If all this snow is makes you want to pack up the family and head off to the slopes, you're not alone. And while ski getaways don't come cheap, the good news is that there are lots of ways to bring down your costs. Of the many ways to save on a family ski vacation, perhaps the easiest is to choose the right resort. Let's face it: Nothing is more family-friendly than a place that lets kids ski or snowboard for free. Here are three great deals that have recently grabbed our attention:
Colorado's Vail and Beaver Creek
In these leaner times, ski resorts aren't just offering deals -- but deals on top of deals -- to get you to bring your kids to the slopes.
One of the best we've seen: Vail and Beaver Creek are reprising their Kids Fly Free Program, where a child between the ages of 2 and 12 can fly free into the local airport with an accompanying adult who has booked lodging and lift tickets in Vail/Beaver Creek. Once there, you can also take advantage of its Ski Stay, Stay Free deal, where you get a free night of lodging and lift tickets with a three-night lodging purchase.
The fly-free deal offers you the conveniece of flying right into Vail's Eagle Airport (EGE), saving you the three-hour drive from Denver. A smaller airport usually means fewer family-friendly non-stops, but the deal's sponsiring airline, American, as well as carriers such as Continental, Delta and United, offer winter non-stops from 11 major airports, including Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and the NYC airports.
So how much do you really stand to save? Here's what the combined deals offer:
Free airfare for child ages 2-12, per paying adult (to compare, we found a roundtrip airfare in February from Dallas-Fort Worth: $475 x 2 kids= $950 value)
Free skiing or snowboarding for kids, as part of the Fly Free deal (4-day pass: $224 x 2 kids = $448)
One free night lodging, as part of the Ski Free Stay Free Deal (we found a two-bedroom condo at the Westwind in Lionshead Village, convenient to both Vail and Beaver Creek, starting at $235/night)
Added day of free lift tickets for two adults ($148 value)
Bottom line: When we test-booked a four-night ski trip for a family of four flying in from Dallas, the total for airfare, lodging and lift tickets came to $4,045. If a Dallas-area family booked the same trip with these two packages, they'd stand to save $1,635, which translates to a huge 40% savings. Granted, they would spend more per adult flying into EGE. When we priced flights from Dallas into Denver, for example, airfares were about $120 cheaper per person. But on balance, getting two free airline tickets, kids' ski passes, and no long drive still adds up to a much better deal.
One problem we encountered: You can't book this offer online and even when browsing online, you can't easily find out which of the dozens of hotels or condos in the area offer the Ski Free Stay Free offer. When we talked to a reservations agent instead, she gave us good advice on where in general to stay. For example, Lionshead Village is walking distance to the kids' ski school -- and the agent gave us a few lodging options to check out online.
Interested? Here are the ground rules: You are restricted to flying into EGE on Sunday through Wednesday, and must depart out of EGE on Tuesday through Friday. A minimum two-night stay is required, with a maximum stay of seven nights. The valid travel dates are now through February 16, and February 27 to March 10. You have to book lodging in order to get the airline tickets, and you must book airline tickets by February 17. You must book the fly-free deal by phone at tel. 866/668-8245.
New Hampshire's Omni Mount Washington Resort
Love winter? Head to a place that knows how to do it right: New Hampshire's Mount Washington Valley. Less than three hours north of Boston, this patch of the Granite State is a popular winter destination for families with its sleighload of cold outdoor fun. In the middle of it all stands the Omni Mount Washington Resort, fresh off a $60 million renovation. This award-winning property gets in on the frosty fun with sleigh rides, snowshoeing and dogsledding, plus a kids club and heated indoor pool for when the tykes are finally ready to come inside and warm up.
The Omni Mount Washington has announced a Stay Here, Ski Free promotion. The package includes overnight accommodations and two lift tickets to adjacent Bretton Woods, New Hampshire's largest ski area (boasting more than 400 acres and 101 trails and glades). When we price-checked the package rate for a February weekday stay for a family of four, we found a nightly rate of $329 for a deluxe room. Turns out, the resort's best available rate for that stay is also $329 a night. But with the package you'll get two adult lift tickets -- worth $132 -- so overall you'll save nearly 25%. (The package is also available on weekends, but we could only find it offered at higher, meals-included rates.)
But wait! Don't strap on those skis just yet: we also spied a deal in this week's Travelzoo Top 20 for Omni Bretton Woods. It is based on the same stay-and-ski-free premise, but with a much lower nightly rate. The offer is valid on Sunday-Thursday stays through March 17. With the Travelzoo offer, that same February stay comes in with a nightly rate of just $139, including two lift tickets. Even after purchasing two kids' lift tickets ($37 x 2 = $74), your total spend would be just $213. That's $248 less than the regular price, and $116 less than the "Stay Here, Ski Free" promotion. Plus, if you overdo it on the slopes the offer will snag you a 20% discount spa treatments over $50 (or retail purchases).
Act quickly because Travelzoo deals tend to sell out fast. Book online or call tel. 800/843-6664 and mention promo code "Omnizoo2."
Pennsylvania's Nemacolin Woodlands Resort
Set on 2,000 acres in the forested hills of southwestern Pennsylvania, Nemacolin Woodlands Resort began as a private game reserve in the 1960s. Today the resort offers an array of year-round activities, from golf, hiking, swimming, tennis, and horseback riding in the summer to dogsledding, skating, and sledding in the winter. The place even has its own downhill ski area, Mystic Mountain. Nemacolin offers a notable line-up of kids' activities that take advantage of the winter-wonderland setting, including snow painting and winter sand art.
This winter, Nemacolin is offering a Kidz Eat, Sleep and Ski Free package that includes one free lift ticket per child for each day of the stay. Since each lift ticket is worth $30, that's a value of $60 for a family of four. Kids also get a free breakfast in the resort's Autumn restaurant, for a value of about $25 for two kids each morning. The package rate is the same as the regular nightly room rate -- for example, $345 for a lodge double -- so the lift tickets and breakfasts qualify as 100% bonus. For a family of four, this package delivers $85 in added value for each day, or $170 over a two-night weekend stay.
This offer is valid weekends through March 6 for kids age 11 and under. There's a 14-day cancellation policy, and the package rate does not include the daily $15 resort fee. Book online or call tel. 866/344-6957 and ask for the "Kidz Eat, Sleep and Ski Free" package.
WeJustGotBack.com is an award-winning family travel site, featuring reviews of kid-friendly hotels and resorts, expert planning advice, readers' travel tips, and more. Want an easy way to find out about vacation deals? Sign up for our family travel e-newsletter and follow us onFacebook and Twitter.