Here’s how to avoid Presidents Week ski crowds in the East

Newsroom How To Here’s how to avoid Presidents Week ski crowds in the East

Tired of packed parking lots and long lift lines? Looking for ways to avoid the Presidents Day ski crowds in the East? Here are some tactics to try out:

1. Head north of the border

For those who slept through 7th grade history, Canada has a prime minister rather than a president. The country does not celebrate the U.S. holiday. If you can hit the resorts on Presidents Day and after, you’ll reap the benefits of midweek skiing while most Canadians are back at work. Heading to Canadian resorts to ski for the holiday will give you an extra bonus, too, with the exchange rate generally favoring U.S. travelers going north of the border.

Quebec has the deepest snowpack. Massif du Sud and Le Massif have more than 6 feet of snow. But location might dictate the destination. If so, Owl’s Head and Mont Sutton are just a hop over the border.

Mont Sutton snow
Mont Sutton is just over the border and can get big snow.

2. Go night skiing or riding

Most ski areas pack out during the day with long lift lines on Presidents weekend. But once the sun goes down, the lines lessen, too. Eat an early dinner, and spend the evening on the slopes enjoying the night sky. With shorter lift lines, you can rack up more vertical.

Ski the Massachusetts Berkshires at night at Jiminy Peak. In late afternoon, when day crowds peel off for après at John Harvard’s Brewery or Christiansen’s Tavern, you can lap the slopes until 10 p.m. Night skiing operates at Jiminy every day, including the Presidents Day holiday.

Jimmy Peak night
Jimmy Peak at night is a way to beat holiday crowds.

3. Visit one of the smaller resorts

Skip the big boys, and go for one of the smaller ski resorts for Presidents week. But they can feel just as big for a great day on skis or boards.

Jay Peak near the northern border may doesn’t have the 20-plus lifts at the larger ski resorts in New England, but its 2,153 vertical feet has a reputation for skiing like a bigger mountain. Ullr’s Dream run stretches 3 miles long, and plentiful glades challenge tree skiers and riders. Black Mt. in N.H. is another example of smaller resort that makes up for size in terrain variety, usually good conditions, family-friendly, but plenty of space for experts to get away.

Jay Peak snows
Jay Peak in way northern Vermont can catch epic snows.

4. Ski Off-the-Beaten Path Resorts

Resorts located adjacent to major thoroughfares and nearest to cities tend to lure out the once-a-year skiers and riders for Presidents weekend. Opt to drive a little further afield in order to leave the hoards behind.

Plenty of ski resorts are tucked off the beaten path in the East. Mount Snow is a Vermont classic and is one of the larger ones with 20 lifts and 1,700 vertical. For park fans, Mount Snow has 10 terrain parks plus a superpipe. Despite its backwoods location in tiny Dover, it sits within a few-hour to one-day drive from major metropolitan cities.

Mt. Snow
Mt. Snow is tucked into the hills sometimes away from the crowds in Dover, Vt.

5. Ski the Weekend After Presidents Day

On a non-holiday weekend, crowds will be smaller. That yields more skier acreage per person. Plus, there are two reasons to go right after Presidents Day: all the retail shops put ski and snowboard gear on sale after the holiday, and the spring party season begins.

Beech Mountain in North Carolina is a favorite with “Southeasterners” and has plenty of fun events during normal times before and after the Presidents crowds disappear.

Beech Mt.
Beech Mt. is the highest ski area in the east and a favorite any time of the season.

But if you do choose that peak February time…

  1. Look for a section of the ski area that’s a bit off the beaten path, particularly if you can handle most terrain. Look for a back bowl in the west or a tough intermediate bump run. If you stay a few days, you’ll see how the crowds disperse.
  2. Ski through lunch. East early or late, but when the chow bell rings, lots of resorts clear out to the base lodge or other restaurants and you can bag a bunch of additional runs.
  3. Get early access, or as some resorts call it, “First Tracks.” Many ski areas let you get on the slopes early while the corduroy or powder is fresh. Be sure to check.
  4. Explore “stepping up” in your choice of lodging. You don’t need to share a we all with college spring breakers do you? There are no guarantees as you can’t choose your neighbor, but usually higher cost sends the noise away.
  5. Reserve everything you can in advance so you don’t wait in long lines — equipment rentals, ski school, childcare, lodging, flights and driving at peak traffic times from the big cities.
  6. Adjust that attitude and go with the flow. No sense getting stressed out with crowds. You chose it, so relax and enjoy it.
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