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Peak Ski Season - When is it?
Most families likely make some attempt to avoid peak season at ski resorts, and for good reason. Peak season is always more expensive than the shoulder or off-peak season, and peak season has, well, peak crowds. There is nothing worse than spending your time in a chairlift line when you know the skiing up on the mountain is incredible.

When is peak season? While it varies across the country, there are a few general rules to ensuring you are not walking into the highest prices and worst crowds at a resort. The chart below shows what our research has found to be typical peak / off-peak trends across the country. First, however, we'll explain a few of the key variables.

Certainty of Snow. Ski Resorts obviously want to charge as much as they can while the snow is good - that is when they make enough money to keep the resort open. On the other hand, they want to salvage what they can from the shoulder seasons - late fall and the mud season in the spring. It is handy to know your resorts to take advantage of these offers, as some have reputations to being better early/late season resorts than others. A-Basin and Snowbird are two that are known for long seasons, including excellent season well past the peak price season.

Holidays. Resorts don't need to discount anything during holidays. For most resorts in the West, the Christmas / New Years week is one that will book full every year. President's Day and MLK Day are two other holidays when resorts can typically expect business to peak. When demand is high, discounts are nowhere to be found. In addition, you may encounter long minimum stays, such as seven nights.

Special Events. Some resorts host special events which cause them to take their lodging pricing to new levels and not offer discounts temporarily. The best such example is the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. The Utah resorts really don't need to break their prices at all during this week, so they don't. It is hard to blame them, knowing they'll make a very handsome profit from the investments they've made in lodging, shopping, and dining during that time.

With that, here is our analysis of how lodging prices at major Rockies resorts ebb and flow over the course of a year. This is based on spot-sampling eight major, well-known resorts for the upcoming ski season.

This chart is based on what you can expect to pay for lodging in the mountain season by month, as a percentage of the average annual price of the same lodging. You'll see there are bargains to be had in the summer and fall when crowds are away but great outdoor activities such as hiking or kayaking are the focus. The price skyrockets for the holidays (our sample was for the week after Christmas -- much of December still has November pricing), remains high in the Jan, Feb, and Mar timeframe, and begins to trail off after March.

The conclusions? Avoid the holidays. If it snows early, try to get late fall rates at your favorite resorts, or consider an early April trip to a location known for great late-season snow. Best of all, get to know the specific peak / off-peak pricing at your favorite resort and understand what that means for good skiing deals.