For skiers and snowboarders, December through March are the peak months to plan a winter getaway at your favorite resort, but the costs can quickly add up. In addition to flights and hotel stays, typical costs for any trip, a ski trip also means paying for lift tickets and in some cases, gear rental (if you don’t have your own).
The good news is you can plan a budget-friendly winter getaway by using your loyalty points and miles. Follow the tips below and you’ll be well on your way to an affordable ski or snowboard trip, with enough budget left over for some fun après ski activities.
If you’ve ever gone on a ski trip, you know it’s not a time for light packing. While all your warm winter clothes, ski jackets, and ski pants take up enough room on their own, you’ll also have to bring along an extra bag with your skis or snowboard and your boots. When budgeting for flights, make sure to include the cost of checked bags, and consider tapping into your loyalty status to check bags for free. While Southwest Airlines still allows passengers to check two bags for free, most airlines now charge for each checked bag, with certain loyalty status or credit card holders being the exception. If you’re a Delta SkyMiles credit card holder, you and everyone else on your reservation can check your first bag for free. This can go a long way when it comes to packing for a ski trip. Say you have a family of four. Many ski bags can hold at least two pairs of skis. By bringing along two ski bags and sharing two large bags with all your ski clothes, you can ultimately avoid baggage fees altogether.
As a loyalty member or cardholder with a major hotel chain, chances are you’ll find a location near one, if not many, of the top ski resorts. By staying at a hotel connected to your loyalty program or travel rewards credit card of choice, you can have the opportunity to earn points throughout your stay, or even cash in points you’ve already earned in exchange for a free stay or upgrade. For example, if you’re a Hilton HHonors member, you have the option of lodging at the DoubleTree in Breckenridge, Colorado, Doubletree in The Yarrow, Utah, Hampton Inn & Suites in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, or Hampton Inn & Suites in Park City, Utah, to name a few. Rewards earnings for HHonors members at these resorts start at 30,000 points.
Hyatt Gold Passport members have their choice of Hyatt Vacation Clubs, including studios (12,000 points per night), one bedroom (15,000 points per night), two bedrooms (23,000 points per night) and three bedrooms (30,000 points per night), meaning more space for families and other larger groups. Ski resort locations include Hyatt Grand Aspen, Hyatt Main Street Station Breckenridge and North Star Lodge, Lake Tahoe. An added bonus for any loyalty members who choose lodging right on the mountain is, you don’t even have to pay for a car rental, especially if your hotel also includes a free airport shuttle.
Perhaps one of the best deals out there is the Park City Quick Start program. In the simplest terms, you have the option to ski for free, regardless of loyalty status. Sponsored by the Utah Office of Tourism, the program offers free lift tickets to three Park City Resorts (Canyons Resort, Park City Mountain Resort or Deer Valley Resort), for any non-Utah resident with a same-day boarding pass. In other words, if you get an early morning flight into Salt Lake City, you can ski for free on your first day. While the Utah Office of Tourism website states this program isn’t available for this ski season, it is offered on occasion, so keep an eye out for the deal.
Some loyalty programs or rewards credit cards also include lift tickets, or in some cases, simply ski resort gift cards, in their earn malls or “experience” sections. All members or cardholders have to do to avoid shelling out cash for lift tickets is exchange their points or miles. For example, American Express Membership Rewards offers gift cards to a variety of ski resorts, including Aspen Snowmass (starting at 7,100 points), Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (starting at 5,000 points), Stratton Resort (starting at 10,000 points) and Winter Park Resort (starting at 10,000 points). If you’re not turning to a hotel, airline or credit card program to cover your lift tickets, another way to save is through Liftopia, a lift ticket platform that constantly offers new deals at more than 250 resorts across North America.