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How to plan your ski trip with points and miles

Nov. 09, 2022
36 min read
person skiing
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A ski trip can easily cost between $200 and $500 per person per day when you include lift tickets, gear rental, meals, lodging and transportation.

While the actual all-in cost of a ski trip varies pretty dramatically based on when and where you ski, it can quickly become a rather expensive vacation. Tack on some private ski lessons or splurge on fancy lodging and that total can quickly multiply.

However, your next trip to the mountain doesn’t have to drain thousands of dollars from your bank account. In fact, you can pay for much of your ski trip using points and miles. Here’s how.

Lift tickets

Let’s start with the trickiest thing to buy using points on a ski trip: lift tickets. Before we can get into how to use points, you need some basic ski lift ticket knowledge.

IMGORTHAND/GETTY IMAGES

Many major ski areas — including Vail, Beaver Creek, Aspen and Breckenridge — charge around $200 per day for single-day lift tickets, but there are numerous ways to reduce your cost using both deals and points.

One tip to save money (or points) and guarantee a day on the mountain is to purchase tickets before the season starts. You can do this through advance single-day ticket reservations or a larger package or pass.

Related: Best credit cards for buying ski tickets

Ski passes

Beaver Creek Resort in Colorado. SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

There are four main ski pass programs across the country: Epic Pass, Ikon Pass, Mountain Collective and Indy Pass. Which of those ski passes is the best for you will depend on where you want to ski, when you want to ski and how many days you plan to spend on the mountain.

Related: Best annual ski pass: Battle between Epic, Ikon, Mountain Collective and Indy

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A season pass makes sense if you plan to take more than one ski trip. It can even be worth the money for a single weeklong trip. Be aware that these prices often rise as ski season nears, and sales will end for all of these ski passes at some point in December or January.

As an example, one type of available pass is the Epic Pass. The pass offers everything from a $99 (for adults) or $50 (for kids) one-day pass to an $879 season-long pass (though the price on this will go up throughout the season). Even if you only plan to ski a day or two, locking the days in this way can cut the per-day ski rate in half, even at normally expensive resorts such as Vail, Breckenridge and Beaver Creek.

EPIC MOUNTAIN EXPRESS

When it comes to using points for these passes, you have a few options.

Several of the big-name passes, such as the Epic Pass, are available for purchase through a site called Undercover Tourist. This matters because ski pass purchases often code on your credit card as entertainment or another category of spending other than travel. However, if you can make the purchase in a way that codes as travel (such as through Undercover Tourist), your point-redemption opportunities expand.

You can redeem miles from the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card at 1 cent per mile against travel charges made on those cards. This means a $200 lift pass costs 20,000 miles.

So, if you’ve earned the 75,000-mile bonus from the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening), and purchase the ski pass or lift ticket in a way that codes as travel, you can use the miles toward the ski passes charged to that card. (Here are instructions on how to do that.)

Redeem points for ski gift cards

You can also use points to buy lift tickets by redeeming points for relevant gift cards. For example, you can redeem 28,600 American Express Membership Rewards points for a $200 Aspen Snowmass gift card — but we don’t recommend it.

At less than a 1-cent-per-point redemption, this isn’t a great option for travelers, especially when TPG values these points at 2 cents per point. In almost all cases, you’re better off using your points for flights or accommodations.

Ski for free

In addition to using points, there are many ways for children and seniors to ski for free (or at a drastically-reduced price). Targeting programs or resorts where at least some of the family can ski for free reduces the need to use as many points for the other tickets and passes.

Related: Best credit cards to use on ski trips

Ski gear

If you have Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you can use those points to rent ski gear in many locations.

In the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, you can redeem points from the Chase Sapphire Reserve at a rate of 1.5 cents per point toward rented ski gear as it falls under the “Things to Do” section. Those with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card can redeem their points at a value of 1.25 cents each.

CHASE.COM

In this example, it will cost 3,056 Ultimate Rewards points per day for an adult ski gear rental package delivered to your hotel or home rental in Breckenridge. The cost for snowboard rental packages starts at 3,987 points per day.

CHASE.COM

Both packages include transportation from your accommodations to the rental center for fitting as well as transportation to the mountain or back to your lodging.

