Colorado: Planning a Ski-Trip on a Budget


For the past five years – me and Keith have been taking these awesome long ski trips. Sometimes we stay three weeks, other times we stay two months!

Whether we are on a chairlift or posting pictures online, people are always asking:


When most of us think about ski trips, we think of staying in hotels that cost over $300/n, buying ski-passes around $100-$150 a day, and countless high end meals – at least $20/plate (even at the lodges).

It’s a pretty accurate assumption.. I’m not going to lie, If I was to book a hotel during peak or even semi-peak season, my ski trips would cost a lot more than they do. But since I’m able to travel off peak, I find amazing deals on one bedroom condos and big luxurious ski cabins (Some 5br houses go for $350 per night in breckenridge before Dec 18th and after the 18th they go up to $1000+ per night).

A 3 week luxury ski trip for a couple in high season could cost:

  1. Flights: $600 ($300 RT per person, we usually only spend $200 but booked late)
  2. Hotel: $6300 for 3 wks at $2100/wk ( $300/night – a reasonable HS rate. But not always accurate, it could cost way more – check image below of holiday rates)
  3. Food & Drinks: $2520 ($1260/person at $60/day  at $20/meal)
  4. Ski Passes: $5880 at $1960 weekly ($155/per person per day OR $980/week *Breckenridge current rate)
  5. Transportation: $756 – $1320 (economy car to SUV rental for three weeks in HS)
  6. Gear Rental: $1680  ($840/per person  –  $40/day for snowboard, boots, helmet)
  7. Extras: $200 ($100/pp – Gloves ($60 Burton), Wrist guards ($25 Burton) and Ski Socks ($15 Burton)  –excluded:  If you plan to buy a good quality jacket and pant set it could cost upwards of $300 with Burton, or upwards of  $2000 if you go for brands like Moncler or Gorsuch.

      Total: $18,180  – $6060 per week – $3030 per person 

Here’s what the same 3 week luxury trip costs with travel hacks (for a couple): 

  1. Flights: $282 (best deal: $141 RT per person from NYC)
  2. Accommodations:  $2100 (at $100/night for 3 weeks  – Keystone 1br Airbnb’s start at $50, you can often find a big one bedroom walking distance to lifts for under $100/night – Breckenridge is often pricier, but for longer term stays you can often get a bigger discount)
  3. Food & Drink: $700 ($116 pp/pw) $500 whole foods + $200 dining out ( big perk = having a kitchen)
  4. Ski Passs: $1158  ($579 per epic pass  – a full season pass to over 5 colorado resorts and more). After 5 days, the pass is basically “free” -since it’s $155/day normally.
  5. Transportation: Take the shuttle from the airport to the resort for $88 RT, there are free busses that go around the ski areas. (or rent a SUV during off peak season for around $200/week)
  6. Gear: $0 – Bring your own in a snowboarding or ski bag!
  7. Extras: $0 – Make sure you pack all the extras you could need!

      Total: $4416 –  $2208 per person ($736  / per person / per week)

One of the resorts we’ve stayed at for 5 nights cost $266/night (with tax)  PRE-high season (We normally could get a better deal, but we waited last minute to book, still shockingly got a great deal though)

The rate listed below is one of the listed holiday rates for the SAME room (christmas and new year’s peak) for $871/night (with tax).  

By booking less than a week before high season, we saved $3025 on our the same room at this amazing resort, savings of $605 per night!


Value Savings: 

The difference between the above trip and our trip was not “high end and low end”. The trip utilized the same flight, the same car, even the same accommodations and ski passes, the biggest difference was planning and time of year.

We have traveled to ski resorts during the high season and it’s a very different experience and usually a LOT more crowded.

We realized that if we travel to top skiing destinations in the early or late season we could knock at least 60% off the price of most accommodations and other expenses – and have incredible weather and snowboarding conditions.

For example, you could stay three weeks late november till before christmas and have awesome weather, lots of snow and pretty much all the runs to yourself on week days.

At the end of the season, you could get great deals for the last two weeks of april in Keystone and stay all month of May and go up the road 5 miles to Arapahoe Basin where it snows almost every day and the weather is comfortable.  I’ve seen deals in the month of May for the Keystone area for under $350/week! If you get a $200 RT, bring your season pass, and shop at trader joes in Denver prior to your trip, you could save a fortune. An entire month of skiing could cost under $2500 for the entire month (split between two people).

Biggest Takeaway: 

  • Travel off peak: as often as you can, sometimes a week before peak can offer the best deals around. Sometimes you can get last minute deals if some rentals have open inventory, but make sure you inquire at least 72 hours before with some companies that manage properties.
  • Bring your own gear: If you only plan to ski once, and never step foot in snow again, I’d say rent. But if you want to learn or you are experienced, it could save you a fortune in rental costs to bring your own gear. It might cost around $1000 for your entire set up (pants, jacket, board, bindings, shoes, helmet, gloves, socks) but it’s worth it – you can wear most of the gear in winter weather anyway. You can also wear a lot of your gear for snowmobiling, cross country skiing and other activities.
  • Buy a Season Pass: In most cases, if your trip would cost less if you had gotten a season pass – get one. Many season passes are around $579 like the epic pass, while a single day pass at some of the Vail resorts could be $155 per day, so if you plan to ski over 4 days  – it may make sense to get a season pass. Also, having a season pass allows us to come out more often. If we ride 30+ days per year (which we typically do), it ends up costing around $20/ski day at that point.
  • Shop Airbnb and VRBO:  Before going to any vacation rental agency, check VRBO and Airbnb. Many times they are owner managed and owners can be a little more flexible with pricing!
  • Set up Flight Price Alerts:  Flight prices fluctuate all week, all month, all year, it’s good to keep an eye on your dream destinations and set up price alerts on Google Flights to see if a price drops. For example, I’ve seen flights to Denver from NY for $68 one way, but I’ve also seen flights for $221 one way.  In general a little flexibility goes a long way with flights. You can usually book a few weeks in advance and get the best deals if your dates are a little flexible.
  • Kitchens: A Kitchen can go a long way and save you big time. I can’t imagine staying anywhere for over 3 nights without a kitchen.

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*Epic Pass: Gives you unlimited, unrestricted skiing or riding at Breckenridge, Keystone, Wilmot, Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton and Arapahoe Basin (CO) with limited restrictions at Park City (Utah) , Heavenly, Northstar & Kirkwood (CA). Also includes a total of 10 days at Vail and Beaver Creek (CO) with holiday restrictions. Plus 5 days at Whistler Blackcomb (Canada) with holiday restrictions!

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