Whether you live and breathe for the crisp winter air, love the adrenaline that comes along with flying down a mountainside, or are a first-time ski bunny looking to pick up a new sport, booking a skiing tour is a great way to make the most out of the winter weather.
Skiing tours blend the freedom of cruising down snowy slopes with the structure and social activities of a tour and are a great way to spend time exploring some of the world's best mountain destinations. There are plenty of tours offering new skiers instruction to build skills and confidence in a short amount of time -- and many others that provide more experienced ski-bums with the opportunity to navigate off-piste powder and backcountry terrain on their own.
Stunning high altitude destinations with powdery mountains and snow-capped peaks are scattered across the globe -- whether you head to the eternal snow and ice of the Alps, opt for the big-mountain terrain of the Andes, or choose to make the slopes of Canada, New Zealand, or Japan your winter hangout -- you'll be sure to come home from your ski tour with thrilling memories and rosy cheeks!
Where to Go
The Alps (France, Switzerland, Austria & Italy)
When it comes to skiing in Europe, nothing compares to the Alps. Passing through France, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy, this mountain range is home to some of the world's best slopes and ski resorts that cater to skiers of all levels. You'll find the best snow conditions from November to February, though there are several resorts offering year-round skiing.
While it might not be the first place you think of when planning a skiing tour, Japan has long been an escape from the winter crowds of Europe and North America.
There are over 500 ski resorts across the country, though the most notable are found on Japan's northernmost island, Hokkaido -- Niseko gets an average of 15 meters of annual snowfall! No wonder Japan is known as one of the best places for snow on earth. Trails are typically open from mid-December through early April with the best snow hitting the area in January and February.
The Andes (Chile & Argentina)
When summer weather starts heating up North America and Europe, snowy slopes start creeping across South America. As the world's longest mountain range and second highest outside of the Himalayas, the Andes are packed with snow-covered peaks, off-piste powder, and amazing backcountry terrain.
Most resorts are concentrated in Chile and Argentina, with Portillo, Valle Nevado, Las Leñas, and Cerro Catedral being the most popular. Peak ski season in the Andes stretches from mid-June to October, and you'll find prime powder from mid-July to early September.
New Zealand is another fantastic southern hemisphere ski destination where you'll find wide-open slopes for beginners and epic terrain parks for more advanced skiers. Most of the country's snowfall hits the South Island, home to three main skiing regions situated around Queenstown, Christchurch, and Wanaka. Snow stacks up from June to October with peak snowpack from mid-August to mid-September.
Planning Your Trip
What to Look for in a Skiing Tour
Once you've settled on a destination, there are a few other things to keep in mind when booking a skiing tour.
If you're new to skiing, look into a tour that caters to beginners and offers hands-on instruction to get you started. For more advanced skiers, you might want individualized instruction to improve specific skills or to learn more about handling backcountry terrain.
For some skiers, the amount of time spent on the mountain is the most important factor. Some tours focus solely on the slopes, while others may include cultural activities or excursions in nearby towns. Others care more amount the number and type of ski resorts they will be visiting. Ask yourself: would you rather resort hop or stay on a single mountain? Are you planning to stick to groomed trails, or do you prefer to get off the resort slopes and into the backcountry?
Make sure to have a thorough look at the itinerary to better understand what kind of tour you're signing up for, and don't forget to check what's included in the cost of the tour. Daily lift tickets and rental gear costs can add up quickly when not included in the tour price!
Average Skiing Tour Cost & Length
Skiing tours are typically on the more expensive end of tours and will go up in price depending on the level of accommodation that is included, where in the world you are, and how many mountains you'll be traveling to. In most cases, you can expect to pay between $100-300 per person, per night for a ski tour.
Skiing tours can range anywhere from a few days to several weeks and length typically depends on whether you'll be staying at a single resort or moving from mountain to mountain or country to country.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
Definitely double-check what's included in your tour price to gain an understanding of what gear, if any, is included. You may need to pack everything from winter clothing to skis, poles, boots, goggles, and a helmet, though you often can rent this gear through the tour company, resort, or a local ski shop after you arrive. If you do plan to pack your own equipment, make sure to factor in additional airline costs for oversized baggage.
Pack clothing that can be worn in layers, as weather conditions will vary, and you may want to peel those layers back after working up a sweat on the slopes. Long underwear, waterproof ski pants and jacket, gloves, a warm hat, and moisture-wicking lighter layers are a great start for your packing list. If you plan to move around a lot during your trip, make sure to keep your packing under control, as you won't want to lug a huge suitcase or several heavy bags from location to location.
As with any type of travel, you'll want to make sure that you have the appropriate visa and immunizations for the country or countries you're visiting. Additionally, because you're participating in an adventure sport, it's a good idea to get travel insurance that covers you on and off the mountain.
Qualifications & Training
No experience? No problem! Everyone needs to start somewhere and while there are no requirements or qualifications for skiers, you should be in reasonable shape before participating in a skiing tour. If you've never skied before, it's a good idea to take lessons or book a tour that offers basic instruction to get you started.
Keep in mind that regardless of where you're skiing, slopes will range from beginner to expert level, and it's important to understand which lifts feature runs that match your skills. There's nothing worse than ending up at the top of a towering peak you're too scared to ski down!
Skiing is an activity with pretty obvious risks -- you are flying down a snow-packed mountain, after all!
You never know when you might be surprised by a rock hidden under fresh powder or blindsided by a tree when coming around a corner. Wear a helmet to protect yourself from a concussion, and stick to trails that match your ability.
Make sure to dress warm, and use gear that fits properly and has been checked for safety. The last thing you need is your boot popping out of your bindings halfway down the mountain.
Self-awareness is incredibly important -- be aware of your own skill level and don't do anything you aren't capable of or prepared for. Book a skiing tour that matches your experience, and if you're just beginning, make sure to stay on marked trails and within sight of your guide at all times.
It's always great to have a day pack with you on the mountain to hold any additional layers and gear you might need, plus water, snacks, and sunscreen.