Skiing the steeps is the most exhilarating part of a day on the slopes...paying the steep bills later, not so much. For families — even if you're skiing one day - a trip to the slopes could cost hundreds or thousands of dollars in airfare, hotel reservations and lift tickets. Heck, even a five-hour drive up to Vermont costs a few hundred dollars in gas. For those of us with skiing in our blood, that won't keep us off of the mountains. But we don't have to pay full price to get our thrills or introduce the kids to the snowy world either.
How Are You Actually Getting There?
It may cost only $300 to fly into Denver from New York, but you're only halfway to your destination. You've got a long ride out to Vail on I-70 or through winding backcountry roads to Steamboat. That certainly costs you in time at the airport each way, plus driving time. Then you've got to build in the rental car (plus GPS, insurance, etc.) or shuttle costs at $100+ each way. And let's not forget gas. Make sure you sess out the regional airports, even if it seems pricier at first. Is the $400 flight into Hayden going to cost less in the long run? You might not even need a car.
Kitchen > Hotel Room
Actually, that is House > Condo, Hotel Room or Tiny Motel Room. Seriously, the cost of going out to breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday, plus hot cocoa at mid-station, adds up super fast. With a kitchen, you can pack sandwiches for lunch on the mountain at a reasonable cost instead of paying $12 for a hot dog and a soda. Save $4 coffees for a tough day at the office and make breakfast in the room, and hey, maybe one evening you can just grill up some steaks and call it a night. Even if the parental beverage of choice is PBR, that's $0.66 a can versus even $2 at the bar. Grocery shop.
Buy Lift Tickets Online
Never, ever, buy lift tickets at the window. These days, you can get slight discounts on resort websites if you buy ahead of time through them, but even that's not the best option. Websites like www.slidingonthecheap.com and www.liftopia.com can save you up to 80% on tickets. Those are the most well known sites; check your eligibility for membership on sites like www.workingadvantage.com and even your company perks. Right now on WorkingAdvantage you can save up to $32 at Park City and $38 at Stowe.
Avoid Weekends — Especially Holidays
Going on a midweek vacation to a ski resort might be the single biggest way of saving money, especially for a family. Lodging and airfare rates are lower on a Wednesday-Wednesday trip than a Saturday-Saturday vacation. Even if it's just a father-daughter trip of two, that could save you hundreds of dollars. Resorts jack up the price for major weekends like President's Day and New Years, so consider staying the week before or after to take advantage of "normal" resort pricing. And even though you get a de facto vacation day from work on holiday weekends, consider the other benefits: less people on the mountain, lower kid:instructor ratios from ski school and a shorter wait at the bar. Plus, your boss will love you more.
Be a Local and a Tourist
By that we mean, head to the local visitors association or chamber of commerce when you get to town. Usually there are coupon books for tourists with some pretty good deals. The purpose is to get you into shops of course, but any kind of free appetizer or BOGO deal helps a little bit, especially if you've got three or four viable coupons. Then, shop and eat like a local. Stock up on room snacks at the grocery store, go to happy hour for discounted bites and get recommendations from your concierge about $2 ice-skating days and which restaurant is really worth the $40 entrée. Don't forget to sign up for the local Living Social or Groupon ahead of time, too — you never know what might pop up.
Going on a family vacation should be a joyful time, not a stressful one. If you plan carefully upfront, you can relax knowing that you've done all you can to keep things reasonable. Once you get to the mountain, all you have to do is play.
What are your ski-saving tips?
-Katie Carroll and our friends at MountainHop are experts when it comes to ski vacations. MountainHop is the place to find out what's happening in over twenty mountain towns, from British Columbia to New Mexico and the peaks in between. Their mission is simple: to answer the all-important question, "What's Now in the Mountains?".