The most important aspect of skiing is what you wear. If you are not equipped with proper winter clothing, you will find yourself cold, wet and miserable after just a few turns.
You will need wool or silk long underwear (pants and shirt). These keep in heat without adding too much bulk. You will also need wool or silk ski socks (cotton will get wet and uncomfortable) and a fleece or wool jacket for a second under-layer.
Your outerwear should include a heavy overcoat with a waterproof shell, waterproof ski pants with a fleece or wool liner, waterproof mittens or gloves, a thick wool hat or ski helmet, a scarf or neck warmer and ski goggles. Don't rely on sunglasses--they offer little protection.
Equipment and Lessons
Besides winter clothing, ski equipment (i.e. skis, boots and poles) is imperative to a successful day on the slopes. To save money, rent equipment away from the resort. Rental shops in mountain towns that are a few miles from the resort offer considerably lower prices than those at the base of the mountain. If you're going to take a lesson, however, ask about equipment rentals because many lesson packages offer discounted rentals from resort shops. If you're new to the sport of skiing, it's always a good idea to take a lesson. Skiing is a difficult sport, and the safety and skills you'll learn from an instructor are invaluable to your success.
The most convenient place to stay is right at the base of the mountain, in a "ski-in, ski-out" hotel or condo. These resort accommodations are the most luxurious lodging options, as they require little effort to get from your room to the slopes. These accommodations, however, are also the most expensive. So if you're trying to save a few bucks, look for lodging a few miles from the resort. Most ski towns provide free shuttle services that will take you directly from the hotel to the resort. This can save you the hassle of parking, which is often a difficult and expensive ordeal.
Best Time to Go
The best time to go on a ski vacation is during the month of January. Not only is the snow in peak condition, but the crowds are minimal. The busiest and most expensive times are December, February and during holidays. If you're looking to save money, check for deals on vacation packages, as many hotels and resorts offer discounted rates during the slow season. Also, if you're planning ahead, try to make your reservations well in advance to get the best prices.
Being overprepared is infinitely better than being underprepared for a ski vacation. Consider taking extra gloves, socks and underlayers with you on the hill in case the weather changes or something becomes wet. Remember to wear sunscreen, and apply lip balm often. The light reflecting off the snow is surprisingly brutal. Also, be prepared for the altitude change in the mountains. Drink plenty of water before and during your vacation to avoid altitude sickness.