Warren Miller famously said that “the family that skis together, goes broke together.”

Today, ways to prove Mr. Miller wrong and ensure that your family ski vacation doesn’t break the bank.

Plan Ahead

While it’s tempting to delay and see where snow is falling before planning a ski vacation, the waiting game can cost you.

Passes: Multi-mountain passes can save a lot of money. This is especially true if your home mountain is on the pass and you vacation at another resort on the same pass. But even if you don’t have a local connection, it’s worth doing the math to see if a multi-mountain pass will deliver a good deal.

Tip: If you’re not using a multi-mountain pass, save money by purchasing ski tickets online before you go. (For example,

Lodging: Lodging rates are often lowest during the preseason. Watch for lodging sales and book then.

Tip: Don’t worry if you’ve missed the sales. We’ve got other tips for cutting lodging costs below.

Where to Go?

There are hundreds of fantastic ski areas and ski resorts in North America. While the big names capture the most attention, these marquee resorts are also more expensive.

To save money, choose a lesser known resort. Many offer fantastic terrain and a great family experience. Look for discount cards like the Colorado Gems card. Or, choose a resort in a lower-profile state, like Montana or Idaho. It’s worth some online exploring to find somewhere off the beaten path. Liftopia’s Best in Snow Awards is a great place to start your research on the resort that’s right for you.

Tip: Ski Canada. The strong US dollar makes skiing a bargain at even the most iconic and well-known Canadian resorts.

Banff, Canada. PHOTO CREDIT: Yosuke Mizuno

Where to Stay?

While slope side lodging is the most convenient, it is usually the most costly lodging option available. If you are willing to stay off the mountain, you can find better deals.

TIP: Stay in a nearby community instead of a base village. For example, stay Carbondale when skiing Aspen Snowmass. Or stay in Salt Lake City when skiing Alta and Snowbird. Many nearby towns are connected to ski resorts via mass transit and resort shuttles.

The type of lodging you choose will also have an impact on your budget. For convenience and savings, it’s hard to beat a condo or house. Having a kitchen means you don’t have to eat out, which can save considerable money and be more relaxing with children.

Tip: Make your lunch and take it on the mountain, so that you don’t have to pay expensive prices for your midday meal. Here’s a recipe for one of our favorites — ski day veggie burritos.

Portillo, Chile. PHOTO CREDIT: Michelle Randall

 Save on Lessons

If lessons are part of your equation, take them before you go on vacation. Or, visit two resorts on your vacation, taking lessons at the less expensive. For example, take lessons at Bridger Bowl near Bozeman, Montana and then head up to Big Sky.

Tip: Most ski and ride schools are certified by PSIA/AASI in the US or CSIA in Canada. This certification means that you can expect a consistent, quality experience anywhere you or your children take lessons.

Take Your Skis

Bring your gear instead of renting. This is easy if you’re driving. If you’re flying, check with the airline. In general, airlines charge just one bag fee for skis, poles and boots — as long as they are in actual ski boot and ski bags. If you put your gear in a duffle bag, you’ll pay extra. For tips on packing your ski gear for air travel, check out this post.

Tip: To avoid extra charges, you must check both skis and boots, and the combined weight cannot exceed 40 pounds. If you check just boots, or just skis, you’ll pay more than if you check both.

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