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Ski and snowboard trips make for great family vacations, but lodging costs can be tremendous during the peak season. Thankfully, this is when hotel loyalty points are the most valuable. I love using my points for ski trips, and have written a few posts about my experiences, but now that ski season is again quickly approaching I asked Colorado local, Jason Steele (featured in this Little C’s Traveling Friends post), to share some of his experience in using points to book convenient ski lodging in the Western US. Being a Colorado local, he was able to add in a few extra tips as well!
I looked for properties affiliated with the major hotel chains that are at or very near the major western ski resorts, and here is what I found:
- Most of the ski areas with lodging that are part of a major hotel program are in Colorado and Utah, and to a lesser extent, Lake Tahoe (on the California-Nevada border). Despite some great skiing in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and New Mexico, the major hotel chains have little or no presence close to the ski areas in those states.
- Starwood appears to have the best points for ski trips. Those visiting Vail, Snowmass, and Beaver Creek can redeem points for accommodations at the lifts for as little as 10,000 – 16,000 point a night, and even less when you factor in the fifth night free offer. Most other properties are 30,000 points a night and up.
- Hyatt offers some great deals, especially for families. If you can find availability at one of the Hyatt Residence clubs, a three bedroom condo for only 30,000 points a night is a steal! These suites in Aspen cost thousands of dollars a night during the peak season.
Tips for skiing Colorado
As Denver local, allow me to offer a few pieces of advice based on my experience:
- Avoid driving from Denver to the mountains on I-70 Saturday and Sunday mornings or to Denver from the mountains on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. These are the peak travel times for locals and tourists alike, and traffic can easily double or triple the time of the two hour trip from Summit County to the airport. Take it from me, it is extremely frustrating to be stuck in mountain traffic for several hours.
- Eagle-Vail (EGE) is a great airport to fly into for trips to Vail and Beaver Creek, and to a lesser extent, Copper. For the other areas in Summit County, Breckenridge, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, and Loveland, the Eagle-Vail airport’s short distance advantage over Denver is largely outweighed by the greater chance of weather delays. For those going to Aspen-Snowmass, but are unable to get a reasonably priced flight into the Aspen airport, flying into Eagle-Vail will save at least two hours of driving. Delta, American, United, and Air Canada all offer winter service to Eagle-Vail.
- Never, ever pay full window price for a lift ticket any more than you would pay the sticker price for a new car. You can find discounts at the supermarket, coupons in the Entertainment book, and purchase season and day passes at sporting goods stores in Denver in September and October. If you will be passing through Denver in the next two months, be sure to visit an REI, Sports Authority, or Colorado Ski and Golf store to buy some tickets at less than half price. You also find tickets for sale on Denver Craigslist as well.
- Save money by driving to some of the lesser known ski areas that don’t have extensive accommodations. They have even formed their own ‘alliance’ called Colorado Gems, and they sell a discount card for $20. Personally, I am big fan of Loveland and Arapahoe Basin as they offer great skiing, are near Denver, and sell 4-packs of tickets in the fall (in Denver) for about $30 a ticket.
- Consider purchasing a 4-Pak to Loveland Ski Area now for only $129. This is a local favorite with great conditions and free parking, but no hotels at the base. These tickets are only on sale until November 24th, but are frequently sold more on Craigslist during the ski season. Expect to pay much more during the season. Not only is Southwest my favorite airline for family travel, they do great for ski travel as well. They have a huge hub in Denver and offer two free checked bags which is great for ski gear. Also, consider them for ski trips to Salt Lake, Albuquerque, and Reno/Lake Tahoe as well.
