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How To Snowboard (And Ski) For Free During The 2019/2020 Season

Steamboat Ski Resort Colorado

Year to year you can’t count on rising snow totals, but you can count on lift ticket prices to climb higher and higher.

This winter many top resorts have single day lift tickets prices hovering around $200. (The sticker shock is real.) While a multi-resort season pass like Ikon Pass, Mountain Collective, or Epic Pass helps take the edge off, they require a bigger commitment of $500 and up upfront (and a hefty dose of optimism for a snowy season). Although it’s not too late to get an Epic Pass, Ikon Pass, or Mountain Collective Pass this season.

What is a budget-conscious snowboarder to do? Never fear, there are many ways to snowboard and ski for free for the 2019/2020 ski season. Yep, free lift tickets do exist (and there are many more ski resorts with lift ticket prices comparable to the cost of lunch at a popular resort). Here are 16 ways to snowboard and ski for free with your friends and family during the 2019/2020 ski season.

Fly Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines boarding passes count for free ski days at resorts near its airports. Most participating ski resorts offer the free lift ticket for the day of arrival, but some offer a freebie pre-departure or one day in-between. A few select destinations, like Snowbasin and Sun Valley, sweeten the deal with a free or discounted rental package, too.

There are an incredible 13 ski resorts that honor the Alaska Airlines boarding pass, including Alyeska Resort (Anchorage), Big White Ski Resort (Kelowna), Eaglecrest Ski Resort (Juneau), Mt. Bachelor (Redmond/Bend), Red Lodge Mountain (Billings), Red Mountain Resort (Spokane), Schweitzer Mountain Resort (Spokane), Ski Marmot Basin (Edmonton), Snowbasin (Salt Lake City), Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows (Reno/Tahoe), Steamboat Ski Resort (Steamboat Springs/Hayden), Sun Valley Resort (Sun Valley/ Hailey), and Whitefish Mountain Resort (Kalispell/Glacier Park).

Visit Vail Resorts

Vail Mountain is not known as a budget-friendly ski resort (but well worth the cost if you ask me). That’s not ALWAYS the case, you can find awesome deals on the Vail Resorts’ slopes for young riders and skiers. The Epic SchoolKids Colorado Pack is a free program for children in kindergarten through 5th grade that provides access to Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, and Crested Butte. In addition to four free days at each of the resorts, the package includes one free first-timer ski or snowboard lesson and equipment rental during select weeks early in the season. (Pro tip: Plan ahead and register early for the Pack. Also, watch for blackout dates.)

Snowboard free in New York

I SKI NY offers one of the best incentives for elementary school-aged kids to learn to ski and snowboard. Once registered, the Learn to Ski or Ride Passport gives each child one free lift ticket, rental, and a beginner lesson at each of the participating New York ski areas. If youngsters already know how to make their way down the slopes, the Kids Ski or Ride Free Passport provides up to three lift tickets at each of the participating resorts (when accompanied by a paying parent). With the Passport, you can explore new terrain at the family-friendly Hunter Mountain and many more ski resorts around New York state.

Hunter Mountain
Hunter Mountain New York Photo: Jennifer Nied

Snowboard free in Utah

Ski Utah program allows 5th and 6th graders to ski free at each of Utah’s 14 resorts throughout the season. Fifth graders receive up to three free days and sixth graders get one day at each resort with the program. It’s open to children out of state too. In the fine print, you’ll see a $25 processing fee, but that’s quite the deal if your kids are the right ages.

Another free snowboarding option in Utah is at Park City. The Epic SchoolKids offers five free days of skiing and riding at Park City for all Utah children, kindergarten through fifth grade. It includes a free lesson during the month of January as well. 

Brianhead Ski Resort Utah

Snowboard free in Colorado

Several states offer incentives allowing fifth graders to ski and snowboard totally free. If you live in Colorado, or are planning to snowboard here, you’re in luck. (I can personally vouch for this complimentary season of snowboarding, that’s all it took for me to fall in love with snowboarding). Colorado Ski Country USA’s Fifth Grade Passport Program gives fifth graders (whether they live in Colorado or not) three days of skiing or riding at 22 of Colorado’s world-renowned ski areas at no cost. There is no parent ticket purchase required.

If one year isn’t enough, the 6th Grade Passport Program extends the deal for all sixth graders. For $110, the Passport includes four days of skiing or riding at 22 of Colorado’s ski resorts. Participating resorts include world-renowned destinations like Aspen Highlands, Steamboat, and Telluride, as well as local favorites like Copper Mountain, Loveland, and Winter Park. Pro tip: The deadline to register for the Colorado Ski Country Passports is January 31, 2020.

For everyone else who has outgrown the statewide incentive, the Colorado Gems Card is a discount card offering buy-one-get-one-free lift tickets at 10 smaller Colorado ski areas. The card costs $25 and is good for two two-for-one lift tickets at each participating area. Additionally, cardholders have access to Flash Deals, last-minute promotions and exclusive savings. Don’t delay, this hidden treasure is on sale for the 2019/2020 season, and it will sell out again quickly.

Steamboat Ski resort Colorado

Snowboard free in Vermont

To entice young riders and skiers to the slopes, Ski Vermont offers up to 88 days of free lift tickets for fifth graders. The Fifth Grade Passport opens up access to Vermont’s alpine and cross country resorts with a $20 processing fee. There are blackout dates, and all Passport holders must be accompanied by a ticket or pass-holding adult to explores the mountains. Killington, Mount Snow, and Stratton are a few of the notable Vermont resorts participating in the Passport program.

