Good news for skiers and snowboarders:
Ski resorts are rolling out some aggressive deals this season, and if you know where to look, you can cut the cost of a winter vacation by as much as 40 percent.
Travelocity.com, for instance, has hotel packages to Colorado and Canada for up to 30 percent off, with a $100 credit on top of those savings to travelers who book three-night vacations. Ski.com reports that bargains are even more plentiful than last season, and is offering budget-conscious travelers a wider choice, from Vermont to California. And Expedia.com has so many ski packages this season that it plans to extend its Ski Sale, which offers savings of up to 40 percent, through January.
It’s a strategy that worked a year ago when resorts were faced with lower precipitation and a slumping economy. Despite those setbacks, hefty price cuts were responsible in part for resorts having their second-best season ever, with visits that totaled nearly 60 million, according to a survey by the National Ski Areas Association.
This season the industry is hoping for a repeat.
“It is once again a skier’s market,” said Dan Sherman, director of marketing for Ski.com. While the offers are very similar to last season’s with free nights, free lift tickets and free upgrades rather than outright discounts, there are more of them, he said. “We have more for January, more for spring break, and even more for the December holidays than in recent memory.”
A recent search on Ski.com pulled up 99 deals over the New Year’s holiday alone, including a seven-night vacation for four people staying in a two-bedroom condominium in Snowmass, Colo., for $1,375 a person, with lift tickets. That’s a saving of roughly 25 percent. A five-night trip for four over Christmas and New Year’s was $1,296 a person in a two-bedroom in Steamboat Springs, Colo. – a total saving of $2,427.
Availability over the holiday week is rare and discounts are practically unheard of, but travel agents say skiers still have some options if they move quickly. “I am seeing unbelievable rates for the Christmas holiday week in Beaver Creek and Jackson Hole,” said Marrilee Foukal McLean, a Virtuoso travel agent in Montgomery, Ala. While many of the prime condominiums are nearly full this late in the game, she pointed to hotels like the Pines Lodge, a RockResort in Beaver Creek, Colo., which normally go for $215 at this time of year but have been offering rates as low as $160 in December.
“I am not sure why this is happening,” Ms. McLean said. “Could be that people assume the rates are out the roof and that they have waited too late, but they will find that they are wrong.”
Help From Hotels On Airfares
Finding low airfares can be tricky, with carriers continuing to keep a tight rein on capacity in order to fill every last seat. But some resorts are picking up a portion of the ticket price to woo skiers and snowboarders. For trips between Dec. 16 and April 3, Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado is offering an airfare credit of up to $400 a ticket for every third person staying at least four nights with a Friends and Family Fly Free promotion. Jackson Hole, Wyo. has a similar deal for every fourth airline ticket, up to $500. The promotion is limited to eight people per party and travelers must book by Jan. 31 and stay a minimum of five nights.
Another option for cutting airfare: Consider hub airports in cities like Denver and Salt Lake City where there are generally more flights to choose from and costs can be lower. From Denver, for example, you can drive to Keystone in about an hour and a half or Vail in about two hours. And visitors to Salt Lake have 11 resorts to choose from within a one-hour drive.
When Kids Stay, Or Ski, Free
For families, there is no excuse for paying full price this season, as practically every resort is offering its own twist to children skiing, staying or renting free. For the second season in a row, Aspen/Snowmass has a Kids Ski and Stay Free deal when adults buy lodging and lift tickets for five nights or more. This year the offer has been extended to March and April for stays booked several weeks ahead. Reserve a four-night stay by Dec. 17 for trips Jan. 1 to Feb. 10 and get a fifth night free with the Perfect Storm package. (Book by Jan. 14 for stays from Feb. 11 to April 3.)
Sunday River in Newry, Me., offers free tickets, lessons, rentals, lodging and discounted day care for children with a three-night stay or more during the Children’s Festival, which runs Jan. 9 to 14. And The Lodges at Deer Valley in Park City, Utah, has two free lift tickets for children for every two adult lift tickets.
Most ski resorts offer such deals for children 12 and under. But Mount Bachelor in Bend, Ore., extends its Kids Ski/Ride free deal to 18-year-olds. Buy an adult three out of five, or five out of seven, multi-day ticket, and receive one ticket for your accompanying child free.