Past members of the Bavarian Ski Club warm up and rest up during a Veterans Day weekend trip to  Kitzsteinhorn ski area near Kaprun, Austria.

Past members of the Bavarian Ski Club warm up and rest up during a Veterans Day weekend trip to Kitzsteinhorn ski area near Kaprun, Austria. (Stars and Stripes)

Load your equipment onto the bus, then sit back and relax. Your ski club organizers have taken care of the rest.

It’s an advantage that might make paying a modest club membership fee an attractive winter deal, whether you’re a hard-core skier or snowboarder or someone merely looking to be social or do a bit of sightseeing.

One of the biggest advantages of joining a ski club is convenience.

“I deal directly with the hotels and line everything up,” said Christopher Lawton, president of the Bavarian Ski Club in Germany. Hop a bus Friday afternoon, chill out and tell stories, and “before you know it, you’re pulling into the hotel and it’s time to get off and get your room key,” Lawton said.

In addition to transportation and lodging, the Bavarian club includes the cost of lift tickets in its trip prices. Not all ski clubs do. Breakfast, dinner and snacks often are included, too.

Every club has different things included in its prices, but club-sponsored trips can mean more bang for your buck to complement the convenience of not having to plan and book everything yourself.

Lawton recommends that even the most experienced skiers newly stationed in Europe join a ski club for their first year to benefit from those who, quite literally, know the lay of the land and those who know the best places to ski and the best time of the year to hit particular slopes.

“I know where the good places to ski are,” said Lawton, who has been skiing in Europe since 1996. His ski club organizes up to 10 trips each year, sometimes to places beyond Germany’s borders.

“With the club, I’ve snowboarded in Switzerland, Italy and in Austria so many times that I can’t keep track. But it never gets old,” said Army Staff Sgt. Michael Szabad, a snowboarder with the Bavarian Ski Club since the 2009 winter season.

Not every club member must be a skier or snowboarder.

“It’s very social. I have folks [who] don’t ski and I have folks who just cross country or snowshoe,” Lawton said.

For those who don’t ski, there are still things to do — like shopping — on some trips.

“If you’re a non-skier ... sitting in the Alps is not a bad thing. It’s just beautiful down there,” Lawton said. He cautions, however, that trips to smaller, more remote towns don’t offer much for non-skiers to do.

But Lawton believes the most important aspect of joining a ski club is the camaraderie, “the ability to get with a group of friends ... and have a great time.”

“Each trip is not only a nice break from work, but another social experience. ... Many people have been surprised with how close they can become to a group they hang out with on just one trip,” Szabad said.

While being social is a benefit, it’s not mandatory. But whatever the reason, being in a ski club can offer an easy, no-fuss way to go on a wintry weekend getaway.

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