With snow falling over much of the country the time has come for ski resorts to start opening up for another season. We here in the Milesabound family love to ski, but it is a very expensive pass-time. In fact I just read via Skift that NBC News is reporting that skiing is becoming unaffordable for the average middle class family, with daily lift tickets topping out over $100 per person. There is no doubt at the top resorts and at peak times skiing can be an extremely expensive hobby. However we here at Milesabound like to find ways to reduce the cost of even the most seemingly unattainable of pass-times…

Milesabound family on top of Whistler Mountain

I wrote last year about using Amex Membership Rewards for booking ski lift tickets and that option is available again this year. The list of available resorts is again somewhat dynamic. Tickets have been available since November 15th and the list today is different to what it was originally as resorts deal with individual supply and demand. Tickets are typically available as either one day, three day or five day. The list of resorts available at the time of writing, along with pricing in points for 1 / 3 / 5 day lift tickets is:

Aspen / Snowmass (Colorado) (11k / 29k / 48.5k) *

Beavercreek (Colorado) (12.5k / 27k / 41k)

Breckenridge (Colorado) (12.5k / 27k  / 41k)

Canyons Resort (Utah) (12k / 22k / 39k)

Coppermountain Resort (Colorado) (9.5k) *

Heavenly Lake Tahoe (California) (12k / 22k / 39k)

Jackson Hole (Wyoming) (9k / 24k) *

Keystone (Colorado) (12.5k / 27k / 41k)

Kirkwood (California) (12k / 22k / 39k)

Northstar (California) (12k / 22k / 39k)

Park City Mountain Resort (Utah) (9.5k / 23.5k) *

Snowbird (Utah) (8.5k) *

Snowshoe (West Virginia) (8k / 18k) *

Steamboat (Colorado) (9.5k / 25k / 37k)

Sun Valley (Idaho) (8k) *

Telluride (Colorado) (9k / 25k) *

Vail (Colorado) (12.5k / 27k / 41k)

Whistler / Blackcomb (British Columbia) (11k / 29k / 43k) *

Winter Park Resort (Colorado) (9k / 22k) *

Those indicated (*) have some of the best potential value as they have no blackout dates. All the others blackout the peak dates around Christmas, MLK and President’s Day weekend.

Much as when using points to redeem flights yields the best value when you go for longer flights on premier carriers at peak times, the best values here are the bigger resorts for longer dated tickets at peak times. I have already cashed in some of our points to get 5 day tickets for Whistler / Blackcomb where we are going to be spending this Christmas. The regular price for tickets like this certainly fit the mould of the NBC story at $525 plus taxes. At 43k points I’m getting something like a 1.12 cents per point value. While many people will argue that Amex points are worth more than that, personally I value highly the ability to have such an experience with so little out of pocket. Other values would be a 3 day ticket at Jackson Hole over President’s Day weekend (24k for a $310 value or close to 1.3 cents per points) or 5 days at Aspen over Christmas (48.5k for a $545 ticket) covering the four mountains of Aspen, Aspen Heights, Snowmass and Buttermilk.

If you plan on going off peak it is probably worth a closer look as there are likely better ways to use your points. If you are getting less than one cent of value per point it would not make a lot of sense unless you have a really huge amount of Amex points. You may want to consider some other frugal ways of getting tickets. But at or above this level this is a great way to access this “exclusive” sport without shelling out so many hard dollars.

For those of you who think this number of Amex points is in itself out of reach, you may want to start reading my guide on Manufactured Spend to learn about how to boost your points earnings to a new level.

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  • Karen

    Any idea whether the 3/5 day tickets have to be used on 3 consecutive days? We were contemplating the 3-day ticket for Vail but are skiing every-other-day on a 5 day trip. On their website, Vail sells a 3 day ticket that is a ski 3 out of 5 day option so if that’s what Amex is selling it works for us.

    • MilesAbound

      Karen – I’d suggest you call Vail and confirm directly, but I’d be 99.9% certain they’d be valid 3 of 5. We did Canyons last year and those were 3 of 7 the way Canyons sold them. Our 5 day at Whistler was 5 of 6 again the same way Whistler sell them directly. So from our experience what you get is consistent with the way the resort sells tickets

  • Tom Kurke

    Any indication of whether this will be an option for the 2015-2016 season?