13 Secrets To Skiing With Kids For Cheap

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Skiing is easily the most expensive family sport. While there’s no doubt that skiing is an absolute BLAST, for many it’s hard to justify spending the money it costs for just one day of skiing as a family.

The truth is that our family lives right in the epicenter of Utah’s ski industry. There are 8 ski resorts within an hour of our home (with the closest being only 10 minutes away). However, less than 10% of the people we know don’t ever ski because it’s just TOO EXPENSIVE.

The truth is that skiing CAN be expensive, but it doesn’t HAVE to be.

skiing for cheap with kids

How Much Does It Cost For A Day Of Skiing?

family skiing for cheap

Depending on where you go, the cost of a day on the slopes may differ considerably. Here are some ballpark figures for planning purposes:

Lift Tickets: At your average ski resort in the US, ski lift tickets cost $75-$130/day for adults and kids ages 12 and older. For kids, plan on paying about 30% less for kids’ lift tickets. Most ski resorts have deals where kids under a certain age, usually 5 or 6 ski for free.

Ski Rentals: Plan on paying between $20-$40 per person per day for ski rentals

Ski School: Ski schools cost between $100-$250/day, and may also require you to buy a lift ticket in addition to your ski instruction.

If you do the math fast, skiing may well be the most costly family activity. Especially if you have a large family like ours. The cost of skiing for a single day for our family of 7 is prohibitively expensive.

Fortunately, there are lots of great ways to enjoy budget family skiing that won’t cut into your fun on the ski hill. Let’s chat about some inexpensive ways to ski with kids.

Enroll In Kids Discount Ski Programs

kids ski school

Did you know that many resorts have kid discount programs for skiing? At Vail Resorts, kids in grades K-5 can sign up for the Epic School Kids program and get 5 free lift tickets for the season. Different resorts offer free season passes to kids if you sign up early. Many states have 5th and 6th grade passport programs where kids in these grades can get free ski passes by enrolling in the program (and get great discounts for their families as well). Most ski resorts have discounted multi-week lessons that are perfect for local ski kids.

NOTE: Sign UP EARLY! Some of these programs close as early as September, so act fast!

Buy A Season Ski Pass

mom and kids skiing

Season passes can be expensive, but if you’re skiing more than a handful of days, it’s the cheapest way to ski as a family. For example, to ski at Park City in Utah, I would spend about $150/day for a lift ticket. However, an Epic Local Pass that allows me to ski at Park City and about a dozen other resorts for FREE, costs only $590. Can you see what a great deal season ski passes are? In less than 4 days of skiing, I break even on my season ski pass, making season passes one of the best ways to ski for cheap.

For families, skiing with a season pass is invaluable. It takes the stress of skiing ALL DAY away and allows you to come and go whenever you need without worrying about the money you’re wasting by not using every minute of your expensive ski pass. Especially if you are skiing with toddlers that won’t be able to ski all day.

Shop Around For Kids Ski Free Programs

kids skiing together

Did you know that most ski resorts have programs where kids can ski for free? While many ski resorts only let kids under 4 or 5 ski for free, there are some that let kids as old as 10 or even 12 ski for free with a parent. Shop around for ski resorts where kids ski free to save money on your family ski trip.

Avoid Busy Times

family skiing together

The absolute WORST time of year to ski, especially with kids, is on a holiday. The week between Christmas and New Year, Presidents Day weekend, and MLK weekend are the most crowded AND the most expensive times of year to ski. When skiing with kids, crowds are an absolute nightmare, so avoid peak times. Ski passes are also more expensive over the holidays. To get the best ski deals, go during the week!

Stay Farther Away For Cheap Ski Lodging

Staying at a ski resort or even in the resort town will have you paying a premium. If you want cheap ski lodging, stay one town away from the resort town. Often these cheap ski hotels will cost you less than 50% of what you would pay in the resort town. Here are some of our top suggestions for alternative ski lodging budget options:

Park City Utah: Stay in Heber City Instead
Breckenridge Colorado: Stay in Silverthorne Instead
Jackson Wyoming: Stay in Alpine or Victor Instead
Squaw Valley California: Stay in Truckee Instead

Looking for more resorts in California that are family-friendly? Read our California Skiing article next!

Don’t Rent A Car For Ski Trips

ski bus photos

Did you know that many ski areas have fantastic public transportation networks? In fact, many ski towns have FREE public transportation, giving you the perfect cheap ski trip transportation. Don’t forget that since most ski towns are small, parking is very limited so you’ll be paying a premium to park there. Whenever possible, use public transportation, or just hire an UBER for other trips.

Park In The Free Lot To Save Ski Money

If you decide that you really do need a car on your ski trip, make sure to park in the free parking lot and ride the free ski shuttle to save money. While this takes a little more time and planning (carry that spare warm layer with you instead of leaving it in the car), it’s a great way to save money skiing with kids.

Plan A Group Ski Trip

group ski trip

Lodging can be one of the most expensive parts of a ski trip, and if you’re trying to have a cheap family ski trip, you’ll need to think outside the box. We’ve found that one of the best ways to save money on a ski trip and have more fun is to go with a group. We often rent a big cabin or large Airbnb and invite several other families to join us and split the cost. Choose families who like to ski the way you do so that the kids have ski friends during the day, and the adults can sneak away for a run or two alone! Or maybe even try cross country skiing to save even more money.

Save Money On Family Ski Gear

If you’re going to be skiing more than a handful of times each season, it makes sense to get a season ski rental package or just buy a set up used.

Buying Used Ski Gear

used kids skis

Buying used ski gear is one of the best ways to save money on a family ski trip. Ski gear will last for years and years, so it’s not difficult to find lightly used ski gear, making budget skiing so much easier.

Often, we can get a full set of ski gear for kids for $60-$100 depending on the condition. If you have multiple kids getting used ski gear is a great cheap ski option since you can just pass them down to other siblings. We shop at ski rental shops that sell used gear, use online classifieds, and go to local fall ski swaps (go EARLY for kids’ ski gear since it goes FAST). Occasionally we even find good quality used ski gear at thrift stores.

Buying used ski gear is the most economical way to get budget ski gear for kids.

Adjustable kids’ ski boots are another option that we love. In fact, you can buy a new pair of adjustable-size kids ski boots for about the same price as several used pairs. Check out our top recommendations for kids’ ski boots.

Season Ski Rentals To Save Money

Season rentals for skis and boots are a fantastic way to save money whether you don’t want the trouble of finding out what size your children are or don’t want to have to store equipment all year just for the summer. Season ski rentals usually cost about $90-$140 per season.

Ski At Budget Ski Resorts

Nordic Valley skiing with kids
Our favorite Cheap Ski Resort in Utah – $80 for our BIG family of 7!

The best way to save money on your family ski trip is to be very careful about where you ski and how much it costs to ski there. Honestly if you’re planning to ski on a budget, avoid the big resorts and opt for budget ski resorts instead. If you’re a novice or just getting started skiing, consider a budget family ski resort. Budget ski resorts are smaller, less crowded, and significantly cheaper than big ski resorts. In fact, we often pay about 75% less when skiing at a budget ski resort compared to a big-name resort. At our favorite local Utah budget ski resort, our entire family of 7 can ski for less than $80 a day – TOTAL COST! While the terrain isn’t extreme or technical, cheap small ski resorts are the perfect place to ski with friends or to learn to ski.

Buy Discount Ski Lift Tickets Online

The best way to save money on ski lift tickets is to purchase them as far ahead as possible. We like using Liftopia for discount family lift tickets, but they usually only have a small quantity available, so make your reservation early for the best bargains and before tickets run out. The ticket window is always the most expensive location to buy family ski lift tickets.

Go Ski Tailgating Instead Of Eating At The Lodge

kids ski lunch tailgating

The food at ski resorts is incredibly expensive, so skipping the resort cuisine is an excellent way to save money while skiing with children. A couple of years ago, we bought our whole family lunch at the ski hill and it was over $100!

The best option is to make your budget ski lunch an event on it’s own with a ski tailgating party. While you don’t need a full grill or party decorations, planning ahead with a warm lunch, a few folding camp chairs and some music is a surefire way to bring some fun into your lunch and save money while skiing. Make sure you stay hydrated during the day by bringing your own water. If your kids need some lodge time to warm up, keep it simple with just a shared hot chocolate and you still won’t break your ski trip budget.

READ: 20 Amazing Ski Lunch Ideas for Tailgating

Get Free Passes By Working At A Ski Resort

As I mentioned, we live in the mountains where many people would love to ski, but really can’t afford it. To get around that, many families take advantage of the ski resorts’ family season pass benefits for employees. Most ski resorts will give free season passes to employees AND all their immediate family, making this the cheapest way to ski as a family. We know many moms who work one parking lot shift a week and all carpool up together. Others have one parent who works one weekend day as a ski instructor while the other parent skis with the kids for free. Still, others take on part-time office work with ski resorts so their family can ski for free. If you want the best way to ski for cheap with kids, working at a resort is the way to go!

Written by Jessica Averett

Hi, I'm Jessica! After meeting my husband on a chairlift, we now live in the mountains of Utah with our 5 kids. As a former ski instructor and mom, I'm here to help you make your family ski trips as easy, and FUN, as possible!