Kids ski free: Save on your family’s next ski vacation
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Skiing is my family’s most expensive activity.
Between the lodging, the gear and the ski lift tickets, it makes a trip to Disney World look cheap. My 7-year-old has gone skiing and snowboarding the past several winters, and we are now looking to get my youngest on skis, too. Fortunately, even with two kids on the mountain, the total amount spent on lift tickets doesn’t need to get exponentially more expensive.
There are many ski resorts throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe where kids can ski for free, or at least for a reduced price. While many resorts (although not all) allow younger kids — roughly 4 or 5 and under — to ski for free, you might be surprised to see how many mountains and programs around the U.S. extend that perk to kids up to 12 years old.
Let’s break down some of your choices around the country.
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There are plenty of spots in California where families can ski without breaking the bank:
Every single child 12 and under skis for free at June Mountain. There are no blackout dates and no other requirements.
If you have a morning flight to Squaw Valley, you can ski for free for the rest of the day. This isn’t unique to kids. All you have to do is show your same-day boarding pass (on a commercial airline) and you’ll receive a complimentary lift ticket for the rest of the day. Children 4 and under always ski for free at Squaw Valley.
In addition to the one-off mountain deals listed below, if you have a fifth grader, until this season your child can ski for free at 21 mountains throughout Colorado. The program is changing a bit for the 2020–2021 season, but it’s still a potentially great deal.
Colorado 5th- and 6th-grade passport program
For a cost of $40, a registered 5th grader can obtain three one-day child lift tickets for each of the 21 participating Colorado ski resorts. You can register online and Colorado residency is not required. These lift tickets have a few holiday blackout dates and are only valid Monday through Friday this season.
Registered 6th graders can get four one-day child lift tickets via the Colorado passport program to each of the participating resorts for a total cost of $99.
This year’s participating resorts are Arapahoe Basin, Aspen Highlands, Aspen Mountain, Buttermilk, Cooper, Copper Mountain, Echo Mountain, Eldora, Granby Ranch, Hesperus, Howelsen Hill, Kendall Mountain, Loveland, Monarch Mountain, Powderhorn, Purgatory, Snowmass, Steamboat, Sunlight, Telluride and Winter Park.
Epic SchoolKids Colorado program
The Epic SchoolKids Colorado Pack is a free program for kindergarten through 5th graders that provides four days of skiing at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Crested Butte. It includes one free first-timer ski or ride lesson with equipment rental.
There is no residency requirement for the Epic SchoolKids Colorado Pack but you historically do need to sign-up in person in Colorado in the fall.
At Arapahoe Basin, children 5 and under ski free.
Four Mountain Sports is incentivizing families with kids 7 to 12 to rent ski equipment with the company by providing a free lift ticket at Aspen Snowmass valid for the entire length of your rental if lodging is booked through Stay Aspen Snowmass (minimum two-night stay). This promotion doesn’t kick in until the start of 2021 and is valid through the end of the season. Children 6 and under traditionally ski for free here.
If your travel does take you to Aspen, here are ways to enjoy the area for less.
If you book a lodging package directly through Keystone for two or more nights, kids 12 and under ski for free. Children 4 and under traditionally ski for free at Keystone.
This “kids ski free” offer even includes the Hyatt Place Keystone, so you can use points to stay less than a mile from the mountain.
This Category 4 Hyatt hotel accepts Category 1–4 reward night certificates that you earn each year with the World of Hyatt Credit Card. If paying with points, nights start at 15,000 points, or the Points + Cash rate is 7,500 points plus $75. You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to your Hyatt account instantly on a 1:1 basis. Earn Ultimate Rewards points with cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.
Families wanting to put their kids in ski school can score their child a free season pass at Loveland. Simply sign up your child for three full-day lessons (ski or snowboard) and they’ll receive a season pass after completion. This offer is valid for children between 4 and 14. Children 5 and under traditionally ski for free.
If you purchase an adult ticket for five or more days at Steamboat Springs, any child under 12 will ski for free for the same number of days. This is valid for a child skiing with a parent, grandparent or legal guardian. Only one child is allowed to ski for free per adult.
Additionally, in previous years, if you’re flying to Steamboat Springs, your entire family can ski for free either on your arrival day or departure date. If you are flying Alaska Airlines home from Steamboat Springs (HDN) airport, you’ll receive a free day of skiing on your departure date. If you are flying any other commercial airline to Steamboat Springs, you’ll receive a complimentary lift ticket to ski the evening of your arrival. It’s not yet known if this will be valid this season.
If you happen to visit Steamboat this winter, the Sheraton Steamboat Resort Villas is a great place to stay, and you can even use your up to 35k Marriott Bonvoy reward night certificate that comes with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card and Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card. (capped at a 35,000 point redemption).
