When it comes to four-letter words, free is one of our favorites. A skiing family, we’re always looking for ways to save money and maximize value. Here’s a quick round-up of some of our favorite ways to save money and have fun this winter at Colorado resorts. This list is by no means complete. Please check resort websites for more information on everything from free concerts, to demo days, to parking.
Free Parking +
Speaking of which, I love free parking and Colorado resorts understand how important this perk can be, especially when you’re carrying gear for more than one person. Close-in free parking is found at many resorts like Monarch and Purgatory. Most larger resorts also have free lots connected to lifts via shuttles, with clear instructions on their websites.
Want to park close-in, but you don’t want to pay? Fill your car with four or more people and park for free at Aspen Highlands and Snowmass. These lots are free to everyone after 12:00 noon.
And here’s the “plus” in free parking. Park in a free lot at Winter Park and take a shuttle to the Village. From here, transfer your kids and all their gear into a free red wagon and pull them to the ski school, lodge and lifts.
Free mountain tours are another favorite, especially helpful when visiting a resort for the first time. Crested Butte offers two-hour intermediate tours each day at 10:00 a.m. Meet at the Waffle Cabin and get a local’s perspective on this high mountain paradise. Steamboat offers a similar program each day at 10:30 a.m., starting near the gondola at the top of Vagabond trail.
Trade your skis for snowshoes at Copper Mountain and learn about the Rocky Mountain environment while trekking through an alpine forest. More information about snowshoe tours and other “Free Your Mountain” activities at Copper (including their free Kids’ Night Out) can be found here.
Olympians and Rangers
At Steamboat you have two opportunities to ski with Olympians and improve your skills. Join Steamboat’s Director of Skiing, 1964 Olympic Silver Medalist and World Champion Billy Kidd, for free pointers and a run down Heavenly Daze. Check the sign at the top of the gondola to see if Billy is skiing, and join him there at 1:00pm.
Looking to up your game in the bumps? Try Nelson on Nelson’s. Join Nelson Carmichael, 1992 Olympic Bronze Medalist and 2-time World Cup Mogul Champion, for a free mogul clinic on Nelson’s Run at 1:00pm on select Sundays. Check the grooming report to see if Nelson is skiing and meet outside Four Points Lodge.
Finally, to learn more about the relationship between skiing and our public lands, ski with a Forest Service Snow Ranger at Loveland. Topics covered include glacial geology, winter ecology and local history. Recommended for ages 8+, groups meet at Ptarmigan Roost Cabin at either 10:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. several days each month.
Want to try a ski or snowboard lesson before actually signing up? Or maybe you’re just looking for quick tips to fine-tune your skills? Try a free one-run lesson at Arapahoe Basin on February 21 and March 13. Lessons run from 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Save on Lunch
Save money by bringing your lunch and enjoying it in a special “brown bag” area. Picnic friendly dining areas are found at Crested Butte (look for the picnic tables and day lockers inside the Treasury Center) and Powderhorn (the main floor of the lodge).
Other lunch tips? Munch with a view, or take a break and soak up some sun, at strategically placed picnic tables at Copper Mountain and on all four Aspen Snowmass mountains.
Run The Gates
Race yourself. Race your family. Race your friends. Sign up for the Wolf Creek Fun Series, a series of scheduled races throughout the winter. Gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded in 14 age categories for skiers and snowboarders, so the odds of taking home some hardware are pretty good! Closer to the Denver metro area, look for free Family Race Days at Loveland.
Snow Cat Skiing
Enjoy free snow cat skiing along the Continental Divide and explore some of Loveland’s most remote and challenging terrain. The Ridge Cat accesses Field of Dreams, Velvet Hammer, Tickler, 13,010 and Marmot. Rides are first-come, first-served in an 18-passenger snow cat when conditions permit. You must have a valid season pass or lift ticket.
Copper Mountain’s Tucker Mountain snow cat provides exclusive access Copper’s high alpine back bowls. You must have a lift ticket or season pass. The Tucker Mountain Snow Cat runs Friday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1:30 pm, weather permitting.
Get up early and score First Tracks at Aspen Mountain and Snowmass. Hosted by the Ski and Snowboard Schools of Aspen Snowmass, you must sign up in advance (especially when powder is predicted). But even if there is no fresh snow, the opportunity to lay down the first turns of the day on untracked corduroy is pretty special.
While Colorado 5th graders ski free at 20 Colorado Ski Country resorts with a 5th Grade Passport, Sunlight provides free season passes to local 4th graders, letting them get a jump on the fun! Plus, kids 5 and under are always free at this Glenwood Springs resort.
What tips do you have for Good, Free stuff in Colorado Ski Country? Let us know on our Facebook page.