You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

How to plan your ski trip with points and miles

The Points Guy logo The Points Guy 10/26/2020 Summer Hull
a man riding skis down a snow covered mountain © Provided by The Points Guy
MSN has partnered with The Points Guy for our coverage of credit card products. MSN and The Points Guy may receive a commission from card issuers.

Welcome to Ski Week 2020 at The Points Guy. All week long, we’ll be sharing everything you need to know about the rapidly approaching ski season that kicks off with the Nov. 6 opening of Keystone. A few other Colorado mountains are racing to turn the lifts on any day now, though of course, this season will look very different. With an emphasis on advance booking and safety, we’ll help you prepare for a ski season unlike any other so you can get the most out of every minute on the mountain.

A ski trip can easily cost between $200 and $500 per person, per day when you include lift tickets, gear rental, meals, lodging and transportation. The actual all-in cost of a ski trip varies pretty dramatically based on when and where you ski, but it can quickly become a rather expensive vacation. Tack on some private ski lessons or splurge on fancy lodging and that grand total can quickly multiply.

a person skiing on the snow: (Image by Getty Images/Imgorthand) © The Points Guy (Image by Getty Images/Imgorthand)

But your next trip to the mountain doesn’t have to drain thousands of dollars from your bank account. In fact, you can pay for much of your ski trip using points and miles — here’s how.

In This Post

Lift tickets

Let’s start with the trickiest part of using points on a ski trip: lift tickets. Before we can get into how to use points, you need some basic ski lift ticket knowledge.

Many major ski areas including Vail, Beaver Creek, Aspen and Breckenridge charge around $200 per day for some single-day lift tickets, but there are numerous ways to reduce your cost using both deals and points. Also keep in mind that at many mountains, including all Vail Resorts, advance reservations are required to ski this season.

One big tip to save money (or points) and guarantee your day on the mountain is to purchase tickets before the season starts. This may be through advance single-day ticket reservations or a larger package or pass.

Related: Best credit cards for buying ski tickets

Ski passes

a man standing on top of a snow covered mountain: Arapahoe Basin, Colorado. (Photo via Shutterstock) © The Points Guy Arapahoe Basin, Colorado. (Photo via Shutterstock)

There are three main ski pass programs across the country. Which of those ski passes is the best for you will depend on where you want to ski, when you want to ski and how many days you plan to spend on the mountain.

A ski season pass can make sense if you plan to take more than one ski trip. It can even be worth the money for a single weeklong trip. Be aware that these prices often rise as ski season nears and all of these ski passes do eventually go off-sale for the season, usually at some point in December or January.

As an example, one type of available pass is the Epic Pass program which offers everything from a $112 one-day pass (for adults) or $59 (for kids) to $999 season-long passes. Even if you only plan to ski a day or two, locking the days in this way can effectively cut the per-day ski rate in half, even at normally expensive resorts such as Vail, Breckenridge and Beaver Creek.

a car parked in a parking lot: (Photo courtesy of Epic Mountain Express) © The Points Guy (Photo courtesy of Epic Mountain Express)

When it comes to using points for these passes, you have a few options.

Several of the big-name passes, such as the Epic Pass, are available for purchase through a site called Undercover Tourist. This matters because ski pass purchases often code on your credit card as entertainment or another category of spending other than travel. However, if you can make the purchase in a way that codes as travel (such as, through Undercover Tourist) your point redemption opportunities expand.

Points from the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card or Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard (no longer available to new applicants), can be redeemed at a higher value against travel charges made on those cards than non-travel charges.

So, if you’ve earned the full 100,000-mile bonus from Capital One Venture Card (after spending $20,000 on purchases within the first 12 months from account opening), and make the ski pass or lift ticket purchases in a way that codes as travel, you’d have up to $1,000 in miles to spend toward your ski passes charged to that card. (Here are instructions on how to do that.)

Redeem points for ski gift cards

You can also use points to buy lift tickets by redeeming points for relevant gift cards. For example, you can redeem 20,000 Amex Membership Rewards points for a $200 Jackson Hole gift card. A 1 cent per point redemption isn’t great, but it’s an option for travelers with cards that earn Membership Rewards points, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express.

Aspen Snowmass gift cards are often also available on the Amex gift card portal, though that current rate is under 1 cent per point with a $200 Aspen Snowmass gift card available for 28,600 Amex Membership Rewards points.

