how to plan
Advice to make the most of your skiing or riding adventure
Before you head to the mountain, check the weather. This will help you determine if snow chains are needed for the drive, as well as help you get a sense for on-mountain conditions and how to dress. When driving to the mountains, it's always a good idea to have snow chains in your car should a storm hit. Be sure to arrive early (by 8 a.m.) to avoid long lines.
2. Plan ahead
Save time in line by completing your equipment rental forms in advance. And, while lessons are always recommended for first timers, if you decide to skip the lesson, you can buy your lift tickets online now.
Bring the following for each member of your party:
- Insulated gloves are a must.
- Goggles or sunglasses to protect your eyes.
- Warm base layers, such as those made of merino wool or polyester. Cotton isn't advised since it doesn't wick water
- Thin, non-ribbed socks. Ski and snowboard boots are tight, so you want thin socks to ensure maximum comfort. Forget the big, fluffy warm socks. They'll actually make your feet colder.
- Head Gear. Helmets are always advised, but if you don't have a helmet, pack a hat and consider investing in a balaclava. Helmets are available for rent in our ski shop.
- Outerwear. Wear a weather-and wind-resistant jacket and pants. Nylon is typically best, and you don't have to spend a fortune. You can wear a thin, non-insulated top layer if you wear ample base- and mid-layers. Or, any insulated coat and pants will work.
- Sunscreen & SPF Lipbalm. Be sure to slather on the sunscreen, especially on your face and neck, and bring extra with you to the mountain.
4. Arrive Early
As mentioned earlier, it is best to get to Donner Ski Ranch early. You’ll be happy you did! The resort can get quite busy. The lodge, ticket office, and rental shop open at 8:00 a.m. To avoid lines for tickets and rentals please get here at 8:00 a.m. Lifts open at 9:00 a.m. and run until 4:00 p.m.
Parking is always free and close. Pull into the Donner Ski Ranch parking lot, and the lot attendant will guide you to your spot. Please park as close as possible to the car next to you, so others can also park as close to the lodge as possible.
6. Getting Around
Lift tickets and snow tubing tickets are available at the outside ticket windows at the base of the tunnel. All tickets, rentals, lessons, ski shop and lockers are available at the main ticket windows up through the tunnel. The café, bar, fireplace, and more restrooms are on the 2nd floor of the lodge floor. The 3rd floor has more table seating.
First-time skiers & riders
Wondering what to expect? This may help
Skiing vs. Snowboarding for Beginners. “Skiing is easier to learn, but more difficult to master. On the other hand, snowboarding is harder to learn but easier to master.” This is a common claim you will hear in the world of snowsports; and while different people can take to different sports, it's generally true.
What to Wear
The right clothing makes a huge difference in the success of your first day. Warm and dry are the keys to dressing appropriately on the slopes; so shy away from cotton, as it tends to absorb moisture when wet. If you don't have the "proper" clothes, try borrowing from a friend for your first time. And layers are your best friend! When you layer your clothes, it gives you the opportunity to shed layers as you become warm and add layers when things cool down. See if you can wrangle up the following gear for your first time:
- Base Layer: This is the firstlayer of your outfit. This can range from long underwear to sport-tek such as Under Armour. It should fit snugly to your skin, but not tight, so it can wick away moisture and keep you dry.
- Insulating Layer: This layer is all about comfort. Your insulating layer is usually a fleece, sweater, vest, or pullover and goes over your wicking layer. Think an item loose enough for comfort but not too bulky to impede movement.
- Protection Layer: The most exterior layer. Usually a winter jacket and snowpants, your exterior layer helps to protect you against the elements of winter such as snow and wind.
- Socks: Keep your toes warm by wearing thin, non-ribbed socks. It may seem counter-intuitive, but thinner socks keep your feet warmer. And, one pair of socks will do it -- avoid wearing multiple pairs as it may make your ski or snowboard boots tight and uncomfortable and cut off your circulation. Stay away from cotton socks.
- Headwear: Protect your noggin. Heat escapes from your head most readily, so covering your head (and ears) will help you stay warm. Hats and headbands can be found almost anywhere. Helmets are also highly suggested as they can protect your head from falls, plus they help keep you warm!
- Gloves or Mittens: An essential item in your arsenal. Handwear should be worn no matter the temperature. Again, shy away from cotton or knit gloves as they tend to get wet easily. Opt for gloves or mittens that have an outside shell and inside liner.
- Eye Protection: Goggles or sunglasses. They aren't just for looks! Snow is a reflective surface so even cloudy days can be bright on the slopes. When wearing goggles, watch for gaps which will signify an improper fit.
What to Bring
Now that you have everything you need to keep you warm and dry, there are some additional items that you should bring with you to the slopes.
- Sunscreen and Lip Balm: Again, snow reflects the sun more than you might think! And wind can also affect your skins and lips as well.
- Extra Clothes. Since this is your first time, you might not have the "perfect" clothes for the slopes. A set of warm, dry, and cozy clothes will make all the difference on your ride home.
- Driver's License and Credit Card. You’ll need these items to rent ski or snowboard equipment.
- Cash or Credit. Don't forget part of the fun of skiing is après! Grab a bite to eat, a hot chocolate, or other treats.
SKi Patrol Tips
Advice from the pros to keep you safe and having fun
- Always wear eye protection such as snow goggles or sunglasses. This includes your children!
- Always wear a helmet.
- Dress in layers for warmth to allow movement and blood circulation. Only one layer of socks is recommended.
- Don’t wear scarves.
- Leave your backpack in your car or locker.
- If you're a first-timer, take a lesson to get started in the right direction!
- Exercise and stretch in advance.
- Rent proper equipment—don’t borrow equipment from your friends.
- Ski or ride with a friend.
- If you are feeling tired, take a break, stay hydrated, get a snack.
- Stay safe. Ski in control. Know your limits. Follow the rules.
- If you encounter an injured guest, contact the nearest lift attendant to notify Ski Patrol.
- Snow skates and ski bikes are allowed with proper leashes and metal edges.
- Equipment must have safety braking devices. Skis or snowboards without metal edges are prohibited.
- Please read our entire Mountain Safety section.