Children 4 and under traditionally ski for free at Breckenridge.
Breckenridge also has many hotel options where you can use your points for a free night stay. You can use your Hilton points at the Valdoro Mountain Lodge or the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Breckenridge and your Marriott Bonvoy points at the Residence Inn Breckenridge.
Some years, Crested Butte runs a promotion where kids 12 and under ski for free during a certain period. While that promotion has not yet been announced for this year, fingers crossed we see it again for the 2020–2021 ski season. Children 4 and under typically ski for free at Crested Butte.
Children 4 and under typically ski for free at Beaver Creek.
Beaver Creek is another great option in Colorado if you’re looking to use your hotel points. There are many chain hotel options, such as the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek (from 30k points), The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch (from 85k points on standard dates) and the Westin Riverfront Spa & Resort (from 60k points on standard dates).
Children 4 and under ski for free at Vail.
Similar to Beaver Creek, using points and miles is an excellent way to make your overall vacation even more affordable. Some popular options for points and miles enthusiasts are the Vail Marriott, Highline Vail – a DoubleTree by Hilton (between 39k–80k points) and the Grand Hyatt Vail (from 30k points).
Purgatory is part of the Power Kids program where kids 10 and under can get a free season pass. Other valid resorts include Pajarito Mountain Ski Area, Sipapu Ski & Summer Resort, Arizona Snowbowl, Hesperus Ski Area, Nordic Valley Ski Resort, Brian Head Resort and Spider Mountain Bike Park.
Utah also has a fifth- and sixth-grade passport program, which you can purchase even if you’re not a resident.
While we are still waiting for details on this year’s program, historically, registered fifth and sixth graders receive access to 15 resorts throughout the state, including Alta Ski Area, Brighton Resort, Beaver Mountain, Brian Head Resort, Cherry Peak Resort, Deer Valley Resort, Eagle Point, Nordic Valley Resort, Park City Mountain, Powder Mountain, Snowbasin Resort, Snowbird, Solitude, Sundance Resort and Woodward Park City.
Fifth graders usually receive three passes to each resort, while sixth graders receive only one pass to each resort for the season.
Two children 10 and under usually ski for free at Brighton with the purchase of one adult ticket.
Children 6 and under ski for free at Snowbasin.
Children 6 and under ski for free at Snowbird with the purchase of an adult ticket.
Children 4 and under ski for free at Solitude with the purchase of an adult ticket.
Children 6 and under ski for free at Powder Mountain with the purchase of an adult ticket.
Children 5 and under ski for free at Sundance.
Related: Review of the St. Regis Deer Valley
For just $18 for the season, Idaho’s fifth- and sixth-grade passport offers fifth-graders three free days at each of the 18 mountains (total of 54 days of skiing) and sixth graders two free days at only 17 mountains (total of 34 days of skiing). There’s no residency restriction for this deal.
Participating mountains include Bald Mountain, Bogus Basin, Brundage Mountain, Cottonwood Butte, Grand Targhee, Kelly Canyon, Little Ski Hill, Lookout Pass, Lost Trail, Magic Mountain, Pebble Creek, Pomerelle (fifth grade only), Schweitzer, Silver Mountain, Snowhaven, Soldier Mountain, Sun Valley and Tamarack. You don’t need to be an Idaho resident to purchase the passport.
If you’re flying Alaska Airlines into Spokane Airport, your entire family can ski for free. Just show your Alaska Airlines boarding pass to receive a free lift ticket for the same day as your arrival.
When you book lodging at Sun Valley, many packages offer free skiing to kids 12 and under with the purchase of an adult ski ticket. Children 4 and under always ski for free.
While we don’t know for sure about this season quite yet, the Washington State passport program for fifth graders isn’t typically free, but it has been available for just $20.
It usually includes access to six different mountains throughout Idaho and Washington State, including 49 Degrees North, Lookout Pass, Mount Spokane, Silver Mountain, Brundage Mountain and Loup Loup. The pass allows you to ski up to three days at each of the participating resorts. The Idaho pass includes a different set of mountains; get both passes if you wish to explore more slopes.
Everyone thinks of Jackson Hole when it comes to skiing Wyoming and with good reason. Here’s the deal for families headed in that direction.
Last year, Jackson Hole ran a promotion where if you stay at any Jackson Hole Resort lodging for four nights or more, kids 14 and under can borrow equipment and ski for free with any paid adult ticket. Hopefully, this promotion will continue into this upcoming ski season as well (most likely the entire weeks of Christmas and New Year’s will be excluded). Children 5 and under always ski for free with a Jcard purchase, which comes with a one-time $5 fee.
If you prefer to use hotel points for your stay, the SpringHill Suites Jackson Hole is a good option that costs 50,000 points per night on standard dates.
