Avoid Ski Week Crowds at Disney

One of the busiest weeks of 2024 will soon arrive at Disney, to the surprise of many tourists who have never even heard of “ski week” and expect winter to be off-season in the parks. This post covers dates to avoid, why it’ll be so busy, what the heck ski week even is and who is celebrating this holiday.

Let’s start with the good news. Statistically speaking, January and February contain some of the slowest weeks of the year at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland. This is particularly pronounced in California, where the 4-5 week window between mid-January and mid-February has been among the slowest stretches of the year for each of the past 2 years.

The bad news is that longtime fans expecting low attendance levels across the board during January or February are setting themselves up for disappointment. These two months are not what they were a decade ago, when the ‘sleepy off-season’ started after Christmas and continued until spring break. In Winter Is Not Off-Season at Walt Disney World, we explain how January and February crowds have grown since ~2017, and what’s the new normal for this time of year.

One of these particularly bad time frames is known as “Ski Week.”

I’m going to be totally honest with you–I hadn’t even heard of this until last year. You know how there are some things you never hear about, but once you do, you start hearing about them over and over again? To the point that you wonder, how did I go so many years of my life without ever hearing about this before?! 

Anyway, that’s the story of me and Ski Week. It’s one of those things to which I was totally oblivious for ages, and now I hear about it all the time. (I like to joke to Sarah this type of thing is proof there’s a glitch in The Simulation. Speaking of which, ask Sarah how much she loves to hear me talk about The Simulation!)

For those of you who haven’t heard about Ski Week, it’s pretty much what the name suggests: a week when people going skiing. More specifically, it’s a week when a lot of schools are out of session for a break that’s primarily used to going skiing.

It’s our understanding that Ski Week is a West Coast thing, which makes sense given that most of America’s destination ski resorts are out west. Suffice to say, there probably aren’t a lot of schools in Alabama that are celebrating Ski Week. Obviously, students are not required to go skiing during this time–even the beach celebrates Ski Week!

This coming winter, school districts that offer Ski Week will be on recess February 19-23, 2024.

I won’t pretend to be a sudden authority on Ski Week, but what we’ve heard from friends is that Ski Week started as a long weekend for Presidents’ Day and became “a thing” because so many families were pulling their kids out of school for the entire week that districts adjusted accordingly and started giving the entire week off.

Again, I have no clue if this origin story is true, but it certainly checks out in reviewing school district calendars. A 1998 story from the San Francisco Chronicle, referring to the time as “hooky week,” would seem to corroborate.

According to that article, the trend started in Marin County’s 19 school districts about 20 years ago (from 1998) and increased to at least 33 of 154 Bay Area school districts giving students a nine-day holiday (again, as of 1998). Since then, it’s reportedly become more common and spread beyond California’s Bay Area.

It’s also my understanding that “Ski Week” is the colloquial or legacy name for this break. That the parents call it Ski Week because that’s what it was when they were kids and that’s the purpose of the break, but the school districts themselves typically refer to it as Mid-Winter Break.

(A full week of Mid-Winter Break is definitely a thing outside of the West Coast. In past research for crowd calendars, I’ve found several major districts in the Northeast and a few in the upper Midwest that also offer this. I can’t find any connection to those weeks and skiing, but the result is the same.)

In researching Ski Week, I stumbled upon multiple articles arguing that the term is “elitist,” including that aforementioned article from 1998 in the San Francisco Chronicle. If something was controversial 25 years ago, you better believe it’s only gotten more contentious! (I might have wasted several hours going down an online rabbit hole reading about Ski Week in newspaper archives. It really captured my curiosity, for some reason.)

The term Ski Week being something of a relic of the past would also help explain why I’m just starting to hear about it. For one thing, I’ve yet to find a single school district calendar that actually lists it as Ski Week. Even on the West Coast, every district that has the full week off calls it Mid-Winter Break/Recess or Presidents’ Break/Recess.

For another thing, although I’ve reviewed school district calendars from Northern and Southern California for years, I’ve focused on the largest public schools. If all of these articles are to be believed, those are not the ones that have Ski Week off. It’s the smaller and more affluent or private schools that do.

Finally, our circumstances are now different as we’ve become parents and started doing parent things. Namely, we’re talking to a lot more people. (I guess that’s how this works? Suddenly I’m going to be in a bunch of parent groups and become friends-by-default with the other dads? Here’s hoping they like football.) So perhaps it’s less a glitch in The Simulation and more a blind spot/knowledge gap.

Against that backdrop, you can probably surmise that Ski Week has more of an outsized impact on Disneyland than it does Walt Disney World. At least, that’s our guess. Ski Week is primarily a West Coast break, and disproportionately a California thing. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a large impact on Walt Disney World, though.

For the last two years, crowd levels have actually been higher at Walt Disney World than Disneyland during Ski Week. However, this is almost certainly a matter of correlation rather than causation. As intimated above, Presidents’ Day falls during Ski Week. Last year (and 3 of the last 4 years), Mardi Gras has also fallen around the week of Presidents’ Day.

As Walt Disney World fans undoubtedly know, Mardi Gras is a big deal for school districts in the Southeast. On our highly scientific scale of LSU and Saints shirts spotted in the parks, basically half the state of Louisiana visits Walt Disney World that week. Mardi Gras is basically Ski Week for jesters!

Not only that, but the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend usually encompasses the weekend after Presidents’ Day. This is a popular runDisney event that people travel to attend. On top of that, there are usually a couple of major youth sporting tournaments at the ESPN Wide World of Sports around Presidents’ Day.

