Skiing with the family is expensive. Thankfully, there are ways to save money on the slopes. If you're traveling with the kids, be on the look out for a Kids Ski Free deal. These deals are becoming more and more popular as time goes on, with most bigger resorts offering some program to get kids skiing.
Kids 5 and Under
Kids under 5 almost always get to ski free. It depends on the individual resort so check with the resort but it's likely your youngest won't be charged.
There are still free deals for older kids, but this is where it pays to do some research. Here are some of the most popular types of deals in the industry that try to get kids skiing and how you can take advantage of them!
A lot of places offer a "passport" or a "license" to children in certain grades. This is usually sponsored by an organization like Ski Utah, Ski Canada, or WinterKids (Maine). If you provide proof of age, your kid gets a free season pass.
Usually, state residency is not required, but some programs have residency restrictions. It completely depends on the program.
It's also not usually instantaneous. The application process is simple, but you'll have to wait for the organization to mail you the "passport" before you can use it. So, if you intend to use one of these programs, plan ahead.
Lastly, there is often an application fee. While your lift ticket is "free," the application isn't. Most of these fees cost much less than a day pass, but depending on your situation, it might not be your cheapest option.
Ski and Stay
Some resort lodgings include a free lift ticket for children. Purgatory (Colorado), Deer Valley (Utah), and Sugar Loaf (Vermont) are among those who give kids free lift tickets when they stay at least 2 nights.
Hotels usually require advance booking to take advantage of this option. Some only require a week whereas others require much more. If you're set on a particular resort, start planning early.
Free with Adults
Finally, a lot of resorts provide children's tickets with the purchase of adult tickets. Mount Bachelor (Oregon) and Steamboat (Colorado) both give you a children's pass when you buy one for yourself.
Typically, you must ski for at least a few days in order to qualify. They also usually have to be purchased in advance. It's still a great option for those planning longer vacations.
Vail Resorts has a program called EpicSchoolKids. It applies to all children from Kindergarten through 5th grade. Your child gets 5 free days of skiing and 1 free intro lesson. The major catch is you and your child have to be physically present in order to apply and they require some sort of ID for proof of age. Even so, it's a great deal to some of the biggest resorts in the world. If you're taking your family to a resort owned by Vail Resorts, definitely check it out.
Cataloochee resort in North Carolina lets children 17 and under ski and stay free at any local, participating hotel when accompanied by a paying adult. They have significant restrictions, but you can save a lot of money if you just want to get out on a mountain. It's also one of the only deals that applies to teenagers.
Last but not least, Arapahoe Basin gives 2 free days to all kids under 12. If there's any chance you're taking kids to A-Basin this winter, you should sign up. If you don't show up, it doesn't matter. If you do show up, your child gets 2 free days of skiing.
Things to Watch Out For
Most Kids Ski Free programs have blackout dates and require you to book in advance, so definitely read the fine print.
Overall, a lot of resorts are creating incentives to get whole families on the mountain. If you have a mountain in mind, go to their website or give them a call. It's pretty likely they have some sort of deal to help save you money and get your kids skiing. It never hurts to ask.