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Skiing is a very expensive hobby, especially if you have to travel in order to get on a mountain. It wasn’t this expensive when I was a kid and my parents would drive us through the night from Texas to New Mexico or Colorado, but in the ensuing decades, it has become a very expensive hobby and trip. So expensive in fact that the average Colorado ski vacation for two adults that includes three days on the mountain is reportedly $3,466 at Vail (where we are going next month) ringing in at $4,572 and Aspen (where we are going next year) ringing in at $4,226. Remember that’s just three days on the mountain for two adults and doesn’t factor in children’s airfare, ski school, lift tickets, rentals, etc.
Those numbers are just way out of range for most of us, but thankfully ski vacations can be had for much, much less by leaning on miles, points, deals, and strategy. We recently enjoyed a fantastic week in Seattle and Whistler with three days on the mountain and we spent way less than those numbers for all four of us.
To help you figure out how to do the same, we put together a three-minute video on How to Save Money Skiing at Whistler that includes five tips that could save you thousands of dollars. While the tips do have a Whistler specific flair, most of them can be easily adapted to save you money on a ski trip almost anywhere.
I hope you will watch the video, but for those who prefer written posts, here are some ways to save money on a Whistler ski trip.
Consider flying into Seattle instead of Vancouver
The last time we went to Whistler we flew into Vancouver, but this time around we realized we would save money and miles by flying into Seattle. Taxes alone for the flights home would ring in at about $200 for our family of four and award availability was just much better to Seattle. If you are paying for your flights with cash instead of airline miles, you will likely find more deals to Seattle than Vancouver, so do the math and see if Seattle can save your family some money.
You will have to make the longer drive from Seattle (or take the train), but the few hours didn’t bother us as it really was a pleasant drive as long as you avoid peak Seattle traffic times. I also highly recommend checking the border crossing wait times if you don’t have NEXUS as one crossing on our trip was almost three hours while others were under an hour. Keep in mind that those were wait times during the busy holiday week between Christmas and New Year’s, so waits on a normal day are likely much shorter.
Use points to stay on the mountain at the Westin Whistler
One of the best deals in the miles and points world is using your points to stay on or near a ski mountain during a peak ski time. In looking at the rates for the week between Christmas and New Year’s at Whistler next year, the cheapest rate for a standard room at Westin Whistler is about $1,000 per night, which is the same as it was this year. However, you can instead spend as few as 9,600 SPG points per night if you stay five nights, which is an outstanding deal.
Spending 48,000 SPG points instead of about $5,000 for a five-night stay already makes this trip much more realistic for most families. Not only is that a great deal, but the Westin Whistler is just steps from ski school and the Whistler gondola. To earn SPG points that you can use to stay at the Westin Whistler, check out the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card and Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card.
In addition, inside the hotel is the Whistler Kids daycare program and a rental shop that will store your skis for you at the end of the day.
Save hundreds by groceries and make your own lunches
At Whistler, like at most ski resorts, food can be pricey. We had free breakfast with Platinum status at the Westin Whistler, but lunches on the mountain or in the hotel could easily be $50 for a family of four, or more if you aren’t careful. Breakfast could easily cost that same amount if you were buying it in restaurants.
However, in the walkable Whistler Village, there is a grocery store where you can load up on bananas, cereals, sandwich materials, chips, drinks, and more to knock out some easy breakfasts and lunches so you aren’t spending hundreds of dollars per day just to fill your family’s bellies.
We prefer to keep costs low for breakfast and lunch and then enjoy a dinner out at one of Whistler’s many great restaurants, but you could choose to make all three meals and save even more. The rooms at the Westin Whistler all have at least a small studio kitchen with suites having even larger cooking and eating areas.
Buy an Epic Pass
A one-day walk-up adult lift ticket at Whistler costs as much as about $156 CAD, but you can knock that amount down to about $133 CAD by buying at least 7 days in advance, or potentially even lower if you go at really off-peak times. Another alternative is to purchase an Epic Pass which is available in either an unlimited version or with a set number of loaded days that you can use at any of the Epic Mountains that include popular resorts such as Whistler Blackcomb, Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone, Breckenridge, Stowe, Park City, and more.
Your per day lift ticket rate can be kept under $100 per day with an Epic Pass. This is an especially good deal if you are going to visit at least two different Epic Mountains. This year, we plan to visit at least Whistler and Vail so I got an Epic seven day pass that I paid about $659 for, meaning that each of my ski days is about $94 which isn’t bad, considering the peak season daily ski rates. Having that pass also meant that I can purchase a set number of discounted walk-up lift tickets for my family members or friends.
Kids ski for less
Kids ski free at Whistler until they are seven years old, which is a much longer time period than at the major Colorado resorts. At Vail and Breckenridge, kids need a lift ticket starting at age 5 and that ticket will cost more than $100 per day. However, at Whistler, you don’t pay until the kids are seven years old and then the tickets start at just $67 CAD, which is just over $50 USD.
A bonus tip that is not on the video, but that is fun and can save you money is to go to the hardware store in the Whistler Village and buy your own sled that you use all week rather than buy tickets to the snow tubing park. A sled can be had for under $30 CAD and a ticket for just one person for one hour on the tubing park is $22 CAD. Not only is it fun to have your own sled, but it is also an insanely practical way to move your toddler around the village!
For more information on skiing at Whistler for less, here are details on how we planned our most recent trip to this snowy paradise. How does your family save money while skiing at Whistler and other mountains?
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.