For families visiting Oregon, Mt. Bachelor is the place to visit for free kid skiing.
Kids 12 and under ski for free at Mt. Bachelor when you purchase an adult lift ticket for three or more days. To take advantage of this promotion, you must purchase the lift tickets in November 2020. Children 5 and under always ski for free.
If you’re flying Alaska Airlines into Redmond/Bend Airport, your entire family can ski for free. Just show your Alaska Airlines boarding pass and you’ll receive a free lift ticket for the same day as your arrival.
Maine offers a few options for your kids to ski for free. While many mountains have their own programs, the Winter Kids app will offer many discounts (and even free skiing programs) on skiing as well as other activities throughout the state. This membership costs $35.
Children 5 and under ski for free at Sugarloaf Mountain.
While we don’t know yet about this season, last year, Sunday River offered free skiing for kids from Jan. 5–10, 2020, for kids 3 and 12.
In addition to free lift tickets, they can also receive free ski or snowboard rentals and free lessons. The only stipulation is that you must book a ski-and-stay package of at least three nights or more in the Grand Summit or Jordan Hotel. Children 5 and under always ski for free.
For just $30 for the season, New Hampshire’s Snowsports Passport program provides your fourth or fifth grader access to 31 different resorts once each throughout the season. Last year’s blackout dates included Dec. 26, 2019–Jan. 1, 2020, Jan. 18–219, 2020, Feb. 15–17, 2020 and Feb. 22, 2020.
Bretton Woods has paused its Bretton Woods Junior Pass Partnership Program, where children 12 and under can receive a free season pass, for the 2020–2021 season. Instead, this year you can purchase a Bretton Woods Junior Winter Mountain Pass for $149 for kids 5–12 or a Bretton Woods “No Regrets” pass for teenagers 13–17 for $449. Children 4 and under ski for free at Bretton Woods.
Children 5 and under always ski for free at Gunstock.
Waterville Valley Resort
Children 5 and under ski for free at Waterville Valley Resort.
Children 5 and under ski free at Cannon Mountain with a paying adult.
Children 5 and under ski for free at Loon Mountain.
Children 4 and under ski for free at Mount Sunapee.
Plans for the season are still in flux, but traditionally Vermont also offers a fifth-grade passport, where for only $20 for the season, fifth graders can ski up to 88 days.
You’ll receive access to the following mountains: Burke Mountain, Bromley Mountain, Bolton Valley, Killington, Jay Peak, Mad River Glen, Magic Mountain, Middlebury Snow Bowl, Mount Snow Resort, Okemo Mountain Resort, Pico Mountain, Quechee Ski Area, Smugglers’ Notch Resort, Stowe Mountain Resort, Stratton Mountain, Sugarbush Resort and Suicide Six. You’ll receive three coupons per alpine resort and either one or three coupons for Nordic centers (depends on the resort). You don’t need to be a Vermont resident to purchase the passport.
Kids 5 and under usually ski for free at Bromley Mountain. This resort is also only 7 miles from the Equinox Resort, where you can use your Marriott Bonvoy points. The Equinox is one of the few resorts in the Northeast where you can use your hotel points in such close proximity to a ski slope.
Children 6 and under ski for free at Okemo Mountain.
In previous years, Mount Snow offered a week in March where kids between the ages of 4 and 12 could ski for free with a paid lift ticket. This promotion has not yet been announced for this upcoming season, but hopefully, it will surface again. On all other dates, kids 6 and under ski have traditionally skied for $10 per day.
With every five-day adult ticket purchased, a child between 7 and 12 can ski for free at Killington. Children 6 and under always ski for free.
Kids 12 and under can receive a free My Pico Season Pass with the purchase of an Adult My Pico Season Pass. This offer is available for passes purchased through Oct. 15.
Kids 4 and under ski for free at Stowe.
Children under 46 inches tall in ski or snowboard boots ski for free.
Children 5 and under ski free at Ski Apache.
Ski Santa Fe
Children under 46 inches in ski or snowboard boots ski for free.
Children 6 and under ski free with a paying adult.
Related: Choosing the best annual ski pass
The combination of skiing at a mountain where your kids can ski for free and using points and miles on your airfare and hotel will help your upcoming ski vacation become much more affordable. You can also use miles earned from the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card or Discover it Miles to pay for the rest of your family’s ski tickets and bring down the out-of-pocket total cost.
Where will your family ski this winter?
Learn more about planning for a ski trip…
- How to pack for a ski trip
- Plan a ski trip with points and miles
- Top ski schools for kids
- 5 ways to make your next ski trip better than ever
- Hotels near Ikon Ski Pass resorts you can book with points
- Best credit cards to use on ski trips
- Best ski resorts for families in North America
Additional reporting by Summer Hull
Featured image by Imgorthand/Getty Images.
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