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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Discovering why RVs aren’t the greatest ski lodges

Can you use your RV as a ski lodge? 

“Yes! Absolutely!” the salesperson said when we were shopping for a vehicle three years ago.  

“Absolutely not — motorhomes aren’t made for extreme cold,” said the mechanic who replaced our freeze-damaged water pump six months later. 

So what’s the truth? Back in 2019, while Leslie was hanging out in the sunshine of Southern California, John set out on an ambitious three-week ski trip through the southern Rocky Mountains.  

Spoiler alert: It did not go well. Here’s John’s tale of woe from that ill-fated adventure. 


RV skiing don’ts 

John says: I’ve always dreamed of traveling in an RV from ski area to ski area, staying overnight in parking lots and shredding powder to my heart’s content.  

Two Februarys ago, I gave it a try in Colorado and New Mexico. Reality first struck in Pagosa Springs, Colo.  

At a commercial RV park, I pulled into a mud pit on the scale of Woodstock, circa 1969. The goo was knee-deep and I barely made it out of that place alive.  

Then it was on to Durango, Colo., where I had planned to visit nearby Purgatory Resort, and then negotiate 11,000-foot Red Mountain Pass to ski at Telluride

Overnight, a storm dumped 10 inches, making it impossible to get out of the RV park until the plows could clear the road. Instead of waiting, I hitched a ride to Purgatory, skied for the day, and hitched a ride back in the afternoon. 

The next day, my tank handles froze, leaving me unable to dump any gray or black water. I decided to give up on Telluride and detour to Moab, Utah, where I could thaw out, and after two days, the RV was working again. 

But my ski trip wasn’t really working.  

I kept going, heading on to Aspen, Colo., where I skied for three days.and stayed in a hotel for two nights. It was wonderful — mainly because I didn’t worry about the RV.  

That was a big mistake. Nighttime temperatures dipped to 8 degrees, and my parked RV froze solid. Not good. 

I traveled on to New Mexico, where I went on to visit Taos Ski ValleyAngel Fire and Red River. I eventually managed to get the water unfrozen and dumped my holding tanks, but the cold was doing a number on the RV. The faucets were leaking and the water pump wheezed like a asthmatic beagle.  

After three weeks of white-knuckle days at the wheel, I went to the repair shop in Albuquerque, fixed our broken RV, mailed my skis home and then picked up Leslie at the airport for the rest of our cross-country journey.  

When I wasn’t worried to death about ruining the RV, I did manage to enjoy my time on the slopes. But in truth, I still don’t really know how to keep an RV from freezing up in extreme winter cold. 


Lessons learned 

We’ve heard from dozens of people about winter travel in the RV Tips Facebook group. Some of their tips: 

* Clear snow from the roof with a long-handled broom — don’t ever climb up in snow and ice. 

* Use insulated hoses. 

* Leave your heat on at all times, and open cupboards where water lines might freeze. 

* Our No. 1 tip: Get rid of the water completely if you don’t have a winter-rated vehicle. It’s just too risky with any fluid in your holding tanks or water lines. 

If you want to try skiing and RVing in the Northwest, many resorts offer overnight stays for you and your vehicle. Among them are: 49 Degrees North (with six electrical sites); Schweitzer Mountain (at the nearby firehouse), and Silver Mountain.  

A little farther afield, RV parking is allowed at Mount Bachelor, near Bend, Ore., with 20 electrical sites), Stevens PassCrystal Mountain and Mt. Baker Ski Area near Bellingham.   

Leslie Kelly
Leslie Kelly is a freelance writer.