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Family Ski vacations
Old 02-01-2011, 09:44 AM   #1
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Family Ski vacations

We're currently wrapping up 10 days in South Tahoe, and will be going back in March for another 10 days, and just wanted to share our strategy for doing a family ski vacation on a "budget" (using that term loosely since there's nothing cheap about skiing).

Here's what we did:

1. Bought season passes in December under a special deal that is good at 3 different resorts - Heavenly, Northstar, and Sierra. Cost was $375 each. Even if we were on the slopes only half the time it would be less than 1/2 the price of walk-in lift tickets. Our vacation was planned to avoid blackout dates. As Season pass holders we also were eligible for a resort food and beverage card giving us 20% off for purchases at the restaurants and bar.

2. Bought a 10 pack of kids ski lessons for our 4 year-old at Sierra for ~$520. Each lesson includes a full 7 hour day of ski lessons, play time, snacks, lunch, lift tickets, and equipment. At around $7/hour that's cheaper than babysitting! It's a pretty basic ski school, but at his age he's doesn't care (hey, there's a bouncy house!). Since Sierra is one of the less busy resorts there were a few days when he had one-on-one attention and he's already doing fantastic. We did 5 days of lessons on this go-around and will save the rest when we come back in March. Kids 4 and under ski free even when he's not in a lesson.

3. We rented a condo instead of a hotel. More expensive but we're saving a ton on eating out and we have been able to prepare a tailgate lunch for most of our days on the slopes (my son's ski school starts early so we have primo parking).

4. We chose a ski spot within driving distance so we wouldn't have to fly or deal with a rental car. We have a Suburu Outback that is good in the snow and it cost just over a tank of gas for us to get up here from SoCal.

5. Equipment - I own, and my husband got a seaon demo rental pass for $200 at Sierra. Some extra rental charges for my son and husband at the other resorts. Will be looking at Craig's List and after season sales so we can own for next year. For clothing we have basic shells over fleece and I got my son's snowsuit for $4 at a thrift store. We'd rather pay for more vacation time than stylish outfits.

Again, not a cheap vacation but considering what some families pay for a trip to Disney we are pretty pleased. We like the fact that its an outdoor, physically active vacation and that we could ski as a family, or get break from the kid by putting my son in ski school and go our own way for the day (my husband skis black diamond, while I'm a green run beginner).


Anyone have any other ski trip advice they'd like to share? We're already thinking about next year.
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Old 02-01-2011, 10:07 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by FlowGirl View Post
We're currently wrapping up 10 days in South Tahoe, and will be going back in March for another 10 days, and just wanted to share our strategy for doing a family ski vacation on a "budget" (using that term loosely since there's nothing cheap about skiing).

Here's what we did:

1. Bought season passes in December under a special deal that is good at 3 different resorts - Heavenly, Northstar, and Sierra. Cost was $375 each. Even if we were on the slopes only half the time it would be less than 1/2 the price of walk-in lift tickets. Our vacation was planned to avoid blackout dates. As Season pass holders we also were eligible for a resort food and beverage card giving us 20% off for purchases at the restaurants and bar.

2. Bought a 10 pack of kids ski lessons for our 4 year-old at Sierra for ~$520. Each lesson includes a full 7 hour day of ski lessons, play time, snacks, lunch, lift tickets, and equipment. At around $7/hour that's cheaper than babysitting! It's a pretty basic ski school, but at his age he's doesn't care (hey, there's a bouncy house!). Since Sierra is one of the less busy resorts there were a few days when he had one-on-one attention and he's already doing fantastic. We did 5 days of lessons on this go-around and will save the rest when we come back in March. Kids 4 and under ski free even when he's not in a lesson.

3. We rented a condo instead of a hotel. More expensive but we're saving a ton on eating out and we have been able to prepare a tailgate lunch for most of our days on the slopes (my son's ski school starts early so we have primo parking).

4. We chose a ski spot within driving distance so we wouldn't have to fly or deal with a rental car. We have a Suburu Outback that is good in the snow and it cost just over a tank of gas for us to get up here from SoCal.

