The amazing Kids 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.
Please note that most states have suspended their 2020-2021 student pass programs due the limited capacity that mountains face during the pandemic; other states have made them valid weekdays only. Check before you buy!
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. 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
Last season, several ski states offered “passports” for kids of certain ages allowing them to ski free — once you have filled out the paperwork and paid a small processing fee — all season. There’s no better way than “free” to start your kids on a their lifelong love of learning, snowsports and the great outdoors.
The top statewide programs for resident children included:
- Third and Fourth graders at 20 resorts in New York – Beginner/Non-Skiers receive a free Learn to Ski or Ride lesson, lift ticket and gear at up to 20 participating resorts. . Kids who have some experience receive up to 3 lift tickets at each participating ski/ride area if accompanied by a paying adult. A $31 processing fee applies.
- Fourth and Fifth graders residing in Pennsylvania, as well as kids that age from anywhere can get discounts and complimentary children’s day lift tickets with an adult purchase; blackout dates apply. A $35 processing fee applies.
- Fifth graders in Vermont – even out-of-state 5th graders are welcomed to ski or ride with free lift tickets and passes for cross country trails at all Vermont resorts. A $20 processing fee covers 88 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 31 resorts. A $30 processing fee applies, and contributions are made to Make a Wish Foundation of New Hampshire.
- Families in can register for Maine’s Winter Kids app and discover a range of free beginner lessons plus discounts on gear, lift tickets and more throughout the state. A family of five pays $35.
- 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
- Fifth and sixth graders in Colorado, where 5th graders get a free pass for 3 free lift tickets at each of 22 resorts; 6th graders get 4 at each plus lots of discounts for a $110 processing fee.
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 less than CDN$29.99 — the 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
In addition, many small resorts have “learn free” (or very cheap) days during the early season, during January, which is the tradtional national Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month (see more about our efforts to learn in Utah for LSSM here), and during the late season after spring break. Check out what resorts are doing to promote January programs and which mountain resorts offers are available on social media channels.
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.
- In Colorado: Ski Colorado
- In Maine: Ski Maine
- In New Hampshire: Ski NH
- In New York: I Ski NY
- In Pennsylvania: Ski Pennsylvania
- In Utah: Ski Utah
- In Vermont: Ski Vermont
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 and 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!
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.