I love snow boarding. I love it. I also love that once a year, my job collides with this passion and I get to take high school students to the snow to experience the wonders of snow play together. I've been either going on or running this kind of trip for over 25 years and I always love it.
RENT THE BUS IF YOU CAN AFFORD IT: If you can afford the bus rental, I'd say do it. Minus the possible danger is getting the "keep it quiet as a mouse" bus driver from hell, the benefits of avoiding the potential hassle of chaining multiple vehicles yourself and putting drivers who are unfamiliar with certain conditions behind the wheel just might be worth it, if you can afford it.
RENT VANS: We can't afford the bus, so we rent 15 passenger vans and a cargo vehicle.
- In this case, buy the insurance. Just do it. Stress about something other than this. (side note: some credit cards do this for you if you charge the rental with their card. Also, if you have a corporate account like we do with Enterprise, then we negotiate it so that the insurance is always included in the rental)
- Get trusted drivers. This is not the retreat to take your college students and have them drive. Find some parents or older adults to drive cars on your retreat who are confident know how to drive in the possible snowy, icy, and wet conditions your trip might hold. Even if it's "sunny" during the day, driving home at night has risks of icy roads. This is a great place to get some dad's involved in your ministry. Ask them to drive!
- The "4x4" suburban that won't go into four wheel drive and now you don't have chains.
- The defroster doesn't work and now you can't see outside or drive safely.
- The battery is not well taken care of and you go to start it at the slopes and now it won't start and you need to buy a replacement at 4pm on Sunday night in the mountains.
- get the picture?
- They are relatively cheap: $80 a day was my last fee.
- They always have dual rear wheels, so they are easy to chain cuz you can drive the inside tire onto a block and then chain up the outside one.
- You never have to worry about someone stealing boards or gear at the slopes cuz it's easily lockable
- You don't care if it rains or snows.
- They are super easy to pack.
- They don't require long parking spaces like a truck and trailer.
- SIDE NOTE: We also pass out cards with all the leaders cell phone numbers to our adults on the trip before we leave so that in case for some reason, the radios aren't cutting it, they can call on a phone
GET CHAINS AND DON'T FORGET TO BRING THEM: you'll need snow chains in CA. Don't leave them in the church as you pack though (ha! maybe we did that once. maybe.) Anyway, some states you don't need them, but here in CA you do. Most places will even let you return your chains if they're unopened. I buy the size I need for the rental vans (I prefer cables actually), and then I return them if I don't use them. I've needed them enough times however, that now we just own the ones that fit a 15 passenger van. Beware though... do not assume all vehicles use the same size tire chains. Even a 12 passenger van is usually a different tire size than the 15. So get the right size!
- WARNING: if you ignored me and are sending drivers with their own vehicles/chains, you might want to triple check that they actually work on that vehicle and aren't just the ones they have laying around the garage. You also might want to check to make sure their "snow tires" that don't need chains actually have enough tread left to function well too.
- WARNING 1: installing your chains for you one thing, but if you have to buy the chains from them too, you're going to need to have a FAT wallet, cuz they're going to ream you for that mistake and smiling won't help you.
- WARNING 2: If you do it yourself, it's a cold, wet and dirty task. Bring a rain coat, work gloves, and appropriate shoes or you'll be a mess by the time you're done. If you do this in your nice ski coat, I promise you it won't be nice anymore after you run it all over your nasty mud/snow tires
- Plan your dinner stop in advance. Know when and where you're going to stop. Ideally it will be a place where you'll be within a reasonable dinner hour for your students but also close enough to your final destination where you can avoid the "pee" stop before you arrive.
- Never make your planned stop where there's only 1 or 2 places to eat. Of if you do, know that your dinner will need some serious extra time for people to get their food and eat. More options = more places = greater choices and faster service.