Uncovering the bargain trail Affordability: The time of year you go, what you wear, even your family's skiing abilities all are important in determining vacation costs.

Taking the Kids

November 17, 1996|By Eileen Ogintz | Eileen Ogintz,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

Calling all wannabe ski families who think they've been priced out of the sport.

There have never been so many deals for families to choose from as small ski areas and tony resorts from Maine and Vermont to Colorado and California work hard to keep families -- including moms -- skiing, to cultivate that much-needed next generation of skiers.

To help you plan an affordable getaway, here are some of the best family bargains on the snow and some tips to help find them:

Look for the kids-ski-free (or nearly free) deals. Choosing the right resort can save a family with two or more kids several hundred dollars otherwise spent on lift tickets.

Plan a before-Christmas-week ski trip or one at the end of ski season and parents can ski free, too. Lift tickets are free at Crested Butte in Colorado until Dec. 21 and after April 7. New adult skiers can get a lesson for $10.

Crested Butte is a good deal for families the rest of the season, too: Kids pay exactly their age for a lift ticket. (Call Crested Butte at [800] SKI-FREE and ask about its discounted lodging packages.)

Skiers at Telluride in Colorado, early or late season, also can ski free if they book at a participating local lodging property. (Call [800] 525-3455.)

More areas, meanwhile, are opting to let kids ski free with the purchase of an adult lift ticket. Even Christmas week, when a parent purchases a five-day ticket at Steamboat in Colorado, a child up to age 12 gets to ski free. (Call [800] 922-2722.)

Two-with-one deal

Utah's Snowbird doubles the ante with an especially good deal for single parents: Two children up to age 12 can ski the chair lifts with one adult. (Kids pay $9 each for the privilege of riding the tram all day. Call Snowbird at [800] 453-3000.)

Book a three-day package at Smugglers' Notch in Vermont and get free child care before Christmas and other designated weeks. First-time skiers or snowboarders get free equipment rental, too. (Call [800] 451-8752.)

Opt for New Mexico's Red River and one child can stay and ski free for each parent booking a three-night package. (Call [800] 331-7669.)

Kids under 6 ski free at Winter Park, Copper Mountain and Snowmass in Colorado, Okemo Mountain, Stratton Mountain and Smugglers' Notch in Vermont and Sunday River in Maine, among other places. Those up to age 10 can ski free at Brighton and Solitude in Utah. At many places, including Aspen and Snowmass, teens still may ski using less-expensive junior tickets.

Take Grandma and Grandpa along. Seniors qualify for as many discounted lift tickets as do the kids. (Call [800] SKI-UTAH, Colorado Ski Country USA at [303] 837-0793, Winter Park at [800] 729-5813, Copper Mountain at [800] 458-8386, Snowmass Village at [800] 598-2003, Okemo at [800] 78-OKEMO, Stratton at [800] STRATTON and Sunday River at [800] 543-2SKI.)

Pay just $5 for each child's lift ticket at Squaw Valley in California. Buy a multiday adult ticket at Copper Mountain in Colorado and kids 6 to 14 can ski for $12 a day. Remember, though, that these deals cover lifts only and not ski-school fees. Figure on $60 a day for equipment, lunch and an all-day program.

Ask about special family packages. Any place that's touting a free program for kids likely will have a family deal, at least some weeks of the season. At Stratton Mountain, for example, a family of four could book a five-night stay including lifts, lodging and ski school for roughly $1,200. A similar package would cost even less at Sunday River.

In Colorado, book a four-night package at Keystone/Brecken-ridge/Arapaho Basin and get an extra night for free the first weeks of the season and through January. (Call [800] 222-0188.)

Even upscale Vail is offering some deals. Anyone spending a week in the Vail Valley would be smart to invest $15 in the Vail Valley Card that guarantees a daily $5 discount on lift tickets and free overnight ski storage. (Call [800] 525-2257.)

Purchase a World Ski Association card for $19.95 and save on everything from lodging to airfare to equipment. (The cards are honored at 1,000 ski areas around the world. Call [800] 525-SNOW.)

Head to Canada's Whistler/Blackcomb Mountain Resort 75 miles from Vancouver, where the exchange rate for your U.S. dollar enables you to buy 30 percent more. (Call [800] WHISTLER.)

Smaller is cheaper

Consider the family's skiing abilities. There's no need to pay Vail or Aspen's prices if you're planning to spend the entire week on the bunny slopes with your 5-year-old.

Opt for a smaller ski area. You'll have every bit as much fun, but come home with a fatter wallet. Another plus: At a smaller area, there's less likelihood anyone will get lost.

Skip expensive ski duds. Just make sure the kids are dressed warmly in layers and have goggles, waterproof pants, jackets, mittens and a warm hat. Know anybody who can provide some hand-me-downs?

Forgo the luxury condo and pricey restaurants. The kids won't notice the difference and you'll save plenty. Find one with a hot tub and make sure that wherever you stay is on the resort's shuttle-bus route and has a washer and dryer on the premises. Don't despair about missing the night life. After a day chasing the kids down the mountain, you'll be too bushed to go out anyway. Spaghetti will never taste so good.

One last tip: Brown-bagging lunch saves even more. Don't forget the peanut butter.

Send your questions and comments about family travel to Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, Calif. 90053 or e-mail to eogintzol.com.

Pub Date: 11/17/96

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