Flights

With ski gear and lift tickets out of the way, using your miles to fly to the ski resort is the next step in saving money on your trip.

Flights to mountain airports

There are two strategies for flying to or near the mountains. The first option is to fly into a small airport that’s closest to the ski area you want to visit. In Colorado, this includes airports such as Aspen/Pitkin Airport (ASE), Vail's Eagle County Regional Airport (EGE), Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport (GUC), Montrose Regional Airport (MTJ) and Telluride Regional Airport (TEX). The same applies to Jackson Hole Airport (JAC) in Wyoming.

This can be very convenient when it all works out well, but it actually has several disadvantages.

View of the Telluride Regional Airport. TELLURIDE TEX AIRPORT

First, you’re less likely to get a nonstop flight to these smaller airports unless you’re fortunate enough to live in one of a handful of hub cities with nonstop service.

Next, the operation of your flights will be very dependent on unpredictable mountain weather. It’s not uncommon for flights at these airports, especially true mountain hubs such as Aspen and Telluride, to have flights canceled for days at a time due to winter weather.

A couple of ski seasons ago, I tried to fly directly into Telluride with my family, but we found ourselves landing at Montrose and taking a bus into Telluride due to the weather. Another year, winter weather canceled our flights home out of Aspen and made it impossible to rebook new flights from that airport for days. (Thank goodness for the built-in Chase trip protection coverage, which picked up the massive, last-minute hotel bill when we got stuck in a ski town during peak season.)

Finally, award seats on these flights can be quite pricey. This is especially true on weekends or holidays during peak ski season.

How to book award flights to the mountains

SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

When flying to smaller airports in Colorado, and many of the mountains out west, United Airlines and its regional partners often dominate service, with American Airlines coming in second place. JetBlue also has some seasonal routes to select mountain areas.

If you have a United MileagePlus credit card such as the United Explorer Card, make sure to log in to your MileagePlus account to see expanded Saver award availability.

Related: 4 reasons someone in your family needs a United credit card

As an added bonus, having an airline cobranded credit card will often help you get a free checked bag on that airline, which can be used for your ski and snow gear. Typically, two pairs of skis or a single snowboard and boots count as one checked bag, even if the boots are in a separate bag. Still, always double-check your airline’s contract of carriage and current baggage policies to be sure.

Related: The ultimate guide to flying with sports equipment

Here’s a sample of available routes to mountain airports (some service is seasonal and only offered on select days throughout the year):

Steamboat Springs area — Yampa Valley Regional Airport (HDN), Colorado:

  • Alaska Airlines: San Diego International Airport (SAN) and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).
  • American Airlines: Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW).
  • Delta Air Lines: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) and Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP).
  • JetBlue: Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL).
  • Southwest Airlines: Dallas Love Field Airport (DAL), Denver International Airport (DEN) and Nashville International Airport (BNA).
  • United Airlines: Chicago-O'Hare International Airport (ORD), DEN, Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Dulles International Airport (IAD).

If you live in the Northeast, for example, you can fly from Boston to Steamboat Springs on JetBlue using your JetBlue TrueBlue points. Use the JetBlue Fare Finder to find the most economical award prices that work with your dates. You’ll also get 10% of your points back if you have the JetBlue Plus Credit Card.

JETBLUE.COM

Southwest Airlines also flies to Steamboat Springs, and using a Southwest Companion Pass could be an excellent way to stretch your Rapid Rewards points this ski season. As fares to these smaller airports tend to be expensive during peak season, this can also be a great time to use a companion ticket if you have one.

Gunnison-Crested Butte, Colorado:

  • American Airlines: DFW.
  • United Airlines: DEN and IAH.

Aspen, Colorado:

  • American Airlines: Austin Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) ORD, DFW and LAX.
  • Delta Air Lines: ATL and LAX.
  • United Airlines: ORD, DEN, IAH, LAX and SFO.

If you can find dates with a direct flight, you could pay as little as 8,500 AAdvantage miles per person each way.

AA.COM

Related: Best ways to earn American Airlines miles

Vail's Eagle County Regional Airport (EGE), Colorado:

  • American Airlines: AUS, ORD, DFW, LAX, PHX, John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and LaGuardia Airport (LGA).
  • Delta Air Lines: ATL.
  • United Airlines: ORD, DEN, IAH, LAX, EWR and SFO.

