By far the most efficient state when it comes to clusters is Colorado. Epic’s Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone and Breckenridge resorts are within an hour’s drive of each other; Ikon’s Copper Mountain, Arapahoe Basin and Winter Park are within an hour of each other; you can even tag a half-day at Eldora, a smaller mountain close to Boulder, before or after a flight at the Denver airport.
2. Let go of the condo-on-the-slopes dream
Stephen Davis, 38, liked Breckenridge so much when he skied it using his Epic pass that he ended up buying a slopeside timeshare there. The York, Pa., resident continues to resort-hop, though, and projects he will ski 35 days in 2019-2020 with a combination of Epic and Ikon passes, using his timeshare and other assorted lodgings.
But as convenient as slopeside lodging is when you are skiing one mountain, it’s pricey and may not make sense if you’re driving between mountains. You’re better off at a midpoint that allows easy access to each resort. “We look for the sweet price spot between affordability and access,” said Ms. Hoffer, 34, who travels with her husband, David, 52, and their 6-year-old daughter, Lily. They stay less than 30 minutes from the lifts. “But that can be just five miles — we’re talking mountain roads in winter time after all,” she said.
In Utah, when skiing the resorts in the Cottonwood canyons, I stay in the valley, on the edge of Salt Lake, 15 to 20 miles from the base areas. In Colorado, the towns of Frisco and Dillon, on either side of the Dillon Reservoir along I-70, are good options when skiing the Vail-Keystone-Breckenridge or Copper Mountain-Arapahoe Basin clusters.
One bonus: Resort employees tend to live off-mountain, and towns like those are where you’ll meet them, ready to dispense helpful tips if you ask nicely. On my first visit to Aspen Snowmass, I shared an Airbnb in nearby, affordable Basalt with an instructor who advised me to leave my car at the public lot and take the free shuttle to the base areas in order to avoid the resorts’ exorbitant parking fees.