A ton of work goes into planning student group trips, and it can be difficult to stay on top of things. Ski trips are particularly complex, not only for the sheer amount of gear you have to keep track of, but also because of the varying skill levels that are bound to exist within your group. It’s your job to ensure that everyone’s needs are met, and, most importantly, that everyone has a great time.

Sounds scary? It doesn’t have to be! We’ve compiled a checklist that you can keep at your fingertips to help you navigate the planning process like a pro. From booking group transportation to choosing the perfect ski resort, it’s all here. 

Choosing a Ski Hill Location

North America is a virtual treasure trove of skiable slopes, and while it’s a great feature of our landscape, it can certainly add to the stress of planning a group ski trip. How the heck are you supposed to choose? There are a few factors that might help narrow down the choices, so you can be sure every student gets the most out of the location.

Number of Trails

If you’re only hitting the slopes for a day or two, a hill with just a few runs might suffice. However, if your trip spans several days, you’ll want to choose a resort with a higher number of trails to avoid boredom. For instance, Mont-Tremblant, near Montreal, has 102 ski and snowboard trails, and for you West Coasters, there’s Squaw Valley Resort, which has over 170 runs.

Difficulty of Trails

Unless your student group happens to be your school’s ski team, there’s a good chance you’ll have some bunny-hill newbies, maybe a black diamond veteran or two, and everything in between. Luckily, many resort websites have a ‘Mountain Stats’ section with more info than you’ll ever need, including number of runs as well as percentage of difficulty levels. For example, Powder Mountain, in Utah, classifies its 154 trails as 25% beginner, 40% intermediate, and 35% advanced. A little bit – or a lot, rather! – for everyone.

Availability of Accommodations

Whether you want to reserve a block of rooms at a hotel or rent a house on AirBnB, it’s best to book early, as accommodations fill up fast, especially during peak times such as Spring Break. Before you do anything else, make sure the resort or adjacent town has rooms available for you, or you’ll just have to start over.

Extra Amenities

Are you hearing more buzz from your group about the après than the actual skiing? You might want to choose a location with a vibrant nightlife scene. Breckenridge, Colorado boasts a wealth of watering holes, both on the hill and in town, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming is well-known for its breweries and live music.

What if you have reluctant skiers in the group? Many resorts offer a variety of winter activities, so your non-skiers can also have a great time outdoors. And après-snowshoe is a thing too!

Finally, if you’re looking for an accessible ski experience, your may have fewer options, but there are some nonetheless — and they’re growing! Whistler, for example, offers a world-class adaptive skiing program, and Winter Park Resort works closely with NSCD, a Colorado-based adaptive sports program. Make sure you let the resort know early to ensure availability of instructors and equipment.

Transportation Checklist

Assess Your Headcount

The first step in organizing group transportation is to get as close an approximation of your total number of travelers as you can. This will help you immensely in determining what kind of charter bus will best fit your group – and their gear.

Find the Best Charter Bus Rental for Your Group

Bus.com’s extensive fleet covers all the bases, so you’re sure to find a charter bus that’s just the right size and comfort level for your trip.

Minibus: This no-frills option seats roughly 21 passengers, and is the best choice for a small group headed to a destination that is just a hop and a skip away. With limited storage, however, you’ll have to reserve some seats for luggage and equipment.

School Bus: This yellow school-field-trip classic is similar to the mini bus in amenities, but with approximately 47 seats (again, storage is limited, so remember to set seats aside). The school bus and minibus are the most budget-friendly options.

Mini Coach Bus: For small to medium-sized groups (up to 32 seats) traveling a distance greater than three hours, the mini coach is comfort on wheels. With leather seats, storage bays under the bus, WiFi, and TV/DVD, this guy will have you arriving in style.

Coach Bus: The full-size coach seats up to 55 passengers. It has all the amenities of the mini coach, with an added on-board restroom, so you can drink all the hot cocoa you want en route! 

How to Finance a Bus Rental

We’re confident that there are few more affordable ways to travel as a group than charter bus rentals, but we also remember what it’s like to be a student, and how tight money can be (hello, instant ramen). The good news is that there are so many easy and fun ways to fundraise, and no one is better at it than motivated students.

Fundraise Through Services: People love car-wash fundraisers, and it’s a good way for your group to bond, too (water fight, anyone?). For those in colder climates, there are similar activities you can organize, such as raking leaves, tutoring, or even bagging groceries at the local market (with their permission, of course!)

Host Events: A dance-a-thon is great for raising money, and for getting your legs in shape for those moguls. You can also ask local businesses to donate items or gift-cards and hold a silent auction, or collect used books from friends and family and host a book sale.

Sell Sweets or Candles : The lead-up to Christmas is the perfect time to get your hands on some stocking stuffers or other goodies to sell. Cookie dough is hugely popular (who’s got the time to bake from scratch, right?), and there are dozens of other options, such as candles, discount cards, and candy bars, to name a few.

Accommodation Checklist

You know your group best: are they more laid-back and looking for the whole ski-town package, or do they just want to eat, sleep, ski, rinse, repeat? This can help you determine how close you want to be to the slopes. Staying off-site might be more budget-friendly, and most resorts have a shuttle running to and from town for a small fee. 

As for types of accommodations, knowing what kind of lodging experience your group is looking for will help you decide which one is best for you. 

Hotels

If your group members are looking for a higher level of privacy, a hotel might be the best option. Most chains offer a discount for groups, and will allow you to reserve a block of rooms, so you can still have the experience of togetherness, without having to line up for the shower! 

AirBnB

There are plenty of houses available on AirBnB that can accommodate groups, and this is a great option if your group likes to hang together, or would rather cook than eat out. Many are minutes from the hill, and offer extra perks, such as a hot tub, games, and an entertainment system. Keep in mind, however, that many places do have a quiet-time rule after a certain hour.

Personal Cottage

Someone in your group might have a friend or family member that has a cottage they’d be willing to rent to you – it doesn’t hurt to ask! As a bonus, this could solve the question of where to go right off the bat! Remember, though, that while you’ll likely save money, you’ll probably have to put in a bit more effort in making sure the place is spotless when you leave. 

Packing Checklist

Everyone knows the feeling of arriving at your destination and realizing you forgot something. You either have to do without, sheepishly borrow from a friend, or spend money to replace something you already own. Let’s avoid that altogether, shall we? Here’s a checklist to make sure nothing gets left behind!

Duffel or Suitcase?

While it’s tempting to overpack (hey, you might need that third pair of jeans, right?), consider that it might be a pain to lug a giant suitcase and all of your ski gear over snowy terrain, not to mention the valuable storage real-estate on the bus. A carry-on duffel or backpack is probably sufficient for bringing all the bare necessities – and a few luxury items. Check out our carry-on packing guide for tips on how to pack light like a pro.

Ski/Snowboard Equipment Checklist

Here’s a list of everything you’ll need to pack to hit the slopes, so you can stop stressing about forgetting something, and start getting excited to shred the gnar!

  • Skis/Snowboard (in ski bag)
  • Poles
  • Boots
  • Goggles
  • Helmet
  • Waterproof Ski Jacket
  • Thermal Fleece Top
  • Sweat-Wicking Athletic Top
  • Thermal Underwear
  • Mid-Layer Pants
  • Waterproof Snow Pants
  • Neck Warmer
  • Beanie/Toque
  • Gloves
  • Ski Socks
  • Day pack
  • Water Bottle/Camelback (can double as day pack) 
  • Money
  • I.D.
  • Hand/Foot Warmers
  • Phone with Waterproof Case
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip Balm
  • First Aid Kit
  • Multi-Tool