Most ski areas offer free or greatly reduced skiing for youngsters up to age 5 or 6, but only a handful extend free skiing to older offspring. That can make taking your school age kids skiing an expensive endeavor. But worry not, plenty of ski resorts around the country have started offering free or discounted lift tickets for those 12 and under, and even some teens get in on the deal.
Also keep in mind that January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month. Many resorts support this program and offer free or heavily discounted classes, equipment rental and lift passes. It’s a great and cheap way to get older kids on the slopes.
While many of the resorts in Lake Tahoe don’t have deals for older kids, at June Mountain Ski Resort kids 12 and younger ski and ride for free. All you need to do is show up in person to pick up the free lift ticket. There are some blackout dates, so make sure to check the website before heading to the slopes.
“One of the best ways, in Colorado at least, is to take advantage of the Colorado Ski Country USA Passport program,” advises Randy England, director of brand marketing at Christy Sports, one of the state’s top outfitters. “All kids who are in grades third to sixth can get a pass with up to four days at each Colorado Ski Country USA resort for only $59.”
Steamboat, a mammoth Colorado ski resort known for its trademark Champagne Powder, was the pioneer in free skiing for children. The resort launched its Kids Ski Free program in 1982 and it is still going strong. In recognition of inter-generational travel, Kids Ski Free has spawned Grandkids Ski Free.
In both programs, children 12 and younger ski free, stay free and rent equipment free for the same number of days as their parents/grandparents. It requires the purchase of a five-day or longer adult lift ticket. Seniors (ages 70-plus) must purchase an adult ticket. Each qualifying purchase allows one free child per paid adult. Call 970-871-5375 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
And if your kids are older and you’re on active duty or a retired military personnel, you can get a discount on tickets for any member of the family.
Keystone requires only a minimum two-night stay at a Keystone-owned and -operated property for youngsters 12 and younger to ski free. Keystone runs most of the lodging at the base of the lifts, always a convenience for families. The deal is valid every day of the season, with no blackout dates.
Another bonus is Keystone’s massive night skiing operation, with lifts running until 8 p.m. on weekends and holidays. This is great for energetic youngsters who simply don’t want to get off the mountain.
Kids Ski Free perks are automatically added to all qualifying lodging reservations. Upon check-in, you will receive applicable vouchers. Call a reservations agent at 877-317-9435 or go to Keystone’s Vacation Deals page for their best offers.
Purgatory Resort near Durango in Colorado’s southwest corner has a free Power Kids season lift pass for kids 12 and under, no other purchase needed. The Power Kids pass is also good at seven other resorts, as well as Spider Mountain Bike Park in Burnet, Texas. Reserve by calling 970-247-9000.
Another bonus to booking this resort is the Fun Fund, which gives skiers $20 a day in resort credit on eligible dates when purchasing three consecutive days of lift tickets.
Look into Epic SchoolKids too. While it’s only for kids from kindergarten to fifth grade, it’s totally free. The pass includes four free days at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, and Crested Butte, making it 20 free days per student each season.
In neighboring Utah, Snowbird allows youngsters to age 12 to ski free with most lodging packages. For instance, the five-day “Ski Free 5th Night Free” package includes the fifth day of skiing and fifth night of lodging free for adults, plus free skiing for youngsters every day.
The Mountain Vacation features four nights or more of lodging, four Snowbird lift tickets per adult, one complimentary half-day group lesson per adult (13 and older) and ground transportation to and from the Salt Lake International Airport. Kids 12 and younger ski free for every night of their stay. The deals can be booked between Dec. 15. 2022, and April 7, 2023. Book online or call 800-232-9542.
Also look into discounted passes. For kids in fourth through sixth grade, Ski Utah offers a 45 day pass for $55. There are a lot of options for skiing: The pass is good at Alta Ski Area, Brighton Resort, Beaver Mountain, Brian Head Resort, Cherry Peak Resort, Deer Valley Resort, Eagle Point, Nordic Valley Resort, Park City Mountain, Powder Mountain, Snowbasin Resort, Snowbird, Solitude, Sundance Resort and Woodward Park City.
The Idaho 5th and 6th Grade Peak Season Passport isn’t totally free, but it’s the next best thing. It costs $18 and covers skiing for fifth graders three days at each of the 18 locations (that’s a total of 54 ski days!).
For sixth graders, it covers two visits to each of the 17 participating locations. The passport is available to residents and nonresidents alike. Just make sure to check blackout dates before you go.
The locations include Bald Mountain, Bogus Basin, Brundage Mountain, Cottonwood Butte, Grand Targhee, Kelly Canyon, Little Ski Hill, Lookout Pass, Lost Trail, Magic Mountain, Pebble Creek, Pomerelle (fifth grade only), Schweitzer, Silver Mountain, Snow Haven, Soldier Mountain, Sun Valley and Tamarack.
Also look for the family Boundless Pass to Tamarack Resort. It goes on sale mid-winter, and covers the whole year of skiing, hiking and anything else on the mountain.
Kids in fourth and fifth grade can apply for the Cold is Cool Passport and get up to three free lift tickets or trail passes at 29 of the participating ski areas. The pass costs $30 per child but also includes additional discounts on the slopes and in select Michigan ski shops. Unlike more traditional passes, this one uses a phone app.
North Carolina resorts
At Cataloochee, in North Carolina, “Kids Ski Free” doesn’t stop at age 12. There, youngsters 17 and younger staying with their parents at a participating accommodation during any non-holiday Sunday through Thursday evening can ski free on any non-holiday Monday through Friday when accompanied by a paying adult. Make reservations and see all the rules here.
Head to Mount Bachelor in central Oregon, where kids 12 and under ski for free the same number of days that their paying adults do. It’s only valid for advance online purchases, and the deal kicks in on any three-day-plus lift passes.
The resort also offers free passes for beginners learning to ski or snowboard. There are different tiers for learners, too; the full list can be found here.
Head to Shawnee Mountain in the Poconos area with a special fourth-grader Snow Pass that includes three free visits. Registration costs $5 and is available to fourth graders from any state, but a paying adult must accompany them. Rentals and a helmet are also included. The only catch, the pass is only good for midweek and non-holiday dates.
Spring Mountain also has its own version of a Snow Pass, also for fourth graders. Kids must apply in person by Jan. 31, and each pass comes with a $25 processing fee. But, once you have it, the pass covers the whole skiing season. For both places, proof of being in fourth grade is required.
Killington in central Vermont is a resort so huge and complex that it is nicknamed “the Beast of the East.” Kids Ski Free applies to youngsters 12 and younger when guests book a Ski & Stay lodging package including a five-day or longer lift ticket. One child skis free per adult for the same number of days. The offer is not valid when the ticket duration includes any of the following peak days: Nov. 24-27, 2022; Dec. 24, 2022 – Jan. 1, 2023; Jan. 14-16, 2023; Feb. 18-20, 2023. Book online.
Vermont also runs a fifth grade skiing program, which costs $20 for processing. In return the kids get three free days of alpine skiing at each of the participating mountains and one to three days of free cross country skiing as certain locations. The best part: Residency in Vermont is not required. However, each skier must be accompanied by a ticket-holding adult. There are blackout dates (mostly during school vacations), so check out the full details here.
Jenny Wilden contributed to this post.
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