Skiing is an expensive sport and skiing with a family can be ridiculously expensive. When we were living in Colorado (45 minutes to the closest ski resort), I remember crunching the numbers for a family ski vacation, only to realize it was cheaper for us to fly the entire family to Mexico for a beach vacation of the same length. That’s nuts. We ended up going to Mexico, FYI.
When we moved back to New York and again tried to take the family skiing, I tried to find ways to make it more affordable, while still having a great time. There are 4 of us who ski–2 adults and 2 kids (ages 3 and 5)–and we have two dogs we prefer to travel with whenever possible. We all have equipment and I was a ski instructor back in the day so we haven’t done formal lessons for the kids, yet. I’ve added upgrade fees for things like equipment rentals or purchases, lessons and upgrade fees for your dogs to join you at the rental, but didn’t include them in the overall fee since they don’t apply to us. Here’s my secret recipe for a $500 all-inclusive family ski weekend in the Adirondacks:
The biggest money and sanity saver when travelling with kids and dogs anywhere, is to rent a house instead of a hotel room. You’ll have access to a kitchen for snacks, etc., but you’ll also save tons of money by being able to make your own food instead of dining out. You might even get a laundry room! We do all of our laundry the last morning before we leave for skiing so it’s all dry by the time we return–no laundry to come home to after a weekend away is a beautiful thing. If you have dogs and can travel with them, it’ll likely be cheaper to pay a dog fee at a rental home than it will be to pay for boarding at your local kennel (they’ll be happier, too).
Winter Weekend (2 nights): $300
Dog Upgrade Fee: $100/dog/visit
Since you’re already renting a house, it makes sense to go grocery shopping, then cook your own meals and pack your own on-mountain lunches. I don’t skimp on food–my family loves to eat good food, especially after a long day of skiing. Sometimes I stop at a gourmet grocery store before arriving in town and pick up pre-made or partially cooked food (i.e., chicken salad for sandwiches, side dishes, etc.) along with some meat to grill, other times I stop at Shaheen’s IGA Market in Tupper Lake and buy all my ingredients there. My budget is always the same, and I always include wine and beer for mom and dad to enjoy apres ski! Here is our menu from our most recent trip:
Saturday Breakfast: Cold cereal, fresh fruit, milk and coffee
Sunday Breakfast: Homemade Belgian waffles with local maple syrup, fresh fruit, milk and coffee
Saturday and Sunday Snacks (on mountain): Trail mix and granola bars
Saturday & Sunday Lunch (on mountain): Turkey sandwiches and soda for the adults, PB&J sandwiches and juice boxes for the kids, fresh fruit, chips and cookies
Saturday Dinner: Raclette (I cheat–I par boil my potatoes, then mix those with onions, garlic, butter, cheese and prosciutto and bake the whole thing–less messy than tableside cooking with kids) served with local pickles and fresh fruit. “Homemade brownies” (from a mix) for dessert. (We had enough leftovers to have dinner at home Sunday after skiing, too).
Another way to save serious cash for a family ski vacation is to choose a lesser known mountain in the same area as the big mountains. You’ll get less crowds, similar terrain and it should be cheaper. Big Tupper Ski Area in Tupper Lake, NY (45 minutes from the larger, more well-known Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid, NY) is 100% volunteer run with great rates on everything. We’ve had more powder days there in the last couple of winters than we had in our last few winters in Colorado (I’ve worn my fat skis on every single ski trip we’ve had there the last two winters and I’ve needed them every time!). We are constantly meeting Lake Placid natives on the slopes, saying they now drive to Tupper to ski instead of the other way around (Whiteface has earned the nickname “Iceface” for a reason…).
Lift Tickets at Big Tupper Ski Area (we skied 2 days, these prices are per day)
Adults: 2 @ $25 each
Kids: Free (under age 6)
*Note: We purchased my daughter’s equipment last year from the Big Tupper Rental Shop. They were used rentals and the total price for skis, boots and bindings was $40. My kids are 2 years apart in age, so we get 3-4 winters per set of skis since they pass them down. We then trade the outgrown equipment in towards the next size up.
Our kids are young and it’s important to keep them busy to avoid meltdowns, so we tend to pack a lot into each day. Depending on what time we arrive at the vacation rental home Friday night (we usually leave after dinner so the kids fall asleep in the car, but sometimes we leave after work and everyone needs some activity after the drive), we hike up to the golf course behind the house (dogs, too!) and go sledding with headlamps. I pack hot chocolate in a thermos and it’s fun. Everyone sleeps well once we’re back to the house.
On this trip, we decided to go skating Saturday night after dinner. My husband and I packed some coffees in “to go” mugs and the kids had a juice box. The Tupper Lake Civic Center has public skating from 7:00pm-8:30pm on Saturday nights, and it’s free! They play music and even have skate trainers for the kids. My kids have been taking skating lessons this winter and we all got skates from Santa, so everyone was eager to test their skills.
Public Skating at Tupper Lake Civic Center
Adults & Kids: Free
That’s it! Hope this helps your family have an affordable ski weekend in the Adirondacks. If you’re renting our vacation rental and have questions about things to do with your family, please email me or leave a comment. I’m happy to help!