Ski free

a sign on the side of a snow covered slope: (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy) © The Points Guy (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

In addition to using points, there are many ways for children and seniors to ski for free (or at a dramatically reduced price). Targeting programs or resorts where at least some of the family can ski free reduces the need to use as many points for the other tickets and passes.

Here’s a comparison of the major ski passes

Use points for ski gear

If you have Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you can use those points to rent ski gear in many locations.

In the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel site, you can redeem points from the Chase Sapphire Reserve® at a rate of 1.5 cents per point toward rented ski gear as it falls under the “things to do” section in the Chase Travel site.

graphical user interface, application: Screenshot by Chase © The Points Guy Screenshot by Chase

In this example, it will cost 3,484 Ultimate Rewards points for a two-day child’s gear rental package and 4,413 for a beginner-level adult ski gear rental. If you read the fine print, this gear is actually from one of my favorite sources, Ski Butlers. This means it will be delivered right to your hotel or home rental and you can skip the rental shop. (This year, Ski Butlers is also offering completely contact-free delivery, if that’s your preference.)

graphical user interface, text, application: Screenshot courtesy of Chase © The Points Guy Screenshot courtesy of Chase

Flights

With ski gear and lift tickets out of the way, using your miles to fly to the ski resort is the next step to saving money on your trip.

Flights to mountain airports

There are two strategies for flying to or near the mountains. The first option is to fly into a small airport that’s closest to the ski area you want to visit. This includes airports such as Aspen-Pitkin (ASE), Vail-Eagle (EGE), Gunnison–Crested Butte (GUC), Montrose Regional (MTJ) or even right into Telluride (TEX).

This can be very convenient when it all works out well, but it actually has several disadvantages.

a man flying through the air on a snow covered mountain: Telluride Tex Airport. (Photo courtesy of Telluride Tex Airport) © The Points Guy Telluride Tex Airport. (Photo courtesy of Telluride Tex Airport)

First, you’re less likely to get a nonstop flight to these smaller airports unless you’re fortunate enough to live in one of a handful of hub cities with nonstop service.

Next, the operation of your flights will be very dependent on unpredictable mountain weather. It’s not uncommon for flights at these airports, especially true mountain hubs such as Aspen or Telluride, to have flights canceled for days at a time due to winter weather.

A couple of ski seasons ago, I tried to fly directly into Telluride with my family, but we found ourselves landing at Montrose and being bussed into Telluride due to weather. And last year, winter weather right after the new year canceled our flights home out of Aspen and made it impossible to rebook new flights from that airport for days. (Thank goodness for the built-in Chase trip protection coverage, which picked up the massive last-minute hotel bill when we got stuck in a ski town during peak season.)

Finally, award seats on these flights can, at times, be quite pricey. This is especially true on weekends or holidays during peak ski season.

How to book award flights to the mountains

a man flying through the air on a snow covered mountain: (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy) © The Points Guy (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

When flying to smaller airports in Colorado, and many of the mountains out west, United Airlines and its regional partners often dominate service, with American Airlines coming in second place.

If you have a United MileagePlus credit card, such as the United Explorer Card, you’ll want to make sure to log in to your MileagePlus account to see expanded Saver award availability. (This is one of the reasons why someone in your family should have a United credit card.)

As an added bonus, having an airline cobranded credit card will often help you get a free checked bag on that airline, which can be used for your ski and snow gear. Typically, two pairs of skis or a single snowboard and boots are counted as one checked bag, even if the boots are in a separate bag. But always double check your airline’s contract of carriage and current baggage policies to be sure.

Related: The ultimate guide to flying with sports equipment

Here’s a sample of available routes to mountain airports (some service is seasonal):

Steamboat Springs to Yampa Valley Regional Airport (HDN), Colorado

  • American Airlines: Chicago-O’Hare (ORD), Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW)
  • Alaska Airlines: Seattle (SEA), San Diego (SAN)
  • JetBlue: Ft. Lauderdale (FLL), Boston (BOS), New York (JFK)
  • Southwest Airlines: Dallas Love Field (DAL) and Denver (DEN)
  • United: Chicago-O’Hare (ORD), Denver (DEN), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), New York-Newark (EWR), San Francisco (SFO), Washington-Dulles (IAD)

If you live in the Northeast, for example, you can fly Boston to Steamboat Springs on JetBlue using your JetBlue TrueBlue points. Use the JetBlue Fare Finder to find the most economical award prices that work with your dates. You’ll also get 10% of your points back if you have the JetBlue Credit Card.

calendar: Screenshot courtesy of JetBlue © The Points Guy Screenshot courtesy of JetBlue

Southwest Airlines is a newcomer to Steamboat, and using a Southwest Companion Pass could be an excellent way to stretch your points this ski season.

