Skiing and snowboarding for free, on points

Skiing and snowboarding for free, on points
Mt Yotei in Niseko, Japan - all flights and hotels paid for with points

Do you love skiing or snowboarding but your bank account doesn’t?  Skiing and snowboarding is an expensive hobby, but one that people get a huge amount of enjoyment and thrill from.  $300/day lift tickets, expensive slopeside accommodations, flights to small, out of the way airports, fights for the only 4x4 rental SUV - it costs a lot to simply go on a weekend trip - the average cost of a ski trip can potentially be thousands for just a few days on the slopes.

These prices get worse EVERY YEAR.

The Park Hyatt Niseko, one of the best ski hotels in the world, $2k/night if not for points

So how can normal people or families enjoy the mountains and go snowboarding and skiing when it’s so expensive? 

Sure, you could move to a mountain town, but mountain towns are insanely costly nowadays.  Working for a resort gets you a free pass, but due to mountain towns being so unaffordable, it’s hard to find decent lodging. 

If you want to live where you currently live (assuming you don’t already live in a mountain town), there are some really easy ways to make a trip or two, or three, four, or five, into an affordable, enjoyable affair so you can really enjoy the skiing and snowboarding and not worry about how much it’s costing you.

“How can I do this?” you might ask. 

The solution is miles and points, combined with a season pass, or a mini-season pass that you can buy before the season starts.  This all requires planning in advance - points from now, and passes up until early December, though you get bigger discounts if you buy in the spring or summer before the winter season.

Coming soon - check out my article on passes and how to avoid crazy lift ticket prices!

If you love skiing and snowboarding, this is heaven

The BEST way, however, to save on skiing and snowboarding is POINTS.

Aside from a pass, the most important thing is to start gathering points. This is going to be the biggest help in terms of making your trip as inexpensive as possible, if not almost entirely free.  This isn’t, however, use your 2% credit card as much as you can and build up a few hundred dollars over a year or two.

NO.  The best way to get oodles and oodles of points to put towards your skiing and snowboarding trips is to open up at least one credit card. + sign on bonus  Of course, you have to be prudent and make sure you pay your bills on time. IF you can do that, then this is for you. 

You can pay for hotels, flights, and even car rentals with your points, and get that sweet ski hotel, all for free.

So, how does it work?  

You can start, for example, with a Chase Sapphire Preferred (check out the current best card offers, which includes it right now!).  It’s a nice, low investment way to try out the points ecosystem.  

Cheap cat rides at Powder Mountain, in Utah - one of the best places you can go

You get your 60,000 points after $4k spend in 3 months - not too difficult, especially nowadays.  So you’d have 64,000 points.  Then, you can either use the points via the Chase Travel Portal @ 1.25 cents per point, so $750 of value from your points, OR transfer them to partners like Hyatt.  

Transfers are where you can really outsize your value

Let’s say you want to ski in Salt Lake City over President’s Day.  You could book the Hyatt Place Cottonwood, located right next to 4 world class ski resorts in Salt Lake City - Brighton, Solitude, Snowbird, and Alta are all easily accessible from this hotel.  It costs 8,000 Hyatt points per night.  So for 50k Hyatt points, you can stay for 6 nights free from Tues 2/13-Mon 2/19.  This same stay would cost you $1500 cash, over President’s Day weekend, but for you, it would be free with points left over, from one single card.

With your leftover points, about 15k, you could then purchase half of your flight, either transferring points to United or via the Chase travel portal, and then you’d have to only purchase your flight back.  Alternatively, you could save them for another trip.  Of course, you have to get to the mountain too, but thankfully SLC offers a great ski bus, whose stop is a two minute drive from the hotel, and the hotel offers a shuttle to it.

SO, you are only paying for your return flight, and your outbound flight and hotel are all covered, just with this one card.  If you get more cards over time, the possibilities are ENDLESS.  

Breakfast at the Park Hyatt Niseko - worth it for the $, but free with status

As a concrete example, in 2020 and 2023, I went to Niseko, Japan, for one week, flying first class via ANA and staying at the Park Hyatt Niseko, all for free.  This would have cost me $20,000 for the flight and $2,000/night at the hotel. ALL FREE.

In 2023, this kicked off my snowboarding season, and rather than dropping tons of money all season or not even going because of how expensive it could be, I used points exclusively.  In addition to the Park Hyatt Niseko, I stayed at the above mentioned Hyatt Place Cottonwood, the Westin Mammoth, and the Cloudveil in Jackson Hole, and the Spring Hill Suites in Bend, Oregon, for a week each, had a few days at the Viewline in Aspen, and used miles to fly in between towns.  All on points.

The Cloudveil in Jackson Hole, WY - one of the best uses of Marriott points

This is how you get to enjoy the sport and hobby you love for free, and why I recommend this to everyone who skis and snowboards.  It makes the impossible, possible, and lets you really put your money to better use.

Check out the best cards to get now, and reach out with any questions. Let's get you on the mountain, stat.