When ski traffic snarls eastbound I-70 on Sunday afternoons, it’s easy to get lost in the clouds, dreaming of a mountain house where you could to stay overnight. Imagine enjoying a leisurely après beer, then hopping a bus for the short ride to your personal ski chalet—shared by eight to 12 of your closest friends. Kick off your boots, sit by a crackling fire, and whip up a Sunday feast (or eat Chef Boyardee straight from the can—your choice). The drive home at 6 am Monday morning is a breeze, landing you at your desk by 8, with visions of pillowy turns still dancing in your head.
Enter the seasonal ski rental, where you shack up for the season with like-minded powder hounds who will do anything to get in more turns. It’s your own weekend getaway, although be warned—you might find yourself devising ways to “work from home” so you can spend more time in the mountains. Here, we offer time-tested advice for how to turn this dream into reality, and make the most of it once you’re there.
1. Find the right roommates.
You’ll probably need a few folks to split the rent, and selecting the right people is critical. The first requirement is a voracious appetite for powder, and a desire to do nothing but eat, sleep, and ski or ride every weekend. Steer clear of anyone who might tire of talking about fresh tracks, sick lines, and the latest gear. Nab anyone with an inside line on cheap or free gear.
Also consider a potential roommate’s skill set. Build a well-rounded team of people with the following talents: chopping wood, building fires, shoveling snow, grilling, DJing, infusing vodka, parking cars in tight spaces, and tuning skis. One need not be adept at tipping back a bottle of Fireball—that can be learned.
2. Be realistic about what you can afford.
Once you’ve settled on roommates, decide what kind of place you need. Be prepared to slum it a little to avoid spending a fortune. The people to beds ratio might exceed 1:1. Keep in mind that walk-in closets can double as bedrooms in a pinch. (Just kidding. Sort of.)
A few important questions can make sure everyone is on the same page. Will the house be packed to the gills every weekend, or will you rotate? (Beware: Powder days can throw a wrench into any schedule. No one wants to miss out on a big dump.) Does each person need a bedroom, or bed? Will bedrooms be assigned or first-come first-served? Are people willing to crib out on couches or air mattresses on peak weekends?
Other considerations include: Do you want to be on the bus line? Is it worth it to pay less and have to hoof it half a mile to the bus stop? Is a garage a must? How many cars do you need to cram in the driveway? (See above—parking in tight spaces—under roommate skills.)
3. Leave no stone unturned to find a place.
Ski rentals in Colorado are a hot commodity, so you’ll have to work hard and act fast to find a place. Expect to sign a six-month lease, from November through April. Leasing activity starts as early as July or August and works up to frenzy after Labor Day. Another wave of availability starts when houses that are on the market don’t sell by October (i.e., now).
So, where to look? Craigslist High Rockies is a good place to start, although you might be competing for places with swarms of South Americans who come for the season on temporary work visas. You can try asking VRBO or Airbnb owners if they would consider a seasonal rental—but it’s a long shot. Beyond this, we asked a few local experts to give us the scoop on the seasonal rental market in their areas.
Winter Park: FraserValleyHousing.com manages properties in the Winter Park area and offers a variety of winter rentals. Owner Brent Quinn says he sold out in record time this year. He opens his listings for rent as early as July and suggests people get on it early.
Summit County: Dwell Summit manages 25 seasonal rentals. President Tanya Delahoz says people used to start inquiring about rentals after Labor Day, but in recent years her business has shifted earlier. She says housing is very tight in Summit County so landlords can be choosy when selecting renters. Her advice? Treat a showing like a job interview: Be on time, professional, and polite.
Vail: Pickings are slim in Vail. Vail Realtor Andy Forstl says your best bet is to nab a place that’s on the market but hasn’t sold. Get in with a local real estate agent who can alert you as soon as a place pops up. Another option is to scour the Vail Daily classifieds, which include some seasonal rentals.
If you miss the boat this season, start scheming for next year. Butter up realtors, property managers, or locals who might have an inside line on places.
4. Stock the house at the start of the season.
At the beginning of the season, go on a Costco run and pile the cart high with essentials like toilet paper, paper towels, spices, butter, olive oil, coffee, and sugar. Have all your roommates pitch in, and keep some extra cash in the kitty for other group expenses during the season (like firewood). It’s easier to get ski bums to pony up in advance than after the fact.
5. Establish ground rules early.
Communal living can harken back to your college days, complete with stolen leftovers, dirty dishes, and soiled sheets. Decide at the outset what the rules are. Is food considered communal unless labeled? How about beer? Should people be responsible for leaving beds with clean sheets? What’s the guest policy? What’s the departure procedure if you’re the last one to leave? Write everything down and post it in an obvious place, with potential wood-chopping penalties for infractions. Also consider hiring a cleaner and budgeting this into your overall cost for the season.
6. Set up the man (and lady) cave.
You’re going to need some sort of shop or cave—preferably a garage where you can store the inevitable medley of skis, boards, boots, poles, jackets, gloves, and other gear that will pile up like a pine squirrel’s midden. If you don’t have a garage, use a utility room or some other nook. Add hooks to the walls wherever possible. Hang rods across the ceiling for drying skins after backcountry days. Buy some cheap bins to store hats, gloves, goggles, and other small stuff.
Now for the tuning station. When you’re making a lot of turns, you need to sharpen your edges—a lot. If you selected your roommates carefully, then you have someone with mad tuning skills (and equipment). Essentials include a table, vise and clamp, gummi or diamond stone, edge file guide and file, wax scraper, waxing iron, and hot and cold wax. If you don’t know what all this means, get a roommate who does.
7. Don’t forget about the must-haves.
Beyond your ski gear, that means music and beer. You get extra credit points for a beer fridge in the shop.
Above all else, embrace the epic memories you’re creating in your home away from home. And drink lots of water. You’ll feel better in the morning.