- Be aware that rental car agencies at the Denver airport are notorious for their upsell techniques. Expect to hear stern warnings about how the car you reserved can’t possibly drive up a mountain or in snow and how you really need to pay an extra fee to upgrade to a larger vehicle. This is nonsense and you can expect to hear it right after they ask you if you are visiting the mountains. All cars built in the last few years have traction control and anti-lock brakes, and any car sold in the United States can drive up I-70 (I frequently see manufactures testing new models there). I’ve driven to the mountains countless times: Unless you have a vehicle four wheel drive, which is expensive and isn’t usually necessary, the type of car you rent will not matter much. Besides, after declining the paid upgrade, you will probably be given a larger car anyways at no additional cost.
The major hotel chains with properties at ski areas:
IHG Priority Club
Holiday Inn Summit County-Frisco – Category 4, 25,000 points. Located just off the highway, this hotel is a 10-20 minute drive from Summit County ski areas. One king or two double beds.
Holiday Inn Vail. – Category 6, 35,000 points. I have stayed at this property, which is across I-70 from Vail Village, and offers a free shuttle to the ski area. One king or two queens.
Holiday Inn South Lake Tahoe – Category 5, 30,000 points. This property is very close to Heavenly Valley in South Lake Tahoe. They offer rooms with one king, two doubles, or two queen size beds.
Holiday Inn Express Park City - Category 3, 20,000 points. Located within 10 miles of the three major ski areas in Park City, this hotel’s standard room has a king bed and a sofabed.
Valdoro Mountain Lodge by Hilton Grand Vacations Suites – “Distinctive Rewards” Category, points worth about .25 cents each. This property at the Peak 9 base offers bedroom studios and suites with kitchens. Unfortunately, the points required depends directly on the cash price, with each point being worth little more than a quarter of a cent.
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Breckenridge – Category 6, 40,000 – 50,000 points during ski season. Across the street from Peak 9 at Breckenridge ski area in Summit County Colorado, the standard room has one king bed and a sofabed.
Hampton Inn & Suites Steamboat Springs Category 5, 30,000 – 40,000 points. This property is only a mile from the ski area and offers standard rooms with one king or two queens. Some even have fireplaces!
Sunrise Lodge, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club “Distinctive Rewards” Category, points worth about .25 cents each. This property is in the village of the Canyons resort in Park City and features studios and suites.
Waldorf Astoria Park City – Category 9, 50,000 – 80-000 points. At the base of Park City, the property offers rooms with king beds and a sofabed.
Hampton Inn & Suites Park City – Category 5 , 30,000 – 40,000 points. This property is just off of I-80 in Park City, and is just a short drive to Park City, Deer Valley, and The Canyons. Standard rooms include a king bed or two queens.
Homewood Suites by Hilton Jackson – Category 8, 40,000 – 70,000 points. This property is in the center of the town of Jackson, which is not far from the Jackson Hole ski area. The standard room is a two room suite great for families with its king bed, sofabed, fridge, and microwave.
Hampton Inn Jackson Hole – Category 7, 30,000 – 60,000 points. Between the town of Jackson and the airport, this hotel offers rooms with one king or two queen beds.
Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa – Category 6, 22,000, 27,000, or 33,000 points. I have stayed at this property and while it is right at the base of Beaver Creek and found their rooms to be a little overdue for a renovation, but still very nice. Standard rooms have a king bed and a sleeper sofa.
Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino – Category 6, 22,000, 27,000, or 33,000 points. This hotel is located at Incline Village in North Lake Tahoe. This is near the smaller Diamond Peak ski area, but still within a day trip of Heavenly Valley.
Hyatt Place Salt Lake City/Cottonwood – Category 2, 8,000, 10,000, or 12,000 points. While a search of the entire Salt Lake City area is beyond the scope of this article, this little gem caught my eye. Located at the base of both the Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons, skiers can reach Snowbird, Alta, Brighton, and Solitude in just a few minutes, all while staying within 20 highway miles of Salt Lake City International Airport. Standard rooms include a king and sofa, or two queen beds. Only 12,000 points is enough for a one bedroom suite with a kitchen.
