Using Miles to Fly to Colorado for a One Night Ski Trip

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I get crazy ideas every once in a while. Or rather, my idea of something that is within the bounds of normal-ish may seem crazy to someone else. This isn’t solely because of miles and points, but it is often related since they can make the otherwise impossible possible. A little over a month ago, I was chatting online with a friend who lives in Canada and a somewhat crazy idea was born. Our families have traveled together before, but it has been a while since we got together, and we were really trying hard to conjure up a way to meet-up in March before ski season ended.

 

We first thought of bringing our oldest kids and doing a short ski weekend together, but that quickly got complicated as peak ski weekend travel is pricey, and my oldest daughter didn’t need to miss any more school this semester. Nothing was falling naturally into place, so we almost tabled the whole thing. Sometimes things just don’t work out, but I woke up one day 100% determined to do what I could to make it happen even though there wasn’t going to be a logical and convenient way to spend time together.

Never ever have I regretted doing something slightly crazy to get together with a good friend, so the idea of a one-night ski trip came to life. It is hard for everyone at home to adjust when a parent leaves for a bit, but my girls are old enough that being gone just one night is no longer a huge deal – Hallelujah! If we met roughly halfway between Canada and Texas in Denver on a weekday, we could get some decent deals on flights, avoid major crowds, and our families should be no worse for wear while we were gone.

Using points to book a one-night ski trip to Colorado

There is no doubt that in my corner of Texas, the idea of flying to Colorado for one night to go skiing sounds a little bananas. To avoid strange looks, I talk about these sort of travel plans as little as possible at school dropoffs, gymnastics, and with neighbors. Instead, I log on my laptop and start pricing flights. Flight prices for our dates weren’t terrible, and I almost spent cash to book flights, but then decided this frivolous adventure was the perfect time to not impact our budget. In the end, I spent about 21,000 points from my Chase Sapphire Reserve at a value of 1.5 cents each to book the exact flight times I wanted to maximize time in Colorado and minimize disruption at home.

Since this was a paid fare in the eyes of United, I even earned a couple thousand United elite and redeemable miles on the trip. Had I spent United miles to book the award, this would have cost at least 25,000 miles for a saver award that wouldn’t have earned any elite or redeemable miles.

On the hotel side, we spent a Hyatt Category 1-4 award to stay at the Hyatt Place Keystone. This meant $0 cash for the flights and $0 cash for the hotel stay. Not only that, but when you stay at the Hyatt Place Keystone you get free night skiing for each guest on the night of arrival, which saved us about $80 each off the cost of that night’s lift ticket. Since I still had an Epic ski day left on my Epic 7 Day Pass, I didn’t have any out-of-pocket costs for the full day we spent on the slopes.

My friend rented the new Audi SUV from Silvercar to get us from Denver to Keystone, which wasn’t free, but she was able to use new customer discounts and earn a $25 Visa gift card for being a new customer referred by an existing customer, her husband. This means he will also earn a $25 Visa gift card. If you want to be referred to Silvercar and get a $25 Visa code on your first rental, I’m more than happy to refer you with the code SHULL.

To recap, here’s just how crazy it was to fly to Colorado for one night of skiing with a friend… My flights were booked with points, I had free breakfast in the United Club before boarding, our hotel was booked with an award night, night skiing was free, hotel breakfast was free, the rental car was a solid deal, and my one-day lift ticket was covered with a pass I already owned. The way my mind works, it isn’t crazy to go, it would be crazy to not go!

Breakfast in the United Club

Heck, going to a concert or the rodeo in Houston with a friend can easily cost more than the cash this trip cost to put together.

Enjoying one night skiing in Colorado

To be fair, we did have some costs since we wanted to ‘live it up’ on our one night in Colorado by eating at the Keystone Ranch Restaurant that is set in a 1930’s Colorado homestead. This restaurant is cozy, but still pretty darn elegant as far as ski ranch restaurants go with good food and excellent service. We were too busy chatting to take very good photos of the restaurant, but I enjoyed the heck out of their version of a slightly sweeter Old Fashioned.

