When you are booking a vacation rental property in a ski resort there is an indisputable magic to the phrase 'ski-in, ski-out'. It conjures up images of a loving restored log cabin on the edge of an immaculately groomed piste, of watching fellow skiers carve elegant turns from your living room window, with the occasional spray of snow against the window pane. It suggests stepping out of your front door, clicking on your skis and gliding down the slopes to the lift. You may anticipate avoiding the crush of people waiting for a lukewarm and soggy pizza in the mountain restaurant by using your own chalet as ... a mountain restaurant. And, perhaps best of all, you may look forward to skiing back to your own front door at the end of the afternoon and forgetting about trudging along paths and the indignity of crowded shuttle buses.
The reality may be very different. Knowing the power of the term 'ski-in, ski-out', vacation rental providers are quick to use it to cover a myriad of different arrangements and a range of proximity to the slopes. Here are a few things to watch out for:
1) The 'ski-in ski-out' home that is really 'hiking distance' to the slopes. The economics of housing development on mountainsides mean that when an area is developed next to the slopes, only some of it is actually next to the slopes. There is almost certain to be a hinterland of properties that have access to the slopes...via pathways, steps, roadways etc. The pathways may be short, or they may not. Make sure you ask exactly how far a particular property is from the actual ski slope, and what the path is actually like: is it a level walkway or a series of dozens of icy steps?
2) The ski-in, ski-out home that is reached via an ungroomed trail through the woods. When these homes were originally built the developers cut a trail to them so that they could be sold as 'ski-in, ski-out'. However these trails are very often too narrow for a snow-cat to use; furthermore, they are very likely private property and the lift company which grooms the slopes may have no responsibility for them. Only if the owners of properties served by that trail get together and make private arrangements for grooming will you find the trail in good enough condition for safe usage.
3) The ski-in, ski-out home that offers good ski-in, ski-out access...if you've chosen one of the 2 weeks of the year when the snow is down to that level. Many resorts that offer ski accommodation are down in the valley, and global warming has led to a raising of the snow line and a decline in the number of weeks that snow is on the ground at given elevations.
4) Finally, there is the nirvana: a ski-in, ski-out home that is what it says it is: situated right on slopes which are snow-covered throughout the season and groomed by the lift company's snowcats daily. This is what is often now referred to as 'true ski-in, ski-out'. However, you may find that because this real estate is so scarce it is also very pricey, or alternatively it is developed with rather high-density and charmless accommodation. The Aspens in Whistler is a good example of this. The situation is perfect, right on the slopes, but the accommodation is mostly fairly spartan.
The lesson here is simple. When you are booking ski-in, ski-out accommodation, make sure that you know exactly what you are getting. If you are booking a resort such as Whistler, where there are many gradations of ski-in, ski-out accommodation, consult one of the local property management companies like Holiday Whistler, and question them very closely on its exact location before you book your Whistler ski accommodation.