1. Plan and Prepare
Find out as much as you can about the resort in question. Are you hoping to venture off-piste for the first time? Are you a park rat looking to hit kickers and rails? Are you a casual cruiser looking for clean corduroy? First time but fearless? This is your chance to pick the perfect resort for YOU. Group ski trips always involve compromise as you try to cater to everybody and find a happy medium. Now you have the opportunity to pick whatever you want. Don’t waste the opportunity.
There are plenty of websites that compare and rate ski resorts in various categories, have a look and see what takes your fancy.
2. Loco about the locals
Nobody knows the resort like the people that live there. These are the people who ski/ride the resort day in, day out, all season long, year after year. Search these people out and ask their advice. Buy them a beer or two and chat with them, likely as not, you’ll get a few gems of advice from them, which slopes to hit first thing, before the sun gets on them and turns them to slush, which to hit in the afternoon after the ice has softened up, maybe even secret powder stashes if you are lucky. A bit of flattery can work wonders too. The amount of times I’ve spilled the beans after someone has approached me saying something along the lines of “I was told that you are the guy to speak to” Hell, I’d sell my soul for a free beer or a bit of an ego massage!
3. All the ideas but no gear
Being poorly prepared and cold sucks at the best of times. But hell, at least it’s only you’re going to be annoyed this time around if you have to return to the car/hotel to get that balaclava to relieve your wind-stung face after 20 minutes. Check the weather forecast before you go up, prepare accordingly and be aware that if it’s a new resort, things can be a little different here.
4. Chat on the Chair lift
Don’t be afraid to talk to people. Most people on holiday are there to let their hair down and are much more open than they would be at home. I guarantee that if you break the ice and approach people, whether it be in an apres bar (organised bar crawls can be great for this) or someone you are stuck on a lift with for 10 minutes, you might just meet another lone wolf who is up to sharing a beer with you later. Maybe it’s somebody who knows the resort well and will share a run or two with you and give you a few tips.
That said, if you are there specifically to go solo, that’s all good too.
5. Set in Stone
Although earlier I said that pre-planning is a big advantage, you can easily go overboard. Having a meticulous itinerary is a guaranteed way to miss out on something awesome. Yes, do your research. Find out which slopes you like the sound of, which bars have great après ski, and which restaurants do the biggest juiciest steaks. But also leave wriggling room for that person that you chatted to on the chair lift earlier. An invite to a hot tub party with champagne and fireworks isn’t something you’d want to pass up on, is it?
6. Have fun and be safe
Ok, I can’t count. Either that or I can’t shut up.
If you intend to off-piste/backcountry at all, assess honestly whether you are experienced enough and ski well enough to do this. Can you accurately read conditions and test the snowpack? Make sure you have all the equipment you need; transceivers that sync with the equipment that the resort rescue staff use, avalanche beacons, etc. Ask the advice of resort staff about where is safe and what the conditions are like, and most of all, tell somebody where you are going and when you intend to be back. If nobody knows you are there, it’s unlikely you will get rescued. In fact, if you need all this advice, it’s probably not a good idea to go backcountry alone. To be honest, it is never a good idea to go backcountry alone, I would strongly advise paying for a guide.