Since United flies from many locations to Vail, using Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles or Avianca LifeMiles is a great alternative to fly for fewer miles.

Using these partners, you can sometimes redeem just 7,500 LifeMiles one-way to fly on the same United flights for which United may want 12,500 or more miles for each way. Earning LifeMiles is also quite easy, as it’s a transfer partner with Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One miles and Citi ThankYou Rewards. Quite often, you can find a hefty promotion on purchasing LifeMiles, which can save you money over paying cash prices. You may also find a promotion to transfer your points with a bonus, multiplying them in the process of making a redemption. For a nonstop flight from Houston to Vail, you could pay just 10,000 LifeMiles plus $5.60 in taxes per person each way.

LIFEMILES.COM

Another way to get to the mountains is with your British Airways Avios points. Although it’s an international carrier, British Airways is a partner with Alaska Airlines and American Airlines, and British Airways' Executive Club program has a favorable distance-based award chart for nonstop flights.

Flying from Dallas to Vail on American Airlines will cost just 9,000 Avios plus $5.60 in taxes when seats are available. British Airways is also a transfer partner with both American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One miles and Chase Ultimate Rewards, so earning miles in the program is quite easy. There are even sometimes transfer bonus offers.

BRITISHAIRWAYS.COM

Montrose/Telluride, Colorado:

  • American Airlines: DFW, LGA and PHX.
  • Delta Air Lines: ATL.
  • Southwest Airlines: AUS, DAL and DEN.
  • United Airlines: ORD, DEN, IAH, LAX, EWR and SFO.

Denver Air Connection also flies directly into Telluride from Denver and Phoenix, but you cannot currently redeem airline miles for the flights. You would need to pay and then use a "purchase eraser" type of credit card to offset the charge with your points.

Related: Guide to a perfect ski day in Telluride

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Jackson Hole, Wyoming:

  • Alaska Airlines: SAN, SFO and SEA.
  • American Airlines: ORD, DFW, LAX, MIA, LGA and PHX.
  • Delta Air Lines: ATL, LAX, MSP and SLC.
  • United Airlines: ORD, DEN, IAH, LAX, EWR and SFO.

You may also choose to fly into a larger airport, even if it’s sometimes a little farther away from the ski areas. These larger airports include Denver, Salt Lake City, Reno-Tahoe and even Albuquerque or Boise, depending on where you’re planning to ski.

The advantages of this strategy are being slightly more removed from mountain weather, flying on far more reliable mainline service and having many more nonstop routes from around the country with sometimes better award pricing.

Related: Guide to the Denver airport

DENVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

Another advantage is that you can fly Southwest Airlines, which offers everyone two free checked bags and makes all its flights available as awards. If you have the Southwest Companion Pass, it can reduce your overall ski vacation cost immensely, as someone in your family will be able to fly with you for free (plus taxes and fees).

In addition to the recent expansion of service into some additional Colorado ski towns, Denver is also one of Southwest’s biggest focus cities, with nonstop flights from the vast majority of the cities it serves.

Related: 6 award chart ‘sweet spots’ that will save you money on domestic flights

Lastly, it's worth mentioning that United Airlines has a bus service between Denver's airport and both Breckenridge and Fort Collins, which you can book as part of your airline ticket.

Hotels

On-mountain lodging during ski season can be very expensive.

This makes on- or near-mountain lodging a great use of points when you can find award availability. Here are some of our favorite hotels near ski areas that can be booked with points:

Park Hyatt Beaver Creek. SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

Hilton Honors

Although Hilton doesn’t have a large presence in the ski resort mountains, there are a few properties near some of the more popular resorts in Colorado and Utah.

With the Hilton Honors program, there’s no set award chart; instead, each hotel has a range for the number of points it charges. You can research the range of points needed by using Hilton’s Points Explorer tool. Peak dates will require more points, and you won’t know how many will be required for an award night until you search (though standard rooms do still follow a maximum rate on an unpublished award chart). Expect these ski accommodations to require the highest number of points during the ski season, especially on weekends and holidays.