5. Equipment - I own, and my husband got a seaon demo rental pass for $200 at Sierra. Some extra rental charges for my son and husband at the other resorts. Will be looking at Craig's List and after season sales so we can own for next year. For clothing we have basic shells over fleece and I got my son's snowsuit for $4 at a thrift store. We'd rather pay for more vacation time than stylish outfits.

Again, not a cheap vacation but considering what some families pay for a trip to Disney we are pretty pleased. We like the fact that its an outdoor, physically active vacation and that we could ski as a family, or get break from the kid by putting my son in ski school and go our own way for the day (my husband skis black diamond, while I'm a green run beginner).


Anyone have any other ski trip advice they'd like to share? We're already thinking about next year.
+1 on Skiing Tahoe area. Beautiful with the Lake view isnt it!! I always go there instead of Colorado because of the great snow at lower elevations. Cant breath or sleep well in Colorado mountains, but do great in Tahoe. Must be nice to know you are only 1/2 way through your skiing vacation !
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Old 02-01-2011, 01:33 PM   #3
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Thanks for sharing.
DW & myself just had a discussion about "budget" family skiing.
We are trying to decide, if it's worth it to purchase our own equipment & buy season passes - I'm doing my homework on craigslist and eBay for the gear and waiting for a special one day sale of season passes at significant discount.
I'm not sure if I want to buy kids equipment, because how fast they will grow out of it, on the other hand having 3 kids, means that we can pass the gear down the line. Also, I would need to store it somewhere and owning more things is against my goal to simplify...
Our closest slope is 3 hours away drive (Cataloochee) and that's about as far as I'm willing to go for a single day of skiing.
Our kids are 6/4/2 years old and two older ones love skiing, but 4 y.o. is bored/tired with the drive - fortunately she perks up on the slope
I plug in a laptop with DVDs and the kids tend to watch something on the way there - on the way back they typically fall asleep.
Kids do have ski pants, purchased at consignment sales (~$10 each) & goggles (~15 each) , I just use layered clothing & sunglasses.
We pack our food (sandwiches,veggies,fruits) & water.

My best days are when I take the day off work instead of weekend skiing, because of cheaper prices and no lines at the lifts. (Yet another motivation for being ERed ).
If going weekend we prefer Sundays over Saturdays - there is a lot of church & youth groups on Saturdays and slopes are crowded.
My expenses for a day of skiing with two of my kids (ocassionaly DW & our 2 y.o. come with us, especially if there are friends with us, but for most of the time they stay home) depend on what we do.
My cheapest option is Family skiing on Wednesday - Since DD is 4, the price of the lift ticket is for three of us is $38. Equipment rental is $57 (for three of us) - this is where we could potentially save.
If I put the kids for half a day ski school (I prefer to do this if DW is not with us, so I get some solo runs) this is $60 per kid (but rental & lift ticket is included).
The cost of gas to drive there is about $40.
Weekend is more expensive - $20 more for the lift ticket and I need to pay for the lift ticket if the kids wouldn't go to the ski school.

Here are kids skiing two days ago, total cash outlay for the day: $252 (lift ticket & rental, ski school for the kids, gas, two slices of pizza & french fries).
If we had season passes & owned equipment, per day price could go to down to about $100 per day (assuming season passes usage of $20 per day).
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Old 02-01-2011, 01:51 PM   #4
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Only thing I would add is you can rent skis/boards for the season for less than $100 (boots and poles included). Then you're not worried about growth. Most even let you swap mid season if you have a growth sprout or a kid who wants to switch to a board/skis.

Brown-bagging lunch is key. Need to avoid the $5 soup and $7 sandwich. I where a backpack with the lunch so we can eat at the top lodge.

If you're REALLY tight, "borrow" equipment from the lost n'found ... "oh, thank goodness! THERE THEY ARE!"

