So far in Renters Week 2015, we've brought you the 10 most beautiful vacation rentals in ski country and lamented the awful decorating choices of mountain VRBOs everywhere. Now, we're looking to dispense some hard-earned advice about things to watch out for when when you vacation in the mountains. From understanding fire danger to knowing where you are going to park your car, here are 10 things you need to consider before renting a vacation house in the high country.
Ask about accessibility: Especially if you are looking to rent a vacation home in the forest, make sure you inquire about accessibility. Many summer rentals are only accessible by four-wheel-drive vehicles in the winter, and some may even require chains or snowmobiles. While we wish that homeowners and property managers were upfront about these issues, it's best to be prepared.
Understand the fire danger: Mountain communities may have a lot of snow in the winter (hopefully!), but in the summer there is usually some sort of fire risk. The fire danger can range from minimal to downright extreme, meaning that you can't use that outdoor fire pit and there won't be any fireworks for 4th of July. Always follow the recommendations of the U.S. Forest Service; if it says absolutely no open flames, pay attention!
Watch out for taxes and fees: If you find a vacation rental on popular websites like VRBO or Airbnb, make sure to inquire about potential taxes and fees on the property. Ski towns around the country are struggling to regulate and manage vacation rentals, and if a deal on a house seems too good to be true, it probably is. There's a good chance that the property owner isn't paying the required city or municipal taxes (which generally range from 7 to 29 percent depending on the town), and frankly you don't want to rent from an owner that isn't following the rules.
Ask about extra services: Even though you are renting a vacation home and not staying in a hotel, that doesn't mean that the property owner and manager can't help you out with some extras. Many properties can arrange transportation, fridge stocking, and gear rentals for an extra fee. During the holidays you can even ask if they would be willing to put up a Christmas tree! Vacation rentals in the mountains don't come cheap, so be sure to see what extra perks might be thrown in.
Find out the property's exact location: For many homes or apartments, a vacation rental will describe its location as in "Aspen" or right "near the ski resort." But when you arrive at your Aspen getaway and find it's actually down valley 40 minutes in Carbondale? You won't be super pleased about driving all that way on a powder day or to do some downhill mountain biking at Snowmass. Make sure you find out the exact address of the property before you book to ensure its "downtown" or "slope side" location really lives up to the hype.
Inquire about gear storage: There's nothing worse than pulling up to a vacation rental with all of your mountain bikes and ski gear to find that you have nowhere to put it. While some homes and condos have garages or ski lockers, many do not. And beware keeping all your gear in your car for the entirety of your vacation; ski town burglars are always on the look out for expensive recreation equipment.
Ask about parking: So you found a great deal and are headed to the mountains for a week, awesome! But where will you park your car? Many vacation rentals only allow one or maybe two vehicles at a property, even if the house sleeps many more. Parking is often horrendous in ski towns, and in the winter snowplow regulations can make it even more difficult. So be sure to ask how many cars are allowed and where you will be able to park.
Is there really a working hot tub?: Plenty of mountain vacation rentals will advertise a hot tub, which is awesome whether you're soaking up singletrack in the summer or hitting the pow pow in the winter. But before you book, make sure you ask if the hot tub is actually working. We speak from experience.
What supplies are available at the property?: You might be surprised at just how much gear is available at vacation homes. While you should always ask about towels and linens (usually included these days), make sure to also ask about snow sleds, ice skates, beach cruisers, outdoor picnic chairs, SUPs, and umbrellas. If it's fun to do in the mountains, the property might have the gear to do it!
Read the reviews: Not sure if the location will work? Curious about whether that pull-out couch is really comfortable? Check and see if the property you are interested in has reviews. Reading advice from previous renters is the perfect way to obtain more detailed information that isn't available in the description.
· From $800 to $2000, These Are the Median Rents of Ski Country's Most Popular Towns [Curbed Ski]
· Why Tiny Homes Might Be Just the Thing To Save Ski Towns [Curbed Ski]
· Why the Death of the Ski Bum Will Ruin Ski Towns Everywhere [Curbed Ski]
· Aspen Real Estate Has Had Many Peaks, But It's Not Peaking [Curbed Ski]