This winter we are using our van as our home base for skiing day trips and also plan on only sleeping in our van when traveling to other ski resorts (when our stay at home orders end). Because of this, food planning is even more important than normal. Here are our tips for planning what food you can safely store in your van, based on our experiences over the last few years (including one -19°F night at a sno-park near Kirkwood, CA that broke one of the adults - the kids were fine). This is also an update to our page on Skiing in the Ski Van section.
If you are going to be using your van to live in while skiing, one of the trickiest parts we’ve found is figuring out what food to bring. We’ve learned (by freezing lots of different things accidentally) that you need to plan around whether or not your food is going to freeze and if there is the potential for multiple freeze-thaw cycles.
When you are ready to plan your trip, take a look at the daytime and nighttime expected temperatures and then decide where your food or cooler would be stored (inside or outside your vehicle). Using this information, determine if it’s likely your food will freeze at night and if your food will thaw during the day.
If the nighttime lows are only in the 20’s and your van stays warm enough to keep your cooler from freezing, consider storing your cooler in the van to prevent freezing. In cold weather, coolers do keep things warmer inside than outside but after enough time and with low enough temperatures you can freeze things inside a cooler. If you’re not sure, it’s better to assume things will freeze so you don’t have to throw away a bunch of food (as we have done more than once).
If your cooler will likely freeze but then possibly thaw during the day:
If it will be below freezing all the time and you are sure it won’t warm above freezing (even in the sun) bring food that you plan to be frozen:
In either case, if there is anything perishable (such as milk or fresh fruit) that you or your kids need every day you will need to plan to shop for it each day (either on the mountain if it’s available or by going to a local grocery store).
Some examples of food freezing points, for reference:
Two Silicon Valley engineers who have had a love of the outdoors since childhood. Parents of two small kids, spending our free time exploring the outdoors with them.