FAMILY SKI TRIP ON A BUDGET
When Tom said we were going back to California for work instead of going onward to the Eastern half of the U.S. and Canada, I was bummed. Traveling the Eastern half was going to be a huge undertaking in the span of only one year. And, now we were looking at finishing the tour in 18 months. However, in the RV lifestyle more than anything, change is a given. So, with a renewed sense of making it work, I began looking at what opportunities we would have while we’re here for Tom’s job.
So, last year we tried kayaking in San Diego, stayed in Palm Desert, toured Yosemite National Park in the glory of waterfall season and meandered through the enchanting Redwood Forest. We went to Disneyland for the first time as well as Universal Studios. When traveling to each state, we make a bucket list of what we really want to do and then try to fit as much as possible within the period of time we are staying there. California is a big state and we had to let some of the opportunities go.
Now that we are back in California, we can see different sites than we did before. So, on my bucket list this go round is Joshua Tree National Park, Pinnacles National Park, at least one symphony concert, Alcatraz and then for Ethan’s birthday, Legoland. I looked at our budget and knew it would be tight, but at the top of my list was a ski trip to Lake Tahoe. So, while we drove and when we landed in Santa Cruz, I began looking at deals everywhere I could.
Skiing was something I tried once at a time when I was young, single and I allowed the spirit of adventure to come out in full force. I took a teaching job sight unseen in West Vancouver, British Columbia and determined to enjoy the area while I was there. Vancouver was gorgeous and I taught in an area right near Cypress and Grouse Mountain. Every weekend I could scrape the money together, I was out taking skiing lessons and practicing my new skills. I loved it, and ever since I have longed to go back. But life and circumstances took over as they often do and we were unable to make it work… till now!
Where there’s a will there’s a way. I determined to find the best deals so we could all have an enjoyable time. I knew that our time schedule would be tight but maybe I could get Tom to take a day off so we could maximize an entire weekend. I knew we would be driving a car rather than the RV because we needed our home base to be close to where Tom was working.
We had a week to prep for our trip back to California and in that time, hoping we could make the ski trip work for us, I scoped out Academy Sports in Dallas for some clearance deals on ski apparel, because renting clothing adds a lot to the cost. I scored a deal on Columbia ski jackets for the kids. Regularly they were $65 each and I got them for under $30. I also bought some leggings and base layer shirts just in case. I also went to Big Lots and scored a deal on waterproof ski gloves. Adult and Kids for $3.00 per pair. Yes Please!
Now, here’s what I did to plan the weekend and scout out deals:
I checked early and determined it may be better to wait for a last minute hotel deal.
I looked at a map of every ski resort in Lake Tahoe and looked at each website to see what specials they offered.
I checked Groupon to see if there were any deals in the area
I checked liftopia.com to see if there were any deals I was missing on all of the resort websites, local sites and Groupon
I put away my research and thought long and hard if this was really something where we wanted to spend money
Tom and I talked about it for weeks. We determined that this was something we wanted to do and we decided that we would do it as inexpensive as we possibly could.
Choosing a hotel was going to be difficult, because staying in a resort town there are rarely deals during ski season and in Tahoe, I’m guessing rarely if ever. I looked at both Priceline and Hotels.com and I found a deal for a hotel called the Travel Inn for under $100 per night. I knew we were taking a risk, but I looked both at Priceline and Hotels.com reviews. The hotel was old; but they had replaced their beds in November of 2017 and they had decent overall reviews. I knew if we wanted to make this work, we would have to settle on the hotel. It was worth the risk because the hotel was just a comfortable place to sleep.
In researching the resorts, I learned a lot! Ski resorts are proud of their amenities and charge accordingly! It was slightly discouraging, but I was still determined to make it work. Here’s what we looked at when researching which resort to go to:
What we wanted to do- We wanted to ski and Ethan wanted to snowboard. A few of the resorts also had amenities like snow tubing, snow shoeing and at Squaw Valley, they had mini snowmobiles for kids as well as the opportunity to go dog sledding. While those amenities were tempting, they were an added expense that we couldn’t afford and they would have taken away from the point of the weekend- skiing and snowboarding. So we decided to look at some of the more basic resorts
We looked at the costs related to the dates we wanted to go. We originally wanted to go the weekend after Valentine’s Day; however, that is considered peak season. We decided that we could save a little more by choosing the weekend before instead as that was considered regular season. That saved us at least $10 per package, so almost $50 each day.
