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We are in the final stretch before our family ski trip (woohoo!), and I realized I don’t think I shared the link to an article I wrote for Travel Channel on the topic. Plus, now that we are going through the motions ourselves, I have a few others notes to add. I can recite some of the prices of things related to skiing (lift tickets, ski school, equipment rentals, car rental, etc.), but my goodness when it is your credit card that is shouldering the burden one swipe after another (hello minimum spending requirement), it is a great reminder of just how big those numbers really are. Skiing is not an inexpensive hobby, but I am super grateful for the miles and points that are significantly keeping the price down.
First, here is a link to the Travel Channel article I wrote that highlights eight different ways to save some money on a ski trip. A few of the tips in that article are:
- Use miles to fly right into an airport near the slopes (we are using United miles to fly directly into Vail)
- Use hotel points for your slope-side hotel room
- Avoid checked baggage fees with a co-branded credit card that waives the fee, or by flying an airline like Southwest that doesn’t charge for a checked bags (even skis and snowboards can be checked for free with Southwest and JetBlue)
- Save money by purchasing lift tickets in advance online
- Save money on equipment rentals by reserving online in advance or going to a shop located off of the mountain
There are some specific examples in the article, but for the most part that is some relatively general advice that could apply to folks going on a ski trip in a number of different locations. I wanted to expand on/add a few other things that weren’t in the article.
Using Hotel Points for Ski Trips:
First, the quickest way to keep the price down is to use points for the hotel room. Here are a few examples of resorts and hotels that you can stay at on points.
Park Hyatt Beaver Creek (22K Hyatt points), Westin Beaver Creek (12K Starwood points), Embassy Suites Lake Tahoe (50K Hilton points), Marriott Vail Mountain Resort (35K), Radisson Blu Lillehammer (44K Club Carlson points), Park Inn by Radisson Rosa Khutor (38K Club Carlson points), St. Regis Aspen Resort (30K Starwood points), Doubletree Breckenridge (40K Hilton points), Sheraton Steamboat Springs (12K Starwood points), and Hyatt Escala Lodge at Park City (15K Hyatt points).
A couple resorts that stand out to me this year as being a tremendous deal on Starwood Preferred Guest points are the Westin Snowmass and Wildwood Snowmass for 12,000 and 10,000 points respectively. Both have undergone a complete renovation and opened in the fall of 2012. I have seen very decent sub-$200 rates, and points and cash availability. The reviews on these newly opened resorts seem to be mixed (as is common with new resorts), but the location is great. I would not hesitate to grab a great rate or a cash and points reservation at one of these hotels if I were still looking to book a ski trip this year.
Save Money (or time) Renting Equipment:
I am actively trying to secure our ski equipment rentals today. I own a snowboard and have been using it for a number of years, but with C learning how to ski, I need to switch back to skiing so I can better help her. I’m not anywhere near good enough at snowboarding to feel comfortable simultaneously helping a kiddo ski. I haven’t skied since high school, and don’t own any actual ski equipment. This means venturing back in to the world of rental equipment. I have found places that offer about a 20% discount for reserving online ahead of time, and some even include free children’s rental equipment with paid adult rentals of a certain number of days. This would result in some serious savings.
Another tempting (but more expensive) alternative was tweeted to me the other day – it is a company called Ski Butlers that comes to your room and fit you in your equipment without you having to go to the rental store. They also pick it back up at the end of your trip and will meet you if there are any issues with the equipment during your trip. If I didn’t have a young kid I would totally dismiss this as being an unnecessary extravagance, but this may actually be worth the premium while C is small. I can absolutely envision the game of chase I will be playing with C in the ski store while attempting to try on boots, so this is quite tempting….even if it does cost more. PS, Google is your friend to find some discount codes if you do want this service. 😉
If it turns out my little family likes skiing together as much as I did as a child, then we will likely get our own ski equipment in the coming years. I loved having my own board and not having to mess with renting and getting used to new equipment every time I headed to the mountains. If you go skiing or boarding on a regular basis, take care of your equipment, and can score a decent deal, I really do think owning is the way to go (at least for adults who won’t outgrow their skies quickly!).
Buy Ski Clothing and Gear on Closeout Prices:
It is only January and lots of ski gear is already discounted. In fact, in Texas it is already getting hard to find ski clothes in many stores as they are almost sold out. We got some decent deals by waiting until the after-Christmas sales, but I really don’t recommend waiting too much longer as some of the stuff is already getting hard to find in some locations. One thing we made sure to buy was a helmet for C (which is required for kids under 12 in ski school where we are going). We wanted to make sure it had a good fit, and given the closeout price buying it was actually cheaper than it would have been renting it for several days. Of course even with sales, getting ski gear for several people is not cheap!
Search for Lift Ticket Deals:
We bought out tickets online from the resort ahead of time and saved over $100 as a result. Of course the risk was that it is non-refundable in the event something happens. Deals We Like also has a post up about getting lift tickets for some resorts at Costco. A few years ago when I went snowboarding in Washington State we were able to get discounted lift tickets (and inexpensive rentals) at a REI in Seattle. I have also bought discounted lift tickets in the past at local grocery stores and convenience stores near the mountain. Do some research at your desired mountain as some offer free skiing on the day you fly into town (assuming you have an early enough flight to make it viable), some have free lift ticket with lesson, and some offer free kids’ lift tickets.
Do a Snow Dance:
Okay, this goes without saying. When you book a ski trip months in advance you are really at the mercy of the “snow gods” to come through with the white goodness. So far we are looking pretty good (or at least better than last year).
Another thing I wanted to note is that it seems that the child care licensing regulations in Colorado now don’t allow the hotel programs like Westin Kid’s Club or Camp Hyatt to care for children under 5 years old. This is a big bummer as the licensed child care at the slope typically closes around 4:00PM, so if you were hoping to use the on-site hotel programs for children under 5 while you went to dinner or the spa with your spouse after some times on the slopes you can forgettaboutit. C has loved all of her Camp Hyatt experiences in Texas, so we were hoping to do something similar one evening while in Colorado, but that isn’t going to be possible on this trip. So, plan accordingly if that impacts you plans.
I’m sure I will have much more to report during and after our first real ski trip as a family. Going skiing with a three year old will be quite the experience (thank goodness for ski school!). If you have some tips to share, please feel free!