Nothing inspires a good bout of base-area envy like parking next to a ski condo on wheels. These moving mini homes have become the ultimate symbols of endless winters and unbridled freedom. And while anyone can fold down the backseat of his or her Subaru, it takes commitment and coin to make life on the road a comfortable and realistic option.
Recline, channel your inner Kerouac, and dive into these winter-ready rides, ranging from vintage vans to luxury travel trailers.
Volkswagen Westfalia Vanagon
Looking for a pet project? Vanagons are rear engine, rear wheel drive (or four wheel “Syncro”) vehicles with lots of ground clearance. The VW Westfalia Vanagon has a cult following of devoted adventurers, and depending on the condition and model you choose, be prepared to spend anywhere between $5,000 to $80,000. The Vanagon was manufactured in the U.S. between 1979 and 1991, so you’ll most likely need to give your new slopeside home some love. The VW Westfalia Vanagon campers were designed for the market in the USA and Canada and were available only in Poptop (elevating roof) form. Whereas the models built for Europe were available in both poptop and hightop versions. Look for the 4WD Syncro model to enhance traction while climbing the pass to your favorite resort.
Mercedes Sprinter 4X4 Cargo Van
The first generation Sprinter was launched in Europe in 1995 to replace the famous but outdated Mercedes-Benz TN van dating from 1977. It was voted International Van of the Year for 1995. Starting at around $52,000, the Sprinter 4X4 Cargo Van can be modified to suit your base-area needs in style. With a standard V6 engine and interior cargo volume of up to 530 cubic feet, this mountain mobile is adept at negotiating snowy conditions. However, unlike the Vanagon, the Sprinter doesn’t come camp ready. If you’re not a do-it-your-selfer, take a look at Winnebago’s Era Sprinter models that start at $121,974 and include everything from powered awnings, kitchen/bath units and sleeping areas.
If you’re not ready to commit to the vanlife, Airstream’s lightweight (2,585 pounds) and towable Basecamp trailer may be for you. The Basecamp is Airstream’s single-axle trailer that is marketed to outdoor adventure folks. The trailer has flexible space in the back and the large windows in the front. An aluminum, aerodynamic shell and wraparound windows give the Basecamp a modern look, while outdoor extras like the standard visor and optional tent expand the living space. Expect to shell out close to $40,000 for a newer model. Other features include a two-burner cooktop, electric water heater, AC and pop-up USB ports. The Basecamp seats five and sleeps two.
Bowlus Road Chief
If you’re looking for the ultimate in lightweight luxury trailers, look no further than the Bowlus Road Chief. Starting at $137,000, the Road Chief weighs in at 2,300 pounds and offers streamlined styling all its own. An Italian cooktop, microwave and fridge/freezer round out the kitchen space, while the bathroom interior relies on teak decking to provide a polished feel. A variety of smart technologies and an “intelligent thermostat” ensure your mobile ski lodge feels just like home. Bowlus was revived in 2014 making them longer, wider and taller than the originals and are lightweight. The new Endless Highways model is described as being the most advanced travel trailer in the world.