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Groups fill the lifts in America’s ski areas

Courtesy Bretton Woods

Competition and socializing are big, too. On occasion, Snowmass hosts the North American Airline Federation, made up of people who love skiing and snowboarding from all the airlines.

“It could be pilots, flight attendants, ticket sellers or baggage handlers. It’s very heavily race-oriented, and it’s all about skiing, racing and parties. It’s purely social,” said Karla Baker, Snowmass national sales manager.

Some have been club members for years, going back to when they were young. Now their children and grandchildren join. “It’s like being in any other social club, like an adventure club or biking club. This is a ski club, and they’re all destination skiers,” Baker said.

The student ski and snowboard markets are also significant. Dan Callahan runs Ski Travel in Virginia and caters to high school and college students. He started it while in high school 30 years ago when he noticed that for liability reasons, many schools didn’t organize ski trips. He saw a willing market, so he began arranging complete trips himself.

The college program is for students ages 18 to 25, undergraduates or graduate and medical students, all on winter or spring break. College ski and snowboard groups contact Callahan, as do sororities, fraternities, biology clubs, rugby teams and even a Polish club.

“We analyzed who went on our ski trips and identified students from 40 states and 22 countries. Last year we even had kids from Hawaii,” he said.

The trips also attract foreign students attending American schools. “Spring break comes, and a group of American students who have become their friends plan a ski trip to Canada over their break,” said Callahan. “The school closes the dorms where foreign students live, and they can’t afford to fly home for a week, so they go on our ski trips with their friends.”

He said the most typical student package includes winter or spring break, five days and four nights, and a four-day lift ticket. “We book four-star, slopeside condominiums at resorts at about $399 per person.”

When people finally take up skiing and snowboarding, it’s usually within a group. “It’s a great way for them to save money, socialize and have great fun,” said Callahan.