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Ski Report: Seven Tips for Finding the Perfect Condo

FireplaceWhen you unlock the door on any ski resort condo, you're guaranteed at least some element of surprise. Still, I don't think anyone could have adequately prepared me for the hilarity at my very first rental. It was in Vail, Colorado. Our three-bedroom unit had four beds, two baths... and seven mounted animals on the walls. The hallway was plastered with hunting photographs, a smiley Ann Coulter look-alike toting a shotgun and posing like a lipsticked Annie Oakley, her designer boot atop the head of a felled moose. Perhaps we'd be spending the long weekend in the vacation getaway of an Alaska governor's distant family, but my friends and I were determined to make the best of it. If you want to avoid an "oh no" reaction when you arrive at a ski condo this season, take these seven tips to heart:

FireplaceWhen you unlock the door on any ski resort condo, you're guaranteed at least some element of surprise. Still, I don't think anyone could have adequately prepared me for the hilarity at my very first rental. It was in Vail, Colorado. Our three-bedroom unit had four beds, two baths... and seven mounted animals on the walls. The hallway was plastered with hunting photographs, a smiley Ann Coulter look-alike toting a shotgun and posing like a lipsticked Annie Oakley, her designer boot atop the head of a felled moose. Perhaps we'd be spending the long weekend in the vacation getaway of an Alaska governor's distant family, but my friends and I were determined to make the best of it. If you want to avoid an "oh no" reaction when you arrive at a ski condo this season, take these seven tips to heart:

1. Start with Google Maps -- Skip the main search and begin at maps.google.com instead. If you type "ski condos near Breckenridge, Colorado" in the search terms, you'll find the most popular and reliable lodging agencies in the search results. The map will reveal the distance from the slopes, a real benefit if you'll be skiing and riding at more than one resort in the area.

2. Compare accessibility with price -- Although you can save money by sleeping further from the lifts, be sure to think through the accessibility to other important amenities. How far is the nearest bus stop? How easily can you bring groceries back home for your gourmet cook-offs? And, don't forget that in hill country, a map might not indicate the real topography of the village. Are you prepared for a steep climb (in ski boots) at the end of the day? Talk to the lodging owners for honest answers. 

3. Beware of hidden fees -- When listing nightly rates, many booking websites don't include the reservation fees, local taxes, nightly parking charges, maintenance fees and damage insurance that will show up on the final bill.

4. No photos, no dice -- Only book condos where you get to see photos of your actual unit; if an agency says "all condos are similar," they're hiding something. Tasteful furnishings, cool art on the walls and newly renovated kitchens often indicate attention to detail throughout the property.

5. Focus on actual number of beds -- Avoid a scenario where you and your boyfriend are split up into the kids' room bunk beds; good condo rental agencies will be note the exact number of beds in each bedroom. Some will even add an extra bed into a unit for you, but get it in writing.

6. Take advantage of bundled discounts -- Many lodging companies bundle their rates with discounted lift tickets, equipment rentals, rental cars and more. Often, there's a catch, like the gear shops may be located on the outskirts of town, or free lift ticket offers may be geared toward families with kids, so read the fine print.

7. Make it personal and negotiate -- Rather than booking online, pick up the phone and introduce yourself. Many lodging companies will negotiate rates directly with the owners, so name your price and ask an agent to get back to you with an offer. When you return for multiple bookings over the years and they see that you're a courteous tenant who won't trash the place, you'll score even better rates.

Of course, no condo is perfect, and when you're with good friends, even the most ghastly surprise can become an inside joke. By the end of our weekend at Vail, we'd assigned nicknames to each of Bambi's relatives on our walls. As it turned out, all those antlers came in awfully handy for drying out our wet gloves by the fireplace.

Chris French is the president of Ski Bums, the world’s largest club for LGBT skiers and snowboarders. He lives in New York City. Visit Ski-Bums.org to learn more.





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