How to Manage a Ski Vacation Rental

Vacation rental owners in mountain towns such as Park City, North Lake Tahoe, and Vail Valley could be more than successful in the industry if they learn how to manage a vacation rental in a ski market like a pro. With over a hundred resorts to choose from across the United States, it’s no surprise that ski markets are one of the most popular vacations worldwide—and, therefore, also one of the most lucrative.  

With over a hundred resorts to choose from across the United States, it’s no surprise that ski markets are one of the most popular vacations worldwide—so vacation rental owners in mountain towns such as Park City, North Lake Tahoe, and Vail Valley, should take advantage and learn how to manage a vacation rental in a ski market.  

It’s understandable that folks looking to get into the vacation rental industry would look to ski markets, especially because they never truly experience an “off season.” Families can ski and snowboard during the winter, and then hike their way through the mountains in perfect 70 degree weather during the summer. Mountain towns offer an escape from reality, outdoor adventures, fresh air, plenty of nature to behold, and clear skies to stargaze at night.  Still, new rental owners in the mountains might want to know the best ways to optimize their new property—from the best type of property to invest in to the best tips and tricks to marketing your home year-round.

Check out our guide to managing a vacation rental in a ski market.   

Decide which type of vacation rental to invest in

In most ski rental markets, potential homeowners will have two main choices of properties to buy: condos and homes. Both offer certain benefits and drawbacks.

Ski condos typically operate as associations, where you have to pay monthly association fees that act as maintenance fees. These fees will cover external maintenance—like lawn-cutting and snow-shoveling—which means that you’re paying to worry less about these tasks. Condos also often offer shared amenities, like pools, hot tubs, and gyms. Some condo associations even offer a shuttle to guests that will take them to and from a ski area.

Alternatively, potential property owners can also consider buying a home. While homes are much more expensive than a condo and require regular upkeep and maintenance from the homeowner, they might have a much bigger ROI if they are located close to ski resorts and the mountains. For example, homes that are ski-in/ski-out—meaning you can walk to the ski area from your home—bring in significantly more bookings than homes and condos that require you drive. Homes also offer more versatility in the types of bookings you can get; homes are more likely to be booked during “off seasons” like summer because families will want to stay a house where they can enjoy the scenery.

Vacation rental owners also have the option of hiring a property manager to take care of some of regular upkeep required. Property management companies, such as TurnKey Vacation Rentals, will hire a housekeeping company, re-stock bathroom toiletries, schedule lawn, pest control and pool services, and replace air filters—so you don’t have to.  

Either way, when looking to buy a rental, owners should focus on location. Properties in close proximity to either ski areas or metropolitan areas will do much better than properties in-between.   

Heaters, hot tubs, and heated floors

With guests coming from all over the country—and even the world—it’s safe to say a portion of visitors will not be used to snowy, sub-zero weather. Help these guests acclimate and escape the cold outside by adding warm, cozy amenities in your home.

Homeowners with properties that include fireplaces should make sure it’s well advertised on listing websites. The fireplace should also be the focal point of the room it’s in; circle couches and chairs facing the fireplace to create a cozy atmosphere. Additionally, consider purchasing extra space heaters and blankets for your home in case guests feel particularly chilly.

Most ski market homeowners will advocate for a hot tub—and as they’ve become increasingly popular in mountain resort towns, they’ve also become imperative if you want your home to perform well. You can also increase your nightly rate by roughly $10 if you have a hot tub, according to VRBO. If you’re going to go for it, make sure to also schedule regular maintenance of the hot tub to offset any potential breakdowns while you have visitors.

If your Homeowners Association or county regulations do not allow for a hot tub—or, if you just can’t afford to invest in one right now—a sauna is a great alternative. Saunas offer the same general experience—warming up after a cold day on the slopes—but cost less and require less maintenance.

Homeowners might also want to consider investing in radiant heated floors. That might sound extra luxurious, but there are also some practical benefits of heated floors, as well. Heated floors distributes heat evenly, for example, and can take less energy overall to keep your home warm. Homeowners can install heated floors both inside, around the doorway to help trekked in snow melt faster; or outside, near walkways to the front door or in the backyard. Heated floors are a costly investment, however, so homeowners on a budget who want to offer a similar amenity can also look into electric mats that can be installed under the floors.

Protect your ski home from wear and tear

Guests who intend to ski or snowboard will bring a lot of equipment. Provide these folks with plenty of proper storage options when furnishing your ski rental to discourage them from bringing their equipment into the actual living space. Owners should consider investing in a boot, ski, or snowboard rack at the front entrance of their home, or even a garage.

Also, consider renovating your floors and putting in flagstone or slate material, which handle wear and tear much better than laminate flooring. For walls, use paint that is easily cleanable and invest in solid wood furniture rather than cheaper materials.

Know how to advertise your ski rental during the “off season”

In mountainous rental markets around the United States, there’s never really an “off” season for bookings. Once the snow melts, the sun comes out and potential visitors will flock to your market for beautiful 70 degree weather. Vacationers will swap out their snowboards and ski poles for mountain bikes and hiking boots.

But potential guests are less likely to book your home if your online listing only advertises it as a wintertime ski home. To combat that, learn how to market your ski rental year-round by updating your listing photos and offerings at least 55 days in advance of a new season, because guests typically book their vacation that far in advance. Once your ski home is booked for the winter, for example, update your listing and begin advertising for the spring—and then do the same for each season.

So what do you update in your listing? Photos are a big priority; switch out photos of your cozy cabin topped with snow to images that show it off on a sunny day. If you don’t want to go through the hassle, consider including diverse photos of your home mixed up together year-round. In addition to the photos, change what keywords you optimize each season. Don’t advertise what ski resorts that your home is near for summer bookings; instead advertise nearby walking trails, bodies of water, and the variety of outdoor activities folks can enjoy once the snow melts.

If managing and updating multiple listings year-round sounds overwhelming, consider partnering with a property management company. TurnKey Vacation Rentals, for example, will take professional photos of your home, list it on over 60 different popular listing websites, and ensure that its description is search engine-optimized.

Prepare your rental for snow storms

Where you expect snowfall, you can also expect snow storms. It’s important to prepare in advance to protect both your property and your guests from a blizzard. Winter storms statistically create a higher risk of car accidents, hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning, and heart attacks from overexertion, according to Ready.gov.

First and foremost, be knowledgeable about your area’s risk for winter storms and prepare your home to keep out the cold with insulation, caulking, and weather stripping, according to Ready.gov. Also, learn how to keep pipes from freezing and be sure that you install and test both smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors with battery backups. Create a weather emergency supply kit and make its availability known to guests.

While you have guests staying at your rental, pay attention to weather reports, the Emergency Alert System (EAS), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio—and encourage your guests do the same while they’re in town. Additionally, if you have a property management company, check to see what their policy is for guest emergencies. TurnKey Vacation Rentals, for example, provides guests with 24/7 support via text, phone calls, and email.  

By learning which type of rental property you want to own, keeping your guests warm throughout the winter, protecting your home from wear and tear, marketing your home for every season, and preparing for snow storms, you’ll be running a successful vacation rental in a ski market in no time.

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