A Guide to Living the Vanlife During Ski Season

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Open road, endless adventure.Courtesy of Ikon Pass

This article was produced in partnership with Ikon Pass.

“Have adventure van, will ski.” (Well, maybe not exactly.) “Have Ikon Pass, will ski.” (That’s more of a correct, declarative statement.) And, with pass in hand, the saying “have van, will ski more” does start to ring true. (“More” being the operative word.)

A collection of 41 global destinations brings with it a strong allure to travel. And with 33 of those destinations residing within the most beautiful landscapes of North American, a game of “Connect the Dots” becomes infinitely more interesting.

Welcome to vanlife, the lifestyle that takes you out on the road in a van, an RV, a truck with a camper, or a fully customized adventuremobile. Whatever it is, it’s a place where you can catch some zzz’s in between getting from state to state and destination to destination. To help bridge that gap, here are some tips and resources for the open road (as discovered and shared by the robust community of Ikon Pass adventure pros).

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“To build or to buy” is a common consideration when toying with the idea of living out of a vehicle. For those that can swing it, purchasing a built-out van can make a lot of sense. It’s simple, straightforward, and often includes several of your favorite creature comforts. For those that spend the time and effort to build out their own setup, it’s all about unique features, personalization, and gaining an intimate knowledge of the on-board systems. This knowledge can come in quite handy when fixing an electrical issue on the side of a deserted road in the middle of the night, miles from town.

Prefabbed or by way of blood, sweat, and toil, all van owners agree on four critical elements when adventuring in the cold:

1) Ensure that you’re equipped with a comfy, warm bed.

2) Have a system and a space for drying out wet gear.

3) Crank up that heater (you’ll want one) and insulate the windows, as well as the walls.

4) Get your WiFi working. Whether it’s boosting off of a cell phone or investing in a satellite set up, an internet connection opens up the possibility to work from almost anywhere. And this is what the dream is all about: making that cheddar from the road. (Because cheddar lets you buy, well, cheddar, and all the other much needed food necessities.) If you do find a spot where there’s no signal, that’s likely a good sign you shouldn’t be working anyway.

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Once your rig is ready for the open road – insulation and WiFi included – it’s time to find out where to recharge your adventure batteries (i.e. get some sleep). Time spent roaming Google Earth does wonders for this process, as many ski mountains don’t allow sleeping in the parking lot. Be on the lookout for forest service roads, nearby winterized campgrounds, Planet Fitness parking lots, Walmart parking lots, and good old-fashioned neighborhood streets. If you’re planning on parking and sleeping in town, always remember to be considerate and community-minded.

There are several destinations on the Ikon Pass that do welcome campers and vans to stay the night, however. Of these, Crystal’s lot B is heralded as the mother ship and has a well-established community that convenes every winter. For $40/night, Crystal is unique in the offering of full RV hookups. Other options include Revelstoke Mountain Resort and Taos Ski Valley, both of which are designated self-contained environments. When planning, always make sure to check with the desired resorts to confirm specifics and local restrictions.

It’s a dream for many of the Ikon Pass community, driving to and from some of the best skiing in the world. And while vanlife may sound appealing, in reality, it simply may not be for everyone. So, if you’re curious, how do you indulge your adventurous desires and determine if living out of a rambling 19′ x 6′ metal box is a lifestyle you’ll actually love? Well, you take a ski trip.

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With the proliferation of the “digital nomad” and the vanlife lifestyle, there are many companies who will rent you an adventure rig for your 2019/20 ski trip (and beyond). If you go this route, just remember to review vans for comfort and warmth in cold climates, and it’s always important to do the upfront research about where you can park your beastly rig if staying overnight near a destination.

Here are a few good places to start:

Outdoorsy: Think Airbnb but for things that move, opening up the road to Ikon Pass destinations coast to coast.
Adventure Travel Sport Rentals: For visiting Ikon Pass destinations based in Colorado.
Native Campervans: For visiting Ikon Pass destinations throughout Denver, Colorado, Salt Lake City, Utah and Las Vegas, Nevada.
Basecamper Vans: For visiting Ikon Pass destinations near Salt Lake City, Utah.

Of course, your own car might still do just fine in getting you to the mountain. In the end, no matter how you make there – be it family minivan, a hand-me-down civic that’s been through three older siblings, or if it’s your home-on-wheels – just keep the rubber side down and keep that fire in your soul burning for adventure.

After all, “Have Ikon Pass, will ski.”

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