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Plan now if eyeing school vacation week – Boston Herald

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December school vacation week — one of the busiest mountain resort weeks of the year – is a mere handful of days away, leaving the diehard skier who may not have made plans thinking, “Never mind if I’ve finished the holiday shopping: How are we going to get out there and ski?”

Good news: While planning ahead for weeks like this is absolutely your best bet, with smart management and a tiny bit of last-minute foresight, you can get out there and savor those turns.

How? With strategy, timing and a little bit of prep, holiday week snow fun is still yours. Here are some tips to consider – and take action on now – to make a holiday ski and ride adventure real.

*Choose your destination and day(s) now. While it is possible to pull the last-minute trigger at many resorts, it’s risky. Today’s ski world means limited ticket sales in some spots and limited parking in others. Best plan at this point? Choose those dates and your destination right here and right now, and book your tickets and anything else you may need (rentals, reserved parking, child care, lessons). This ensures you arrive to a sure thing. No need to risk taking that drive only to find it’s too late and all full.

*Some days are better bets than others. All of the holiday weeks are busy. Do not expect to be able to completely avoid lift lines or crowds. That said, some days are less busy than others. The first two days after Christmas tend to have a little lighter traffic, Pat’s Peak (www.patspeak.com) representative Lori Rowell told Ski Wednesday, possibly because folks want to wrap up their family celebrations (or recover from them; holidays are busy) for a day or two.

Sundays, particularly in the afternoon, tend to be less busy too, all thanks for that to the NFL (particularly if the region’s team is playing a day game). Sunday afternoons are almost always less crowded: folks tend to leave by lunchtime or so, wanting to get home to prep for the work/school week. If you don’t mind driving home later in the day, you can really find some open slopes and shorter lines then.

*Gear up at your car: There are some silver lining discoveries we all made from the Pandemic year, and one of them is how gearing up at your car actually cuts down on the schlep. Here’s how I do it: I drive to the area in my base layer (which in today’s cozy chic aesthetic is totally acceptable should you make a pit stop). I carry a couple of folding chairs and a small piece of rug (a towel works just as well) to be set up off the back of my car for gearing up. I slide on my ski pants and jacket (and I’m not sweaty from wearing that on the car ride), then sit down and click into my boots. Toss the chairs and carpet back in the car, grab my skis and I’m off for the day. At day’s end, I ski as close to the car (or shuttle) as I can, click out, head back and do it all in reverse.

Here’s what’s saved with this: Schlepping the gear and bag all the way to the base lodge, finding a seat in the lodge, finding storage for said bag and shoes etc., and then doing that all again at end of day. Particularly during a busy time, this is great stuff to miss out on, and even more so if you have the kids in tow.

*Consider a winter picnic/tailgating lunch or dinner: Here’s another P-year silver lining: those of us who’d forgotten how fun ski day picnics are now remember, and those of us who never knew now understand. Some of my fondest memories of the old days skiing centered around food: My mom would make a big pot of “Jotty’s Montana Chowder” (I think you’d call it hamburger soup), iced pumpkin bars, yummy sandwiches and more, and that would serve as our lunch. While on chilly days we’d usually savor it in the base lodge, many resorts like Wachusett Mountain (www.wachusett.com) now have accouterments like heated benches, wind screens near picnic tables, fire pits and other spots to enjoy a winter picnic in relative comfort.

You can also – if the parking situation is easy – get those chairs and carpet back out and tailgate it. Go fancy or simple. There are crock pots you can plug into your car if you want hot, and things like charcuterie boards are easy to tote and whip together on site. Plus, what tastes better than a simple homemade tuna sandwich on a ski day?

Doing this means avoiding the crowds inside the base lodges. You won’t need to search for a table, wait in a long lunch line or suffer crazy loud acoustics.

That said, if you do want to enjoy some base lodge food (it’s great too), dine when others tend not to, and ski/ride through the normal lunch hours.

*If you can go another time, stay home: Look, I want to ski every day I can. But as an empty-nester who works remotely, I don’t need to go a holiday week, and so I leave that spot for someone (families with school-aged kids; vacationers who only have that week) who needs it then more. Give me a non-holiday midweek ski day. I raised ski kids – I’ve earned it. But I still might bring that picnic.

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