I started skiing when I was 4 years old.
Many of my favorite childhood memories involve snowy days on the hill, followed by hot chocolate and sandwiches next to a cozy fire in the ski lodge.
I still love skiing. I even moved to Colorado to work at a ski resort after college.
And if I have kids, I certainly hope to take them skiing, too. It’s an awesome family activity that gets you exercising, out of the house and enjoying nature together.
The only problem? Skiing can be really expensive.
You can pack your own lunch, purchase used equipment and stay on the hill even when it’s negative a million degrees like we did, but lift tickets still cost money.
That is, unless you’re at one of the 203 resorts across 15 states where kids of all ages ski free.
I spent the afternoon sniffing out the best deals, so you can plan your next ski trip on the cheap.
June Mountain: Kids 12 and under ski free with a paying adult.
Mammoth: Kids 4 and under ski free with a paying adult.
Mountain High: Kids 6 and under ski free with a paying adult.
Colorado Ski Country USA’s passport program gives 5th-grade students three free days at each of its 20 member resorts — at no cost to you!
Aspen Snowmass: Kids ages 7-12 get a free lift ticket when they rent equipment from Four Mountain Sports.
Loveland: Kids 5 and under ski free with a paying adult.
Keystone: When you book a stay of two nights or more, kids 12 and under ski free.
Steamboat Springs: Each paid adult ticket of five days or more gets one child 12 and under a free matching ticket.
Sunlight Mountain: Book a “Ski, Swim, Stay” package at a participating hotel and kids 12 and under ski free.
Idaho’s Ski Free Passport Program gives 5th-graders three free lift tickets at 18 locations, and 6th-graders two free days at 16 locations. The passport’s processing fee costs $15.
Maine’s WinterKids Passport program is available to all Maine 5th-, 6th- and 7th-graders. It’s $25 and offers one free lift ticket at 17 Maine resorts. Plus, you get additional discounts on other activities like tubing and ice skating.
Sunday River: Book at least three nights kids 12 and under get free tickets, rentals, lessons and activities during its Children’s Festival from Jan. 10-14, 2016,
The Cold is Cool passport program gives Michigan 4th- and 5th-graders up to three free lift tickets at 30 participating resorts. A $20 application fee is required.
Blackjack: Kids 9 and under ski free with an accompanying adult.
Big Sky: Kids 5 and under always ski free; kids 10 and under ski free when you book lodging through Big Sky Central Reservations.
Whitefish: Kids 6 and under ski free with a paying adult.
Bretton Woods: Kids 4 and under ski free with a paying adult.
Through the ISKINY program, 3rd- and 4th-grade students from anywhere get a free lift ticket, rental and lesson at more than 30 participating resorts.
Or, if they know how to ski, they get up to three free tickets per resort, when accompanied by a paying adult. Applying costs $26 per program.
Cataloochee: Kids 17 and under ski and stay free when accompanied by a paying adult.
Mt. Ashland: Kids 6 and under ski free with a paying adult.
Mt. Bachelor: One child 12 and under skis free when their parent purchases a lift ticket for three or more days.
Summit Ski Area: Kids 5 and under ski free with a ticketed adult.
The Pennsylvania Snowpass program gives 4th- and 5th-grade students from any state three free tickets at each of 19 resorts. The application costs $35.
Alpine Mountain: Kids under 42 inches tall ski free with a paying adult.
Shawnee: Kids under 46 inches tall ski free with a paying adult.
Utah’s 5th- and 6th-grade passport program give 5th-graders three free lift tickets at 14 resorts, and 6th-graders one free ticket at 14 resorts. The processing fee is $35 until Jan. 31, 2016, when it jumps to $45.
Brighton: Kids 10 and under ski free with a paying adult (two kids per adult ticket).
Deer Valley: When you book lodging and tickets at Deer Valley between Jan. 4 and Feb. 10, 2016, kids 12 and under get free lift tickets and discounted rentals.
Snowbasin: Kids 6 and under ski free with a paying adult.
Snowbird: Kids 6 and under ski free with a paying adult.
Solitude: Kids 6 and under ski free with a paying adult.
Vermont’s Fifth Grade Passport costs $10 and gives your 5th-grader three lift tickets at 17 different resorts.
Killington: Kids 6 and under ski free with a paying adult.
Okemo: Kids 6 and under ski free with a paying adult.
Smugglers’ Notch: Kids 5 and under ski free with a paying adult.
Stratton: Kids 12 and under ski free when you book on-resort accommodations.
Stowe: Kids 5 and under ski free with a paying adult.
Wintergreen: 5th- and 6th-grade students from Virginia, Maryland, Washington, District of Columbia, North Carolina and West Virginia get three free lift tickets after paying a $15 admin fee.
Thanks to the Fifth Grade Ski Free Passport, kids get three free lift tickets each at seven ski resorts in the Northwest Rockies.
Where Do You Ski?
So, yes, skiing is expensive.
But with a little sleuthing and a lot of homemade sandwiches, it can be way more affordable than you think. (Especially if you’ve got a senior in your group — these resorts let seniors ski free, too!)
And, speaking from personal experience, the memories you make will totally be worth it.
Your Turn: Do you enjoy skiing with your family?
Susan Shain, senior writer for The Penny Hoarder, is always seeking adventure on a budget. Visit her blog at susanshain.com, or say hi on Twitter @susan_shain.