How to plan your ski trip with points and miles

Oct 20, 2021

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Welcome to Ski Week 2021 at The Points Guy. All week long, we’ll be sharing everything you need to know about the rapidly approaching ski season that kicks off with the Nov. 6 opening of Keystone. A few other Colorado mountains are racing to turn the lifts on any day now, too, though of course, this season will look very different. With an emphasis on advance booking and safety, we’ll help you prepare for a ski season unlike any other so you can get the most out of every minute on the mountain.

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

Image by Getty Images / Imgorthand
(Photo by Imgorthand/Getty Images)

But 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.

In This Post

Lift tickets

Let’s start with the trickiest part of 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.

Many major ski areas including Vail, Beaver Creek, Aspen and Breckenridge charge around $200 per day for some 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 your day on the mountain is to purchase tickets before the season starts. This may be 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. (Photo by 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

A season pass can make 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 all of these ski passes do eventually go off-sale for the season, usually at some point in December or January.

As an example, one type of available pass is the Epic Pass. The pass offers everything from an $83 (for adults) or $43 (for kids) one-day pass to a $999 season-long pass (although if you purchase earlier in the year, there are at times discounts). 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.

(Photo courtesy of Epic Mountain Express)
(Photo courtesy of 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.

Miles from the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card can be redeemed 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 make the ski pass or lift ticket purchases 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

(Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

In addition to using points, there are many ways for children and seniors to ski for free (or at a dramatically 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.

(Screenshot courtesy of Chase.com)

In this example, it will cost 3,982 Ultimate Rewards points per day for an adult ski gear rental package delivered to your hotel or home rental in Vail or Beaver Creek. Since the package includes delivery you can skip the rental shop and be fitted in a more comfortable setting.

(Screenshot courtesy of Chase.com)

Flights

With ski gear and lift tickets out of the way, using your miles to fly to the ski resort is the next step to 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. This includes airports such as Aspen-Pitkin (ASE), Vail-Eagle (EGE), Gunnison-Crested Butte (GUC), Montrose Regional (MTJ) or even right into Telluride (TEX).

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

Telluride Tex Airport. Photo courtesy of Telluride Tex Airport.
Telluride Regional Airport (TEX). (Photo courtesy of Telluride Regional 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 being bused into Telluride due to 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, at times, be quite pricey. This is especially true on weekends or holidays during peak ski season.

How to book award flights to the mountains

(Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
(Photo by 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 has also added some new seasonal routes to select mountains in the past few years.

If you have a United MileagePlus credit card, such as the United Explorer Card, you’ll want to 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 are counted as one checked bag, even if the boots are in a separate bag. But 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 select days throughout the year):

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

  • American Airlines: Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW).
  • Alaska Airlines: Seattle (SEA), San Diego (SAN).
  • Delta: Atlanta (ATL), Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP).
  • JetBlue: Fort Lauderdale (FLL), Boston (BOS).
  • Southwest Airlines: Dallas Love Field (DAL), Denver (DEN), Houston Hobby (HOU).
  • United: Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Denver (DEN), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), Newark (EWR), San Francisco (SFO), Washington Dulles (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.

(Screenshot courtesy of JetBlue.com)

Southwest Airlines is a newcomer to Steamboat, and using a Southwest Companion Pass could be an excellent way to stretch your Rapid Rewards points this ski season.

Gunnison-Crested Butte (GUC), Colorado:

  • American Airlines: Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW).
  • United: Denver (DEN), Houston (IAH).

Aspen (ASE), Colorado:

  • American Airlines: Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), Los Angeles (LAX), Phoenix (PHX).
  • United: Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Denver (DEN), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO).
  • Delta: Los Angeles (LAX), Atlanta (ATL).

There are many American Airlines routes that are pricing out at just 10,000 AAdvantage miles each way.

Related: Best ways to earn American Airlines miles

(Screenshot courtesy of AA.com)

Vail (EGE), Colorado:

  • American Airlines: Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), New York-JFK, New York LaGuardia (LGA), Philadelphia (PHL), Phoenix (PHX).
  • United: Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Denver (DEN), Houston (IAH), Newark (EWR), San Francisco (SFO), Los Angeles (LAX).
  • Delta: Atlanta (ATL).

Since United flies from many locations to Vail, using Avianca LifeMiles is a great alternative to fly for fewer miles.

