Using Club Carlson and Other Points for Ski Vacations

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On of my major uses for miles and points are family ski trips, and that is the topic of one of the reader questions I received this week.  If you have Hyatt or SPG points, then in the US you have a good number of great hotels on or near ski mountains to choose from.  However, this reader adds to the complexity of the issue by being a bit low on Hyatt and SPG points for the moment.  I like to stretch my brain a little, so I’ve done my best to give her some ideas on how to potentially use Club Carlson and stretch their other points for a family ski trip.  See her question, and my answer below (and please feel free to chime in with your own suggestions)!

I have a ski vacation question….we want our family of four to ski, but I’m having difficulty finding a place where I can use hotel points, or at least the few I have.  Right now on the hotel side, we have 85K Club Carlson points, 25K Starwood points, and 18K+35K remaining Marriott points.  Additionally, we have 45K+ Ultimate Reward points that can be transferred.  I’m also about to do apply for some cards for my husband and am trying to decide what to add for him.

I know this family is from the Houston area, but they didn’t specify what part of the country they want to go skiing in, so I decided to just check out a few of the top spots out west.  From their couple of emails I have learned they they seem to want to use their Club Carlson points.  The good news is that since they have the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature, they will get their second award night free.  The bad news is there aren’t a ton of Club Carlson hotels in popular ski areas, but there are a couple of options they could at least consider with Club Carlson, along with some other (better) options using some of their other points.

Club Carlson:

Country Inn & Suites by Carlson Greeley, Colorado:

This hotel is 28,000 Club Carlson points per night, so with the “last night free” award benefit from the credit card, this family would have enough for the four nights they want with their current 85,000 point balance.  Club Carlson does not have a large number of hotels in Colorado, but if you are willing to drive 90 minutes+ each way to get to a slope, this hotel is a possibility.  I have done that in my college years, but personally wouldn’t want to do it with a family.

Country Inn & Suites Denver Airport:

This hotel is also 28,000 points per night and would also require about 90 minutes plus of driving each direction to get to the closest ski slopes.  Again, this would not be very pleasant, but this hotel could be a good one for positioning on the first and/or last night of the trip near the airport.

Country Inn & Suites Billings Montana:

You can stay about an hour from Red Lodge Resort in Montana for 38,000 points per night.  This is closer in than the Colorado options, but it is still pretty far.  Again, could be good if they wanted to use it on the way to/from a ski mountain.

Salt Lake City:

There are a few Club Carlson hotel options in Salt Lake City and several ski resort options under an hour from the city, so this could be a better option than some of the other Club Carlson locations.

Starwood Preferred Guest:

Even though this family only has about 25,000 SPG points, this could still be a viable option for a ski trip if they can find cash and points availability at some of the lower category SPG hotels that are located near ski resorts.  That isn’t easy, but it is not impossible.

Sheraton Steamboat Resort:

Cash and points are available for 6,000 points + $110 USD per night, so it would still require some financial outlay, but the location is very good as a ski in/ski out at Steamboat.

Sheraton Mountain Vista Villas, Avon/Vail Valley:

Finding cash and points availability here can be rough during ski season, but if you can get it it will just cost 5,000 points + $75 per night.  Otherwise, it is 10k SPG points per night, so with a little extra spending on their SPG Amex, this family is within reach of at least three nights paid for fully on points at this hotel located near Beaver Creek ski resort even without relying on cash and points availability.


While this family does not have Hyatt points that I know of, they do have over 45,000 Ultimate Reward points they could use.  Since they have limited points, I am skipping over the Hyatt hotels like the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek that require more points per night.

Hyatt Escala Lodge at Park City:

This ski in/ski out Hyatt hotel is just 15,000 points per night, so this family already has enough for three nights if they transfer their Ultimate Rewards points from their Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardInk Plus® Business Card, or Ink Bold® Business Card. to Hyatt Gold Passport.  They could then use some of their Club Carlson points to stay in Salt Lake City at the beginning or end of their trip.

Hyatt Escala Mommy Points


Assuming this family is happy with the idea of a Utah ski vacation, that may be their best bet given the points that they have.  I haven’t yet stayed at the Hyatt Escala Lodge, but I very much want to.  I have heard very good things, and it is a great value on points.  Club Carlson points are good, but they aren’t great for ski trips in the United States…at least as far as I can see.

What would you do in this family’s shoes?


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  1. Utah is their best bet. Adding any drive time to the slopes to a ski vacation with kids is asking for trouble. If they wanted to do a few days doing tubing or snowmobiling they could stay those days away from the slopes. I also Like your previous posts about ski butlers. I’m gonna try one not affiliated with a hotel ont next trip. Keep the tips coming!! Thanks!

    • Precia, totally agree on all counts and I would absolutely use Ski Butlers again for trips with little ones!

