Your Guide to Slopeside Winter Camping

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While lurking past closing hours in the mountain resort parking lot has always been the domain of the dirtbag, more ski areas are bringing the practice of overnight stays out of the shadows—and some are downright embracing the car-bound camp movement. This focus on ski resort winter camping, which accommodates visitors of lesser means—as well as nomadic adventurers—is a refreshing step back from the luxury demographic that the ski industry habitually targets.

As the #vanlife movement has grown, so too has the network of ski areas, mainly across the West, enhancing and promoting slopeside winter camping. The accommodations can range from reservation-based RV spots with power hookups to merely a distant corner of the dirt lot set aside for overnighters. For safety reasons, ski resorts don’t allow tent camping, but many are generous with their definition of what constitutes an RV, to include most hard-sided vans and campers.

Gear Essentials for Winter Car Camping

Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort_RendezVan1
Plenty of parking lot laughs at Mount Bachelor’s RendezVan gathering, happening April 22-26, 2020. Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort

In contrast to the hotel experience characteristic of a typical ski resort, winter camping inspires camaraderie among campers who gather around outdoor gas firepits, enjoy night skiing, or set up impromptu ski-waxing parties in the lot. If you don’t mind a bit of cold discomfort, can tune out the hum of snow removal machinery, and can orchestrate drying your gear in time for the next day’s lift opening, this just might be the lifestyle for you. The payoff is right out your front door.

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Whitefish Mountain Resort, MT

This northern Rockies resort is located in the northwest corner of Montana, only 25 miles east of Glacier National Park. The resort offers 3,000 acres of skiing and snowboarding with over 320 inches of annual snowfall. Camping is offered year-round for RVs and trailers for a maximum stay of three days for $15 per day. These dry camp spots are limited and availability is first-come, first-served.

BONUS: The resort offers night skiing on weekends and holidays!

Ronnie Chua / Shutterstock

Hoodoo Ski Area, OR

This central Oregon ski area sits atop the summit of Santiam Pass. Despite a modest 800 acres of skiable terrain, the resort packs in 34 runs and five lifts, with excellent night skiing and a loyal following of dedicated skiers. The resort offers 32 RV sites with electrical hookups, plus 24-hour facilities including restrooms and showers. Hoodoo accepts reservations for both the hookup sites and for non-hookup sites ranging from $10-45 per night. The resort is open for skiing and snowboarding Thursday through Monday.

Austin Shephard

Mt. Bachelor, OR

At 4,318 skiable acres, Oregon’s Mount Bachelor logs in as the sixth-largest ski area in North America with a season that extends from Thanksgiving all the way to Memorial Day weekend. Bachelor is also a short drive from the craft beer and outdoor adventure-famous town of Bend, Oregon. The resort offers overnight RV parking with 24-hour facilities including showers available for $50-60 per night for the 20 electrical hookup spots or $20 per night for non-powered spots, all reserved online. Mount Bachelor is so dedicated to the camping culture, that it recently introduced a weeklong RendezVan camp vibes celebration to be held at the end of April.

 

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Mt. Bachelor

Mount Hood Meadows, OR

This 2,150-acre ski area—a mere 90 minutes from downtown Portland—sits on the southeast flank of Mount Hood at a peak elevation of 7,300 feet. The resort is known for its diverse and challenging terrain, offering accessible beginner and intermediate groomers as well as wild and rugged sidecountry terrain and incredible alpine views. Meadows offers 14 overnight RV spaces (no hookups or facilities) in a designated area in the main lot. These free sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Campers can stay for up to three consecutive nights within any five-night period. The resort also offers night skiing Wednesday through Sunday.

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Mt. Baker Ski Area, WA

Mt. Baker Ski Area is renowned for its steeps, its phenomenal 663 inches of annual snowfall and the incredible views of Mount Shuksan. The resort is located 30 miles from Bellingham, WA, near the Canadian border. Overnight camping is very popular at this remote resort. Preregistration for self-contained, hard-side vehicles is available by text, then pay and pick up permits on arrival. Stays are for a maximum of seven nights. Restrooms are available 24/7 in both of the available lots.