Gunnison/Crested Butte (GUC), Colorado

  • American Airlines: Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW)
  • United: Denver (DEN), Houston (IAH)

Aspen (ASE), Colorado

  • American Airlines: Chicago-O’Hare (ORD), Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW), Los Angeles (LAX), Phoenix (PHX)
  • United: Chicago-O’Hare (ORD), Denver (DEN), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO)

Currently, American Airlines has ski season flights to Aspen from 10,000 miles each way from some locations.

Related: Best ways to earn American Airlines miles

graphical user interface, application: Screenshot courtesy of American Airlines © The Points Guy Screenshot courtesy of American Airlines

Vail (EGE), Colorado

  • American Airlines: Chicago-O’Hare (ORD), Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), New York-JFK, Philadelphia (PHL), Phoenix (PHX)
  • United: Chicago-O’Hare (ORD), Denver (DEN), Houston (IAH), New York-Newark (EWR), San Francisco (SFO), Washington-Dulles (IAD)

Since United flies from many locations to Vail, using Avianca LifeMiles is a great alternative to fly for fewer miles.

You can sometimes redeem just 7,500 LifeMiles one way to fly on the same United flights that United may want 12,500 or more miles for each way. Earning LifeMiles is also quite easy, as it’s a transfer partner with Amex Membership Rewards (1 to 1 ratio), Capital One (2 to 1.5 ratio) and Citi ThankYou Rewards. Quite often there are also times when you’ll find a hefty promotion on purchasing LifeMiles, which can save you money over paying cash prices.

graphical user interface, application: Screenshot courtesy of Lifemiles © The Points Guy Screenshot courtesy of Lifemiles

Another way to get to the mountains is with your British Airways Avios points. Although it’s an international carrier, British Airways is an American Airlines partner with a favorable distance-based award chart for nonstop flights.

Flying from Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW) to Vail (EGE) on American Airlines will cost just 9,000 Avios when seats are available. British Airways is also a transfer partner with both American Express Membership Reward points and Chase Ultimate Reward points, so earning miles in the program is quite easy. There are even sometimes transfer bonus offers.

graphical user interface, text, application, email © The Points Guy

Montrose/Telluride (MTJ), Colorado

  • American Airlines: Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW), Los Angeles (LAX), New York-LaGuardia (LGA), Phoenix
  • United: Chicago-O’Hare (ORD), Denver (DEN), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), New York-Newark (EWR), San Francisco (SFO)
  • JetBlue: Los Angeles (LAX), Boston (BOS) and New York (JFK)
  • Southwest Airlines: Denver (DEN) and Dallas Love Field (DAL)

Denver Air Connection also flies directly into Telluride (TEX) from Denver, but while you can book a paid connecting flights via United with Denver Air Connection, you cannot currently redeem airline miles for the flights. 

Related: Guide to a perfect ski day in Telluride

a small airplane sitting on the tarmac of an airport runway: Denver Air Connection (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy Denver Air Connection (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

You may also choose to fly into a larger airport, even if it’s sometimes a little farther away from the ski areas. These larger airports include Denver, Salt Lake City, Reno-Tahoe and even Albuquerque or Boise, depending on where you’re planning to ski.


Video: This Luxury Cabin Comes With an Entire Ski Mountain Just for You — and It's Only $100 a Night (Travel + Leisure)

This Luxury Cabin Comes With an Entire Ski Mountain Just for You — and It's Only $100 a Night
What to watch next
UP NEXT
UP NEXT

The advantages of this strategy are being slightly more removed from mountain weather; flying on far more reliable mainline service; and having many more nonstop routes from around the country with sometimes better award pricing.

Related: Guide to the Denver airport

a large passenger jet sitting on top of a runway: (Photo courtesy of Denver International Airport) © The Points Guy (Photo courtesy of Denver International Airport)

Another advantage is that you can potentially fly Southwest Airlines, which offers everyone two free checked bags and makes all its flights available as awards. And if you have the Southwest Companion Pass it can reduce your overall ski vacation cost immensely, as someone in your family will be able to fly with you for free (plus taxes and fees).

