Family Skiing Near NYC That Won’t Bankrupt You
Skiing is one of the great pleasures of life. I say this a someone who is a terrible skier. But it doesn’t matter, because for some people, skiing is mainly about being out on a beautiful mountain surrounded by nature, snow and views. I am a Nervous Nelly who goes slow and has never seen a black diamond. But nevertheless, I relish every moment I get to spend skiing. (I am positive this has got to be the equivalent to what golf is for some people.)
The grand irony is that the simple pleasures skiing offers – snow, fresh mountain air, outdoor adventure, come with a cry-your-eyes-out price tag. Especially if you are looking to take your whole family skiing someplace not far from New York City. From gear to rentals to lessons, to daycare, to lift tickets and accommodations… the cost of a weekend ski trip for a family of four can easily top a grand. And it can go a lot higher.
That is more than my family can justify on our budget. Plus, if you’re paying for ski lessons, you kind of want to go two or three times in a season, otherwise it can feel like a bit of a wasted investment. Because skiing is an investment. Unlike other vacations, the money you spend now to raise kids who like to ski or snowboard will pay joyful dividends of time spent together for years.
So how do you minimize the costs of Northeast skiing with kids? We have come up with a few tricks to mitigate the expense.
Going on vacation and staying at a nice hotel is a wonderful thing. And there are some incredible ski lodges that we have had had the pleasure of staying at through the years. But those kinds of ski trips are on hold.
When skiing with our kids, we stay at cheap hotel chains and use rewards – such as the Choice Privileges program with Choice Hotels (Comfort Inn, Quality Inn etc). We are loyal and thus enjoy a free night every once in a while. My kids are cheap dates. They’re enamored of staying at a hotel – any hotel. For skiing, which comes with so many other expenses, we do not splurge one penny on accommodations. I just booked a room at a Quality Inn for $120 a night, which I spent a little extra on for free cancellations (smart with kids in the winter). But there were other options at other participating hotels that were even less – below $100 a night. That is do-able for two nights.
Ski rentals add up. And the process of getting your rentals leaves you exhausted before you even set foot on the snow. Avoiding the rental process makes skiing easier and more fun. And ultimately, cheaper. My husband and I have our own ski boots and skis. I just replaced my ski boots recently after a decade. I love my skis – they are ancient but I have no intention of replacing them until I absolutely have to. I have definitely gotten my money’s worth.
For the kids, our friends clued us into a great spot in Long Island where we can buy ski boots and skis for the kids and then exchange them every year as they grow. The upfront cost is about $200. But the annual replacements are only about $25. My older son didn’t even need a replacement last year and my youngest got his first skis this year. With, hopefully, years of skiing ahead of us, this is, without question, cost-effective, long term. And it has the yuge short term benefit of not having to deal with the very not fun ski rental process.
Our family go-to is Camelback Mountain in the Poconos, PA. It’s not the biggest or best mountain, but it has a lot of benefits. It is close enough that we can do a two day trip. This means we can save money by not needing to wait for an extra-expensive long holiday weekend. Staying away from holiday weekends saves money on absolutely everything. There are other big advantages as well.
The first is the very affordable, convenient and unique daycare situation at Camelback. It is drop in, drop out – no reservations. And kids of all ages are together. I have not found a single other comparable daycare situation at any nearby mountain. This has been a godsend because in years past, my younger son went to daycare and my older son skied. After my older son was done skiing, we could drop him off at daycare to hang out with the little one while my husband and I got the chance to ski together for a bit. It is the most perfect, flexible set up – I don’t know why other mountains do not do it this way.
The daycare center is right in the center of things, so you can peak in anytime and it is the cheapest expense on the mountain. That might sound disturbing, but we have had nothing but excellent experiences there.
Ski Lessons for Kids
I have found group programs to be a waste of money for my kids. I know many people who have had different experiences. But I would rather spend $90 on a one hour private lesson than $200 or more for half a day of less effective group lessons. Yes, some people just want to get rid of their kids for a solid chuck of time so they can ski and find it worth it from that perspective. But kids can end up spending a lot of time standing around in these situations getting no attention, and that’s not fun. The last thing I want to do is to create negative feelings about skiing. As it is, it takes a while before a little kid can get to a level of skill that makes it fun.
Camelback is renowned for education, so we signed my son up for a half day camp there once. I watched from afar as he fell over and no one noticed, or helped him up. I had to make my way over after what seemed like an eternity of him stuck on the ground. This may have been a totally isolated incident, but my general view is that daycare is daycare and lessons are lessons. I’d rather have a quality lesson where my kid actually learns something than a glorified daycare session in the snow.
Skiing is an Investment
No matter what you do, family ski trips are never going to be cheap. But if you look at the expense as an investment that will offer your family years of fun times that you can spend together, it’s worth it. And you can amortize many of these expenses. My new ski boots were my Christmas gift last year. I desperately need new goggles – I will put that off until next year since we absorbed the expense of my little one’s first skis this year. My older son has been wearing the same ski pants for several years. A lot of gear can last season after season.
But the memories will outlast everything.
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