With resort fees on the rise, one big advantage of using your points is that you may not be charged those fees. For example, the $40-per-night fee the Highline Vail charges won’t hit your bill when you book your stay with points — something to factor in when determining if you should pay for the room versus using your points.

In California:

  • Hampton Inn and Suites South Lake Tahoe: 47,000 to 70,000 points per night.
  • Hilton Vacation Club Lake Tahoe Resort: Only premium rooms, which range from 48,000 to over 200,000 points per night.

In Colorado:

  • Highline Vail DoubleTree by Hilton: 43,000 to 80,000 points per night.
  • Homewood Suites by Hilton Steamboat Springs: 34,000 to 60,000 points per night.
  • DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Breckenridge: 38,000 to 70,000 points per night.
  • Valdoro Mountain Lodge, Breckenridge: This is a Hilton Grand Vacations property, and points availability is extremely limited.

In Utah:

  • Waldorf Astoria Park City: 77,000 to 90,000 points per night (but with limited standard award availability, you may be looking at booking a premium room, which is over 300,000 points).
  • DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Park City – The Yarrow: 42,000 to 65,000 points per night.
  • Sunrise Lodge by Hilton Grand Vacations: Only premium rooms, which are 63,000 to over 400,000 points per night.

In Wyoming:

  • Hampton Inn Jackson Hole: 55,000 to 80,000 points per night.
  • Homewood Suites by Hilton Jackson: 80,000 points per night.

You can earn Hilton Honors points with the Hilton Honors American Express Card, Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card. The Hilton Honors program is also an American Express Membership Rewards transfer partner at a ratio of 1 Membership Rewards point to 2 Hilton Honors points.

When using your Hilton Honors points, you’ll also receive your fifth night free if you have status. Fortunately, all of the credit cards above come with some sort of elite status, so earning status in the program can be quite easy.

The information for the Hilton Aspire Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: Choosing the best Hilton credit card for you

World of Hyatt

Hyatt offers a handful of ski-in and ski-out properties where you can use your points.

One of the major benefits of using your points at these properties is that resort fees will be waived. Parking fees are also waived for Globalist members — even on paid reservations.

While some of the top-notch resorts will require between 25,000 and 40,000 World of Hyatt points per night, there are a few hidden gems in the program. For example, the Hyatt Place Keystone and the Hyatt Place Park City are both only 15,000 points per night. This is a great opportunity to use your annual Hyatt Category 1-4 award certificate, which comes upon account renewal with the World of Hyatt Credit Card.

Free lockers at the Hyatt Residence Club Breckenridge, Main Street Station. RYAN SMITH/THE POINTS GUY

A stay at the Hyatt Place Keystone even comes with some freebies, such as free night skiing, and kids can ski free at Keystone.

In Colorado:

  • Hyatt Place Keystone: Category 4 from 15,000 points per night.
  • Park Hyatt Beaver Creek: Category 7 from 30,000 points per night.
  • Grand Hyatt Vail: Category 6 from 25,000 points per night.
  • Hyatt Residence Club Beaver Creek, Mountain Lodge: Category 6 from 25,000 points per night.
  • Hyatt Residence Club Breckenridge, Main Street Station: Category 6 from 25,000 points per night.
  • Hyatt Residence Club at Park Hyatt Beaver Creek: Category 7 from 30,000 points per night.
  • Hyatt Residence Club Grand Aspen: Category 7 from 30,000 points per night.

Hyatt has many additional Destination Hotels in and around Colorado ski areas, but in-season award availability is extremely limited. Also note that Residence Club properties have very limited award availability, especially during peak season.

Hyatt Centric Park City. BOOKING.COM

In Utah:

  • Hyatt Centric Park City: Category 7 from 30,000 points per night.
  • Hyatt Place Park City: Category 4 from 15,000 points per night.
  • Hyatt Place Salt Lake City — Cottonwood: Category 2 from 8,000 points per night.
  • Stein Eriksen Residences: Category 8 from 40,000 points per night.

In Nevada:

  • Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino: Category 6 from 25,000 points per night.
  • Hyatt Residence Club Lake Tahoe, High Sierra Lodge: Category 7 from 30,000 points per night.

