How to Plan an Affordable Ski Trip

I have always wanted to go skiing but I never really knew where to start with planning. If you know me, you know I love planning trips and planning every little detail. But for some reason planning my first ski trip was not as easy as I thought it would be. I am always looking for a deal when it comes to planning trips, if there is no deal or way I can save money then I generally cancel the trip. But this trip was supposed to be a present for my boyfriend’s birthday so I could not afford to not plan it. We decided to go to Colorado in December and his birthday was in February. So I only had around 2 months to plan this trip. I thought 2 months would be more than enough time but it definitely was not enough for an affordable trip. Somehow I still ended finding a way to keep the trip somewhat affordable, below I am providing some tips to help you plan an affordable ski getaway.

1. Pick your ski town of interest

One thing that helped me pick the ski town we went to was my budget. When I started planning I knew I wanted to go to Colorado but I was not sure of the ski town I wanted to go to. I have always heard of a few ski towns in Colorado like Vail, Aspen and Breckenridge. At first I wanted to go to any one of these towns, but I looked at the prices for booking a couple months before the trip and I decided to find a cheaper ski town. That is how I found Ski Cooper Mountain in Leadville, CO. Leadville had affordable hotels and ski lift tickets. Of course, there was much else to do there besides skiing, but that is all we cared about anyway.

First, I would suggest you to pick the state you want to go skiing and then find a ski town that fits your budget and that also has the other activities you would like to do besides skiing.

2. Book hotels, flights and ski lifts at least 6 months in advance.

Skiing is a very important yearly activity for many people, so as you can imagine it becomes very expensive especially as ski season gets closer. It is important to start booking your flights, hotels, ski lift tickets and ski rentals early. The closer you get to the date of your trip, the more expensive the hotels and Airbnbs become especially at the more popular ski resorts. The popular ski resorts that people always hear of in Colorado include Vail, Breckenridge and Aspen. When I first started planning, I looked at hotels in these ski towns and boy were they expensive. I would see hotels starting from the high $600s and up for two nights. So many of them were a lot higher than the 600 price. This was in Breckenridge which was the more affordable of the other two I listed above. Airbnbs were also extremely expensive. This price was just for a hotel room, there was no food included. Being that these ski towns were still in my home country of the United States, I did not feel comfortable spending that much on a domestic trip. In addition to the hotel, we would also have to pay for ski lift tickets to actually ski, ski lift tickets at Breckenrige are $178/person per day online. So for me that would be an additional $356 for the two of us going on the trip. Then I also wanted to get ski lessons since this was our first time skiing, which would be $149 per person for a full day trip and for two people it would be $298 for the entire full day of lessons.

So let’s say we found a hotel for $600 which is really difficult, and the lifts were $356 and the lessons were $298 and $68X2 for ski rentals for in total we would be looking at $1390 only for lodging and the ski activities alone. This does not include food, flights and other transportation.

It is really important for you to buy your flights early around the same time you book your hotels. Most people go skiing on the weekends so weekend tickets get really pricey pretty quickly.

3. Lyft and Uber don’t work everywhere so set up transportation before you arrive

If you choose to fly into Denver, then you will need to find a way to get to your ski resort whether it is Breckenridge, Vail or Aspen. Each of these resorts are around 2 hours from Denver. Some people booked private shuttles to pick them up from the airport, the Peak 1 Express Shuttle from the Denver Airport will be around $128 for a one way trip per person, in total that is $512 for a trip to and from the airport for two people. Now your total is up to $1902 for the entire trip. While I was planning my trip many people suggested that I should not rent a car to drive up to the ski resort just because the weather could often be unpredictable. But if you are brave enough, you can get a rental to cut costs. There is also the choice of public transit where you can take the Bustang Bus for $12 from the Denver Union Station to Frisco Transfer Center and then drive 20 minutes with Lyft or a rental car from Frisco to Breckenridge. The Bustang bus also goes to Vail and from here you can take a Lyft and Uber to your resort.

