Ski Trip Preparations

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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!

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  1. Another lesser known trick for lift tickets is to buy a Descente passport series jacket. These come with several free lift tickets for resorts around North America – see for specific resorts – and cost about $200. They are only good for one ticket at each resort but you may find some very close together. For example, this year, they have free tickets at 4 different resorts in Salt Lake City.

  2. For cheaper ski rentals go into Avon since you’ll have a car and get rentals from christy sports. At same time hit up city market for snacks and nearby liquor store for adult beverage. If you really want to pay more and have convenience, there is a beaver creek sports right at the Westin, across from the ski valet, however, we rented from them and I thought it was overpriced for what you got. For your adult time meal, have lunch at the ritz carlton in bachelor gulch. Ambience beyond belief. Even just a drink to warm up in front of there huge fireplace. Look for bachelor, the resident lab. If you want to go all decadent, take a sleigh ride to Beano’s Cabin. Very expensive but nice experience. I’ve seen small kids there, so no worries about taking little C. Don’t forget about iceskating in village If you want good, cheap burgers, go to Larkburger in Edwards. Have fun, hope it snows more for you, I’m currently enroute to Whistler- 83 inch base

  3. Tom, thanks!
    Apple, Beanos is our back-up plan one night if our more affordable sleigh ride dinner doesn’t pan out again due to low registration. Thanks for the tips and I agree the rental shop attached to the Westin has brutal prices.
    Lively, absolutely!
    BRLfly, I didn’t see any free or super rentals where we were going for helmets…though it would make sense if they were there since they aren’t that expensive! Sadly it seems all of our ski gear is pretty bulky, so we’ll see how it goes this trip and then decide if we want to do it differently in the future. Thanks!

  4. Shell gas offers 2 for 1 lift tickets with a 10 gal fill
    Usually statewide in Colorado after January 1st each season.

    Your receipt and their signed voucher is good for a number
    Of resorts including Loveland which is on your way to
    Beaver creek along I-70.

    Be sure to get your fresh chocolate chip cookies at
    Beaver creek base village after 3pm daily. Take a shuttle bus
    Back to your lodging afterward. Most little ski legs are well
    fried that late in the day.

    And pace yourself in this higher altitude!

  5. This is a very timely post. My husband is taking our two teenage boys to park city next weekend along with my brother and nephew. Their rooms were booked with chase points at a great value. Their flights were all booked with ff miles. They have helmets, goggles, etc but will rent their skis. They are getting lift tickets at Costco. Best thing about this whole trip– I will be on a cruise with girlfriends enjoying warm weather while they are skiing. Woo hoo!

  6. you can also get good deals, occasionally great deals, at I live in Northern Nevada and use it all the time when we have friends come in from out of town to ski at Lake Tahoe. (they have discounts on tickets nationwide)

  7. Couple things:

    – if you (or anyone reading this) has a ski trip to Vail or a sister resort planned for next season, the Epic Pass may make sense. It costs $570 for unlimited days at any Vail Resorts mountain, include those at Tahoe. It can pay for itself in as few as 5 days on the hill. If you know you need less than 10 Vail days and can work around blackout dates, the Epic Local pass is even cheaper.

    – lift tickets purchased through Vail Resorts, include Epic Passes, code as a hotel purchase!

  8. If you are planning to keep up with skiing, think about renting Demo boots from somewhere where you can easily switch equipment in the middle of the day if it isn’t working for you and credit your rental to a purchase if you find something you want to buy. My first trip getting back in to the sport I rented everything and ended up promising my feet I would never do that to them again!! I went home with boots of my own and couldn’t have cared less how much they cost after the torture of rental boots.

  9. I would never travel with skis. Not only is it a PITA, but skis have been broken in the checked bagged before. Trust me, a friend visited me and when they pulled their skis out, one was broken in half and they ended up renting anyway.

    Buy nice boots and take those with you. Then you can get a demo rental if you so desire.

    The shadiest “Savings” I’ve seen on actual skis was pair in the REI in SLC. The tag read, “skied on for one season and didn’t like.” Jerk.

  10. @Kathy, if family is going to Park City, buy better discount lift tickets at Ski N See in downtown Salt Lake City, but do the ski rentals at Ski N See in Park City, very cheap and probably the best boots and skis I’ve ever rented.

  11. Talk about serendipity! Our family has been taking an annual ski trip to Beaver Creek for many years now (next one coming up in February).

    If you haven’t already checked out the “Peaks Rewards” tab at, I recommend it highly ( The Peaks Card links to your selected Credit Card (hello miles), and your eligible spend on-mountain and with affiliated businesses earns you & your family points toward free lift tickets and/or lessons. They also have some discounts on advance purchased lift tickets.

    As for a possible parents’ night out, there are a number of bonded babysitting services that your hotel’s concierge should be able to help you with if you’re ultimately inclined (and if you are, you may want to check out the small piano bar area at Splendido @ The Chateau (accessible via Dial-A-Ride, as are many other local food & drink establishments).

    Hope you have a wonderful time at Beaver Creek!

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