Here’s a question we all want answered: how can we save money on lodging for our next ski vacation?
If you think ski resort lodging costs are rising, you’re right. And in many cases, the deals we used to rely on (early season booking discounts, for example) aren’t such good deals anymore.
How to Save Money on Ski Resort Lodging
To save money on ski vacations, you need to be flexible and creative, open to new experiences and willing to sacrifice some convenience.
Ski Under the Radar
Save money on ski lodging by visiting less well-known ski areas and resorts. While you may sacrifice some initial bragging rights, your stories of smaller crowds, lower prices, less stress and more fun will impress everyone. Plus, you’ll likely discover that you and your family love exploring new mountains. It’s part of what makes snowsports so fun.
Take Snowbasin, Utah for example. Snowbasin was the site of the 2002 Winter Olympic downhill races and is a big mountain, with 3,000 skiable acres and 3,000 vertical feet.
Like Park City, it’s on the Epic Pass. Snowbasin isn’t in a ski town, so much of the nearby lodging is 30 minutes way in affordable Ogden. This means a family ski vacation at Snowbasin can be significantly less expensive than a family ski vacation in Park City (and you can still ski Park City as a day trip from Ogden).
Stay Nearby, Not At The Resort
Another option is to choose a blockbuster resort and stay further from the slopes. While we all love ski-in/ski-out lodging, it can come at a hefty premium. Put a little distance between yourself and the chairlift bullwheels and save money. Stay in Eagle instead of Vail, or Reno instead of Northstar, to name just two options.
Choose Resorts Where You Ski for Free
To state the obvious, if you have an Ikon or Epic pass, you’ll ski for free at any of the resorts on these passes. But you may also pay a hefty premium for lodging at many of these world-famous ski resorts. Do the math and see how it works out.
Another idea is to use the reciprocal “ski free” deals on your local season pass. Depending upon the deals negotiated by your local mountain, you may find you have free skiing at well-known, independent resorts like Whitefish, Montana or Grand Targhee, Wyoming.
Ski Deals Just for Kids
Depending upon the age of your children, you may be able to take advantage of state ski association passports and other kids ski free promotions.
(See How to Save Money On Family Skiing, Part One for information on passes and programs offering free skiing for kids)
In addition, some resorts offer free skiing for kids when you book lodging directly with them.
Examples include Keystone Resort’s Kids Ski Free program for kids ages 12 and under with a two night minimum stay and Cataloochee Ski Area in North Carolina, offering free skiing for kids 17 and under with a midweek stay at local hotels.
Google For Savings
If you still aren’t sure where to go, start by googling something like “best ski vacation deals” or “most affordable family ski resorts” and see what comes up.
One of my favorite Colorado deals is Ski Sunlight’s Ski, Swim, Stay! package with lodging in Glenwood Springs, hot springs pool passes and skiing at Sunlight, a local mountain with 700 skiable acres and 2,000 vertical feet near Aspen.
Bring Your Own Lodging
Megan Barber, a ski journalist, shared this comment on the Braveskimom.com Facebook page.
“Get a van! It’s our mobile ski condo. We have a house in Denver but we spend probably 40 nights each winter in our van. We could never afford lodging that many nights at $400-$500 per night for a two or three-bedroom condo. The van is our solution.”
If you plan on spending many nights on the road — during all four seasons — it’s a great suggestion.
And because Megan is a writer, she’s very helpfully shared this list of 27 resorts where you can camp in the parking lot.
Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate
Most likely, you’re going to locate and book your lodging online.
Once you’ve found a suitable hotel, condo, house or whatever, negotiate. If you’re booking on VRBO or AirBnB, contact the property owner and ask them to waive or decrease the fees.
Or find good deals online and then call lodging properties directly to negotiate.
Russell Fletcher, another reader who recently commented on Facebook, shares the following,
“One thing I have done is go to the websites, like Expedia, over several weeks and find the lowest price I can, or even a competitor’s price. Then I call the hotel up and ask if they can beat it, since you’d rather give the hotel your money directly than pay Expedia or (another website) a fee. Most are happy to accommodate you.”
It never hurts to ask.
Finally, as to when is the best time to book, some swear by early season, others swear by waiting until the last minute. Much of this depends upon how flexible you are with your travel plans and dates.
One thing I know for certain is that if you can avoid the winter holiday season and weekends, as well as spring break, you’ll find better deals.
I realize that with kids, this can be easier said than done, but sometimes there is no harm in skipping school to build family memories.
Have money-saving tips to share? Bring ’em on!
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