Where to Splurge and Skimp on a Ski
We would venture to guess that most American families would list cost as a key driver on deciding which ski
vacation to take. For some, the cost of a vacation will be the deciding factor on if they do it at all. For others,
cost will determine which resort they visit, or which accommodations and services to spend on.
Like any vacation, ski trips offer a wide array of cost options. For those of you fortunate enough to be a short
drive from the good slopes, count your blessings. Most of America is a multiple-gas-tank ride or a flight away from
world class skiing. That means it costs money, and sometimes lots of it.
A major factor to consider when looking ski vacation costs is which resort you will go to. Places notorious for high
costs like Deer Valley and Aspen should not surprise you when they show you their over-the-top price list.
Others, such as Big Mountain in Montana and Grand Targhee will make you grin with the value you are getting.
Most fall somewhere in between.
Here is a guide to what to skimp on, and more importantly, what not to:
Restaurants: Most family ski lodging nowadays comes in the form of condos. That means you'll have a kitchen,
and that means you can cook. You don't even have to get a pan dirty. Get cold cereal and OJ for breakfasts, and
pasta or sandwiches and fruit for dinners, and you'll save money without much work. We all know that after a
long day of skiing, the troops will eat just about anything and be satisfied.
Rental Cars: Most ski areas have some type of transit systems, and many like Steamboat and Aspen offer free
shuttles to get around town. Our resort reviews help you determine where you might need a car and where you
won't, but more often you won't. We would note that while intra-city transit is becoming more common, you
typically incur a cost to get to/from the airport (and it can be high in some places).
Half Day Passes: Face it - many kids or family skiers only have a half day of fun skiing in them. After that, the
legs burn and fatigue sets in. Keep it fun. Ski a half day, and then shop -- or play Wii, or do something fun. This
is vacation, not boot camp.
Skis: If renting skis, you probably don't need the high performance skis. Most of us get along just fine in the
standard issue skis, and there is often a "sport" choice that lies somewhere in between. The quality of your quads
is more important than the quality of your skis. With that said, be assertive about returning your skis for a
different pair if they don't feel right. The authors rarely go an entire ski trip without someone swapping out skis
for a different set, and ski shops will almost always gladly oblige.
Don't Skimp On:
Lodging: We have found that the less you spend on lodging, the less you sleep. That is bad when on vacation, or
anytime for that matter. One reason is that those college spring breakers are looking for the best discounts and
will be your neighbors with 14 people in their 2 bedroom condo (there are other culprits, but we pick on the
college kids because they often seem to be particularly noisy). Spend a bit on lodging, and surround yourselves
with other families skiers for fun days and quiet nights.
Boots: Skimp on skis, don't skimp on boots. The boot is what will make your feet say "thank you" or "I hate you".
Given how tightly these things bind onto your shin, it is a bad place to save a buck.
Kids Care: It can be tempting to do the 2 hour or 3 hour kids care, and then figure you can save money by taking
it from there. But you may be surprise by how little skiing you can do between the 9am drop off and the 11:30am
pickup. By the time you get to lift, get your skis on and up the mountain, you'll already be thinking of picking them
up. We know daycare and ski lessons at good resorts are expensive, but it is part of what makes skiing such a
great family vacation!
Saving money on ski trips is all about prioritizing. Do it correctly, and you can have a first-class experience for