If you’re a road trip lover, driving somewhere exciting with every chance you get, we’re sure that you’ve hopped in your van to soak in the summer sun in various beach towns or driven through the Northeast to admire the gorgeous fall foliage. Although many people don’t think of the wintertime as road trip weather, this season can bring beautiful views and plenty of exciting outdoor adventures.
Picture yourself getting the first run on the mountain because you camped in your van in the parking lot, discovering your new favorite après ski bar, or getting cozy at a warm and charming restaurant. Additionally, in between destinations, you can rely on your adventure van to keep you safe and warm while you look out the window to admire the flurries and snow-covered trees.
You’ll want to take a few extra steps to prepare your packing list and your van for the chilly environment. We’re here to get you started with this list of essentials so that you feel confident and prepared before starting your trip. Plus, we’ll share our favorite winter road trip tips.
What Are the Best Winter Road Trip Stops?
Regardless of where you live, making a trip to a wonderful winter destination will be the vacation of a lifetime.
Here are some of our favorite spots:
Make Your Way to Revelstoke in Canada
Formerly a heliskiing and cat-skiing-only designation, Revelstoke has since branched out. However, the town still offers heliskiing and cat-skiing — just make sure to book ahead!
Revelstoke is one of Canada's newest and most popular ski resorts, which is pretty impressive for a country known for its winter sports. It’s a great après ski town to visit and has a small-town vibe overall. Skiing here is best if you’re intermediate to advanced. The skiing — and the road trip itself — are not for the faint of heart.
This resort boasts the most vertical elevation in North America, rising to 5,620 feet for a total of 3,121 acres of terrain.
You can find snow here from mid-December to April, with an average of 414 inches (or 10.5 meters) falling here annually, but the optimal time for the deepest snow is after the first of the year.
After a successful day of skiing, you can park for free at the Revelstoke Mountain Resort for one night only. Or, you can pay for a parking spot at Boulder Mountain Resort, where you’ll find complimentary showers and an outdoor hot tub a short eight miles away.
In addition to being next to Revelstoke Resort, this campground is conveniently located near Glacier National Park and Shuswap Lake.
Head to Jay Peak and Loon Mountain in Vermont
Vermont is known for its picturesque sights and sports during the winter months. Located on the US and Canada border sits Jay Peak, a mountain that provides some of the best skiing runs on the East Coast. The peak is a fantastic destination for a winter road trip.
Skiers love this peak because of its 81 runs with a mix of difficulty levels. There are 20 cross-country runs, access to skiing lessons, gear rentals, ice skating, and plenty of restaurants. The area can get busy during peak season, so make sure to book ahead.
Located right next to Jay Peak Resort, Base Camp RV Park and Campground will be a wonderful temporary home for your adventure van. Here, you will find 32 sites with electricity and water hookups, fireplaces, grocery shops, and hiking trails.
Another popular destination for a winter road trip in Vermont is Loon Mountain, much of which sits in the White Mountain National Forest. This spot is just under two hours away from Jay Peak. Loon Mountain is also well known for its remarkable skiing runs — you won’t have a problem finding a run that meets your skill level, as you can choose between four different levels of difficulty.
After a successful day on Loon Mountain, you can pack up your adventure van and retreat to the Hancock Campgrounds. There are 56 sites here, but if you are visiting at a popular time, be aware that it’s first-come, first-serve and that no reservations are accepted. (And no services are offered in the winter.)
Trek to Sun Valley, Idaho, for Winter Sports and Hot Springs
For the perfect mix of relaxation and adventure, head to Sun Valley, a beautiful resort town in Idaho.
Strap on your skis and glide down the Bald and Dollar Mountains. The area is home to Galena Pass, a colossal mountain in the Boulder Range known for its intense ski runs. If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind backcountry skiing experience, Sun Valley has everything you could ever want.
Idaho is lucky to have a variety of hot springs throughout the state, which provides an amazing opportunity for a dip in the water during winter. Rest your post-skiing sore muscles in a hot pool of water, surrounded by Idaho’s gorgeous landscapes.
Frenchman’s Bend Hot Springs is extremely popular and is a must-see for any winter road trip. Choose between the three naturally occurring springs for a brief escape from the cold air and an immersive experience of the natural beauty of Idaho.
Sitting just outside Sun Valley is Picabo Angler RV Park, which offers 17 full hookup sites. Enjoy a night by their communal fire pit before rising off in their accessible showers and heading to bed. In the morning, you can watch the light from the sunrise illuminate the peaks before grabbing your skis for another day on the slopes.
There aren’t any showers at this location, so be sure to plan ahead.
Head for Seward Highway, Alaska, To Snowmobile and Ski
If you have been looking for an excuse to make the drive up to Alaska, let Seward Highway be it. Seward Highway is a 127-mile stretch that extends from Seward to Anchorage and exposes travelers to many of the state's natural wonders, including unparalleled mountain views. The scenic drive between your winter activities is sure to impress you.
No matter how much experience you have with winter sports and activities in the mainland United States, you are guaranteed to be impressed by the unique offering of Alaska. First, what seems like a rare and exciting treasure in other states, snowmobiling is a common form of transportation in Alaska.
