacations I’ve had. Even if the conditions aren’t perfect, the party atmosphere and concerts make up for it. Some end of season parties to consider are Apsen’s Highlands at Cloud Nine, Mammoth Mountain’s Spring Fest, and Whistler’s TELUS World Ski and Snowboard Festival.

Something else to consider is choosing a resort that is an actual town, not just a ski resort like Aspen or Park City. That helps to ensure there will be a social scene and many activities to enjoy even if the snow is sparse.

Ski Vacation on a Budget

LTK: For individuals on a budget, what are some inexpensive places to ski off season?

DS: There are plenty of deals available from major resorts for off season skiing. Don’t skimp on a mountain that has a low elevation and a weak snow record.

If you choose to ski off season at smaller resorts, the slopes may be more crowded because less of the mountain will be open. Another hot tip is to get on the ski resort’s email list. That way you are the first to know about amazing online deals – especially mid-week during the regular ski season.

LTK: How much can someone expect to pay for an early winter or spring ski vacation?

DS: Off-season skiing is a buyer's market. There are loads of deals on lodging, lift tickets, and ski packages. To get the deal du jour, check a mountain’s website. Or if you have to book early, call the reservations department and ask for deals for spring skiing. For example, Mammoth Mountain has deals as low as $99 per person per night for lift and lodging. That’s almost like getting your lift ticket for free.

Additional Tips for Fun Off-Season Skiing

  • In spring, you don’t need to get first lift to enjoy your day. Too early might be like skiing on a hard icy egg, which is great for racing but not for most skiers. By 10:15 AM, when the sun melts that first inch of ice, the snow is amazing. By 12:30 PM on south facing slopes, the snow can “cook” and turn into thick globby peanut butter, which isn’t always fun to slog through. Be aware of when and where the sun hits the mountain. Then ski accordingly to get the best conditions throughout the day. If in doubt, ask a friendly local or ski instructor. With a warm smile, they’ll tell you. Follow the corn conditions, so you won’t be stuck in the glob.
  • Decide what you want out of your ski vacation. Is it strictly skiing or do you want to party? Dine at night in fine restaurants? Or is this a family trip? Then pick your resort accordingly for what it is best known for.
  • In spring, you can find great deals on gear at the ski shops. Many resorts also host “Demo Days” where you can try all of next year’s equipment for free.
  • The temperature at the base of the mountain will be different from the top. Make sure to get both numbers and layer accordingly. Wind speed will also affect temperatures at the top of the mountain. Don’t wear black on the slopes if spring skiing. You will cook.
  • In spring, the locals are celebrating the end of a long season. Relax, have fun. Smile and share the good vibe.

LoveToKnow Ski would like to thank Donna Sozio for taking the time to share her tips on off season skiing.

Off Season Skiing: Interview with Donna Sozio