You can sometimes redeem just 7,500 LifeMiles one-way to fly on the same United flights that 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 Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards. Quite often there are also times when you’ll find a hefty promotion on purchasing LifeMiles, which can save you money over paying cash prices.

Screenshot courtesy of Lifemiles
(Screenshot courtesy of LifeMiles)

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

Flying from Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) to Vail (EGE) on American Airlines will cost just 9,000 Avios when seats are available. British Airways is also a transfer partner with both American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards, so earning miles in the program is quite easy. There are even sometimes transfer bonus offers.

(Screenshot courtesy of British Airways)

Montrose/Telluride (MTJ), Colorado:

  • American Airlines: Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), Los Angeles (LAX), New York LaGuardia (LGA), Phoenix (PHX).
  • United: Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Denver (DEN), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), Newark (EWR), San Francisco (SFO).
  • JetBlue: Miami (MIA), Boston (BOS).
  • Southwest Airlines: Denver (DEN), Dallas Love Field (DAL).

Denver Air Connection also flies directly into Telluride (TEX) from Denver and Phoenix, but you cannot currently redeem airline miles for the flights.

Related: Guide to a perfect ski day in Telluride

Denver Air Connection (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Denver Air Connection. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

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 (DEN), Salt Lake City (SLC), Reno-Tahoe (RNO) and even Albuquerque (ABQ) or Boise (BOI), 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

(Photo courtesy of Denver International Airport)
(Photo courtesy of 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. And 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

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 17: Snow hit the Denver metro area having an impact on air travel at Denver International Airport. They were de-icing planes with a splendid view of Longs Peak in the distance on Tuesday, November 17, 2015. (Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
(Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

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:

St. Regis Deer Valley (Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
St. Regis Deer Valley. (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 they charge. 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 Colorado:

  • Highline Vail DoubleTree by Hilton: 42,000 to 80,000 points per night.
  • Hampton Inn and Suites Steamboat Springs: 33,000 to 50,000 points per night.
  • Homewood Suites by Hilton Steamboat Springs: 34,000 to 60,000 points per night.
  • DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Breckenridge: 36,000 to 60,000 points per night.
  • Valdoro Mountain Lodge, Breckenridge: This is a Hilton Grand Vacations property, so 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: 36,000 to 60,000 points per night.
  • Sunrise Lodge by Hilton Grand Vacations: Only premium rooms, which are 75,000 to over 400,000 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.

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.

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.

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.

Hyatt Place Keystone right near the slopes
Hyatt Place Keystone. (Photo by Summer Hull/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 (photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
Hyatt Centric Park City. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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.

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 ReserveInk 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.

In Colorado:

  • Holiday Inn Steamboat Springs: Prices vary, but currently around 35,000 points per night for much of the winter.
  • Holiday Inn Express and Suites Fraser — Winter Park Area: Prices vary, but currently between 19,000 and 50,000 points per night for much of the winter.
  • Hotel Indigo Silverthorne: This hotel is not yet open and you can’t book with points, yet. 

In Utah:

  • Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites, Park City: Prices vary, but currently average about 40,000 points per night for much of the winter.

In California:

  • Holiday Inn Express South Lake Tahoe: Prices vary, but currently average about 36,000 points per night for much of the winter.

In Nevada:

  • Holiday Inn Club Vacations Tahoe Ridge Resort: Prices vary, but currently 35,000 points per night for a one-bedroom villa for much of the 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.

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 have a parking charge).

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.

(Screenshot courtesy of marriott.com)

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

In Colorado:

  • Sheraton Mountain Vista Villas, Avon / Vail Valley: Category 5 from 35,000 points per night.
  • Sheraton Lakeside Terrace Villas at Mountain Vista, Avon, Vail Valley: Category 6 from 50,000 points per night.
  • Marriott’s StreamSide Douglas at Vail: Category 7 from 60,000 points per night (limited availability).
  • Marriott’s StreamSide Birch at Vail: Category 6 from 50,000 points per night (limited availability).
  • Marriott’s StreamSide Evergreen at Vail: Category 7 from 60,000 points per night (limited availability).
  • Vail Marriott Mountain Resort: Category 7 from 60,000 points per night.
  • The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa, Avon, Vail Valley: Category 7 from 60,000 points per night.
  • Beaver Creek Lodge: Category 7 from 60,000 points per night.
  • The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch: Category 8 from 85,000 points per night.
  • The St. Regis Aspen Resort: Category 8 from 85,000 points per night.
  • W Aspen: Category 8 from 85,000 points per night.
  • The Westin Snowmass Resort: Category 6 from 50,000 points per night.
  • Marriott’s Mountain Valley Lodge at Breckenridge: Category 6 from 50,000 points per night (limited availability).
  • Residence Inn Breckenridge: Category 6 from 50,000 points per night.
  • Sheraton Steamboat Resort Villas: Category 5 from 35,000 points per night.
  • Fairfield Inn & Suites Steamboat Springs: Category 5 from 35,000 points per night.
  • Element Basalt — Aspen: Category 5 from 35,000 points per night.
W Aspen (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
W Aspen. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