Their iconic and hearty beef barley kettle soup was as filling as it sounds, and the roast vegetable stack comprised of portabella mushroom, eggplant, assorted squash, frisée, grilled radicchio, white bean puree, and aged balsamic got a big thumbs up. I don’t really know what all of those ingredients are, but it sure did taste good and made me feel slightly less guilty about diving face first into the insanely good bread basket before our meal even began.

Since I don’t currently own skis, we did have the expense of renting gear for a day, but what was cool about that is picking skis up as early as 4PM the day before doesn’t cost any additional over picking them up the next morning. That means that night skiing on the day we arrived truly was 100% free. Since we there in mid-March after the time change, the night skiing that goes from 4PM – 8PM wasn’t actually dark or very cold until the very end of the session.

There’s risk in flying somewhere just for a night as any significant delay will likely derail your on-the-ground plans, but if you are willing to roll the dice, the reward of getting out of your normal grind to see nature, laugh with friends, and recharge can be worth so much more than the miles and points you invested in the adventure.

It would be crazy to not go ski for a night

I’m very thankful to have friends as “crazy” as me, and the miles and points to allow ideas like skiing for a night in Colorado in the middle of the week to become a reality. We got lucky that the flights and weather aligned to let our plans go off without a hitch. After our time on the mountain, I was back home before I knew it, but with some great new memories to remember long after the Colorado snow melts for the season.

What sort of otherwise ‘crazy’ trips have miles and points made possible for you?

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Comments

    • Correct – decided to make it a short trip where we maximize time together while kids did their normal school schedules at home.

  1. Love this!! I have done the same kind of crazy thing! My friend and I flew to Las Vegas to see Cher in concert and used points and miles. We stayed just 24 hours with free flight, concert, and food. I understand what you mean about having difficulty talking about it with others. I don’t have anyone near me that is this into points so I end up just trying to get a friend to come with and then they end up benefitting from my points game. That makes it all the more fun though!

  2. My recent “crazy trip”: last August I traveled to Jackson Hole, Wyoming for the total eclipse. Used United miles for AUS-JAC and paid for a return JAC-AUS ticket on American. Used Hilton points to book one night at Hampton Inn in Jackson where cash rates were $600+. Visited Teton mountains, took a float along Snake River, and walked around Jackson. Next day, went to the Jackson Hole airport to watch the total eclipse. Weather was perfect – completely sunny skies.

    • Oh how fantastic!! Did a one day to JAC last year, too. Such a special spot – especially for the eclipse!

  3. Nice. Time with friends…priceless. Well maybe “priceless” isn’t appropriate when using Visa UR points 🙂 I would have opted for a 2 night trip like this but you made it work.
    I was recently on a tour of the Kansas City air traffic control center in Olathe Kansas and was surprised that they have special issues and route concerns over aircraft going into Colorado during ski season. Denver isn’t quite the big issue but the smaller ski airports like Vail see heavy peak landing rates and it can also effect the cross country traffic flows, approaches into places like DFW, etc. So many people work hard behind the scenes to make a quick ski trip like yours work it’s amazing.

    • My friend did do two nights, which was probably smarter, but with some luck one night worked. It is amazing this sort of thing is even possible.

  4. Did you happen to make it here for any of the last 3 powder days? Beaver Creek was super fun this morning…even with the lifts having trouble getting going, there was NOBODY out there. Awesome 13″ powder day.

    • Aided by the fact that I used 23k UR points to stay 10 feet from the lift at the Osprey (next to Strawberry Park lift). We brought the toddler up, and used the room as a base to switch back and forth. I got in 5 powder runs, my wife 4. This included the 45 min delay due to weather. It’s awesome having a lift with good terrain literately outside your window.

  5. Solid work, last year I redeemed 72,000 AA miles for a round trip to NZ for my Dad’s birthday. I was there about 48 hours and back to the US. Spent as much time travelling as there, but it was a good surprise.

  6. Our recent crazy trip was to Dublin for the weekend to celebrate my son’s 18th birthday! His birthday happened to fall on a Saturday, and I was thinking it would be great to take him on a trip. I didn’t even think to go that big until Wow Airlines had an $89 sale from DC-Dublin that I jumped on. We left on Friday night and came back Monday. My husband and I each used our annual free night IHG certificates and we stayed at the Intercontinental Dublin (RIP this awesome benefit). Yes, crazy amount of travel for a weekend but totally worth it.

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