As far a housing, our chalet rents for $400/night but sleeps 12. So we get alot of extended families doing splits. Or large groups of co-workers. You can really get the price down if your dividing by 10 or 12.
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Old 02-03-2011, 09:46 PM   #5
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We always coordinate a utah ski trip with - http://www.parkcityinfo.com/quicksta...ickstartstep=1 free lift tickets, you do need to find a flight in in the morning but park city is only an hour from the bagage claim if you are real efficient. owning used equipemnt saves $$$.
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Old 02-03-2011, 11:22 PM   #6
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Here's a pic of my 4 year-old at ski school this year. He did so well - skiing and turning 2.5 miles down from the top of the mountain a couple of times on the main green run - that we may not have to do many lessons after this go around. Though it is a nice break and he really enjoys ski school.

For next year we are considering Big Bear instead of Tahoe.

Pros: Cheaper accommodation (there are 2 bedroom Marine Corps cabins for $125/night in walking distance of Snow Mountain), only 2 hour drive, kids under 7 ski free.

Cons: Busier, especially on weekends, more expensive passes for lesser quality of skiing, more expensive rentals - may need to buy equipment for sure.

Being geeky, I'll probably spreadsheet out a few scenarios.
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Old 02-04-2011, 08:58 AM   #7
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We have done all the things you mention except the ski pass to avoid walk up lift ticket prices. I've never seen these offered at such reasonable prices at the CO resorts we go to. The other items you mention are all good. Especially fixing your own meals and lunches.

Lift tickets are the killer. It cost me more per day for a single lift ticket than my cabin rental is per day. When I have to purchase 5 lift tickets daily it is a complete budget buster. Still, we do love to ski. So we go and I try not to think about the wallet too much. Until the bills arrive a month later. Ouch.
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Old 02-04-2011, 09:14 AM   #8
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Being geeky, I'll probably spreadsheet out a few scenarios.
Maybe you had enough data at "Hey, there's a bouncy house!"

I don't know if it's age-appropriate or a sign of borderline OCD, but at this age our daughter reacted very poorly to change. She wanted to have the same comforting experience again and again and again, even if the grass looked greener on the other side of the fence.

After a year or two of sleep deprivation, we parents came around to her point of view...
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Old 02-04-2011, 11:19 AM   #9
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Our local outdoor shop will give you 80% credit on equipment returned. Thus we buy new gear for our kids every year, return it the next year at 80% value and buy again. We are also fans of bag lunches...the food at Mount Snow in Vermont sucks anyway.
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Old 02-05-2011, 06:10 AM   #10
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Our strategy for saving money on family ski trips is to tell the boys about it after we get back! (But, then again our boys are young men in their early twenties). We drive 550 miles to Copper Mtn or Breckenridge CO. Rent a condo from VRBO.com (vacation rentals by owners) within walking distance of the lifts. We rent skis, eat lunch in the condo and find a nice restaurant for dinner. We like to ski in March the week before Spring Break.
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Old 05-16-2011, 11:13 PM   #11
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For those of you looking at seasons passes now is the time to buy for some resorts. Prices often go up after May. The Epic and Tahoe Value passes are pretty good deals for those out west.

We're actually going to do all of our skiing at Sierra next year since it was so family friendly, inexpensive, and uncrowded. Most likely we will be buying the Sierra Value Pass for $199. Good Sunday-Friday with some holiday blackout dates. We did two 10-day trips to Tahoe last year and found we liked taking Saturday off anyways. So we're looking at spending the following for next year's skiing:

Passes ~$487 (us and a 5 year-old).
Demo Season Rental Pass ~$199 (for husband)
Regular Season Rental Pass ~$111 (kid rental for days he's not in lessons)
Kid Lesson Package ~$520

Total Ski Costs ~$1317

Variable costs - condo rental, food, booze, gas for our Outback, and other entertainment. We may also pay for my MIL (on a fixed income, but very active) to come out for part of the trip. We find that paying for grandma to come visit the kid is usually a better deal than all 3 of us taking a trip across country to visit her. My husband is very generous when it comes to spending time with friends and family.

Still not sure how we're going to split our vacation time up but hopefully looking forward to another 2-3 weeks on the slopes!
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Old 06-02-2011, 07:31 AM   #12
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colorado has similar sales. which the price just went up today.

Ski Colorado - Multi-Mountain Passes

i've found that areas with concentrated resorts tend to have these deals, Utah being the exception.
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