Your Car is Your Lodge

By Seth Fairfax, Redwood City Store Staffer


Say it with me now: “Your car is your lodge!”

You may have seen this phrase (in bold type and extra-large font, with zippy positive messaging) on ski resort web pages. Squaw, Tahoe Donner, Homewood, Sugar Bowl: they all wave this in our faces. With so many COVID-restrictions in place and seemingly no end in sight, it would be understandable to view this as yet another sad necessity of the pandemic. But oh, my friends, how wrong you are!


Do you remember the crowded cafeterias and lazy concessionaire options? You’d queue through the cattle line, waddling like a penguin in your unforgiving ski boots for the opportunity to buy a sad boat of fries and lifeless cup of chili worth more than my college bicycle. Seriously dudes and dudettes, “your car is your lodge” is an escape hatch to a better life.


Allow me to teach you the wisdom of the ski bum. At your car you can crack open your favorite beer, play some tunes (with a respectful volume, of course), and take a load off in your luxury camp chair. Are you wet or cold? Your pre-packed duffle bag is ready with fresh socks, comfy boots, an extra jacket and as many blankets as you need. You’ll be surrounded by fresh air, expansive views of snow capped mountains, and neighbors concealing their jealousy over your little hygge oasis. Follow my lead and you’ll soon be recharged for an action-packed afternoon or ready to battle the westbound traffic for the next 3+ hours.

In order to win at the game of “your car is your lodge”, you need 4 simple things:


1.  Something to eat,

2.  Something to drink,

3.  Stuff to prepare items #1 and #2, and

4.  Creature comforts.


The beauty of my 4-step program is its endless versatility. Let me show you what I mean.


Seriously this can be anything. Bologna, PB&Js and energy bars are options for those with no skills, time or imagination; but that’s not us. Grilled cheese sandwiches are deceptively easy and alarmingly satisfying. Hot dogs sautéed in butter (trust me) are stupid-good and c-h-e-a-p. Reheat your homemade gourmet (or Campbell’s) soup / chili in a small pot. Boil instant ramen and be creative with mix-ins. Or just have a no cook snack-a-thon with salamis, cheeses, fruits and nuts, chips and guac. Don’t forget to treat yo self with a brownie, or as I do, with 1/3 of an apple pie.

Remember that you’re here to nab sustenance and rest, not to labor over the stove. I recommend something warm, satisfying, and UNFUSSY. Find something that works for you and your partner(s).




First drink some dang water you dehydrated adventurer! Of course, the bar is open to enjoy responsibly. As with any outdoor activity, avoid glass bottles. Follow any cold drink with a warm one. Make a French press or pour over coffee to delight in the aromas and fluff up your caffeine wings. Vacuum thermoses can hold hot water for hours and will save you a step on your journey. A cheap mug will help transfer some of the heat into your hands. Cheers to your health and your fellow powder chaser – we’re in the bad bit of a pandemic, y’all.




It's winter bruh; you can skip the cooler or size it down for the necessities. Almost anything can be prepared with a 2-burner stove (also rentable at Sporty B!), a skillet and a saucepan. If you want to stay light and fast, by all means use a backpacking stove. Pack only the food you plan to eat that day and the minimum tools to prepare it. If you can, pre-slice, pre-mix, and prepare anything you can at home, so that you can get straight to business.


This is a great opportunity to optimize your go-box for car camping and picnics. Make it adaptable for each undertaking. Planning is the solution to packing too much or not enough. If your meal will require ≥ 5 tools, save it for another time. Aim for a spatula (I bet a fork could do the job), a spoon and a pocketknife. If your anxiety is high, do a dry run at home.




Relax and kick back with whatever you need - and you’re at your freaking car, so you can have anything!! If you’re the cold-blooded type, let your warm-blooded partner do the cooking. Focus on settling into your camp chair under a warm blanket, with a fuzzy hat and mittens. Just unpack what you need from your duffel (which you have kept near the trunk for easy access) and watch that exotherm get to work.



Pro-tip: Parking lots get slushy, so lay down a cheap tarp to keep your lil’ piggies dry. Your ski boots can act as corner weights if it’s too windy. Pack your goodies in a Rubbermaid-style box (remember the go-box??) which will double as a makeshift table to cook and feast at. Pop up your camp chairs around the table or side-by-side as lovers do. Hang up sweaty clothes in the sun and with luck they’ll be ready for round 2. We have a lot of sunny days here in California and it makes for a fantastic lunchbreak.




Oh, no sun today? I’m soooooo sorry you’re skiing in fresh powder! Way to rub it in, ya jerk. Fair enough – getting buried in snow is not ideal cooking or eating conditions. What to do now?? Watch the weather to know when to prepare for a blizzard. And have no fear, you can still keep warm, just under more cramped conditions. This is no time for on-demand cooking. Take advantage of thermoses or insulated food canisters full of soup, or really anything. These containers are amazingly effective and will last a lifetime. Pack up last night’s dinner (while it’s still hot) and enjoy it for lunch today without hassle. Would you rather have proper fresh food? Become a sandwich artist. Enjoy a salad for once in your life. Or there’s always take-out food from your favorite cafeteria!


Are you ready to say it now? One, two, three, “MY CAR IS MY LODGE!”


  • Naomi says...

    Love your writing style, Seth. Sounds like a friend doling out sound advice with a smile. :-)

    On April 05, 2021
  • Steve says...

    We’ve been doing this for years at Sierra at Tahoe. Some of the lots are positioned so that you can ski VERY close to your car.

    We pack a small propane BBQ in the tube along with our skis. Lunch is dogs, sausages, and / or burgers, along with a couple choices of chips. Very fast, very easy, very filling… and lunch for four costs less than lunch for one at the lodge. A cooler full of water, sodas, and beers rounds out a nice lunch break.

    On April 05, 2021
  • alex says...

    I’ve been trying to figure out a way to plug in a microwave to my car. any ideas?

    On February 05, 2021
  • Kara says...

    Nice article! I’ve definitely packed up my camp table and chairs to take up the mountain

    On February 05, 2021
  • Doc Murph 911 says...

    Any suggestions as to making your SUV comfortable for an overnight lodge? Have done it flyfishing May to October.

    On February 05, 2021

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