This means there are two popular long weekends for Walt Disney World visitors back-to-back plus the week of Mardi Gras, all on top of one another. We’ve written about the crowds around this time of year at Walt Disney World on multiple occasions (see Mardi Gras Crowds at WDW or Worst Week of Winter is Coming from last year), and for years we’ve warned about both that and Presidents’ Day in our February Crowd Calendar for Walt Disney World. Really the only thing new here is the Ski Week angle.

It’s also impossible to assess the impact of Ski Week on Walt Disney World because you can’t separate it out from everything else on that list. It is no doubt contributing to crowds. This is especially true in an era when barriers to travel are lower and the Disney fandom is increasing bicoastal. (There’s a reason Breeze Airways offers nonstop Orange County to Orange County flights!)

There’s also the practical reality that not everyone likes to ski, and that California is colder than Florida in the winter–making Walt Disney World a nice reprieve from the weather. Anecdotally, we know Californians who will be visiting Walt Disney World for their not-so-Ski Week in 2024.

Nevertheless, it’s a near certainty that Ski Week has a bigger impact on Disneyland. Even though the overall crowd level has been lower in the California parks that week during the last few years, there also aren’t the other contributing factors. Mardi Gras isn’t really a thing in California. There is runDisney race nor do the parks host youth sporting events. It’s pretty much just Presidents’ Day and Ski Week that cause higher crowd levels at Disneyland.

With that said, there are other factors that can further exacerbate the Ski Week crowds at Disneyland. The first is Magic Key blockouts, or lack thereof. There isn’t a single tier of Annual Pass that’s blocked out the entire week. Only the lowest tier is blocked out on Presidents’ Day and the following Friday. The next highest tier has additional blockouts the weekends before and after. The Believe Key is only blocked out February 17, and the Imagine Key is valid for all dates.

To make matters worse, discounts are not blocked out for those travel dates. This isn’t really such a big deal for room discounts, as there are only three on-site hotels at Disneyland and very limited room inventory on the deals, especially as compared to Anaheim as a whole. I’d hazard a guess that hotel discounts have zero impact on crowd levels at Disneyland.

It’s a totally different story with ticket deals, though. During that timeframe, there’s both the 2024 Southern California Resident Disneyland Ticket Deal and a special offer on theme park tickets for kids. There’s one version of the SoCal ticket that’s only valid Mondays through Thursdays, but aside from that, there’s no additional blockout during Ski Week for either of these discounts.

Ultimately, we’re putting Ski Week on the radar of Disney fans as yet another reason why February 16 to February 25, 2024 will be very busy at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland. This shouldn’t be as necessary for Florida fans, as these dates already made our list of the Best & Worst Weeks to Visit Walt Disney World in 2024 & 2025 (on the ‘worst’ side of the ledger) and we’ve been warning of crowds around this timeframe for years.

However, we haven’t extended that warning for Disneyland to nearly the same degree, beyond pointing out that Presidents’ Day is a holiday weekend. What we’ve found in the past is that crowds during the middle of the winter “off-season” have caught even longtime Disney fans by surprise, so we figured you could use all the warning you could get.

Not many people have Presidents’ Day off work, so unless you have kids who have a school recess, it might not register as a holiday that would meaningfully impact attendance. It’s not exactly like Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Eve–weeks that everyone (or so it seems) has off. It’s one of those lower profile holidays that doesn’t attract a lot of attention, but nevertheless has an outsized impact on crowds–a lot like Veterans Day in November.

The degree to which a couple of states or a region having a school break can impact crowd levels is actually pretty significant. As mentioned above, Mardi Gras is a prime example of this–a popular travel period for the Southeast that has a big impact on crowds. (This is most evident when separated from Presidents’ Day, as it will be this year.)

The same thing happens with Jersey Week, which is a big break for New Jersey schools that has a surprisingly significant impact on crowd levels at Walt Disney World. If you don’t live in the locations where these breaks are common, they are understandable blind spots. Given that and the interesting (I think) background about Ski Week, I thought this was worth highlighting.

The open question is just how bad February 16-25, 2024 will end up being at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland. This past year, the Florida parks were 9/10 for the week as a whole and California parks were 8/10 for the week. In both cases, that was before pent-up demand really started exhausting itself. For 2024, we’d expect lower wait times year-over-year at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland due to “revenge travel” burning out.

Crowds in the 7/10 to 8/10 range are more likely, which isn’t terrible relative to real peak weeks. However, as contrasted with the rest of the winter “off-season” it’s quite the jump. Suffice to say, we recommend planning your January and February visits accordingly to avoid the “surprise” spike in attendance. If it’s too late for that, do what you can to position yourself to beat the potential crowds!

Planning a Southern California vacation? For park admission deals, read Tips for Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets. Learn about on-site and off-site hotels in our Anaheim Hotel Reviews & Rankings. For where to eat, check out our Disneyland Restaurant Reviews. For unique ideas of things that’ll improve your trip, check out What to Pack for Disney. For comprehensive advice, consult our Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide. Finally, for guides beyond Disney, check out our Southern California Itineraries for day trips to Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, and many other SoCal cities!


Are you in school district that has Ski Week off? Is it actually called Ski Week on the calendar, or is it referred to as Mid-Winter Break/Recess? Have you visited the parks during this week in the past? Any parks, times of day, or days of the week noticeably worse than the others? What’s your expectation for February 16-25, 2024? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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