US and Canada Programs Where Kids Learn to Ski Free

The amazing Kids Ski Free and Student Learn To Ski Passes which are available to local (and visiting) schoolchildren in several states are a great value for family ski vacations. Their goal is to introduce residents to the winter recreation around them and develop a lifelong love of snow sports.

Family skiing at North Peak of Keystone, Colorado.
Family practises skiing together at North Peak of Keystone in Colorado. Photo c. Vail Resorts

We like to apply the expression “think globally, act locally” to teaching our kids snowsports –- let them dream of conquering the runs at Aspen, but start them off small at a local mountain. This is where the kids ski free passes work best. Why not try a new sport when you’ve got no money to lose?

Small Local Mountain Resorts Have Biggest Savings

Neighborhood mountains are not only good value compared to big destination resorts (see our roundup of the best mountain resorts for families here), but they’re also easy to navigate and kid-friendly… just because they’re small.

Never fear losing the kids at one of several base areas. These ski areas typically have all their learning facilities, equipment rentals, dining and daycare right by the parking lot. After a few visits, every lift operator will know your name and the cafeteria will remember whether or not you like whipped cream in your hot chocolate.

Free Skiing For Local Kids – State Passports for Free Lessons

In seasons past, several ski states offered kids ski free “passports” for kids of certain ages allowing them to ski free. Fill out the paperwork, pay a small processing fee and you’re set. There’s no better way than “free” to start your kids on a lifelong love of learning, snowsports and the great outdoors.

We’re delighted to see that many states have resumed their pass programs and even expanded them after a quiet pandemic year. Let’s check out the top statewide kids ski free programs for resident and visiting children.

Top Statewide Kids Ski Free Pass Programs for 2021-2022

  • Third and Fourth graders in New York – We don’t have 2021 details yet but last year, beginner/non-skiers received a free Learn to Ski or Ride lesson, lift ticket and gear at up to 20 participating resorts. Kids who had some experience received up to 3 lift tickets at each participating ski/ride area if accompanied by a paying adult. 
  • Fourth and Fifth graders residing in Pennsylvania no longer have a state pass, but the trade group SkiPA is hosting any deals that local resorts are offering to this age range.
  • Fifth and Sixth graders in Vermont – even out-of-state kids — are welcomed to ski or ride with three free lift tickets and passes to each participating Vermont resorts. A $20 processing fee covers 90 days on the snow.
  • Fourth and fifth graders in New Hampshire and out-of-state grade mates get 1 free ticket to be used at each of 33 resorts. A $49 processing fee applies, and contributions are made to Make a Wish Foundation of New Hampshire.
  • Families can register for Maine’s Winter Kids app (also available for New Hampshire) to get five free ski days at participating resorts. Discover a range of free beginner lessons plus discounts on gear, lift tickets and more throughout the state. A family of five pays $45.
  • Fifth and sixth graders from any state in Utah; 5th graders get 3 free lift tickets at each of 14 resorts; 6th graders get 1 free, plus lots of discounts. A $45 processing fee applies to this great deal.
  • Fourth, Fifth and Sixth graders in Colorado, where all kids get a free pass for 4 free lift tickets at each of 21 resorts. There’s a $59 processing fee for 84 days of free snowsports, woohoo!

Ski Canada Young and Ski Free

The Canadian Ski Council’s SnowPass allows 4th and 5th graders living in Canada to ski and ride free two times at each of 125 participating ski area all across Canada for CDN$29.99. The kids ski free pass processing fee is valid for two years as well, so apply as a 4th grader and use it for two years.

Learn to Ski Free Early Season, Late Season and in January

three kids sledding in snow
Learning a snow sport means a new whole new variety of fun for the winter.

In addition, many small resorts have “learn free” (or very cheap) days. These bargain days are usually during the early season, during January — the tradtional national Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month and during the late season after spring break. Use social media channels to explore which resorts are promoting January programs and when mountain resorts discounts are available.

Study the State Ski Directories & Discover New Resorts

Several states have made obtaining information and comparing mountain resorts easy by providing a central clearing house for information. You may also find last minute kids ski free deals being promoted.

We really appreciate the thoughtful details, tips and, often, links to discount packages provided by these statewide groups.

Getting Started with your Novice Skiers and Riders

Take it easy! Make it fun!

That’s the best learn-to-ski advice we ever got. Once you’ve found a nearby ski hill, plan a day trip on a relatively warm day and see how the kids or adults in your group enjoy a new sport. If you’re having fun, plan a weekend outing next so you can relax together after a vigorous workout on the slopes. Some family hostels near mountain resorts with super cheap lodging even have lift ticket discounts at nearby ski resorts.

These locally run and operated day resorts will invariably be cheaper than the bigger, more famous ones. And if you can visit mid-week, the package vacation values are tremendous.

Let us know your favorite local hill!

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