For the last 9 years I have planned a ski trip with friends where we do some big mountain skiing. Living in the Midwest this yearly retreat is a must for me because I absolutely adore skiing! The feel of the wind on my face as I maneuver down the mountain, the quiet all around me when I have a run all to myself, the smell of pine, and the burn of my legs when I go down a double black diamond and realize I have gone too far to turn back and now I have to muster through this field of moguls! But most of all I love the freedom and strength I feel when I ski.
I look forward to this every year and thought I would share some tricks for planning a ski trip on a budget! Whether you are going to a big resort like Squaw Valley in California with all the shops and restaurants or a mountain ski town like Red Lodge in Montana which doesn't have many additional amenities. You can make your trip more cost effective by focusing on these 4 areas: lodging, transportation, food, and lift tickets.
This is your biggest area where you can save money! I start planning a trip in October/November each year so I can see where we all want to go and what dates works for everyone. Normally we take our trip in mid-late February or early March since this is when snow conditions are at their best. But check the snow totals at the location you want to go to try and time your trip right. There of course is no guarantee for great snow, but you can at least try your best!
My go-to websites for looking at lodging are Airbnb or VRBO. Normally you can rent a condo, home, cabin or townhouse for an affordable price compared to a hotel/motel. You get the benefits of having the place to yourself and an "at home" feel to further enhance your travel experience versus having to interact with other guests staying at the same place.
When I start my lodging search I will set the parameters to number of adults, dates we are staying and narrow it by cost. Then I am left with just the places that are within what I want. Normally if you have 5 or more people on your trip you can get a great price because the lodging options are normally designed for 4, and normally have an extra sleeping option like a hide away bed, pull out couch or air mattress. The biggest factor is having a spot for each person to sleep. Now that my friends and I are no longer in our 20’s anymore we all want an actual mattress. Having a good nights sleep is important so you are refreshed and ready for another day on the slopes!
Other key things I look at are:
Getting to the mountain is always the next hurdle. Once the group has decided which ski resort/area to visit start looking at the cost of transportation by car or plane. Carpooling is always a good option and saves a lot of money. Plane tickets are my preference if the drive is over 10 hours. I always worry about the weather when I am deciding to drive or fly. If it’s over a 10 hour drive, it is miserable to be white knuckling the steering wheel for the whole length of the trip due to snowy/icy roads. I’ve done it, I hate it! But I have a friend who loves to drive cross country so he always drives and loves the journey! So it really just depends on what your friends/family like to do.
When I am researching plane tickets I look at all of the main airlines and compare on their website. I don’t rely on a search engines solely. Also some of the smaller airlines have great prices. So check to see what is available in your area. Then watch the prices. Then when the flight is at a really good price you will know it and can book! Planes ticket prices vary depending on the day of the week and how far in advance you book. So do your research and it will be worth it!
Also, don’t forget about frequent flyer miles! They are awesome if you travel regularly! A free plane ticket is the best!
Each person is going to have their own preference on what they want to eat. Some have food allergies and some will just want to eat out for lunch and dinner. But for those on a budget, we like to buy groceries to make breakfast, lunch and normally a few dinners. We try to budget for a couple meals eating at the local restaurants because it’s fun to try the local fare!
Planning at least one group dinner at the cabin is fun because it’s a great time to just relax and be home and maybe even play a game afterwards!
Of course it depends on how much they eat, do they go out to eat or bring lunches, are they renting from the ski resort or from a shop in town, and so on. So it is just a rough estimate but it helps people have a better understanding of costs.
I hope you find this article helpful and you can now save some coin for your other adventures!
Happy skiing everyone,
For the love of travel and new adventures, we live our lives for the next dream fulfilled!