In addition to the expansion of service into some additional Colorado ski towns this season, Denver is also one of Southwest’s biggest focus cities, with nonstop flights from the vast majority of the cities it serves.

a large passenger jet sitting on top of a snow covered mountain: (Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post via Getty Images) © The Points Guy (Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Hotels

On-mountain lodging during ski season can be very expensive.

This makes on- or near-mountain lodging a great use of points when you can find award availability. Here are some of our favorite hotels near ski areas that can be booked with points:

a harbor filled with lots of snow: St. Regis Deer Valley (Summer Hull/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy St. Regis Deer Valley (Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Hilton Honors

Although Hilton doesn’t have a large presence in the ski resort mountains, there are a few properties near some of the more popular resorts in Colorado and Utah.

With the Hilton Honors program, there’s no set award chart; instead, each hotel has a range for the number of points they charge. You can research the range of points needed by using Hilton’s Points Explorer tool. Peak dates will require more points, and you won’t know how many will be required for an award night until you search (though standard rooms do still follow a maximum rate on an unpublished award chart). Expect these ski accommodations to usually require the highest number of points during the ski season, especially on weekends and holidays.

With resort fees on the rise, one big advantage of using your points is that you may not be charged those fees. For example, the $40 per night fee the Highline Vail charges will never hit your bill when you book your stay with points — something to factor in when determining if you should pay for the room versus using your points.

In Colorado

  • Highline Vail DoubleTree by Hilton: 32,000 to 80,000 points per night
  • Hampton Inn and Suites Steamboat Springs: 25,000 to 50,000 points per night
  • Homewood Suites by Hilton Steamboat Springs: 28,000 to 60,000 points per night
  • DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Breckenridge: 30,000 to 60,000 points per night
  • Valdoro Mountain Lodge, Breckenridge: This is a Hilton Grand Vacations property, so point availability is extremely limited

In Utah

  • Waldorf Astoria Park City: 56,000 to 90,000 points per night (but with limited standard award availability, you may be looking at booking a premium room, which is over 300,000 points)
  • DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Park City – The Yarrow: 24,000 to 60,000 points per night

You can earn Hilton Honors points with the Hilton Honors American Express Card, Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card and The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card. The Hilton Honors program is also an American Express Membership Rewards transfer partner at a ratio of 1 Membership Rewards point to 2 Hilton Honors points.

When using your Hilton Honors points, you’ll also receive your fifth night free if you have status. Fortunately, all of the credit cards above come with some sort of elite status, so earning status in the program can be quite easy.

Related: Choosing the best Hilton credit card for you

World of Hyatt

Hyatt offers a handful of ski-in and ski-out properties where you can use your points.

One of the major benefits of using your points at these properties is that resort fees will be waived. Parking fees are also waived for Globalist members — even on paid reservations.

While some of the top-notch resorts will require between 25,000 and 40,000 points per night, there are a few hidden gems in the program. For example, the Hyatt Place Keystone and the Hyatt Place Park City are both only 15,000 points per night. This is a great opportunity to use your annual Hyatt Category 1 to 4 award certificate, which comes upon account renewal with the World of Hyatt Credit Card.

a bedroom with a large bed in a room: Hyatt Place Keystone (Summer Hull / The Points Guy) © The Points Guy Hyatt Place Keystone (Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

A stay at the Hyatt Place Keystone even comes with some freebies, such as free night skiing and kids can ski free at Keystone.

In Colorado

  • Hyatt Place Keystone: Category 4 from 15,000 points per night
  • Park Hyatt Beaver Creek: Category 7 from 30,000 points per night
  • Grand Hyatt Vail: Category 6 from 25,000 points per night
  • Hyatt Residence Club Beaver Creek, Mountain Lodge: Category 6 from 25,000 points per night
  • Hyatt Residence Club Breckenridge, Main Street Station: Category 6 from 25,000 points per night
  • Hyatt Residence Club at Park Hyatt Beaver Creek: Category 7 from 30,000 points per night
  • Hyatt Residence Club Grand Aspen: Category 7 from 30,000 Hyatt points per night

Hyatt has many additional Destination Hotels in and around Colorado ski areas, but in-season award availability is very limited. Also note that Residence Club properties have very limited award availability, especially during peak season.

a living room filled with furniture and a stove: Hyatt Centric Park City. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy Hyatt Centric Park City. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

In Utah

  • Hyatt Centric Park City: Category 7 from 30,000 points per night
  • Hyatt Place Park City: Category 4 from 15,000 points per night
  • Hyatt Place Salt Lake City/Cottonwood: Category 2 from 8,000 points per night

In Nevada

  • Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino: Category 6 from 25,000 points per night
  • Hyatt Residence Club Lake Tahoe, High Sierra Lodge: Category 7 from 30,000 points per night
In California
  • Hyatt Residence Club Lake Tahoe, Northstar Lodge: Category 6 from 25,000 points per night

You can earn World of Hyatt points with the World of Hyatt Credit Card.

