Music is highly personal, so there’s not a single perfect ski song (aside from KC and the Sunshine Band’s “Give It Up”—I will hear no arguments). But there’s a perfect kind of song for every part of your snow day, whether you’re storm-skiing or partaking in après. So we’ve provided a framework for the ideal ski-season playlist, along with some favorite songs to get you started.
The Drive Up
The hard part of the drive up is that you don’t want your excitement to peak too early. Do not engage your pump-up jams just yet. Modulate your coffee intake, and ease into the morning with something upbeat but not ear blasting, like Lily and Madeleine’s soothing hand clapper, “Just Do It.” About 15 minutes away from the ski area is when you initiate the jams. Art director Petra Zeiler recommends “Go to Town,” by Doja Cat, and “Nevermind,” by Dennis Lloyd. “I’m going to keep playing them all season long,” she says. “Apologies in advance to all my future car-pool pals.”
Anticipation! Turn up the volume for the put-your-gear-on, probably-have-to-pee-by-now dance. If you are of a certain generation, this is the single time of day that it’s appropriate to listen to Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls on Parade.” If you are everyone else, consider the unfailing, invincible Mary J. Blige or the only thing better than Lizzo: Missy Elliott and Lizzo. All of the above “go great with a hangover and a giant cup of coffee,” says assistant editor Abbie Barronian.
This is controversial. Some people, myself included, like to suffer to the tune of their own off-key renditions of the Dixie Chicks’ “Cowboy Take Me Away” when uphill skiing. If you prefer some rhythm and a little distraction instead, you need something upbeat—but not too upbeat,—like Bakar’s “Hell n Back.”
The Chairlift Jam
Joy! Friendship! Togetherness! An excellent time for sing-alongs. Elton. Wheatus. Sheryl Crow. Biggie. Or perhaps the perfect song handpicked for your time on the chair: “I’ll never forget the day I heard the faint sounds of ‘Ayako,’ by Gui.tar, while aboard a creeky old two-seater lift,” video producer Jackson Buscher recalls. “As I reached the top and the song grew louder, I knew it was destined to be on my ski playlist—after, of course, embarrassingly calling out to the liftie, ‘Dude, what’s that song?’”
The White Room
When you’re finally in front of untouched powder, insert the song you always pictured playing in the background of your personal ski-movie segment. For me that’s a mid-nineties jam about cocaine addiction, which is probably problematic on a lot of levels, but have you ever made bouncy pow turns to “Sometimes I Rhyme Slow,” by Nice and Smooth? Try it. If that’s not what you’re looking for, it might be classical. Or a classic.
The Shack Break
Can’t go hard all the time. Take a pause and eat your greens to a range of what one of my much cooler ski partners calls “beaty likes,” like Big Wild. Associate editor Kelsey Lindsey recommends the “minimalist sound, chill lyrics, and steady beat” of “No Talk,” by Lowell.
The 3 P.M. Bump-Off
Afternoon group shred? No better time for a bop. This “Higher Love” remix does it for me—and, I assume, everyone else with a pulse.
Tailgate tallboys call for familiar sounds mixed with some under-the-radar current standouts to hint at the fact that you are a socially relevant human who doesn’t just listen to Steve Winwood covers on repeat. Throw in a few bygone ski-movie songs, like this old Blitzen Trapper, and a little bit of brassy, ballsy Caroline Spence.
The John Denver
Even if your copilot is dozing off their parking-lot High Lifes, you still need to stay awake. The optimum vibe for the road back down is chill but not snoozy (which is also a pretty good line for your online-dating profile). First Aid Kit’s “Emmylou” fits the bill: “Nothing like Swedish alt-country to take you home on a long, cloudy evening drive,” says editorial fellow Philip Kiefer. Or how about mellow new Pete Yorn? Take me home, country roads.