What makes the drive up to The Last Frontier truly worth it is the intense challenge offered by each of its nearby slopes. It’s a challenge on the road as well, so make sure your van is equipped with sturdy winter tires. Be prepared for minimal cell phone service for dozens of miles at a time — which could give you an opportunity to slow down and take in the one-of-a-kind views.
There are plenty of opportunities for snowmobile rentals along the highway, but Glacier City Snowmobile Tours, located in Girdwood, has everything you need for an exhilarating trip down the smooth snow.
For beautiful views of grand mountain tops and opportunities for backcountry skiing, bring your gear to the trails in Seward. The fresh powder and smooth trails will welcome you as you take advantage of what Alaska has to offer.
Tips for Winter Camping in the Van
We know that your adventure van can handle a lot. You have probably taken it through rough terrains, torrential downpours, and muddy waters. However, even though your van is tough, it should still be equipped with the proper preparation and supplies to make your winter road trip as easy and safe as possible.
Tune Up Your Van’s Heating System
First and foremost: You need to stay warm on your journey.
When temperatures drop at night, a malfunctioning heating system could put your health at risk. Check to ensure your adventure van’s heater is running correctly before starting your trip so you can dry your clothes and stay warm after skiing or boarding. If your furnace is running and you are getting heat, you may proceed.
Before you hit the road, have a professional go over your heating system with you if you haven’t used it before. That way, you’ll know how to troubleshoot if you run into any issues. In addition, it’s wise to test out your heating system on the road for a night or two before you venture into sub-freezing temps.
Once you know your heater is in tip-top shape, it’s time to make sure your van’s ventilation is fully functional. That way, you’ll keep enough oxygen flowing at all times.
Upgrade to Snow Tires
In order to make it up to ski resorts on snowy roads and highways, your van needs to be able to drive safely in snowy and icy conditions. Although your adventure van might come equipped with high-quality tires that will easily take you through plenty of summer adventures, you might want to change them out for snow tires when it’s time to start your winter road trip.
High-quality snow tires will be your lifeline with the weight of your van. Even if you have snow tires, it’s also smart to always carry chains when driving through these areas in the winter as well.
Bring a Shovel and Ice Scrapers
Must-have camper van emergency essentials can determine the success of your trip. Items on your pre-road trip packing list could include a mini emergency kit, extra blankets, a sufficient food supply. When it’s time to bundle up for a mid-winter drive, you will need to store a few extra essentials in the back of your adventure van.
Ice scrapers will be your best friend when it’s time to drive back to the campsite after a day of skiing. Even if you are only away from your van for a few hours in the afternoon, the snowfall and frigid temperatures of the mountains can frost over your windshields quickly. Try to have a short and long-handled scraper easily accessible in your front seat.
If you sleep through a heavy snowfall, your adventure van might need help getting out and on the road. Pack a sturdy shovel to easily remove any snow piles around your tires or under your van.
Invest in Insulated Window Covers
Windows are poor insulators, so even though your heater warms up your van, the window is letting cold back in. With the heater running, you might not notice the cold air, but when you turn off your heater and leave it for a few hours, your van will cool down quickly. Throw insulated window covers onto each window while you are away and at night to keep your van comfortable and warm and for better insulation in general.
Upgrade Your In-Van Storage
Although you may be packing the same amount of things for a summer road trip as you are for a winter road trip, you’ll need about double the storage for your winter trips. Your clothes will be much bulkier, your blankets will be thicker, and your snow boots will take up much more space than your sandals. We know you have gotten creative with utilizing nooks and crannies for storage, but you can buy units designed to fit comfortably in your van.
If you need help organizing small things like gloves, hats, or scarves, having storage cubbies and designated areas for your snow gear is a great way to keep your space decluttered. For larger supplies, like snow boots and heavy jackets, rely on a Wheel Well Cubby.
Make Sure You Have a Ski and Snowboard Rack
Most of our winter road trip destinations center around skiing and snowboarding. If you have been skiing or snowboarding for years, you will probably want to bring your own gear rather than constantly renting skis or boards. Although you could squeeze all of your equipment into your van, storing them on the outside will free up a lot of room.
Our Ski & Snowboard rack can carry your skis and a snowboard for a designated space to store your gear.. Install the rack onto your van in a dry area and wipe down your gear before mounting them.
Invest in a Bed System
In the summertime, it’s easy to spend a night tent camping or cuddle up with just a throw blanket for the night. However, when traveling during the winter, comfort, and warmth during the night is crucial. You should be prepared for extreme nightly temperature drops and give your body a soft and cozy place to land after exerting yourself on the slopes.
Investing in a bed system will be the best thing you have ever done for yourself and for your van. Designed to fit perfectly in the back without taking away storage space, you won't ever have to worry about losing sleep on the road again.
Our bed systems for vans can be mounted in your van for some extra storage. Paired with a mattress and some heavy-duty blankets, you’ll be ready to brave the frigid winter weather.
Where Will You Go Next?
Road trips are the best way to vacation because they are so versatile and moldable! You have total freedom in choosing your destination, making stops along the way, or changing your itinerary as you go.
We never want weekend warriors to think of the wintertime as a pause in their road trip vacations. With a little planning and preparation, you can explore an entirely new side of your favorite cities and states and take advantage of the activities and beauty that only exist in the winter.
So throw an ice scraper in your van, invest in a heavy duvet, pack your skis, and hit the road!