The World of Hyatt program is also a transfer partner of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program (1 to 1 ratio) and proves to be a great redemption value for those with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card,  Chase Sapphire Reserve, Ink Business Preferred Credit Card and Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card credit cards.

IHG Rewards Club

Despite having such a large presence across the U.S., IHG offers fewer than a handful of properties conveniently located to the mountains. Fortunately, many of them cost 40,000 points per night or fewer, which means you can use your annual reward night certificate that comes with the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card.

Just by being a cardmember, you’ll also get your fourth night at no additional charge on award stays, which means your overall vacation cost can be quite low. And if you’re ever short on points, there are many times during the year when you can buy IHG points for half a cent per point.

In Colorado

  • Holiday Inn Steamboat Springs: Prices vary, but currently cost 17,500 points per night for much of the winter
  • Holiday Inn Express and Suites Fraser — Winter Park Area: Prices vary, but currently cost 20,000 points per night for much of the winter

In Utah

  • Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites, Park City: Prices vary, but currently rooms cost 22,500 points per night for much of the winter

In California

  • Holiday Inn Express South Lake Tahoe: Prices vary, but currently cost 30,000 points per night for much of the winter

In Nevada

  • Holiday Inn Club Vacations Tahoe Ridge Resort: Prices vary, but currently cost 35,000 points per night for much of the winter

Marriott Bonvoy

If an annual ski vacation is in your future, you’ll probably want to start earning points within the Marriott Bonvoy program ASAP.

You’ll see from the list below that it offers the greatest number of ski-friendly properties across the West and beyond. There’s everything from your high-end ski-in and ski-out resorts to more budget-focused properties not too far from the main ski villages. Unfortunately, unlike Hilton and Hyatt, you’ll still be charged the hotel’s nightly resort fees with Marriott, even when booking with points.

For example, the W Aspen charges a whopping $50 per night in resort fees, even if you’re staying on points. When looking at Marriott properties, you might want to pick a hotel that doesn’t charge a fee, such as the Sheraton Steamboat Resort Villas (although that property does have a parking charge).

Marriott has introduced peak and off-peak pricing and, for the most part, ski season will translate to standard or peak pricing. You’ll also receive your fifth night free when using points, but it’ll take off your least expensive night, not necessarily the cost of the actual fifth night.

table © The Points Guy

*The number of points listed below for a free night indicates standard award nights.

In Colorado

  • Sheraton Mountain Vista Villas, Avon / Vail Valley: Category 5 from 35,000 points per night
  • Sheraton Lakeside Terrace Villas at Mountain Vista, Avon, Vail Valley: Category 6 from 50,000 points per night
  • Marriott’s StreamSide Douglas at Vail: Category 7 from 60,000 points per night (limited availability)
  • Marriott’s StreamSide Birch at Vail: Category 6 from 50,000 points per night (limited availability)
  • Marriott’s StreamSide Evergreen at Vail: Category 7 from 60,000 points per night (limited availability)
  • Vail Marriott Mountain Resort: Category 7 from 60,000 points per night
  • The Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa, Vail: Category 7 from 60,000 points per night
  • Beaver Creek Lodge: Category 7 from 60,000 points per night
  • The Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa at Beaver Creek Mountain: Category 7 from 85,000 points per night
  • The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch: Category 7 from 85,000 points per night
  • Westin Riverfront Mountain Villas: Category 7 from 60,000 points per night
  • The St. Regis Aspen Resort: Category 8 from 85,000 points per night
  • W Aspen: Category 7 from 60,000 points per night
  • The Westin Snowmass Resort: Category 6 from 50,000 points per night
  • Marriott’s Mountain Valley Lodge at Breckenridge: Category 6 from 50,000 points per night(limited availability)
  • Residence Inn Breckenridge: Category 6 from 50,000 points per night
  • Sheraton Steamboat Resort Villas: Category 5 from 35,000 points per night
  • Fairfield Inn and Suites Steamboat Springs: Category 5 from 35,000 points per night
  • Element Basalt — Aspen: Category 5 from 35,000 points per night
a large building: W Aspen (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy W Aspen (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