We had to take into consideration our ability level- Because we weren’t looking for thrill-seeking Double Black Diamond Runs, or even Intermediate Runs, we needed to find a place that offered a lot of beginner opportunities. That opened up all of the lower budget options for our family.
We decided not to purchase a multi-day package because we did not know what our comfort level would be after the first day. I hadn’t been on slopes in twenty years, Tom hadn’t been since he was nine and had a bad experience then, and the kids had never been. If we were absolutely miserable after day 1, we wouldn’t want to continue. If you do pick a multi-day ticket or lesson package; however, you are often able to save quite a bit.
I found two resorts that had options that fit our budget and had decent online ratings. We looked at Boreal and Diamond Peak resorts. Boreal offered night skiing which would give us more time if we were really enjoying our time. I looked at lesson packages and while they were expensive, they included everything we would need for the time we were there. I liked Diamond Peak as well, and they had a great kids’ program and even offered free skiing for kids under 6 if you didn’t want to buy the lesson package. However, Diamond Peak was first come first served on the lessons and packages so we would have had to get there early on the day of and hope we could get in to the lesson.
All day lessons for the kids would allow everyone to progress at their own pace. Because we all had different levels and objectives, this was the best option for our family. We decided that our first day would be at Boreal and bought the lesson package online so we could just focus on getting there on time and having fun! The kids’ lessons were $180 each but included rentals, instruction for the whole day, lunch and snacks. The adult lessons were just under $100 each and included lift tickets and rentals.
We had such an amazing time after day 1, we decided to go again, but this time to take our chances at Diamond Peak. It was less of a drive from our hotel, so we could get in line early. And, thankfully, in wasn’t too busy on Sunday. We decided to do the same full day lesson package for the kids and 2.5 hour lesson for us. Tom and I were in the same class this time and we had a great instructor, Peter from New York! The equipment was better and newer at Diamond Peak.
Overall, the experience was worth the money; however, it was one of our more expensive adventures to date. Ethan got to bring out his inner Shaun White and Rachel had fun meeting new friends and learning to make a pizza with her skis. Tom had a much better experience and learned the mechanics of stopping and turning. I learned that age has nothing to do with being able to do something. I remembered my skills from Vancouver and was able to go further working on keeping my skis parallel in the turns. And because we are rarely separated from the kids when we travel, we felt like we had 2 date days while the kids were safely learning in their classes.
So here’s the cost breakdown for our epic family ski weekend in Lake Tahoe:
3 nights hotel- Travel Inn South Lake Tahoe $280
Gas for Travel $40
Travel Day food and Snacks $65
Day 1 at Boreal Mountain
McDonalds’ Breakfast for 4 $28
2 Adult Ski Lessons, with rental and equipment $188
Lunch for 2 Adults $40
Full Day Child Ski Lessons, with rental, lift ticket and lunch $79
Full Day Child Snowboard Lessons, with rental equipment, lift ticket and lunch $179
Dinner for 4 at Red Hut Café South Lake Tahoe $ 65
Day 2 at Diamond Peak
McDonald’s Breakfast for 4 $28
2 Adult Ski Lessons, with Rental and Equipment $198
Lunch for 2 Adults $40
Full Day Child’s Center Ski Lessons with rental, ticket and lunch $180
Full Day Child’s Snowboard Lessons with rental, ticket and lunch $149
Our total cost for the trip, excluding clothing costs $1659
I didn't include the clothing costs because the ski pants, jackets and gloves that we purchased are now ours to keep for the future and are not consumables. We bought larger for the kids so that they can use them for another season or two. And, we already owned jackets that were do-able for the trip. I didn't feel the need to buy nice jackets when we had some that worked. The gloves were a steal. All in all we spent around $200 in total for all of the clothing we would need for this trip. But now, that we have them, we will store them underneath the RV for next year.
It will be awhile before we go skiing and snowboarding again. Our experience found that purchasing an adult lesson package was cheaper than purchasing lift tickets and rental equipment. It was also our experience since we didn’t have the confidence and background to teach our kids the fundamentals, it was a better experience having them in an all-day class so they could safely work on their skills while we improved on ours.
I am hopeful that we will be able to do more skiing in the future and maybe in the future we’ll be more comfortable staying in our RV in a snowy area for a period of time. But for now, we have created memories for our family that will last a lifetime and have developed a desire to go back again and work on our mad snow sporting skills!
Check out some of the highlights of our trip here: