6 Spots to Hit the Slopes with Points This Winter
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A ski trip to a luxurious mountainside resort can be a spendy vacation, but TPG Contributor Lane Nieset reminds us that cashing in your hotel points can smooth out the moguls and bring six of the world's most fabulous, redemption-friendly ski destinations within closer reach. Be sure to see the bottom of this post for suggestions of credit cards that will help you hit the slopes in style this winter.
1. Verbier, Switzerland
One of the main resorts in Switzerland's Four Valleys, Verbier, has gained quite a reputation not only for its slopes, but also for its wild après-ski celebrations. Head by cable car to the highest point, the Mont Fort Glacier, where you can catch sweeping views of the Matterhorn, Grand Combin and Mont Blanc. For off-slope skiing, take another cable car up to Mont Gelé, or head to the Haute Route for a ski tour to Zermatt and Saas Fee.
Where to Stay: W's first alpine hotel, the 130-room W Verbier is set right next to the main gondola, one of five hotels in Verbier with ski-in/ski-out access. You'll find familiar W amenities like the WET Pool and W Living Room (with views of the Swiss Alps), as well as the W Off Piste bar and the more clubby Carve bar, perfect for those all-night parties. Rates for the SPG Category 7 hotel start at about $649 or 30,000 Starpoints per night in February. For more on the hotel, see our post, Hotel Review: W Verbier, Switzerland.
Getting There: The trip from Geneva Airport (GVA) to Verbier takes about three hours, with a scenic transfer by train to Le Châble, followed by a gondola or bus ride. SWISS offers nonstop service from New York (JFK) and Washington Dulles (IAD) to Geneva (GVA), and even lets you check boots, helmet and ski or snowboarding equipment free of charge in addition to its regular checked baggage allowance of 23 kg (51 pounds) per person.
2. Beaver Creek, Colorado
Seen as Vail's little sister, Beaver Creek has been drawing skiers to its slopes since 1980, with more than 1,800 acres of skiable terrain and 25 lifts. You can up your skiing game by hitting the area's black diamond runs or experience the slopes by snowmobile, ski bike, dog sled or horse-drawn sleigh.
Where to Stay: The 190-room Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa shows off views of the village and nearby peaks from the balconies, while the Powder 8 Kitchen and Tap restaurant gets even closer to the scenery with après-ski snacks and drinks served in the snow on the patio around a fire pit. Rates start at about $649 or 30,000 Hyatt Gold Passport Points per night in March.
The luxurious 180-room Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch is perched between Beaver Creek and Arrowhead, just 20 minutes from Vail Mountain, with an on-site ski concierge to get you all set up for a day of skiing. Rates at this Tier 5 hotel start at about $799 or 70,000 Ritz-Carlton Rewards points per night in February.
Getting There: Denver International Airport (DEN) offers flights on American, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue and Southwest. From the airport, it's about a 2.5-hour ride to the mountains. For more ideas on hotels and activities in Beaver Creek, see our post, Destination of the Week: Vail/Beaver Creek, Colorado.
3. Park City, Utah
Park City is now the largest ski area in the US after it became linked with nearby Canyons Resort as part of a project that was completed this summer. On its 7,300 skiable acres, you'll find more than 300 trails, 38 lifts, seven terrain parks, six natural half pipes and a super pipe. If all this sounds intimidating, don't worry — the terrain is perfect for any ski level.
Where to Stay: At the base of the resort, the Waldorf Astoria Park City has its own gondola that leads to 4,000 of the area's acres with the Canyons Ski Resort just outside. Rates at the Category 9 hotel start at about $609 or 80,000 Honors Points per night in February.
The AAA Four Diamond Hyatt Escala Lodge at Park City is set at the base of Canyons Village at Park City and features ski-in/ski-out access, a heated pool and residential suites with full kitchens and up to four bedrooms that are great for family ski trips. Rates at the Category 4 hotel start at about $499 or 15,000 Hyatt Gold Passport Points per night in February.
In early 2015, TPG stayed at the luxurious Category 7 St. Regis Deer Valley during the Sundance Film Festival — note that the hotel has sparse availability in February, when rooms start at $730 (and soar to around $2,300) or 35,000 Starpoints per night.
Getting There: There are more than 70 nonstop flights to Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) — about a 45-minute drive from Park City — on carriers such as Alaska Airlines, American, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue and Southwest. For more on Park City, see our post, 7 Winter Ski Destinations to Spend Your Summer Vacation.
4. Whistler Blackcomb, BC
The largest ski resort in North America, Whistler Blackcomb's 8,171 acres span two mountains, connected by the Guinness World Record-holding PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola.
Where to Stay: If you want to be close to the slopes, they're right outside your doorstep at Hilton Whistler Resort & Spa, with chairlifts leading to the Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, located right next to the hotel. Rates at the Category 9 hotel start at about $384 or 80,000 Honors Points per night in February. For more on this property, see our post, Hotel Review: Hilton Whistler Resort & Spa.
Named the No. 1 ski hotel in North America by Condé Nast Traveler, The Westin Resort & Spa, Whistler is also next to both of the mountain gondolas and features 419 rooms with fireplaces and windows that open up to let in that sweet mountain air. Rates at the SPG Category 5 hotel start at about $472 or 16,000 Starpoints per night in February.
Getting There: Fly to Vancouver International Airport (YVR) on Air Canada, American, Delta or United. YVR is a roughly two-hour drive from Whistler along the gorgeous Sea-to-Sky Highway (99). Or choose from a wider variety of direct routes by flying to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), then make the five-hour drive to Whistler. For more ways to pass the time in Whistler, see our post, Destination of the Week: Whistler, BC.
5. Jackson Hole, Wyoming
This 50-mile long valley in the Teton Mountain Range was founded in the early 1800s by fur trappers and named Jackson Hole after one of them, David E. Jackson. The town of Jackson still maintains its 19th century charm with log cabins dotting Town Square. With two national parks — Grand Teton and Yellowstone — within driving distance, the area is a year-round dream for outdoor lovers, with biking, hiking and, of course, world-class skiing and snowboarding. There are 2,500 acres of prime ski territory, half of which features beginner and intermediate trails.
Where to Stay: The 88-room Hampton Inn Jackson Hole is about a 20-minute drive from the Jackson Hole Airport (JAC) and Jackson Town Square is only a 10-minute drive from Grand Teton National Park, so guests won't be too far from the area's prime ski territory. Rates at the Category 7 hotel start at about $139 or 30,000 Hilton Honors points per night in February.
Wyoming's only five-star, five-diamond hotel, Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole, is a ski-in/ski-out hotel set just at the base of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. While the Four Seasons is home to luxurious mountain digs with fireplaces and private terraces, the hotel also incorporates an experiential factor into the stay, offering private helicopter and SUV tours of Yellowstone National Park. Rates start at bout $569 per night in March, and although this isn't a points property, cardholders of the Platinum Card® from American Express and the Business Platinum Card® from American Express version can book through the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts travel portal to receive perks like room upgrades, late check-out and a $100 food and drink credit.
Getting There: American, Delta, Frontier and United offer direct flights to Jackson Hole Airport (JAC) from 13 major US cities. For more trip-planning tips, see our post, Destination of the Week: Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
6. Aspen, Colorado
Aspen got its start as a mining town in the 1880s and lured those looking for silver rather than slopes. These days, the jet-set destination draws a crowd from around the globe to its major peaks, known as "The Power of Four" — Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk — which feature 300 trails accessible with a single lift ticket ($139/day for adults, $89/day for kids, teens and seniors from now until April 3, 2016).
Where to Stay: If you want to feel like one of the rich and famous who flock here, book a stay at the 154-room St. Regis Aspen Resort, which is modeled to look like a Gilded Age manor in the mountains with luxuries like St. Regis' signature butler service, private Lexus transfers around town and the Remède Aspen Spa, with aromatherapy, steam caves, an oxygen lounge and hot tubs. The SPG Category 7 hotel starts at $759 or 30,000 Starpoints per night in February, while rates at the St. Regis Residence Club, Aspen start at about $2,799 per night.
If you want to feel like you're in your own mountainside chalet, the Hyatt Grand Aspen, A Hyatt Residence Club features studios, as well as 1-, 2- or 3-bedroom condos with fireplaces, full kitchens and outdoor fire pits. Rates start at about $579 per night for a studio in February and March or 12,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points per night.
Getting There: The closest option is Aspen-Pitkin County Airport (ASE) with flights on American, Delta or United. Denver International Airport (DEN) offers a larger range of flight options and provides easy connections to Aspen with airport-to-resort shuttle van services like the Colorado Mountain Express. For more insider tips on Aspen, see our post, Destination of the Week: Aspen.
Consider These Co-Branded Hotel Credit Cards
Find yourself excited about one of these destinations, but low on hotel loyalty points? Consider the following co-branded cards:
Starwood: If you're low on Starpoints, consider the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and/or its business version, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express both of which no longer charge foreign transaction fees.
Hilton: You can earn Hilton Honors points with the Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card and the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card, or with the Hilton Honors Card from American Express and Hilton Honors Surpass cards from American Express.
Hyatt: The current sign-up bonus for the Hyatt Credit Card from Chase is two free nights at any participating Hyatt when you spend $2,000 within the first three months.
Ritz-Carlton: The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card's present sign-up bonus only offers two complimentary nights at Tier 1-4 properties — thus excluding the Bachelor Gulch — but it can still help you earn the points you'll need to stay there.
For more suggestions on how to use your points — and your miles — check out our guide to planning the ultimate ski trip with points and miles and other great tips for saving big on family ski trips.