In Utah:

  • St. Regis Deer Valley: Category 8 from 85,000 points per night.
  • Marriott’s MountainSide: Category 6 from 50,000 points per night (limited availability).
  • Marriott’s Summit Watch: Category 6 from 50,000 points per night (limited availability).
  • Hotel Park City, Autograph Collection: Category 7 from 60,000 points per night.
  • Residence Inn Salt Lake City Cottonwood: Category 4 from 25,000 points per night.
  • AC Hotel Park City: Category 5 from 35,000 points per night.

In California:

  • Westin Monache Resort, Mammoth: Category 7 from 60,000 points per night.
  • Grand Residences by Marriott, Lake Tahoe: Category 6 from 50,000 points per night.
  • Marriott’s Timber Lodge: Category 6 from 50,000 points per night.
  • The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe: Category 8 from 85,000 points per night.
Westin near Mammoth (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Westin near Mammoth. (Photo by 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. 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.

The St. Regis Deer Valley provides slope-side access. (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
The St. Regis Deer Valley provides slope-side access. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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.

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:

  • Wyndham Resort at Avon: 15,000 points per night.
  • Ramada by Wyndham Frisco: 15,000 points per night.
  • Aspen Meadows Resort: 30,000 points per night.
  • Days Inn by Wyndham Silverthorne: 15,000 points per night.
  • Super 8 by Wyndham Dillon/Breckenridge Area: 15,000 points per night.
  • Club Wyndham Steamboat Springs: 30,000 points per night.
  • La Quinta Inn by Wyndham Steamboat Springs: 15,000 points per night.

In Utah:

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

In California:

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

If you’re short on Wyndham Rewards points, you can increase your account balance with the Wyndham Rewards Credit Card. This card gives you 10% of your points redeemed on Go Free awards back.

Related: The ultimate guide to earning and redeeming Wyndham Rewards

(Photo courtesy of the Wyndham Aspen Meadows Resort)
(Photo courtesy of the Wyndham Aspen Meadows Resort)

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 can also vary on different dates during periods of low or high demand. Example prices below are from a weekend date in December.

In Colorado:

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

In California:

  • Quality Inn near Mammoth Ski Resort: 30,000 points per night.
  • Econo Lodge Inn & Suites Heavenly Village Area: 20,000 points per night.
  • Quality Inn South Lake Tahoe: 35,000 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.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

There are additional ways to use points for home rentals outside of the Marriott program, such as booking via Chase Ultimate Rewards or using credit card points to offset the travel charge as outlined here in this larger guide on 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.

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 are also facing a car rental shortage, so that’s one thing to keep in mind.

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 also 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).

Silvercar in Colorado. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
A Silvercar in Colorado. (Photo by 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 Airport to many Colorado ski areas such as Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone, Copper Mountain 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 paid for gas and parking charges.

Just as with gear rentals, you can sometimes book these shuttles through the Chase travel portal.

Amtrak’s Winter Park Express Ski Train can be great if it aligns with your time and destination. Although the ski train is still suspended due to the pandemic, it normally 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.

(Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post/Getty Images)

Prior to the pandemic, tickets cost between $29 and $59 each way, with children ages 2 to 12 riding for half price. In fact, you can combine the ski train with Denver’s RTD A Line commuter train service from Denver International Airport to downtown, having 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

If this winter is similar to the ski season last year, being outdoors on a socially distanced mountain might be one of the best ways to spend your winter. At least it was — and will continue to be — for my family.

And 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.

Additional reporting by Jennifer Yellin and Jason Steele.

Featured photo by Marcin Wiklik/Getty Images.

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