Couch surfing. PHOTO: Mariano Gasper
PHOTO: Mariano Gasper

A Skier’s Guide to Couch Surfing

How to score free lodging and an unbeatable experience through CouchSurfing.com

While ski town lodging options in this day and age may be seemingly endless—hotels, motels, hostels, van life, and Airbnbs—depending on location, dates, and when you book, the price-per-night could end up costing a pretty penny. For those who want to save some money, as well as have the opportunity to add a whole new experience to their ski trip without sleeping in their car, the answer is simple: couch surfing.

No, we're not talking about crashing on your buddy's couch, but rather a worldwide hospitality social network for people looking for a place to sleep for the night. Founded in 2004, CouchSurfing.com provides an online platform for users to stay as a guest in another person’s home, host travelers, and attend local events together. Here are some tips to save some coin and make the most of your ski town couch surfing experience.

Spend time on your profile
Just like any social media site, spending some time to make your profile look good is an easy way to get more people to notice you, and, more importantly, trust you. When a host can only see your name, no photo, and nothing about you, chances are pretty low that they'll let you stay in their home. Spend 15 minutes adding some photos, writing a short bio, and listing some of your hobbies and interests. When a host sees you have things in common, odds are they're much more likely to accept your request to stay.

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Get creative with your request
Just like any lodging options in mountain towns, during ski season, space starts to run thin. Couch Surfing hosts in ski towns can see hundreds of requests over a season, so making yours stand out can give you a huge advantage on scoring a place to spend the night. Sending the same generic message to every available host is one of the easiest ways to get left sleeping in your car. Spend the time to look through a host's profile to find things you have in common and bring them up in your request. Don't be afraid to get a little creative and give your message some personality with jokes or stories. Chances are if someone in a mountain town is opening up their home to travelers, they're going to be pretty outgoing, and will be looking for similarly minded people.

Be a good guest
These hosts are opening up their homes to complete strangers absolutely free of charge. Don’t be an ass. Offer to make dinner one of the nights you stay, do the dishes if they prepare a meal, and ask if there is any help they might need around the house. (These are things you should be doing anyway because you are an adult, damnit.) During ski season, offering to help shovel snow off their driveway after a big storm or buying firewood for their fireplace is a great way to show your host how much you appreciate them inviting you into their home. At the very least, a case of beer always goes a long way in a ski town. Sweet Jane, our resident mountain town sage has some more advice for you here. Spoiler: she’s not that sweet.

Enjoy your stay
One of the best parts of couch surfing is meeting new people and getting introduced to experiences you never would have had staying at a hotel. Ask your host about their favorite part of the mountain, the best place to get a burrito, or the go-to apres spot. Couch-surfing hosts tend to be a lively bunch, especially in mountain towns, and aren't afraid of having a good time.

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Become a host
Unfortunately, just like all great things, your ski trip must eventually come to an end. After returning home reminiscing about the "best ski trip ever," think about becoming a Couch Surfing host yourself. Even if you don't live in a ski town, travelers are always looking for places to stay, and becoming a host is a great way to keep the spirit of couch surfing alive. Becoming a host also opens the opportunity of having new connections across the country and the world the next time you travel. Who knows, that French guy you hosted on his road trip across the U.S. could have a couch with your name on it in Chamonix next winter.