Tips for taking the family on a ski vacation without breaking the bank

Downhill skiing, like golf, is one of those sports that seems unnecessarily expensive to those of us who don’t like the cold and would rather take a hike than wander around looking for a lost golf ball.

But if you happen to be one of those people who thinks it’s fun to strap long boards to your feet and go hurtling down the side of a mountain-and you want your kids to hurtle alongside you-then check out these ideas for making a family vacation on the slopes more affordable.

1. Ski locally

Skiing in north Michigan is different than skiing in Colorado, but it’s still skiing. And because the resorts in the Traverse City area are close enough to drive, you save the cost of plane tickets for the family. My two favorite resorts are Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville and Shanty Creek in Bellaire.

2. Take your 10- or 11-year-old

Because ski resorts understand that it’s important to hook people on the thrills of downhill skiing early, states and resorts that rely on the tourism dollars generated by ski enthusiasts offer lots of fee skiing to children in the fourth, fifth or sixth grades. Before deciding where to ski with your tween, Google “kids ski free” and the name of the state to see where your child can ski for free.

3. Cruise the web

With the travel economy still in the dumps, there are deals everywhere, including at ski resorts across the country. For example, Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado is offering a free day of lifts, lessons and rentals to beginning skiers who book a two-night stay at any Crested Butte property through March 9. For information or reservations contact Crested Butte Vacations at (800) 600-2803. In Park City Utah, your airline boarding pass can get you a free lift ticket on the day you arrive and sites such as sell lift tickets at a discount.

4. Fly your kids for free.

American Airlines is once again offering a “kids fly free promotion.” One child ages 2-12 can fly free with a paying adult through through March 1 (Presidents Day week, Feb. 18-25 is blacked out). The promotion is good for flights into Montrose, Colo., the major airport serving Telluride, Sunday through Thursday, and out of Montrose Monday through Friday. A minimum stay of two nights is required, along with ticketing at least 21 days prior to departure. Tickets must be purchased by Jan. 27.

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