The city we ended up going to, Leadville, did not have any choices for ride share like Uber or Lyft. We didn’t know it before we arrived but this town only had a population of under 3,000. Being that it is such a small town, everyone had their own car. But even though everyone had their own car, there were no Lyft or Uber drivers within a 30 mile radius of the city. The Lyft drivers that were 30 miles away did not want to come that far out for a ride, the money was not really worth it for them. Not only did this location not have ride share, but there were also no taxis or rental car companies. So once we arrived in the city with no rental, we were basically stuck in the city with really no way to get out. And honestly the first night we weren’t even sure how we would get from our hotel to downtown to get food. Luckily, there was a pizza place that delivered and one of the employees there offered to drive us around the whole weekend for a small fee.

You might not get as lucky to find someone to take you around, so please do your research, call your hotel to check if there are Lyfts and Ubers available in your area or to see if you would need to get a rental car.

4. Rent your skis instead of buying them

Since this is your first ski trip, it might be better to rent your skis. You are not really sure if you will like skiing after your first time so you do not want to run out and buy all of the equipment if you will never use them again. Start out by renting your skis at the resort you are going to. Generally ski rentals come with a helmet, boots, and skis and sometimes goggles. The price is usually not that high, at Breckenridge they are around $68/person for the whole day. Where as buying all the equipment will cost you around $600-$800.

5. Get proper ski clothes

The only thing you should worry about buying for your time on the slopes is proper winter gear like thermals, jackets, ski pants, gloves and snow boots to walk around with before and after skiing. If you already have some of these things, then do not go and spend more money on them. Save money any way you can!

Depending on where you are from, Colorado can get pretty cold. When it comes to skiing, it is important to dress warm and in layers. Dressing in layers will allow you to take off different layers if it gets hotter later in the day. For my day on the slopes I had thermals, waterproof ski pants, waterproof winter jacket, ski mask, goggles (help protect your eyes from the sun), waterproof gloves, and snow boots. Below are a list of places you can buy your ski clothes from:

Dick’s Sporting Goods
Your Local Thrift Store

6. Consider taking lessons

Skiing might look easy on tv and when others do it, but it is not as easy as you think, so it is really important to actually take lessons. You could take half day lessons which are a lot cheaper than a full day of lessons. Lessons will give you the basic skills you need ski down the slopes by teaching you how to stop, accelerate and avoid falling (you will still fall just not as much lol).

7. Remember to drink lots of water and gradually adjust to the elevation

Altitude sickness is extremely serious and common. Some of the symptoms include heart palpitations, difficulty breathing, etc. It starts 12-24 hours after your arrival, so you might think you are fine with the altitude change and then suddenly you are not. I arrived in Leadville on Friday night and was perfectly fine all Friday, and Saturday and then on Sunday when I went back to Denver for my flight, I began experiencing symptoms of elevation sickness like shortness of breath and really fast heart rate when walking. It was ridiculous! I would only get relief from this when I would drink lots of water and sit down for a long period of time. Leadville was 10,000 ft above sea level. I came from a city that was just a few hundred feet above sea level so I was ill prepared for the transition. It would have been better for me to go from a few hundred feet, to a couple thousand for a day or two and then made a gradual transition to Leadville’s 10,000 feet elevation.

Before I wrap up the blog post, I will leave you with one final tip:

Consider the lesser known locations.

Since I started planning my trip only two months before I looked for alternative locations that were less expensive than the more popular ski resorts. Some of those locations are listed below. The thing to keep in mind is that at the end of the day it is the skiing that matters and most of the less known ski towns have nice slopes with half as many people and are also a lot cheaper. So not only are you saving money, but you are also getting more room to learn and fall as you please.

Loveland Ski Area
Ski Cooper
Howelsen Hill
Monarch Mountain Resort

Planning your first ski trip is not easy, but I hope these tips help you plan your perfect and affordable winter getaway.

Happy Traveling!


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Bisi is a data engineer by day and freelance writer and travel blogger by night. She enjoys exploring the world on a budget. She hopes to visit every country in the world especially all 54 African countries. She is happiest when she is eating well-seasoned food.

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