Not long ago, setting up a day-use camp in a ski resort parking lot would have been considered strictly taboo. There would have been a high likelihood that, should you bust out a tailgating kit, a resort employee would be out in short order explaining that you needed to pack up your chairs and that — barbeque grill — or you will need to leave the property. Others might be observing in bewilderment, silently pondering, “Don’t they know that you are supposed to eat and relax in the lodge?”
Like many other variables today, the snow sports industry and its consumer base have changed. The pivot started in the winter of 2008 — when the first Epic Pass by Vail Resorts was released. Vail, and the industry as a whole, had begun to receive criticism from ski resort locals over the costs associated with the sport. The solution for Vail was a corporate-controlled co-op pass that sold at nearly 1/3 of the cost of a resort pass to a single resort. Vail resorts were unique in the market then because of the number of properties they owned. Epic pass holders now had an excuse and green light to travel to maximize the value of a multi-resort pass.
Ski bums are going to ski bum. If said skiers showed up to a new resort in their travel camper, they wouldn’t be paying for a hotel that evening. The compact mobile camper quickly became the weapon of choice for ski bum travel pursuits. The far reaches of parking lots started to resemble campgrounds. The deal was sealed by the pandemic closures, restaurant restrictions, and discouraged time indoors throughout those years. Thus spawned a new culture of ski resort travelers and the cross-over discipline of ski resort tailgating.
In today’s ski culture, it is becoming more and more common to pack some tailgating necessities and hang out in the parking lot. Much like the football tailgate parties — the more, the merrier, and given the right circumstances, parking areas could erupt into an entire scene! It is strategic for most and a great way to enjoy the alpine weather or kill some time while mingling with your crew in the most casual way possible.
It’s all in the setup
Should you want to pack tailgating necessities on your next day at the resort: here are a couple of ideas to get you started.
- Secure a grill suitable for your cooking pursuits. Gas grills take less time to set up / take down and are generally less messy than charcoal. There are lots of options that range from camp stoves to hitch-mounted grills. Find the one that fits your vehicle and taste preferences and roll with it. Don’t forget grilling tools and cutlery!
- A quality insulated cooler will help you to keep your food fresh in the spring and from being frozen solid in the winter. Coolers are also helpful in organizing your ‘kitchen’ and keeping your vehicle clean and tidy.
- Comfy collapsible chairs are pure luxury for the parking lot skier. Camp chairs help take a momentary load off your feet, facilitate a mobile boot-changing station, and multiply the ‘chill’ of your gathering exponentially.
- Set the mood with a Wi-Fi speaker. Leave it behind when you head to the chairlift. Nobody likes the lift-line DJ.
- If your ski area permits it, some great ‘smokeless’ firepits are available. Live fire can be a source of heat and create a center to ground the conversation in your gathering.
The most important part of a successful ski outing is going to start with being smart. Make good decisions. Respect your neighbors on the hill and the road. Share a hot dog with your new friends and get to know the people around you! If you can find your ‘chill’ there are going to be many others that will reciprocate. Be safe and enjoy the Wasatch!
Sharing a bite is always a great way to meet new friends
Megamaster Propane Tabletop Grill
Available at Tractor Supply Co., Heber City
SOLO STOVE Smokeless Fire Pit
Available at Timberline Ace Hardware, Heber City
Orca Classic Seafoam Cooler
Available at Sportsman’s Warehouse, Heber City