Skihad 2020 – Countdown to Liftoff

This is the fourth or fifth year of retirement skiing. I think I am getting better at it. Not the skiing; the organizing. If I can stay about the same on the skiing as I get older, that is probably not too bad.

I don’t know how much the “visual” contributes to skiing, but it seems like a lot. The combination of white snow, blue sky and green trees is a solid percentage of the total enjoyment. To say nothing of the mountain views. I doubt the visual is improved when strapped to a ski patrol toboggan, so I have zero desire to be hurt.

Don’t be fooled. Skiing has been dumbed down during the six decades of my experience. The equipment is much better and more forgiving. The clothing is far more comfortable. As long as you have a credit card, there is no reason to be cold or wet.

The granddaddy trip in this series was 2018, a 10-week adventure called Skihad. (Yes, as in jihad, which was off-putting to some.) Thirteen resorts, 35 days, 10 weeks, 7000 miles of driving beginning and ending in Washington, DC. The route looked like a lollipop with the stick extending across interstate 80 and the business end including Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Idaho.

This year will be fewer places — and definitely fewer weeks – five-ish. Two weeks can be saved by not driving back-and-forth.

The multi-venue ski pass is a godsend to the dedicated Skihadist. The pass selection process is designed to be complicated because each group wants to sell you theirs and they make it difficult to see which of their features best matches your needs with the fewest drawbacks. website and owner, Alli Widman, provided valuable guidance. (Disclosure: this story will likely be cross posted on her website.)

This year, I picked Ikon over Mountain Collective because it offers five days at each place instead of only two.

Even the New York Times weighed in on this phenomenon in a story called: Multi-Mountain Passes Upended the American Ski Trip. Here Are 9 Rules.

In response to a few of their suggestions, here are a few of my guidelines (nobody likes rules):

I definitely take the expected number of ski days into account to see if I beat the system.

Ship your gear rather than taking it on the plane. FedEx Ground has been a good solution and you can ship to some of their stores. Look them up online then call to see if they receive shipments. It is no fun if your gear is being returned to sender as you are flying in the other direction.  There are usually FedEx stores near airports so you can stop to pick up your awaiting stuff when you arrive.

I do wish rental car companies would guarantee all-wheel drive vehicles for skiers, but renting an SUV increases the odds. Still, I am not a huge fan of cross-your-fingers logistics.

Google maps is a huge help in determining miles and drive time is between destinations. Sometimes two days are required so that all important back muscles don’t seize up after more than six or seven hours at the wheel. I don’t ski and drive long distances on the same day if I can help it.

This year’s trip will begin and end in Squaw Valley and the loop will likely be Salt Lake City (Alta, Snowbird), Big Sky (with two friends), Jackson Hole, Sun Valley (more friends) then back to Squaw Valley (even more friends).

Planning for this year’s version will linger on through January. There is a paper monthly calendar for the early draft and, as dates become fixed, they go into the computer. There is also a “to do” list that provides much satisfaction as checkmarks are added.

In a nod to a spur-of-the-moment, chase-the-conditions son, I am only making a one-way plane reservation and am leaving some of the stays un-booked. Places to stay are easy thanks to Airbnb and VRBO to say nothing of friends who live in the various destinations. helps with weather forecasts though I am less concerned about perfectness than my fellow readers of that excellent website.

The month remaining between now and a mid-February departure leaves ample time for stretching and the all-important knee injection.

On balance, the logistics are not as difficult as one might imagine and, like everything else, we learn from our mistakes. Besides, logistical errors are solved with credit cards not unintended rides on ski patrol toboggans.

8 Responses to “Skihad 2020 – Countdown to Liftoff”

Bill Gordon, January 14, 2020 at 7:46 pm said:

Can’t wait!
I have a bag packed in Alaska with ski equipment to take to Savannah tonight in preparation for my plane ride to Bozeman in March.
I figure that’s about equal to your 7,000 miles by car!
Look forward to “avoiding the toboggan” with you at Big Sky.


Haven Pell, January 16, 2020 at 5:54 am said:

You tipped my off to Big Sky in the first place so gathering there is entirely fitting. Do your stretching beforehand


C grenville, January 14, 2020 at 7:56 pm said:

I think now is the time to inform your readers who might want to embark on such a ski safari of the now classic book on staying with friends and being invited back: The Art of the Sponge.
Hugely good advice, available on Amazon. Great house gift present


Haven Pell, January 16, 2020 at 5:55 am said:

And thus are the readers informed.


James Walton, January 15, 2020 at 5:27 am said:

Is the driving to and fro interesting? Or just a chore? Even in little Ol’ England, to and fro driving tends to mean motorways, and one never seems to set aside the time to deviate off them, it just becomes a question of ‘how quickly’. But the US isnt crossed by motorways in the same way? In my imagination you turn right out of Washington, get onto Route 66, [ I know…], its all beer and girls and cowboys for 3 days, and then you pitch up in Wasington-on-Snow wondering what just happened


Haven Pell, January 16, 2020 at 5:58 am said:

It is less interesting than a drive through England. One’s consumption of podcasts and audiobooks does tend to skyrocket though.


Peter W Bragdon, January 17, 2020 at 5:28 pm said:

Had to give up skiing in ’84 because of a heart problem — I took a final run on Loon Mountain — in NH or VT — cannot recall where Loon is. But what I do recall is that final run — warm sunshine — yet cool enough for packed powder — on a truly intermediate trail I enjoyed taking large looping turns down the mountain treasuring every moment. I still do many years later.


Haven Pell, January 17, 2020 at 6:06 pm said:

I think you just captured the pleasure of skiing. Couldn’t agree more.


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