You've seen them: First Tracks ticket upgrades offered by more and more ski resorts. But what are they, and should you buy them? First Tracks usually refers to a ski ticket add-on that allows the bearer to access the slopes earlier than the general public. Most First Tracks programs start at 7:30 am or 8 am, allowing skiers first access at groomed and powder terrain before the lifts begin turning at 9 am. First Tracks tickets are not cheap—expect to pay around $75 per person (lift ticket not included)—and are usually limited. Some First Tracks programs set an age limit (usually 13), while others welcome kids of any age, provided they are intermediate to expert skiers, and accompanied by an adult. Now that you know what a First Tracks ticket is, do you want one? The short answer: sometimes. I tried out a First Tracks experience at The Canyons Resort Park City; it was definitely a unique way to start the day and I had a blast, but it’s out of my budget most of the time. If you’re in the same boat, here’s when it’s worth the splurge:
When your time on the mountain is tight. During First Tracks at The Canyons, I skied seven long runs between 8 am and 9 am...over twice what I could accomplish during public hours. I only had a day and a half at the resort, so I certainly got a bang for my buck. Another good time to upgrade: when you’re visiting during a peak season, such as spring break or Christmas.
When extra perks are included. Nearly all First Tracks programs include breakfast at an on-mountain restaurant included with your ticket price, but First Tracks at The Canyons provides an unique opportunity: skiing with an Olympian. The Canyons pairs their Olympic Ambassador program with their First Tracks offering, which means that with every First Tracks group skies an Olympic skier or snowboarder. I had the honor of skiing with Lake Placid's Holly Flanders, which was not only a thrill, but a great source of information: Holly was able to take us to the best runs and glades, and was a wonderful ski companion.
When the rest of your ski day will be slower-paced. If you have babies, toddlers, or small children on your ski vacation, you'll likely be spending a fair amount of time on or near the bunny slopes (or at least signing kids in and out of childcare and ski school). A First Tracks upgrade is a great way to give the adults what they crave: great skiing, even when skiing with young kids.
Before you go: Not all ski resorts offer First Tracks, and those that do are on a limited schedule (most offer it two times per week). First Tracks age limitations and pricing varies, and most require reservations. If you do take the spurge, enjoy!