In Utah

  • St. Regis Deer Valley: Category 8 from 85,000 points per night
  • Marriott’s MountainSide: Category 6 from 50,000 points per night (limited availability)
  • Marriott’s Summit Watch: Category 6 from 50,000 points per night (limited availability)
  • Hotel Park City, Autograph Collection: Category 7 from 60,000 points per night
  • Residence Inn Salt Lake City Cottonwood: Category 4 from 25,000 points per night
  • AC Hotel Park City: Category 5 from 35,000 points per night

In California

  • Westin Monache Resort, Mammoth: Category 7 from 60,000 points per night
  • Grand Residences by Marriott, Lake Tahoe: Category 6 from 50,000 points per night
  • Marriott’s Timber Lodge: Category 6 from 50,000 points per night
  • The Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe: Category 8 from 85,000 points per night
a tall building: Westin near Mammoth (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy Westin near Mammoth (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Remember, you can receive a Marriott up to 35,000-point free night certificate annually with the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card.

With the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, you’ll receive an annual up to 50,000-point free night certificate. Expensive ski resort properties are the perfect opportunity to redeem these certificates, though you’ll need some date flexibility since peak ski weekends are likely to price at higher peak award rates.

Currently, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card is awarding five 50,000 point certificates as part of its welcome bonus if you hit the spending requirements — this could absolutely come in handy when planning ski vacations.

Here are some other ideas for redeeming the 35,000-point certificates and the 50,000-point certificates.

a house covered in snow: The St. Regis Deer Valley provides slope-side access. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy The St. Regis Deer Valley provides slope-side access. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Wyndham Rewards

In early 2019, Wyndham revamped its award chart and introduced a chart where all properties fall into one of three categories:

  • 7,500 points (or 1,500 points plus cash) per night
  • 15,000 points (or 3,000 points plus cash) per night
  • 30,000 points (or 6,000 points plus cash) per night

Although most of the Wyndham hotels are more budget-focused properties, there are a few in the program that stand out for travelers planning a ski vacation. The timeshare properties that remain at 15,000 points per night per bedroom may be a smart choice (although many dates are blackout days during peak ski season).

Many Wyndham Resorts require a two- or three-night minimum stay, so it can help to check for availability on points for multiple nights.

In Colorado

  • Wyndham Resort at Avon: 15,000 points per night
  • Ramada by Wyndham Frisco: 15,000 points per night
  • Aspen Meadows Resort: 30,000 points per night
  • Days Inn by Wyndham — Silverthorne: 15,000 points per night
  • Super 8 by Wyndham Dillon/Breckenridge: 15,000 points per night
  • La Quinta Inn by Wyndham Steamboat Springs: 15,000 points per night

In Utah

  • Zermatt Utah Resort and Spa: 15,000 points per night
  • Park Plaza Resort Park City: 30,000 points per night

In California

  • WorldMark Lake Tahoe: 15,000 points per night
  • Days Inn by Wyndham South Lake Tahoe: 15,000 points per night
  • Super 8 by Wyndham South Lake Tahoe: 15,000 points per night
  • Hotel Becket Lake Tahoe, Trademark Collection by Wyndham: 15,000 points per night

If you’re short on Wyndham Reward points, you can increase your account balance with the Wyndham Rewards Credit Card. This card also gives you 10% of your redeemed points on GoFree awards back.

(Photo courtesy of the Wyndham Aspen Meadows Resort) © The Points Guy (Photo courtesy of the Wyndham Aspen Meadows Resort)

Choice Privileges

Although there aren’t many Choice properties near the ski slopes, if you’re able to find one, they provide some great benefits.

For starters, Choice does not charge more points for larger rooms. This is a great benefit if you’re traveling with a family. The major downside, however, is that Choice does not allow you to redeem your points for a free night stay until 100 days out. Award prices can also vary on different dates during periods of low or high demand. Example prices below are from a weekend date in December.