Hyatt Residence Clubs
These properties are outside the regular point categories, but still offer amazing deals. Unlike regular hotels, there is limited availability of award bookings. The prices are: studio: 12,000, one bedroom: 15,000, two bedroom: 23,000, and three bedroom: 30,000.
Vail Marriott Mountain Resort – Category 8 35,000-40,000 points. Located in Vail Village and offers one king or double beds as a standard room, with larger rooms having a king and a sofabed.
The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch –Tier 4 50,000 -60,000 points. This hotel is at a prime location at Beaver Creek and offers a choice of one king or two double beds.
Marriott’s Mountain Valley Lodge at Breckenridge – Category 7 30,000 -35,000 points. Located at the base of the ski area, the rooms feature a king or queen bed and a sofabed.
Fairfield Inn & Suites Steamboat Springs – Category 5, 20,000 – 25,000 points. This hotel is in the town, a few miles from the ski area. It offers rooms with one king or two queen size beds.
Grand Residences by Marriott, Lake Tahoe – Category 7- 30,000 – 35,000 points. One and two bedroom properties at the base of the Heavenly Valley gondola, just a block from the casinos across the Nevada state line.
Marriott’s Timber Lodge – Category 6 25,000 -30,000 points. Also at the gondola base, these rooms feature a king bed and a sofabed.
Colorado resort properties:
Sheraton Mountain Vista Villas, Avon / Vail Valley – Category 4 (10,000 points). Located in Vail Village, at the base of Vail mountain, this property has rooms starting at 10,000 points a night. For that rate, you get a one bedroom villa, kitchenette, and a separate living room with sofa bed. This is by far the best value for couples and families at a Starwood property in Colorado.
The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa at Beaver Creek Mountain – Category 5 (12,000 – 16,000 points). This property is actually in the town of Avon, about a mile from the base lodge. Nevertheless, there is a gondola to get you to the mountain. The standard traditional room has two queen beds.
The Westin Snowmass Resort – Category 5 (12,000 – 16,000 points). This property is at the base of Snowmass ski area, which is near the town of Aspen. The standard room has two queen beds.
Wildwood Snowmass – Category 5 (12,000 – 16,000 points). This property is also at the base of Snowmass, near Aspen. The standard room has two double beds and rollaways are available.
The St. Regis Aspen Resort - Category 7 (30,000 -35,000 points)– Also at the base of Aspen mountain, with rooms starting at 30,000 points a night. I have stayed at this resort and was very impressed. The standard rooms have two double beds.
Sheraton Steamboat Resort Villas – Category 7 (30,000 -35,000 points). Located at the base of Steamboat ski resort. The standard room has two queen beds.
St. Regis Residence Club, Aspen – Category 7 (30,000 -35,000 points). This property is at the base of Aspen mountain and as a residence club, has limited participation in the SPG program. Therefore, free nights must be booked by phone and availability during the peak season is not guaranteed. The standard rooms have two bedrooms.
The St. Regis Deer Valley – Category 7 (30,000 -35,000 points). This hotel is at the Deer Valley ski area in the town of Park City and its standard rooms have two queen beds.
Super 8 Dillon/Breckenridge Area – 14,000 points- This hotel is right off of I-70, but guests will have to drive 10-20 minutes to resorts like Breckenridge, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, and Loveland.
Days Inn Silverthorne – 16,000 points. This hotel is also just off of I-70, soguests will have to drive 10-20 minutes to the nearest ski areas.
Ramada Limited Frisco – 16,000 points. Frisco is another town off of I-70, so you will have to drive 10-20 minutes to resorts like Breckenridge, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, and Loveland.
Howard Johnson Express Inn South Lake Tahoe – 16,000 points. This property and the ones below are in the city of South Lake Tahoe, very close to Heavenly Valley Ski Area.
Days Inn South Lake Tahoe – 14,000 points
Super 8 Lake Tahoe South – 14,000 points
I was unable to locate any Club Carlson properties close to major western ski resorts.
What properties are your favorite for redeeming points during ski season?