In California:

  • Hyatt Residence Club Lake Tahoe, Northstar Lodge: Category 6 from 25,000 points per night.
  • Resort at Squaw Creek: Category 6 from 25,000 points per night.

You can earn World of Hyatt points with the World of Hyatt Credit Card and World of Hyatt Business Credit Card.

The World of Hyatt program is also a transfer partner of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program (1:1 ratio) and proves to be a great redemption value for those with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Ink Business Preferred Credit Card and Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card.

IHG Rewards Club

Despite having such a large presence across the U.S., IHG offers less than a handful of properties conveniently located to the mountains. Fortunately, many of them cost 40,000 IHG Rewards points per night or less, which means you can use your annual reward night certificate that comes with the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card.

Just by being a cardmember, you’ll also get your fourth night at no additional charge on award stays, which means your overall vacation cost can be quite low. And if you’re ever short on points, there are many times during the year when you can buy IHG points for half a cent per point.

Hotel Indigo Silverthorne. IHG.COM

In Colorado:

  • Holiday Inn Steamboat Springs: Prices vary, but currently around 25,000 points per night for much of the winter.
  • Holiday Inn Express and Suites Fraser — Winter Park Area: Prices vary, but currently between 23,000 and 50,000 points per night for much of the winter.
  • Holiday Inn Express Glenwood Springs — Aspen Area: Prices vary, but currently between 21,000 and 25,000 points per night for much of the winter.
  • Hotel Indigo Silverthorne: Prices vary, but currently between 27,500 and 42,000 points per night for much of the winter, excluding holiday periods.

In Utah:

  • Holiday Inn Express and Suites, Park City: Prices vary, but currently between 16,0000 and 30,000 points per night for much of the winter.

In California:

  • Holiday Inn Express South Lake Tahoe: Prices vary, but currently between 25,000 and 40,000 points per night for much of the winter.

In Nevada:

  • Holiday Inn Club Vacations Tahoe Ridge Resort: 35,000 points per night nearly every night this winter.

Marriott Bonvoy

If an annual ski vacation is in your future, you’ll probably want to start earning points within the Marriott Bonvoy program ASAP.

You’ll see from the list below that it offers the greatest number of ski-friendly properties across the West and beyond. There’s everything from your high-end ski-in and ski-out resorts to more budget-focused properties not too far from the main ski villages. Unfortunately, unlike Hilton and Hyatt, you’ll still be charged the hotel’s nightly resort fees with Marriott, even when booking with points or holding elite status with Marriott Bonvoy.

For example, the W Aspen charges a whopping $50 per night in resort fees, even if you’re staying on points. When looking at Marriott properties, you might want to pick a hotel that doesn’t charge a fee, such as the Sheraton Steamboat Resort Villas (although that property does charge a parking fee).

Marriott has introduced peak and off-peak pricing and, for the most part, ski season will translate to standard or peak pricing. You’ll also receive your fifth night free when using points, but it’ll take off your least-expensive night, not necessarily the cost of the actual fifth night.

The number of points listed below for a free night indicates standard award nights.

In Colorado:

  • Beaver Creek Lodge, Autograph Collection: Prices vary, but currently between 70,0000 and 100,000 points per night for much of the winter.
  • Element Basalt — Aspen: Prices vary, but currently between 35,0000 and 41,000 points per night for much of the winter.
  • The Hythe, a Luxury Collection Resort, Vail: Prices vary, but currently between 70,0000 and 95,000 points per night for much of the winter.
  • Marriott’s Mountain Valley Lodge at Breckenridge: Limited points availability, but currently between 45,0000 and 60,000 points per night on available dates.
  • Marriott’s StreamSide Birch at Vail: Very limited points availability, but expect prices of 55,000 to 70,000 points per night if you can find it.
  • Marriott’s StreamSide Douglas at Vail: Limited points availability, but currently between 53,0000 and 56,000 points per night on available dates.
  • Marriott’s StreamSide Evergreen at Vail: Limited points availability, but currently between 53,0000 and 60,000 points per night on available dates.
  • Residence Inn Breckenridge: Prices vary, but currently between 40,0000 and 60,000 points per night for much of the winter.
  • Residence Inn Steamboat Springs: Prices vary, but currently between 30,0000 and 40,000 points per night for much of the winter.
  • Residence Inn Vail: Opening in February 2023; points pricing is not available yet.
  • The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch: Prices vary, but currently between 85,0000 and 110,000 points per night for much of the winter.
  • The Ritz-Carlton Club Vail: Very limited points availability, but expect prices of 120,000 to 150,000 points per night if you can find it.
  • St. Regis Residence Club, Aspen: Very limited points availability, but expect prices of 120,000 to 150,000 points per night if you can find it.
  • The St. Regis Aspen Resort: Limited points availability, but currently between 103,0000 and 120,000 points per night on available dates.
  • Sheraton Mountain Vista Villas, Avon / Vail Valley: Prices vary, but currently between 43,0000 and 55,000 points per night for much of the winter.
  • Sheraton Lakeside Terrace Villas at Mountain Vista, Avon, Vail Valley: Limited points availability, but currently between 53,0000 and 60,000 points per night on available dates.
  • Sheraton Steamboat Resort Villas: Limited points availability, but currently between 33,0000 and 60,000 points per night on available dates.
  • The Sky Residences at W Aspen: Very limited points availability, but expect prices of 90,000 to 120,000 points per night if you can find it.
  • Viewline Resort Snowmass: Prices vary, but currently between 49,0000 and 60,000 points per night for much of the winter.
  • W Aspen: Prices vary, but currently between 70,0000 and 95,000 points per night for much of the winter.
  • The Westin Riverfront Mountain Villas, Beaver Creek Mountain: Limited points availability, but currently between 55,0000 and 70,000 points per night on available dates.
  • The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa, Avon, Vail Valley: Prices vary, but currently between 72,0000 and 85,000 points per night for much of the winter.
St. Regis Aspen. BECCA MANHEIMER/THE POINTS GUY

In Utah:

  • AC Hotel Park City: Prices vary, but currently between 34,0000 and 40,000 points per night for much of the winter.
  • Courtyard Salt Lake City Cottonwood: Prices vary, but currently between 20,0000 and 30,000 points per night for much of the winter.
  • Hotel Park City, Autograph Collection: Prices vary, but currently between 72,0000 and 100,000 points per night for much of the winter.
  • Marriott’s MountainSide: Very limited points availability, but expect prices of 55,000 to 60,000 points per night if you can find it.
  • Marriott’s Summit Watch: Very limited points availability, but expect prices of 43,000 to 52,000 points per night if you can find it.
  • The Residences at The St. Regis Deer Valley: Very limited points availability, but expect prices of 100,000 to 130,000 points per night if you can find it.
  • St. Regis Deer Valley: Prices vary, but currently between 95,0000 and 115,000 points per night for much of the winter.
  • Sheraton Park City: Prices vary, but currently between 30,0000 and 40,000 points per night for much of the winter.

In Wyoming:

  • The Coudveil, Autograph Collection: Prices vary, but currently between 83,0000 and 100,000 points per night for much of the winter.
  • SpringHill Suites Jackson Hole: Prices vary, but currently between 53,0000 and 70,000 points per night for much of the winter.

In California:

  • Marriott Grand Residence Club, Lake Tahoe: Very limited points availability, but currently between 70,0000 and 100,000 points per night if you can find it.
  • Marriott’s Timber Lodge: Very limited points availability, but currently between 50,0000 and 60,000 points per night if you can find it.
  • The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe: Prices vary, but currently between 88,0000 and 115,000 points per night for much of the winter.
  • Westin Monache Resort, Mammoth: Limited points availability, but currently between 50,0000 and 70,000 points per night on available dates.
The Westin Monache near Mammoth, California. SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

Remember, you can receive a Marriott free night certificate worth up to 35,000 points annually with the Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card. With the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card, you’ll receive an annual free night certificate worth up to 50,000 points. You also can add up to 15,000 points on top of these awards. Expensive ski resort properties are the perfect opportunity to redeem these certificates, though you’ll need some date flexibility, since peak ski weekends are likely to price at higher award rates.

Here are some other ideas for redeeming the 35,000-point certificates and the 50,000-point certificates.

