Can You Take Your EV on a Winter Ski Trip?
America’s ski towns are making it easier to recharge while hitting the slopes.
Not so long ago, it might have seemed unlikely that electric vehicles (EVs) would ever play a big part in the wintertime ski experience. The relatively limited range of early electric cars (made even worse by cold weather), combined with the remoteness of most ski hills, a scarcity of charging stations once there, and the unpredictable nature of winter driving all left snow sports-loving EV owners with range anxiety of the worst kind.
But the EV revolution has caught up to ski country, and in many cases America’s alpine escapes are leading the way with considerable investments in charging infrastructure. Factor in some critical improvements to electric cars themselves, and suddenly the idea of driving an EV to the slopes is more realistic than ever.
What Should I Know About EVs and Winter Driving?
Thanks to advancements in EV range and the introduction of improved technology—such as Hyundai’s highly efficient heat-pump system that can warm a car’s cabin without draining its battery—current-generation EVs make it much easier for drivers to consider those sometimes lengthy trips to their favorite winter resorts.
Meanwhile, the arrival of available all-wheel-drive systems in EVs such as Volkswagen’s 2023 ID.4, the 2023 Ford Mustang Mach-E, and the 2023 Hyundai IONIQ 5 has given snowbirds a number of EV options that are far better suited to making the trek than earlier models.
Tires, of course, remain a critical part of the equation. Equipping your EV with proper winter tires instead of the relatively low-traction all-seasons that are often standard on new EVs is one of the most important steps owners can take to make sure their cars have the snow-season stability, and stopping and starting power needed to safely navigate wintry roads.
With the right tires, even smaller, front-wheel-drive, SUV-style EVs such as the 2022 Hyundai Kona or the 2023 Chevrolet Bolt EUV can haul skiers and their equipment to the hills. Just be sure to look for more aggressive snow- and ice-rated tires. Some jurisdictions even make them or AWD mandatory during severe winter weather.
Doing the Math on Winter Range
Before you hit the road, you’ll need to take into consideration the impact that cold weather can have on your total range, especially when you’re using the heater to keep you and your passengers toasty.
Cold temperatures can knock 10% or more off your available range. Running your heater exacerbates the problem, knocking as much as 40% off your total range. This is why carmakers are rushing to adopt high-efficiency heat pump systems that use the warmth already being generated by a car’s batteries and motors to heat the cabin without drawing much battery power.
Heating isn’t the only additional drainer of range with which you’ll have to contend. Long uphill climbs and the notorious weekend traffic delays around some resorts can also pose a challenge.
But those hills may also be an ally—at least on the way home. It’s usually a long downhill drive from a high-altitude resort, and most EVs can use their regenerative systems to restore a big chunk of their battery charge.
The best news in all of this is that resorts and resort communities from coast to coast have recognized the need to allay the anxieties of EV-driving guests if they hope to earn their business. Many are investing heavily in charging infrastructure that enables EV owners to recharge their cars—often at no cost—along the route or while skiing or staying overnight at resort properties.
Killington Bets Big on EVs
Vermont’s Killington Resort, a longtime favorite for Northeast skiers and snowboarders, leads the country’s resorts in EV chargers with 45 total EV charges, about one-third of which are Tesla chargers.
What’s more, they’re all free for patrons. It’s part of Killington’s effort to reduce its carbon footprint. The program features prominently in the resort’s promotional materials as it aims to entice more EV owners to make the trek—a three-hour, 160-mile drive from Boston.
“It’s our responsibility to protect our natural resources and make sure that we can enjoy winter sports for years to come,” says Kristel Killary, Killington's communications manager. “EV drivers are very appreciative of the convenience of being able to charge their cars while they ski, snowboard, or do summertime activities.”
Colorado Incentivizes EV-Driving Skiers
Situated at the base of Vail Resorts’ Beaver Creek ski area, about 100 miles from Denver, the Town of Avon, Colorado, used grants from the Department of Energy, as well as state programs to install two ChargePoint chargers, including a DC fast charger, in 2021, with five more Level II chargers being completed for the 2022/2023 ski season. Fast charging is available at a subsidized rate of $0.15 per kilowatt-hour, with free parking during charging.
Even the smaller Arapahoe Basin ski area, about 65 miles from Denver, recently added 10 ChargePoint Level II stations for its guests to use. Charging is free, but the resort has politely asked skiers to charge for no more than a half-day and then move their vehicles to allow other drivers to access the system.
Winter Park Resort, also about 65 miles from Denver, added 14 chargers for its guests in 2022 with funding provided by the local electric company. Six of the chargers are at an indoor parking garage and eight at an outdoor lot. Part of the energy used for charging is generated through solar and hydroelectric power.
Lake Tahoe Offers EV Owners Recharging Options
Ski weekend traffic around the many resorts in the Lake Tahoe area can often be a nightmare, but communities along the routes and in the California/Nevada resort area—especially on the 100-mile-long stretch of U.S. 50 from Sacramento—are working to make the drive more manageable by adding charging options for EV users.
Dozens of chargers are now in place at various spots in El Dorado County, and South Lake Tahoe/Stateline itself features 80 chargers at 20 locations near its casinos and Heavenly Village.
On the northwest side of the lake, the recently renamed Palisades Tahoe resort has also provided four free EV charging stations to its guests—part of a green effort that also saw the resort ban the use of single-use water bottles. There’s also a Tesla destination charger at the resort, and a full Tesla Supercharger station at nearby Tahoe City.
These initial steps by ski resorts are just a start. More will surely follow until it’s no longer even a question whether an EV belongs in snow country.