Edmund Lowe Photography / Shutterstock

Stevens Pass, WA

Stevens Pass is 80 miles northeast of Settle, the resort receives 460 inches of snowfall annually across 1,125 acres of skiable terrain including family-friendly runs on the front side and the challenging black diamonds of Mill Valley on the backside. The resort is located just off Highway 2 passing over the Cascade Range, with an entire RV lot set aside for winter campers. The large lot includes 27 40-foot RV spaces and 33 30-foot RV spaces available for $49 per night by reservation only. In addition to a lively après-ski scene in the lot, visitors can also take advantage of night skiing and the free kids’ sledding and tubing area.

Cascade Creatives / Shutterstock

Crystal Mountain, WA

Located two hours outside of Seattle, Crystal is the largest ski resort in Washington, with 2,600 acres over 80 runs. On average, the resort receives 480 inches of annual snowfall across terrain that includes gentle groomed runs to challenging steeps and bowls, with access to expert backcountry terrain as well as weekend night skiing. Crystal Mountain describes its dedicated RV lot at the base as a “small mountain community.” The B-lot, as it’s known, features 60 RV slots with either 50- or 30-amp hookups at a rate of $40-50 per night. These sites are first-come, first-served through the winter, with the exception of major holidays, when reservations are required.

Sveta Imnadze / Shutterstock

49 Degrees North Mountain Resort, WA

49º North is located in the Northeastern corner of Washington State, drawing visitors from nearby Spokane and Coeur d’Alene. The 2,325-acre resort spans across two peaks including three mountain bowls. The resort also offers Nordic skiing on a network of groomed trails. The first-come, first-served overnight camping is $10-20 per night, with six electrical hookup sites. Camping is only available when the resort is open Friday through Tuesday.

Cascade Creatives / Shutterstock

Schweitzer Mountain Resort, ID

Schweitzer, located in Northern Idaho, offers 2,900 skiable acres across 92 trails, plus open bowl and tree skiing. The amenities at this independent resort might surprise you, with twilight and Nordic skiing as well as a village center that includes a kids’ activity center, a spa, theater, and restaurants. Self-contained RV camping (non-hookup) is offered for $20 per night with a maximum three-night stay. Overnight visitors must register with a parking attendant in the main Gateway Lot, which is both slopeside and within walking distance of the lively village.

Cascade Creatives / Shutterstock

Brundage Mountain Resort, ID

Located in Central Idaho, Brundage Mountain offers 1,920 acres of skiing accessed by six lifts. The resort caters to all levels from the whimsical family fun zone of Beartopia to expert-only, lift-served backcountry terrain. Experienced skiers and snowboarders can also sign up for guided catskiing accessing 18,000 acres of untracked powder. The resort offers free RV parking in a designated lot for a maximum of seven nights, no hookups or services—it’s a rustic scenario, but perfect for purists.

CSNafzger / Shutterstock

Grand Targhee Resort, ID

Idaho’s Grand Targhee Resort is just over the pass from the destination resort of Jackson Hole, but with 500 inches of annual snowfall and 2,602 acres of terrain, it’s no less of a worthy destination.

Overnight self-contained RV parking is $22 per night with a seven-night maximum stay, facilities are limited, but note that the Village offers nightlife and dining at the Branding Iron restaurant. Roll out of your slopeside bed and take advantage of the early tracks program, with guided lift-accessed riding before the lifts open to the general public.

CSNafzger / Shutterstock

Angel Fire Resort, NM

Located at a peak elevation of 10,677 feet, this New Mexico resort receives 210 inches of annual snowfall and offers 80-plus runs across 560 acres. In addition to great terrain, visitors can also experience the fun of winter tubing, sledding, Nordic skiing, and snowshoeing. Angel Fire operates a four-season luxury RV resort with all of the amenities including hot tubs and a beautiful clubhouse with views of the ski area. The resort runs a dedicated shuttle from the RV resort to the slopes of Angel Fire Resort.

Marcelo Rodriguez / Shutterstock

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