Wyndham Rewards

In early 2019, Wyndham revamped its award chart and introduced a chart where all properties fall into one of three categories:

  • 7,500 points (or 1,500 points plus cash) per night.
  • 15,000 points (or 3,000 points plus cash) per night.
  • 30,000 points (or 6,000 points plus cash) per night.
Park Plaza Resort Park City, a Ramada by Wyndham. WYNDHAMHOTELS.COM

Although most of the Wyndham hotels are more budget-focused properties, there are a few in the program that stand out for travelers planning a ski vacation. The timeshare properties that remain at 15,000 Wyndham Rewards points per night per bedroom may be a smart choice (although many dates are blackout days during peak ski season).

Many Wyndham Resorts require a two- or three-night minimum stay, so it can help to check for availability on points for multiple nights.

In Colorado:

  • Club Wyndham Resort at Avon: 15,000 points per night.
  • Club Wyndham Steamboat Springs: 15,000 points per night.
  • Days Inn and Suites by Wyndham Gunnison: 15,000 points per night.
  • Days Inn by Wyndham Silverthorne: 15,000 points per night.
  • La Quinta Inn and Suites by Wyndham Silverthorne: 15,000 points per night.
  • La Quinta Inn by Wyndham Steamboat Springs: 15,000 points per night.
  • Ramada by Wyndham Frisco: 15,000 points per night.
  • Super 8 by Wyndham Dillon/Breckenridge Area: 15,000 points per night.

In Utah:

  • Club Wyndham Park City: 15,000 points per night.
  • Park Plaza Resort Park City, a Ramada by Wyndham: 30,000 points per night.
  • WorldMark Midway: 15,000 points per night.
  • WorldMark Park City: 15,000 points per night.
  • Zermatt Utah Resort & Spa: 15,000 points per night.

In Wyoming:

  • Super 8 by Wyndham, Jackson Hole: 15,000 points per night.

In California:

  • Days Inn by Wyndham South Lake Tahoe: 15,000 points per night.
  • Hotel Becket Lake Tahoe, Trademark Collection by Wyndham: 15,000 points per night.

In Nevada:

  • Harveys Lake Tahoe: 15,000 points per night.
  • WorldMark Lake Tahoe: 15,000 points per night.

If you’re short on Wyndham Rewards points, you can increase your account balance with a Wyndham Rewards credit card, such as the Wyndham Rewards Earner® Card or Wyndham Rewards Earner® Plus Card. Both cards have a 10% points rebate for points redeemed on Go Free awards.

Related: The ultimate guide to earning and redeeming Wyndham Rewards

Choice Privileges

Although there aren’t many Choice properties near the ski slopes, if you’re able to find one, they provide some great benefits.

For starters, Choice does not charge more points for larger rooms. This is a great benefit if you’re traveling with a family. The major downside, however, is that Choice does not allow you to redeem your Choice Privileges points for a free night stay until 100 days out. Award prices also can vary on different dates during periods of low or high demand. Example prices below are from a weekend stay in December.

The Grand Hotel, Ascend Hotel Collection in Frisco, Colorado. CHOICEHOTELS.COM

In Colorado:

  • Comfort Inn Near Vail Beaver Creek: 30,000 points per night.
  • Comfort Suites Summit County: 30,000 points per night.
  • The Grand Hotel, Ascend Hotel Collection: 30,000 points per night.
  • Quality Inn and Suites Summit County: 30,000 points per night.
  • Quality Inn and Suites Steamboat Springs: 30,000 points per night.
  • Quality Inn and Suites Vail Valley: 30,000 points per night.
  • Winter Park Mountain Lodge: 25,000 points per night.

In California:

  • Econo Lodge Inn and Suites Heavenly Village Area: 20,000 points per night.
  • Quality Inn near Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort: 30,000 points per night.
  • Quality Inn South Lake Tahoe: 25,000 points per night.

You can earn points with the Choice Privileges Visa credit card or by buying points during a bonus promotion.

Rent a ski house

You might even find that renting a home can be a better deal, whether you are skiing with just your family or a larger group. Colorado and other similar ski areas are full of well-appointed home rentals on Airbnb, Vrbo and even the Marriott Homes & Villas program or Wyndham Vacasa Management program.

