Get Cheap Ski Season Flights If You Book Now

Ski season is just around the corner. With the arrival of ski season comes the resumption of seasonal service to small mountain airports and additional flights to and from Denver International Airport. Hotels that once went for just $125 a night will go for $500 a night. Small Colorado towns will be flooded with travelers from around the world. Just thinking about ski season makes me want to hit the slopes. However, one major disadvantage ski trips have is the cost. Flights, resorts, three meals a day, drinks at the lodge, ski and board rentals, and souvenirs; ski trips are unbelievably expensive. That’s why it’s time to book your ski season flights now before it becomes too pricey.

When Does Ski Season Officially Begin?

There’s really not a set date or weekend for “the beginning of the ski season.” There are already a few opens runs open in Colorado. Arapahoe Basin near Loveland Pass in Colorado is already operational and recently opened additional runs. Next week, multiple major ski resorts will open for the season. So, officially, it’s safe to say it’s ski season. However, we’re still weeks, if not a good month from the beginning of peak ski season.

Peak ski season usually starts in mid-December and runs until the end of February. Peak season is when flights, hotels, and lift passes will cost the most. Additionally, hotels and flights fill up quickly so it’s important to plan your peak season travels sooner rather than later.

List of Colorado Ski Resort Opening Dates:

  • Arapahoe Basin Ski Area – Open Now
  • Breckenridge Ski Resort – 11-10
  • Copper Mountain – 11-10
  • Keystone Ski Resort – 11-10
  • Winter Park Ski Area – 11-15
  • El Dora Ski Area – 11-17
  • Vail Ski Resort – 11-17
  • Beaver Creek Ski Resort – 11-22
  • Telluride Ski Resort – 11-23
  • Aspen-Snowmass – TBD

While major resorts open in the next two weeks, the price of hotels, flights, rental cars, and lift tickets won’t spike immediately. Ski resorts open with just a few runs and lifts operational. For the first month, the crowd will consist of locals making their way to the slopes from Denver. Still, if you wait a week or two after opening, the early ski season can be a fantastic time to score some great deals on hotels and flights while still having access to a fair amount of terrain. Though, if you’re a big-time skier or rider that’s in it for the powder, you might find it worthwhile to hold off until peak season. Here’s a list of a few dates considered to be peak periods for ski resorts.

List of Peak Days and Weekend for Ski Resorts:

  • Thanksgiving Weekend (November 23-26)
  • Christmas Holiday (December 22-26)
  • New Years Holiday (December 30-January 3)
  • MLK Jr. Weekend (January 12-16)
  • President’s Day Weekend (February 16-20)

Now’s The Time to Plan Your Ski Trip

While hotels, flights, rental cars, resorts, ski gear, and lift tickets will inevitably become outrageously expensive, now’s the time to start planning your ski trip. Ski resorts, hotels, and airlines offer fantastic promotions throughout the beginning and towards the end of the ski season. Take advantage of these offers to save a lot of money. Here are a few examples of these deals and promotions.

Flights

One easy thing to knockout when planning a trip to the mountains is your flights. Booking in advance of peak season will allow you to score great fares. Unfortunately, if you’re booking with points or miles, availability can become an issue when booking multiple weeks ahead. However, as of November 1st, all major airlines are showing flight award space to Denver, Colorado Springs, and smaller airports. Award availability includes American and United saver fares.

One thing to note is that it might actually make more sense to take advantage of cash fares rather than blow through some miles. Frontier, Spirit, United, and American are offering fares from $20 to $49 from hubs and non-hubs to Denver International Airport even throughout peak ski season.

Tip: Though smaller mountain town airports like Montrose, Eagle/Vail, and Aspen are closer to ski resorts, fares will always run much higher than if you fly into Denver or even Colorado Springs. Award space, especially saver awards, are also much harder to find when searching for flights to smaller ski towns. While flights to Denver from cities across the US run $19-$119, flights to Eagle/Vail will often approach $300 even from major hubs.

Current Fares from Select Cities

  • Chicago (ORD) to Denver (DEN) $31-33 on Spirit, throughout December and January
  • Dallas (DFW) to Denver (DEN) $25-45 on Spirit, Frontier, United, American throughout December and January
  • Portland (PDX) to Denver (DEN) $44 on Frontier and United, Midweek throughout December and January
  • Los Angeles (LAX) to Denver (DEN) $40-50 on most major airlines, throughout December and January
  • Miami (MIA) to Denver (DEN) $32-38 on Frontier, select dates during the week in December, a few in January
  • St. Louis (STL) to Denver (DEN) $34 on Frontier throughout December and January
  • Kansas City (MCI) to Denver (DEN) $30-40 on Frontier and United throughout December and January
  • New York (LGA) to Denver (DEN) $72-79 on Delta, throughout December and January
  • Boston (BOS) to Denver (DEN) $99 on United, throughout the beginning of December

The catch with these fares is that you’ll be booking basic economy fares requiring you to pay for everything from a seat to carry-on bags. Airlines like Frontier and Spirit allow passengers to purchase a bundle (including seat assignment, checked-bag, and priority boarding) for a fee. These bundles are usually worth the price.

Hotels

Unlike with flights, hotel pricing is typically adjusted well in advance of peak dates. Even now, hotel rooms in Aspen or Telluride over President’s Day weekend will run $500+ a night. At larger, less lux ski resorts like Breckenridge, Vail, and Winter Park, you can still snatch up some reasonable rates. Peak dates are often a great time to use points.

Current Rates at Select Properties (Off-Peak)

  • DoubleTree by Hilton Breckenridge – $269 a night
  • Marriott Mountain Valley Lodge – $280 a night
  • Village at Breckenridge Resort – $269 a night
  • Westin Resort Beaver Creek – $299 a night
  • Westin Villas Beaver Creek – $281 a night
  • Wyndham Beaver Creek – $242 a night
  • Hyatt Grand Aspen – $359 a night
  • Madeline Hotel Telluride – $217 a night
  • The Peaks Resort Telluride – $203 a night

Tip: Though ski towns are part what makes a ski trip so enjoyable, consider booking a hotel outside of the ski town. Ski towns are usually part of larger communities. Look for hotels around the local grocery store or commercial district. If you plan on skiing at Breckenridge or Vail, Denver could even be within reach.

Ski Passes and Gear

Many travelers are probably unaware that even ski passes and gear are available at a discount before peak season. Ski passes are typically offered at a discount when purchased in advance. Now’s the best time to purchase your passes at most major resorts. Ski resorts discount tickets before opening day when purchased online. Additionally, look for multi-day deals before opening day. Multi-day passes, when bought in advance, will often save you a nice chunk of change.

Ski gear is also cheaper at the beginning and end of the season. Gear rental agencies have more gear to rent and to fewer customers that will ski less terrain at the beginning and end of the season. This means gear is often available at a lower rate during the off-peak season.


Booking Your Ski Trip Now, Overall

As I write this, I’m currently planning my annual ski trip. My family and I have made the mistake of waiting last minute too many times costing us hundreds if not thousands of dollars more than it needs to. Unfortunately, deal hunting will require you to make more time for travel and sacrifice terrain on the slopes. However, when you book now for a weekend during the off-peak season, you’re going to save hundreds or thousands of dollars.

What’s your ski trip tip to save money? Have you begun to plan your ski outing?


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