  2. I booked Hyatt Escala Lodge at Park City for the new year. It should be great and the value is really good since the price for a night there at that time is over $400.

  3. FYI, any reader should IMMEDIATELY cross off the Greeley Country Inn as any viable option for ski season. It’s 45 min in the wrong direction from Denver. It’s 2 Hr and 10 min WITHOUT traffic, and unless you’re willing to start your drive at 5am, you’re NEVER going to beat the I-70 traffic to the slopes on the weekend, thus it becomes 3.5 hours. Also, cross off the Sheraton Mountain Villas. I stayed there a TON last ski season because it was a great value…however they aren’t accepting ANY award reservations of any type for the ’13-’14 ski season (the day the slopes close they have full availability again). In all honesty, they might want to look at points+cash at Westin Riverfront as they actually have good availability right now. All in all, my full recommendation is to stick with the Radisson in SLC. It’s about 40 min tops from Brighton/Canyons/Park City and the traffic is MUCH better in Salt Lake than Denver. I’m Denver based and am fully planning another ski trip or two two SLC this season because it’s soo incredibly easy. In addition, the overall *best* recommendation has unfortunately passed. It was to buy Choice Hotels points from the Daily Getaways deals last month. $40 would have netted one a comfy room in Silverthorne, CO…10 min away from Breck or Keystone or 30 from Vail. $60 would have gotten one a room across the street from the Sheraton Mountain Villas in Avon (plus a free breakfast for all hotel guests!)

  4. Also, if your reader wants to sign up for the Citi HHonors Reserve card, they can use the 2 free weekend night certs at the Doubletree in Breckenridge. That’s a nice hotel and it’s slope-side next to Peak 9 as well. I would not recommend even trying to redeem for the Hyatt there in Breck…

  5. Living in Denver I wouldn’t recommend staying in the city and driving to the resorts unless the family has a lot of experience driving in snowy conditions. A lot of the time the cars that get into accidents along I-70 up to the resorts have TX plates. Back in NC the cars in the ditch had FL plates. States that don’t have any exposure to wintry driving conditions means it’s difficult driving in snowy areas. I spent my first 27 years in FL and the first time I saw snow was at 2am in Virginia driving to a ski resort. It was a disaster that I wouldn’t wish on my enemies.

    There are a bunch of chain hotels in Dillon, CO and Summit offers a free bus that goes to A-Basin, Keystone, Breckenridge, and Copper Mountain. I don’t know how old the kids are so if they’re young the town bus might not be a good idea. I wish there were more brand name hotels at the ski resorts though. For this reason we almost never stay overnight and just drive back into the city. The Westin at Steamboat is in an excellent location, right on the slopes and 30 seconds from the lift.

  6. I absolutely love the Hyatt Escala, both because it’s a fantastic place to stay (with options of a room, 1BR, 2BR or bigger) but also because THE CANYONS in Park City is my favorite mountain. The hotel is ski-in and ski-out, is downright cheap at 15,000 points/night and is the equivalent of about a block or two walk from the small village area of The Canyons. Park City is easy-in and easy-out of Salt Lake City Airport. Since the reader has Marriott points, I hear the Marriott in Park City provides a great family experience, but have not stayed there.
    Steamboat Springs is a great mountain, and the Sheraton is right in the middle of the action near the gondola, but the hotel is nothing special, at least from what I’ve experienced.
    The Hyatt in Beaver Creek is absolutely gorgeous, but even if staying on points, breakfast and drinks will cost you dearly. It’s still a great use of points, and Beaver Creek is a fantastic mountain, but just know that vail & beaver creek are even more expensive than most ski resorts.
    Whistler is absolutely fantastic with their Westin at the gondola in the Village, and I’d think of getting a Fairmount card, because the Fairmount Hotel looks amazing as well. I’ve also considered using points at the Hilton in Whistler (prior the devaluation).
    My goal this year is traveling from Philadelphia to the Westin in Mammoth or the Hyatt in Lake Tahoe via Salt Lake City for another stay at the Hyatt Escala. I presume that Park City will once again have their Quick Start promotion where during most of the ski season, you can ski the first day for free. This works great on the 7AM flight from Phila to Salt Lake and would save a family a good deal of money.
    In summary, if you’re thinking of getting a few new cards for the ski trip, the Citi Hilton and Chase Fairmount card will get you four nights in Whistler. That’s not bad, and you can keep accumulating your Hyatt and SPG points for some of the other resorts mentioned.