For example, Wyndham partners with Vacasa Rental Management Company, which has a slew of amazing properties on or near the ski slope where you’ll pay just 15,000 points per night per bedroom. A slope-side one-bedroom condo will only cost you 15,000 points per night, which allows you to use fewer points and be more spread out than at many of their resorts. The downside, however, is that some properties have restricted dates when it comes to using your points.

If you are looking to book a ski house through the Marriott Homes & Villas program, you can actually use your Marriott points to book an entire house or condo. The rate of return for your points isn’t always great (and the Wyndham program is significantly better), but it can certainly offset the overall cost of your ski vacation. Alternatively, you can earn Marriott points on the purchase if you decide to pay cash.

SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

There are additional ways to use points for home rentals outside of the Marriott program, such as booking via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal or using credit card points to offset the travel charge. See more in our guide to using points to book a vacation home.

Related: How to book the perfect Airbnb

Ground transportation

Last, but not always least, is getting from the airport to the mountain (and back).

One option is to rent a car, which has several pros and cons. On the downside, there’s the cost of the rental car and gas, and you may even face parking charges if you stay at a property that’s very close to the mountain. You’ll also have to deal with mountain driving conditions, including possible heavy traffic and winter weather — the latter of which visitors from warmer climates may not be comfortable with. Many popular destinations also have had major issues with a car rental shortage, so availability and pricing during peak periods can be problematic.

On the plus side, you can enjoy a leisurely trip to the slopes and stop at various cities and towns along the way. Having a car makes it easier to visit nearby attractions, plus local towns and restaurants in the evening. It’s also very easy to use points to pay for your rental car booking either directly through a rental car program — if you’re a frequent renter — or through a site like the Chase travel portal.

If you end up flying into Denver, you can be guaranteed an all-wheel-drive Audi when renting with Silvercar. Silvercar also offers additional discounts for Chase Sapphire Reserve and Visa Infinite cardholders, as well as free car seats and ski racks upon request (reserve those in advance).

A Silvercar rental in Colorado. SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

Another ground transportation option is to utilize a shared or private shuttle service.

For example, Epic Mountain Express offers van service (with free Wi-Fi) from the Denver International Airport to many Colorado ski areas, such as Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone, Copper Mountain, Frisco and Beaver Creek. The advantage is that you leave the driving to someone else, and — in most mountain towns — you can use a free public shuttle service to get around once you arrive. Many hotels also offer shuttles into town. You may also come out slightly ahead on price if you stay for a week and weigh it against what you would have spent on gas and parking charges.

Just as with gear rentals, you can sometimes book these shuttles through the Chase travel portal. As mentioned above, there is also the ability to take United's bus service in partnership with Landline. You can book a flight to Breckenridge, for example, and you will connect to this bus after arriving at the airport in Denver.

Related: Ridin’ solo, literally: A review of United’s brand-new bus service between Denver and Breckenridge

Amtrak’s Winter Park Express Ski Train also can be great if it aligns with your time and destination. Trains will depart on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, running from January to early April in 2023. The train departs from Denver’s historic Union Station and takes you right to the base of the Winter Park ski area in two hours. (As an alternative, you can always take the Amtrak California Zephyr to Fraser.)

ANDY CROSS/THE DENVER POST/GETTY IMAGES

Tickets cost between $29 and $59 each way, with children ages 2 to 12 riding for half price. Tickets for the upcoming season should go on sale in November 2022. In fact, you can combine the ski train with Denver’s RTD A Line commuter train service from Denver International Airport to downtown, giving you a seamless, car-free journey to the slopes. You could even include a night or two at one of the many hotels surrounding Union Station.

Related: The best credit cards to use for train travel

Bottom line

Though there’s no question skiing can be an expensive hobby, it really doesn’t have to drain your wallet. Whether you target savings by heading to smaller mountains or by leaning into your points and miles, there are ways to save big on your next ski trip. Skiing is also a great way to be outdoors and socially distanced for those who are still looking to avoid large crowds and indoor gatherings as they return to travel.

Planning a ski trip? Start with these stories:

Additional reporting by Jennifer Yellin, Jason Steele and Ryan Smith.

Featured image by MARCIN WIKLIK/GETTY IMAGES
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
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Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023