Five Tips to Making Family Skiing More Affordable

By Ashley Morse October 11, 2016
We love to ski over here at Macaroni Kid, but we also know that it can be a pricey endeavor. Factor in lodging, lift tickets, equipment rental, lessons and food, and the price goes up and up. However, with a little planning, there are savings to be had that can add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Here are some tips to make a ski vacation more affordable.

1. Ski the Shoulders... Seasons That is
We've done the research and find that the best times to book an affordable ski vacation is during the "shoulder" seasons. For ski resorts, the shoulder seasons tend to be the weeks right after the mountain opens for skiing in November and at the end of the ski season. 

Because most people are waiting for the holidays to travel, resorts are less frequented in late November/ early December and that means savings for you. The same is true for the coupe of weeks after the spring break holidays at the very end of March through mid April (or later depending on when the resort closes for the year).
For example, at Keystone Resort in Colorado, rates for a family of four are as low as $103 - $205 per night in early December and early April, but jump to $240 - $1000+ during the holidays. Mid-season, nightly rates range from $200 - $450 per night. 

Not only is lodging more affordable during these times, but lift ticket prices can go down as well. For example, we found that adult, three-day lift tickets for Aspen/Snowmass Mountains are $177 from November 24th through December 16th and from April 2nd through 16th, yet they jump to $297 - $336 from December 19 through April 1 (pricing found on Stay Aspen/Snowmass).

2. Book Early
Big savings can be found by booking your trip early. Many resorts offer discounts on lodging and ski packages if booked before a certain date. Some of the offers we found were: 
  • Park City, Utah's Book Early, Save Big program. Up to a 40% discount when you book a trip by November 4th. 
  • Book your trip with Stay Aspen/ Snowmass by October 15th and take advantage of their Early Storm package - up to 25% off lodging and a free lift ticket with the purchase of three adult tickets.
  • Book a vacation to Beaver Creek by November 4th and save up to 30% on your vacation. 
3. Rent Skis Before You Get to the Hill
Depending on where you are going, there are many services that offer discounted equipment and apparel rentals that you can reserve online, in advance of your trip. Do a little research ahead of time or call your hotel to point you in the right direction. Many companies even offer concierge services and can deliver them right to your hotel or condo. Renting equipment also saves you money over purchasing costly equipment and gear, and on baggage fees as well. 

4Book a Condo - Eat Breakfast at Home and Pack a Lunch - on Mountain Dining Can be Costly
Eating breakfast out can cost a fortune and take up precious daylight hours that could be spent skiing. Consider booking a condo with a kitchen and you can eat breakfast before you head out and save a ton. 

A condo with a kitchen offers another advantage, the ability to shop ahead and prepare lunch to bring with you to the mountain. Sandwiches, soup, protein bars, nuts, and dried fruit are all great options. Don't forget a thermos of coffee and/or hot chocolate - this is a nice way to warm up while taking a break and can save you quite a bit as well! Check out these tips from the Children's Hospital of Colorado for packing a healthy lunch for the kids.  

5. Hunt for Lift Ticket Deals Online and Off Mountain
There are so many lift ticket deals to be found online, particularly if you plan to ski in the state in which you live. Still, there are deals to be found if you are traveling from out of state, if you take some time to do some hunting online. Some resorts offer discounts for tickets purchased in advance and some for multi-day ticket purchases and others, as mentioned above, can be cheaper still, depending on a combination of advanced purchase and the right time of year. We recommend checking the resort websites, the visitor bureau websites and websites that specifically offer discounted lift tickets. A few sites for ticket deals we found include: 
In addition to advance purchase deals and discounted ticket websites, many resorts also offer Kids Ski Free programs. Be sure to look into this when you book as these programs offer a tremendous savings of hundreds of dollars. Here are some examples of what we found:

Utah and Colorado
  • Utah and Colorado school kids can register for 5 free days of skiing at a number of top resorts. No purchase is necessary.  
  • Steamboat Springs has a Kids and Grandkids Ski Free program that enables children 12 and under to ski free the same number of days when the parent/grandparent purchases a 5 day or more lift ticket. This is a savings of approximately $300 - $400 per child.
  • Aspen/Snowmass offers free lift tickets to children with the rental of skis or snowboards, for the duration of their rental. For a 2 day ski trip that will cost you a little over $100 (available January - April only).
  • Kids 12 and under ski free at Keystone Resort when booking 2 or more nights of lodging.
  • Arapahoe Basin offers two days of skiing for free to children who register by November 6th. Registration also includes 50% off one morning first time class ski lesson. 
  • At Mt. Bachelor, kids 12 and under ski free the same number of days as their parents with the advance purchase of a 3-or-more day adult lift ticket.
  • Maine Kids Ski Free at most resorts with a passport available for Maine fifth through seventh graders. 
  • Kids ages 6 years and younger ski free at Killington Resort when accompanied by an adult. Children age 7 - 12 ski free for the same number of days as an adult purchasing a 5-day or longer ticket (pre- purchase required).
New York
  • The I SKI NY Free For Kids Passport Program lets third and fourth grade kids not only ski or snowboard for free (up to three times per participating ski area with an adult purchase) but also Learn To Ski or Snowboard for free (once at each area, no purchase required but some processing fees do apply). 
Although a ski vacation can be tough on the wallet, a little planning and research can make it much more affordable. And we think it is well worth it; there is nothing quite like the family bonding that occurs both on the lifts and on the slopes! Happy skiing!