Skiing with the family is a great way to make winter memories, but it's no easy feat considering how expensive resorts can be. When you factor in lift tickets, lodging, food, gear, and lessons, a simple ski vacation can cost an absolute fortune. Big families may be able to reduce the cost by limiting their options to resorts where kids ski for free.
While a great many ski resorts offer free lift tickets for very young children (typically under ages 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.
In addition, many states offer ski passports for school kids to ski and ride for free. These can be applied for online and require proof of the child's current school grade. Keep in mind they can also cost $20 to $40 in processing fees. Typically, each passport is good for several free lift tickets at each participating ski resort.
California is home to dozens of ski resorts, but one of the best for families with kids 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-friendly terrain, this is a great place for people of all ages and levels. As for lift tickets, kids get those for free, too, at the June Mountain Ticket Office (proof of age required).
The Colorado Ski Country nonprofit organization offers fifth- and sixth-grade passports for free skiing and snowboarding at 22 participating resorts. These 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 12, 2020. 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 52 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: More than 25,000 kids have skied for free at Keystone, whose 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. Created just for first-time skiers and snowboarders (ages 4 and older), Purgatory offers beginners a free two-hour group lesson with the purchase of one full-day, full-price lift ticket.
- 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 days or longer.
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. Ski Northwest Rockies offers a fifth-grade passport for free skiing and snowboarding at a handful of ski resorts in Idaho and Washington State.
Children 5 years old and under always ski free at Sunday River, but between January 5 and 10, 2020, kids 12 and under ski for free with the purchase of lodging at either the Grand Summit or Jordan Hotel for at least three nights. This deal also includes free gear rentals and lessons, too.
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.
Ski NH offers $30 ski-and-ride passports for fourth and fifth graders at 34 locations, but Bretton Woods also offers a Junior Pass Program that provides free ski passes for kids 12 years old and under. You can apply for the pass online.
New York State
I Ski NY offers third- and fourth-grade passports for free skiing and snowboarding at 30 locations. The passports are good for three free lift tickets at participating resorts, plus one for every adult ticket purchased.
At the Cataloochee Ski Area, kids up to 17 years old may stay and ski for free throughout the week (Sunday through Thursday), so long as they're staying in participating hotels and it's not a holiday weekend.
The Mount Bachelor ski resort is a fabulous place for beginners and its Ski or Ride in 5 program has been voted the best in the nation for novices. Kids 12 and under ski free for the same number of days as an accompanied paying parent, but the tickets must be purchased between November 25 and December 15 for the 2020 season. 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. Other Oregon ski areas offer discounted packages for children, especially those learning to ski.
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. The Snowpass includes three lift tickets to each participating resort and a beginner session, in case your kid has never skied before.
Ski Utah offers fifth and sixth-grade passports for students from any state or country. Fifth graders ski free or at deep discounts at all Utah resorts for three days and sixth graders ski free or at deep discounts at 16 participating resorts for two days. An application must be completed in advance.
- Deer Valley: Book an early-season Family Value Package of 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 new Epic SchoolKids initiative from Vail Resorts.
Ski Vermont offers $20 ski-and-ride passports for fifth graders valid at 17 locations.
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 between July 1 and December 31, 2019, for the 2020 ski season.