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Believe it or not, ski season has actually already started in Colorado, with more resorts opening up in the coming days.  I am especially excited for this ski season since I think my daughter will really start to have fun on the slopes this year.  She took lessons a few times last year, and will be ready to take it even further this time around!  We have two ski trips already booked, and are keeping our fingers crossed for a good snow year!  Since I know that many of you are also big fans of the white powder, this will be the first of a few ski related posts.  I also have a pretty comprehensive post on places you can use points to stay close to the slopes that launched last month.  I will repeat a little bit of the info from that post today, but I really recommend checking out that post if you want a good list of points friendly hotels to start with.

In no particular order, here are a few of my favorite ski deals in the United States, and I’d love for you to share some of your favorites!

Ski free the day you land:

Some mountains offer a deal where you can ski for free the day you fly into their local airport.  Even from Houston, you can land at Vail’s Eagle Airport (about 20 minutes from the slopes) as early as 10:48AM.  If you already have ski gear, or can quickly rent some, that gives you a few hours to ski that first day for free!  This deal doesn’t work as well if you have slower moving young children in tow, but if your party moves quickly, this can be a way to hit the slopes without delay for free!  Some of the mountains that offer a version of this deal are Beaver Creek/Vail, Squaw Valley, and Park City (though I can’t find a link to this year’s version of the deal, and perhaps that is because they aren’t doing it this year…).

Mountain Collective Pass or Other Passes:

Obviously you can’t ski free everyday (or if you can, please tell me how), but if you ski often enough during the ski season  it can make sense to buy a pass of some sort to dramatically lower the per-day cost.  If you are going to hit Whistler, Aspen Snowmass, Mammoth, Jackson Hole, Alta, Snowbird, Squaw Valley, and/or Alpine Meadows this ski season then you can get up to 12 ski days for just $379.  You get two days included at each of these resorts (some count as one), and then additional days are 50% off with no black-out days.  This deal is only good if you are visiting several of these resorts, but the savings are pretty awesome if you get around during ski season!  Children 12 and under are $239 and quantities are limited for these passes.  I’m strongly considering buying this pass since we have trips booked already to two of these resorts, and I wouldn’t mind using points to do a quick visit to a third.  There are some other somewhat similar types of passes for other resorts available here.  The Loveland four pack for just $129 is also a very good deal!

Mountain Collective

Save money on lift tickets:

Even if a pass for many days or many mountains isn’t for you, you can still do much better than the selling price at the lift ticket counter with a little advance planning.  I have saved money on lift tickets by buying at REI, grocery stores, online in advance, and on liftopia.com.  The same principles hold true when searching for deals on equipment rentals – though I have to admit I love the convenience of Ski Butlers who bring the skis right to your hotel room and pick them up when you are done (and even they have discount codes!).

Using points to stay right on or near the mountain:

Lodging costs for locations convenient to ski mountain can be astronomical during peak ski season, but you can use hotel points to stay right on the mountain at some resorts.  For those with young kids, location truly can make the difference between a ski trip being kind of a pain, and a ski trip being a breeze!  Some of my favorite spots to use points in the US are the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek for 22k Hyatt points per night, Westin Whistler Resort and Spa for 12k points per night, Hyatt Escala Lodge at Park City for 15k Hyatt points per night, and the St. Regis Aspen for 30k SPG points per night.  Get a pretty comprehensive listing of hotels convenient to ski resorts in this post.

Kids Ski Free at Keystone (and a couple others):

Last ski season, my family was hosted by Keystone so that they could demonstrate what a family focused ski resort was like…and they weren’t kidding.  Why doesn’t every resort have red wagon’s to haul gear in?  Another thing they do that is very family friendly is offering lift tickets to all kids 12 and under.  There are no blackout dates and no long list of terms and conditions.  You just have to stay two nights at one of their properties and the kids ski free.  I’ll be posting much more about our trip their soon to contrast it with some of the stays I have made to other resorts on points, but if you have several young kids this is a killer deal.  There are a few others mountains like Steamboat, Mount Bachelor, and Big Sky that offer kid ski free programs, but some are a bit more complex than the Keystone version.

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Grandma hauling the ski gear in a red wagon at Keystone

Use miles to fly right into the local airport:

Just like it can be pricey to stay near the mountain without points, it can be pricey to fly into the smaller airports located near ski mountains.  However, this exactly what miles are for since with many frequent flyer programs, those destinations won’t cost any more than just flying into Denver, or similar.  Last year we flew directly into Eagle Airport in Vail on miles, and it was so much nicer than flying into Denver and driving 2 hours, which we have also done.  As an added bonus, many ski destinations are on the December and January American Airlines reduced mileage award list.  If you have the co-branded AA credit card then you can fly round trip into places like Aspen, Jackson Hole, Vail, and Steamboat Springs for as low as 15,750 American Airlines miles.  I have found that British Airways Avios are also awesome for flying nonstop flights on American Airlines into some ski destinations since that program is distance based!

Skiing and snowboarding are by no means inexpensive hobbies, but with some miles, points, and deal hunting techniques it can be an affordable hobby.  I know I am looking forward to building many more family memories on the slopes and in the snow this year using several of these tips.  What are your favorite money saving ski tips?

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Three generations happy on the mountain!
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