Skiing is a widely loved family-bonding activity, but the costs of a ski trip add up quick. When you factor in lift tickets, lodging, food, gear, and lessons, a simple ski vacation can wind up costing a fortune. Families may be able to reduce the cost by visiting one of the many U.S. resorts where kids ski for free.
While many resorts offer free lift tickets for very young children (typically under the ages of 5 or 6), some of the most family-friendly resorts also offer packages that include free lift tickets for older children in elementary or middle school, too. Additionally, some states offer ski "passports," obtained online, which allow school kids to partake for free. Typically, each passport is good for several free lift tickets at each participating ski resort. Keep in mind they can also cost $20 to $40 in processing fees.
California is home to dozens of ski resorts, but one of the most kid-friendly is June Mountain—the "family mountain," as they call it—in the Eastern Sierra Nevadas southeast of Yosemite National Park. Here, kids 12 and under ski and ride free all season long. With 1,500 acres of uncrowded slopes and plenty of beginner terrain, this is a great place for people of all ages and skill levels. As for lift tickets, kids can also get those for free—providing proof of age—at the June Mountain Ticket Office.
The Colorado Ski Country nonprofit organization provides fifth- and sixth-grade passports good for free skiing and snowboarding at 22 participating resorts. Some resorts and ski areas have additional kid-specific deals.
- Aspen Snowmass: Spring ski vacation, anyone? When you book lodging and rent ski equipment from Aspen Snowmass, kids between 7 and 12 years old receive free lift tickets for each day of rental. This promotion lasts from January 1 to April 18, 2021. Guests must book at least two weeks in advance.
- Copper Mountain: Copper Mountain in Frisco offers a discounted lodging package that comes with free ski passes for kids under 12 years old. Guests can get up to 53 percent off their lodging, free third-day gear rentals, and deals on lessons when they book at least a three-night stay with the resort.
- Keystone Resort: Keystone's deal is as straightforward as can be (with no blackout dates): Book lodging for two nights and two kids 12 and under ski and ride for free.
- Purgatory Resort: Kids 10 and under get a free season pass here, no purchase necessary.
- Steamboat: Kids 12 years old and younger can ski for free the same number of days as an accompanying adult who purchases a lift ticket for five or more days.
Ski Idaho offers free ski-and-ride passports for fifth and sixth graders. Fifth graders are eligible for three free days at 18 mountains, and sixth graders are eligible for two free days at 17 participating locations. Bald Mountain, Tamarack, Cottonwood Butte, and Kelly Canyon are included. Ski Northwest Rockies offers an additional fifth-grade passport for free access to a handful of ski resorts in Idaho and Washington State.
The Michigan Snowsports Industries Association offers a Cold is Cool passport program for fourth and fifth graders. It's available only to Michigan residents and is valid at 21 resorts. In addition to the lift tickets donated by the participating ski areas, the Cold is Cool Passport also includes a coupon for 20 percent off a helmet purchase and $20 off the purchase of $100 at participating ski shops across the state. Some ski areas have also included coupons for equipment rental and free or discounted lessons.
New York State
I Ski NY offers third- and fourth-grade passports for free skiing and snowboarding Monday through Friday at 30 locations, including Windham Mountain, Swain Resort, and Mount Peter. The passports are good for three free lift tickets at participating resorts, plus one for every adult ticket purchased.
At the Cataloochee Ski Area—composed of 18 ski slopes and trails—kids up to 17 years old stay in participating Haywood County hotels and ski for free (Sunday through Thursday) with their stay. Holiday weekends are exempt. The resort has lessons and rentals available for purchase. Almost half of its trails are rated beginner.
Ski Utah offers fifth and sixth-grade passports for students from any state or country. Fifth graders ski free or at steep discounts at all Utah resorts for three days and sixth graders ski free or at steep discounts at 16 participating resorts for two days. An application must be completed in advance.
- Deer Valley: Book an early-season Family Value Package for at least three nights of lodging and you’ll save 20 percent on lodging, lift tickets, and kids’ ski rentals. Additionally, this package allows kids 12 and under to ski for free.
- Park City: Kids in kindergarten through fifth grade are eligible for five free days of skiing thanks to the Epic SchoolKids initiative from Vail Resorts.
Ski Vermont offers $20 ski-and-ride passports for fifth graders valid at 17 locations, but the program will not be offered during the 2020-2021 season. Additionally, kids 6 years old and under always ski free at Killington when accompanied by a paying adult, and the Ski & Stay package lets kids 12 years old and under get in on the free fun, too. This accommodation and lift ticket bundle provides complimentary kids' tickets with the purchase of every five-day adult ticket (blackout dates apply).
Stay at any Jackson Hole Resort Lodging rental for four nights or more and not only will you get 10 percent off, but for each paying adult, a kid 14 years old or under can ski and rent for free. The accommodation must be booked for between November 26, 2020, and April 11, 2021
Mount Bachelor is a fabulous place for beginners and its Ski or Ride in 5 program has been voted best in the nation for novices. Kids 12 and under ski free for the same number of days as an accompanied paying parent. Note that the entire family can score free tickets at this resort if flying into Redmond/Bend Airport via Alaska Airlines, and only on the same day as they arrive. The Ski or Ride in 5 program will not be offered during the 2020-2021 season.
The Pennsylvania Ski Area Association offers a Snowpass that allows fourth and fifth graders to ski or snowboard for free (when accompanied by a paying adult) at 19 locations, including Bear Creek Mountain Resort, Laurel Mountain, Whitetail Resort, Blue Mountain Resort, and others. The Snowpass includes three lift tickets to each participating resort and a beginner session. The program has been suspended for the 2020-2021 season.