This article is being updated.
Whether you live on sunny pastures or an area where it snows, a ski vacation makes for a fun winter getaway. But depending on where you travel, it can also get quite expensive. Here, we’ve gathered some tips to help you do it on the cheap. Read on for five tips you can use to take that ski vacation and still save cash.
Use points and miles
Whether you’re heading to Vail or Tahoe, using points and miles can help you book a ski vacation for much less. For starters, having a transferable rewards currency like Chase Ultimate Rewards® or AmEx Membership Rewards can provide flexibility in the booking process. With multiple airline partners, you can compare redemption rates and book the cheapest option based on your particular travel needs. When you’ve found a flight that meets your (points) budget and schedule, simply transfer the points to your frequent flyer account and book your ticket.
Chase Ultimate Rewards® are particularly useful since they have 1:1 transfer relationships with several hotel rewards programs: World of Hyatt, IHG Rewards Club and Marriott Bonvoy. Among these three hotel chains, there are plenty of opportunities to redeem points for a ski vacation. Below are some examples, ranging from budget to luxury resorts:
- The Westin Snowmass Resort: 30,000-40,000 Marriott points.
- St. Regis Aspen: 70,000-100,000 Marriott points.
- Marriott’s Timber Lodge Lake Tahoe: 40,000-60,000 points.
- The Lodge at Spruce Peak: 40,000 Hyatt points.
- Holiday Inn Tahoe Ridge Resort: 35,000 IHG points.
- Park Hyatt Beaver Creek: 30,000 Hyatt points.
- Stonebridge Inn: 20,000 Hyatt points.
You can save even more by opting to stay at a hotel rather than a resort situated on the slopes. It’s not as convenient, but if you’re willing to commute to the slopes, the savings could be worthwhile:
- Residence Inn Salt Lake City Sandy: 10,000-15,000 Marriott points.
- Element Basalt Aspen: 20,000-30,000 Marriott points.
- Holiday Inn Express & Suites Salamanca: 20,000 IHG points.
- Hyatt Place Keystone: 15,000 points.
» Learn more: How to book a ski adventure with points and miles
Go where status takes you
If you have lots of points and are deciding between a few different hotel chains, be sure to factor in elite status. If your status level with, say, Hilton Honors gets you free breakfast or lounge access, that can help cut down the cost of your ski vacation. After all, when you’re done hitting the slopes, refueling can get expensive — especially at an isolated resort.
Be sure to factor in the savings your elite status affords you, in addition to point redemption requirements. You may have to use more points with one hotel rewards program, but if the value is less than the savings on things like breakfast, snacks and room upgrades, then it might be worth it.
Travel off-peak and avoid weekends
Regardless of whether you’re paying for a ski vacation out of pocket or with points, traveling off-peak can work out much cheaper. That’s because during peak travel dates, saver award space may be unavailable. And now that Hyatt and Marriott have implemented peak/off-peak pricing, your hotel rate might fluctuate too.
» Learn more: The best days to book a flight and when to fly
Check Airbnb for condo deals
While hotel points are a great option for booking a ski vacation for less, Airbnb can also offer tremendous value. Some hotel chains have timeshare properties at popular ski resorts, which are listed on Airbnb at bargain prices. For example, the Marriott Streamside in Vail, Colorado, requires 50,000-70,000 points per night. Meanwhile, a studio at this property can be booked for as little as $59 per night through Airbnb.
If you have a card like the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, you can book your ski accommodations on Airbnb, then use the Purchase Eraser to cover the charge. The points from this card can also come in handy for flight bookings, baggage fees and other incidental expenses incurred during your trip.
Ski for free (or just less)
Alaska Airlines partners with a dozen resorts around the country to offer free lift tickets. All you have to do is present your Alaska Airlines boarding pass and ID to get free access to the slopes. Note that some resorts do impose blackout dates, and free lift tickets are usually restricted to the day you arrive in that particular city.
If you’re looking for discounted lift tickets, then check out Costco Travel, Groupon and Liftopia. All of these sites offer deals year-round, and you may be able to save quite a bit on a ski adventure. If you’re headed to Mammoth, for example, Costco is offering $70 off three 2-day lift ticket vouchers.
The bottom line
Taking a cheaper ski vacation is definitely possible. Points and miles can take a huge chunk of the cost out, but with dynamic pricing becoming more commonplace, it’s important to be flexible with your travel dates and make plans to minimize cost. With so many deal sites out there, it’s possible to save not only on lodging and transportation, but on activities as well.
How to maximize your rewardsYou want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:
- Airline miles and a large bonus: The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- No annual fee: The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
- Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
- Premium travel rewards: The Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Business travelers: The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
Find the best travel credit card for you
The cheapest ways to fly with skis and snowboards
6 vacation spots for perfect winter getaways this year