  7. A commentor mentioned about not trying for the Hyatt in Breckenridge. I presume the commentor was speaking about the Hyatt Time share. These are point bargains if you can get them (likely not available during any holiday periods). I have NOT done an in-depth analysis of these, but if a family can grab a 2BR, I think it runs 28,000 points per night. These generally start at $500/$600 per night plus tax (The ones in Avon and Aspen can run thousands a night in peak season), and trust me, a family is much happier on a ski vacation in a 2BR, than in a hotel room. You should maybe save up your Ultimate Reward points and use them in a heartbeat for the Hyatt time shares in Lake Tahoe, Avon (beaver creek) and Breckenridge for an amazing place to stay with a kitchen near the mountain. There’s also Aspen, but that’s a very tough mountain for a family to learn to ski, plus availability is slim/none in the winter (I’m looking right now). I did book a room in the Aspen Time-Share. Great location, gorgeous accomodations, and it was only 12,500 points/night. Much cheaper than the St Regis which would have cost 30,000 SPG points. Am I missing other Hyatt time share ski locations ???
    So, a possibility in Breckenridge would be to open a Hilton card to stay at the Doubletree for two nights (not bad by points either if you want to look at the AMEX versions) and two nights at the Breckenridge Hyatt time share (may need to do some quick spending to get a few more ultimate reward points).

  8. I’ve stayed at the Hyatt Escala – love the property and the service. The ski-on/ski-off is amazing. You walk up to the 2nd floor, go out on the deck, and ski down to the first lift. That, and Canyons is a great mountain with TONS of terrain. I think it spoiled me…

  9. I agree with Miles, the only good use of Club Carlson points for a ski vacation is at their property in Les Arcs 1950. It is true ski-in ski-out and the Paradiski area is HUGE (160 lifts across three inter-connected resorts in the French Alps). I just booked a week’s vacation there for 2014 all on points and am looking forward to it.

    Last year we did the Park Hyatt in Beaver Creek and that was a fantastic use of the 2 free credit card nights plus 22k points for the extra nights. We bought breakfast supplies in Avon so we ate in the room and brought our own beer to the hot tub, so our room bill was $0. Can’t beat it.

  10. Great post! I think I’m going to have to try for the Park City Hyatt? Any recommendations for Canada? Specifically Whistler, but other Canadian options also welcome.

    One idea for Club Carlson, for a ski vacation right now, is the Radisson in Santiago, Chile. A ski van transfer to the Santiago ski resorts takes an hour each way.

  11. The Sheraton Steamboat and Hyatt PC recommendations are probably the best in terms of fewest points needed. At Lake Tahoe, we stay at the Hampton Truckee and Hyatt Incline but the latter requires a ridiculous # of points (as does Ritz Carlton). In S. Lake Tahoe there is Embassy Suites and Marriott MVC – the latter often has promos.

    But sometimes it does not makes sense to use points. I would not put my family in a cheapo Carlson property that is miles from the slopes – MP very wells knows the challenges of getting a family out the door early every morning, even tougher from a small hotel room. SPG, Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt all have convenient properties at various ski resorts, but alas many of them require mega points.

    So in this situation maybe better just to look for discounted rates or perhaps Groupons if they don’t have enough points. Our local costco also sell heavily discounted packages for Squaw Valley. We prefer to buy our rooms and save the points for more expensive resorts or Euro city hotels. YMMV

  12. This “family” is suspiciously hypothetical. How did they end up with points equal to the current sign on bonuses of the club Carlson credit card and Starwood credit card? Once you meet the spend requirements of the club Carlson card, you’d have at least 97,500 points… Similar math applies to the Starwood card. If you wanna do hypotheticals to justify an article, just say so.

    • Love all the suggestions! Will be doing more posts on ski trips very soon.
      Bob, the family is 100% real. If I wanted to use a hypothetical situation I would say it was. Plus, I would not have focused on Club Carlson points for US ski destinations if it was hypothetical as that isn’t generally a great use. I’m guessing they didn’t give 100% accurate totals on their points accounts, but rather estimated based on the points they got from the sign-up bonuses. Close enough though.

  13. @Brian – for Whistler there are plenty of options. We have stayed at the Westin and it’s great, fantastic location just around the corner from the main lift and the ski school. There is a Hilton close by which was good pre-deval but a bit pricey now unless you go Christmas. On the Blackcomb side there is a Fairmont which is a good use of the free nights you can get on those cards. You can also use Amex points to get ovation certificates which get you free nights there. The Fairmont is beautiful and right at the base of Blackcomb which is arguably the better mountain if you are a good skier

  14. Hyatt Place Cottonwood is cat 2 and at the base of the canyons for alta, Snowbird, Solitude, and Brighton. And Brighton is family-friendly.

  15. @Brian – late March/early April is fantastic at Whistler. With the depth of the snow they get you are very likely to have great conditions. Enjoy!

    @KennyB – why not get the Fidelity Amex and just get 2% cash that can be used for anything (lift tickets, popcorn, hand warmers, clothing) as opposed to a travel restricted card that pays 2% and then rebates back the much smaller 0.2% to you later? (Other than the sign up 40k bonus which I will credit is clearly valuable)

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