Snowboard free in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvanians (or anyone visiting the state) who have a fourth or fifth grader at home can enroll them in the Snowpass program. The Snowpass program includes a beginner lift ticket, lesson, and equipment rental. That’s not all. It also features up to three days of free skiing or snowboarding at each of the 21 participating Pennsylvania area ski resorts (Fine print: The youngsters must be accompanied by a paying adult and there is an application fee of $35 before Dec. 1/ $40 after Dec. 1).

To participate, fourth or fifth grade students complete a simple application (www.SkiPA.com or mailed in) and provide a report card or other document to verify they are currently in the fourth or fifth grade and a photo. The Snowpasses are issued on a first come, first serve basis and quantities are limited.

Snowboard free in Idaho

Ski Idaho offers a similar deal with access to an incredible 18 resorts across the state. All families need to do is submit an application for their fifth or sixth graders (fine print includes a one-time $18 processing fee). Then, Ski Idaho will email you a passport valid for three free days at all 18 ski resorts for 5th graders, or two free days at each of 17 participating locations for 6th graders.

The rest of the family can score free ski tickets in Sun Valley, Idaho, by reserving accommodations in advance. Simply booking vacations through InIdaho.com can score a number of great deals. Some packages include free or discounted adult ski tickets or free tickets for kids with each paid adult ticket. Be aware of blackout dates during the holidays, though.

Snowboard free in Lake Tahoe, California

If you fly into the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, your boarding pass counts as a free same-day lift ticket at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. The ski resorts lie an hour away from the airport, so more than enough time to squeeze in a few same-day turns. The deal counts no matter what commercial airline you choose to fly. All you have to do is show your same-day airline boarding pass and a picture ID at the resort ticket office.

Snowboard free in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

In Jackson Hole, there are valuable incentives and free skiing and riding included with condominium or home rentals of four nights or more. In addition to 10% off your lodging, for each paying adult kids 14 and under ski free and rent equipment for free. The deal excludes the weeks around Christmas and New Years as well as President’s Weekend. Keep an eye out for late season deals popping up here too. During previous years, Jackson Hole offered free junior day lift tickets with purchase of an adult day lift ticket.

Snowboard free in Alberta, Canada

If your birthday happens to fall during ski season, that will get you a free lift ticket within three days of your special day at Ski Marmot Basin. Your friends and family can also score a discount as your boarding buddies. But if you won’t be celebrating getting a year older, you have another option. Provide your Alaska Airlines boarding pass to the Guest Services desk to select from one of two budget-friendly deals: a free full-day lift ticket, or a three-day consecutive day lift ticket for the price of a two-day lift ticket. No matter which offer you choose, the free day can be redeemed within 14 days of flying into Edmonton Airport, so you can really enjoy it. The airport is four hours away from the mountain, so same-day tickets wouldn’t work here.

Snowboard free in British Columbia, Canada

If you’re still in the mood for snowboarding when spring rolls around — and everyone knows the snow and weather hit their peak this time of the year — you’re in luck. Many resorts offer deep discounts and more freebies as closing day nears. At Big White Ski Resort in British Columbia, a reasonable overnight stay in April comes with two free lift tickets. Some select properties include up to four free lift tickets.

Snowboard free in Steamboat, Colorado

Anyone flying American, Delta, JetBlue, and United Airlines directly into Steamboat/Hayden Airport can receive a complimentary lift ticket for night skiing in this Colorado destination. If your flight arrives Thursday through Monday, you’ll receive a same-day lift ticket. But if your flight arrives on a Tuesday or Wednesday, you can redeem your complimentary night-skiing ticket on the Thursday of that week when night skiing resumes. Snowboarding through Champagne powder and under the moon is an unforgettable experience.

Steamboat Ski resort Colorado

Snowboard free at Mount Bachelor

At Mount Bachelor, your boarding pass earns you a free lift ticket plus a ski or snowboard equipment rental package. This promotion is only valid for those flying Alaska Airlines from Portland or Seattle into Redmond/Bend Airport, but convenient flight schedules mean there’s still plenty of time on the slopes left after landing. The airport is 20 miles away from the mountain.

Snowboard free at Snowbasin Resort in Utah

Salt Lake City is an ideal starting point for ski vacations. As a result, if you fly Alaska Airlines into the airport on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, you can get a free lift ticket to use the day after your arrival at Snowbasin. First, you need to book your flight and register at VisitOgden.com. Then, bring your confirmation email, photo ID, and your boarding pass to redeem a free lift ticket within 24 hours of your arrival.

Splitboard Uphill

You can save major $$ if you’re up for uphill. Skip the lifts and head straight up the slope under your own power. Uphill skiing/splitboarding, or skinning, costs $0 at many resorts and comes with the added satisfaction of earning your turns. While you don’t have to shell out money for the ski runs, you pay for your time on the mountain in sheer physical exertion. According to the National Ski Areas Association, about half of ski resorts in the country allow uphill skiing on their slopes.

Skinning does require specialized gear, which some resorts offer in rental shops at the base. An uphill ticket may be free, but a full set of splitboard or ski-touring skis, skins, and poles is not. Some resorts charge for uphill (around $10) ticket, but many are completely free, just stick to designated uphill lanes and follow the local rules. Others, like Monarch Mountain near Salida, Colorado, offer a dedicated uphill lane and encourage riders and skiers to use it. Check this list for the latest uphill policies to see if a resort near you offers this reasonable option.

{Check back for updates and new snowboard and ski for free deals throughout the season.}

Jennifer Nied
Jennifer Nied

Jennifer Nied has more than 10 years of writing and editing experience specializing in adventure and wellness travel, fitness, and spa. A Colorado native, Jennifer has been snowboarding for more than 23 years. She is a contributing writer for Women’s Health and her work has appeared in Budget Travel, American Spa, Good Housekeeping, Apartment Therapy, and more.

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