Money-saving offers for kids and families
Sure there's usually a fun singles scene at many ski mountains, but retreating to a ski resort is more often a family activity. Unfortunately, it can be a very expensive family activity. Children usually pay much less for lift tickets than adults, but kiddy expenses can still add up quickly. A family of four can spend $200 a day at the slopes, and that doesn't even include food or lodging.
There are ways around paying full-price. In many instances, resorts will let kids ski (and even stay and fly) for free, as long as they are coming along with adults (and those adults' wallets, of course). But whatever the motivation for such offers, they are a means to save money on a healthy, fun family vacation.
In many states, middle schoolers can ski dozens of days each season for only a nominal registration fee (just $10 in many cases). And all kinds of resorts and packagers throw in kids' expenses for free, so long as an adult is paying full price. While the resort packages change from month to month, the state sponsered offers tend to remain steady, so we list the best of them here below.
Pre-teens ski free
Several ski-friendly states including Colorado, Vermont, Utah, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, and California allow youngsters of a certain age to ski for free. Programs vary, but most allow fifth graders (sometimes fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh graders) a few dozen days on the mountain totally free. And some let kids hit the slopes all season long without having to purchase a lift ticket. In most cases, it's not necessary for the child to live in the state he or she is skiing in either.
Why fourth or fifth graders? It's simply a good age for kids to pick up skiing or snowboarding quickly. At around age 10, children are strong and coordinated enough to progress rapidly. At the same time, they're adventurous and fearless during these pre-puberty years, which helps when learning a sometimes scary activity.
There is usually some kind of registration fee or a delivery charge, but other than that, the only provision tends to be that the child must be accompanied each day by an adult who is paying for a lift ticket. Utah's program (called the "5th Grade Passport"), for example, requires a $10 processing fee per child. An application has to be filled out, along with a photo and proof of age and school grade. The pass can be used for a free lift ticket for the fifth-grader, but only when presented at the same time an adult is purchasing a full-day pass. A maximum of two fifth grader can get a freebie pass for each adult daily. Kids can ski for free three times at each of the participating resorts (which is just about every resort in Utah, including Park City, Alta, Sundance, Snowbird, Deer Valley, Brianhead, and others).
Each state's program is slightly different, so check with each for specific rules and regulations. In New Hampshire's "Earn Your Turns" program, fourth graders must research some aspect of skiing history and write an essay, draw a picture, or build a model. After a teacher approves of the work, the fourth grader receives a book of free lift tickets and cross-country passes. But most states simply require that a youngster fill out a form and submit a small fee to get their ski freebies.
Info on each state's program can be found at:
California: californiasnow.com/passport.htm, 800/627-5409
Colorado: coloradoski.com/, 303/866-9707
Maine: winterkids.org/, 207/761-3774 (Maine actually has free skiing opportunities for fifth, sixth, and seventh graders, but only for state residents)
New Hampshire: skinh.com/ski_area_programs.cfm, 800/887-5464 (fourth graders only)
New York: 44free.com/, 800/CALL-NYS (fourth graders only)
Utah: skiutahlocals.com/, 801/534-1779
Vermont: skivermont.com/, 802/223-2439
Associate Editor Brad Tuttle started skiing at age 4, and these days splits his time on the slopes between skiing and snowboarding.