In Colorado

  • Comfort Inn Near Vail Beaver Creek: 20,000 points per night
  • The Inn at Riverwalk, an Ascend Hotel Collection Member: 25,000 points per night
  • The Grand Hotel, Ascend Resort Collection: 30,000 points per night
  • Comfort Suites Summit County: 30,000 points per night
  • Quality Inn and Suites Vail Valley: 20,000 points per night

In California

  • Quality Inn near Mammoth Ski Resort: 25,000 points per night
  • Econo Lodge Inn and Suites Heavenly Village Area: 16,000 points per night
  • Roadway Inn South Lake Tahoe: 20,000 points per night

You can earn points with the Choice Privileges Visa credit card, transferring your points from the Amtrak Guest Reward program (if you have status) or by buying points during a bonus promotion.

Rent a ski house

If you’re skiing with friends or extended family, renting a home can be a better deal than booking multiple hotel rooms. Colorado and other similar ski areas are full of well-appointed home rentals on Airbnb, VRBO and even the Marriott Homes and Villas program.

If you book a ski house through the Marriott program, you can actually use your Marriott points to book an entire house or condo. The rate of return for your points isn’t always great, but it can certainly offset the overall cost of your ski vacation. Alternatively, you can earn Marriott points on the purchase if you decide to pay cash.

a house covered in snow: (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

There are additional ways to use points for home rentals outside of the Marriott program, such as booking via Chase Ultimate Rewards or using credit card points to offset the travel charge as outlined here in this larger guide on using points to book a vacation home.

Ground transportation

Last, but not always least, is getting from the airport to the mountain.

One option is to rent a car, which has several pros and cons. On the downside, there’s the cost of the rental car and gas, and you may even face parking charges if you stay at a property that’s very close to the mountain. You’ll also have to deal with mountain driving conditions, including possible heavy traffic and winter weather — the latter of which visitors from warmer climates may not be comfortable with.

On the plus side, you can enjoy a leisurely trip to the slopes and stop at various cities and towns along the way. Having a car also makes it easier to visit other nearby attractions, plus local towns and restaurants in the evening. It’s also very easy to use points to pay for your rental car booking either directly through a rental car program if you’re a frequent renter, or through a site like Chase Travel.

If you end up flying into Denver or Salt Lake City, you can be guaranteed an all-wheel-drive Audi when renting with Silvercar. Silvercar also comes with additional discounts for Chase Sapphire Reserve and Visa Infinite cardholders, as well as free car seats and ski racks upon request (reserve those in advance).

a car parked in a parking lot: A Silvercar in Colorado. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy A Silvercar in Colorado. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Another ground transportation option is to utilize a shared or private shuttle service.

For example, Epic Mountain Express offers van service (with free Wi-Fi) from the Denver Airport to many Colorado ski areas such as Vail, Breckenridge, Copper and Beaver Creek. The advantage is that you leave the driving to someone else, and in most mountain towns, you can use a free public shuttle service to get around once you arrive. You may also come out slightly ahead on price if you stay for a week and weigh it against what you would have paid for gas and parking charges.

Just as with gear rentals, you can sometimes book these shuttles through Chase Travel.

Amtrak’s Winter Park Express Ski Train can be great if it aligns with your time and destination. Though it won’t operate during the 2020 to 2021 ski season due to the pandemic, the ski train normally departs from Denver’s historic Union Station and takes you right to the base of the Winter Park ski area in two hours.

a group of people standing around a plane: (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post/Getty Images) © The Points Guy (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post/Getty Images)

Tickets cost between $29 and $59 each way, with children ages 2 to 12 riding for half price. In fact, you can combine your Ski Train with Denver’s RTD A Line commuter train service from Denver International Airport to downtown, having a seamless, car-free journey to the slopes: You could even include a night or two at one of the many hotels surrounding Union Station.

Bottom line

Skiing outdoors on a socially distanced mountain may be one of the best ways to spend your winter this year.

And though there’s no question skiing can be an expensive hobby, it really doesn’t have to drain your wallet. Whether you target savings by heading to smaller mountains or by leaning into your points and miles, there are ways to save big on your next ski trip.

With additional reporting by Jennifer Yellin and Jason Steele.

Featured image by Marcin Wiklik/Getty Images

SPONSORED: With states reopening, enjoying a meal from a restaurant no longer just means curbside pickup.

And when you do spend on dining, you should use a credit card that will maximize your rewards and potentially even score special discounts. Thanks to temporary card bonuses and changes due to coronavirus, you may even be able to score a meal at your favorite restaurant for free. 

These are the best credit cards for dining out, taking out, and ordering in to maximize every meal purchase.

--

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

AdChoices
AdChoices

More From The Points Guy

The Points Guy
The Points Guy
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon