Family Ski Vacations: The Cost Could Break The Bank!

In 2007, I had a dream of taking my future family on a ski vacation. I was an avid snowboarder and my wife enjoyed the tranquility of Lake Tahoe. After receiving a good bonus, I bought a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo at Everline Resort in Palisades.

Our son came ten years later, but we didn't go on a legitimate family ski vacation until Spring 2024. In other words, we could have saved our money for 17 years by just renting or buying a smaller place.

Oh well, maybe in the next life. Owning a vacation property was a suboptimal financial decision. Please learn my lesson so you can save money.

The Decision to Finally Shell Out for Ski Lessons

As someone who's clocked countless hours teaching my kids how to swim and bike, I also wanted to teach my kids how to ski. There's something immensely gratifying about patiently guiding a child through the nuances of a new activity and witnessing that breakthrough moment firsthand.

But skiing posed a whole new set of challenges—it demanded gear, lift tickets, and, of course, a proper slope. Plus, there was the risk that if we splurged on equipment, we'd be left with buyer's remorse if the kiddos didn't take to skiing.

However, we bit the bullet and signed them up for ski lessons at the foot of Palisades Tahoe. The school had all the gear ready to go, making the whole process a breeze.

ski lessons at Palisades Kids Lake Tahoe - family ski vacation

Cost Of Ski Lessons

For our four-year-old daughter, a half-day ski school session set us back $225. Not outrageous considering it covered all the gear, a lift ticket, and three hours of expert instruction.

We would've enrolled our son in a half-day session too, but alas, the ski school only offers full-day programs for kids aged 5 and up, running from 9 am to 3 pm. The price tag? A hefty $356.21, which included everything from gear rental to lift tickets.

Altogether, we coughed up a whopping $581.21—a princely sum by any measure. Yet, strangely, I didn't feel the sting of payment as acutely as I expected from someone on a tight budget. The seamless drop-off process, the warmth of the staff, and the sheer joy on our children's faces made every penny worth it.

Ski lessons at Palisades Tahoe

First Ski Lesson Provides The Greatest Return

The first ski lesson delivered the biggest return on investment as our kids transitioned from never skiing to mastering basic turns—a feat that surpassed our expectations. Our ski instructor even took our son on an afternoon adventure, riding the gondola and tackling the green slopes at Mountain Meadows.

Thanks to it being a quiet Tuesday, the ski school wasn't bustling.

Initially, our son's class consisted of six kids during the morning magic carpet session. By afternoon, three kids had dropped out, and one had ventured off with their parents onto a different run, leaving just two kids and the instructor.

It almost felt like a private lesson ($600 for up to four people, excluding equipment and lift ticket), especially with the trio fitting snugly on the chairlift, enabling the instructor to assist with dismounting.

Another reason why the $581.27 investment in ski lessons didn't sting was because our daughter had an absolute blast. Though utterly spent and sporting a sad face at pickup time after three hours, she later declared “ski school is the best” three times over after a nap, radiating a joy only a child can bring. As a parent, witnessing such happiness is priceless.

Happy ski lessons at Palisades Tahoe - family ski vacations are expensive

Final Benefit Of Ski School: Childcare

The final benefit of ski school is the freedom it provides parents. Without any childcare help while on vacation, vacation can sometimes be exhausting for parents of young children. Ski school provides a reprieve of 3-6 hours that parents can appreciate.

We were encouraged to check in and then quickly drop off our kids because kids do better this way. It felt pretty amazing to be free on vacation. Ski school was a like a two-for-one special where the kids got to learn and my wife and I got to relax.

benefit of ski school - childcare on vacation
If you insist!

Cost of a Daily Ski Pass

With the kids in ski school, I was eager to check lift ticket prices and hit the slopes myself. Turns out a single-day ski pass at Palisades Tahoe during a spring weekday rings in at $219, escalating to $239 on weekends.

Opting for a half-day session from 1 to 4 pm? That'll set you back $153.30. And when the winter ski season peaks, brace yourself for even steeper prices—$239 on weekdays and a staggering $289 on weekends!

Talk about inflation. I vividly recall ski passes in the early 2000s priced between $60 and $80 per day. Who can afford to hit the slopes for more than a day or two now, especially with a family in tow?

Purchasing a Season Pass to “Save Money”

Rather than shelling out $219 per ski day while my kids were taking lessons, I opted for the Ikon season pass—a seemingly economical choice at $869. I took the plunge after a sales clerk mentioned I could use the pass immediately, not just for the 2024/2025 ski season.

With four days left in Tahoe, it seemed like decent value. After all, purchasing four weekday passes individually would tally up to $876. What initially seemed like a plan to hit the slopes once or twice morphed into an everyday affair.

The only downside? Blackout dates:

  • Dec 26, 2024 – Dec 31, 2024
  • Jan 18, 2025 – Jan 19, 2025
  • Feb 15, 2025 – Feb 16, 2025

The clerk also told me I wouldn't be able to use the season pass in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Jokingly, I told her, “Oh well, I guess I'll just have to fly my private jet to Aspen,” where the Ikon pass does work.

Opting for a Season Pass with Blackout Dates

Unfortunately, these blackout dates coincide with our kids' school breaks. However, I reasoned that renting out our vacation property during these prime vacation periods made more financial sense. Plus, we prefer to avoid the crowds, hence our habitual trips between Monday and Friday.

Besides, the weather tends to be harsher from December through February. Sure, the day after a snowstorm is pure bliss. But, battling freezing temperatures and potential traffic jams with young kids in tow? Not our idea of fun. We'd much rather hit the slopes in March and April, when the roads are clear and the sun is shining.

The alternative—fork over $1,299 for an Ikon season pass sans blackout dates? Nah. Saving money on the shorter pass definitely wins out.

Other Costs Involved With Skiing

Besides lodging, ski school, and lift tickets, other necessary costs for a ski vacation include:

  • Transportation – The distance from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe is 210 miles one way, which means about $70 in gas for our car. Using the IRS mileage deduction of 67 cents per mile, the added wear and tear is $140.70 one way. If we had to fly the transportation cost would be greater.
  • Equipment:
    • Helmet – $40 to $120
    • Jacket – $60 to $350
    • Pants – $50 to $350
    • Long underwear – $50 to $100
    • Gloves – $50 to $150
    • Long socks – $20 to $50
    • Goggles – $50 to $200
    • Snowboard or ski boots – $120 to $400

Purchasing all the necessary equipment can cost between $1,000 to $1,500 per person. Add in the $869 season pass, and the total equipment and season pass cost comes to $1,869 to $2,369 per person.

For a family of four, the total equipment and pass costs would be $7,476 to $9,476. Factoring in transportation, lodging, and food, a family ski vacation can easily surpass $15,000 for a week!

And believe me, buying a ski vacation property will likely cost you even more during the initial five-to-ten years. Don’t buy a vacation property until your first kid is at least five.

My First Skiing Experience: Japan

My introduction to skiing occurred in Shiga Kogen, Japan, when I was ten years old. Living in Kobe, Japan, for two years while my parents served in the U.S. foreign service, provided unique opportunities.

During our time in Japan, my parents befriended a couple with an older son. Years later, we revisited Japan to pay them a visit. Somehow, my parents were comfortable with their friend's 20-year-old son and his friend chauffeuring me 3.5 hours from Tokyo to a seemingly random warehouse in Shiga Kogen.

Back then, I was oblivious to the costs, consumed only by the thrill of new experiences as a child. After enduring a few tumbles and scrapes on the slopes, we'd retreat to an onsen to soak in the hot springs.

Today, I'm acutely aware of the costs, footing the bill for everything myself.

Some FOMO Persuaded Me to Splurge on Skiing Early

Having picked up skiing at the age of 10, I felt no rush to get my own kids, four and seven, on the slopes ASAP. And after over 35 years of skiing and snowboarding, the thrill had waned for me too.

However, an encounter with a fellow dad during drop-off at school sparked a change of heart. He waxed lyrical about skiing with his daughter, a peer of my son's. His concern about not wanting his daughter to feel left out as their classmates grew up and planned ski outings struck a chord.

Suddenly, my fear of missing out (FOMO) and my desire to provide the best experiences for my kids kicked into overdrive. If a seven-year-old could hit the slopes with her dad, why not mine? Especially since our daughter, now four, wanted to emulate her older brother in everything.

So, we took the plunge with ski school, reasoning that we'd have no regrets if either kid decided skiing wasn't their thing. At least we tried.

Skiing: A Privilege That Comes at a Steep Price

It's disheartening how exorbitant skiing has become. The term “ski week” shouldn't be thrown around in schools, as not every family can afford a lavish ski vacation.

Assuming everyone can jet off to hit the slopes is presumptuous and elitist, potentially alienating families who can't afford such luxuries. Worst of all is making an innocent child feel left out.

Even for me, opting out of dad's night out, partly due to the hefty $500 price tag, wasn't ideal, but fine. However, it would've stung much more if it were a family-oriented event where our kids were left out.

The Cost Of Ski Lodging Is Hefty Too

ski vacation property layout Financial Samurai
Our vacation property layout that comfortably sleeps four

Let's not forget the astronomical costs beyond lift tickets and ski school—finding affordable lodging near ski resorts is a whole other ordeal. My 1,000 sqft, two-bedroom, two bathroom condo at Everline Resort rents out for around $700 a night on weekdays and increases to over $1,000 on weekends during the winter.

During peak holiday seasons, the rates in and around Lake Tahoe soar by another ~50%. So while frequenting our vacation property might seem like a money-saving move, the reality is, we're sacrificing rental income, a crucial component of our passive income portfolio.

Owning a vacation property with the intention of earning rental income while it's not in use can be appealing. However, it's crucial to have effective property management in place and to consider the level of vacation property supply in the area. Excessive supply can lead to decreased rental frequency and rates. It's unwise to rely on rental income to afford a vacation property.

Personally, I prefer investing in stocks or private real estate that generates income. This allows me to earn passive income, which can then be used to cover the costs of our vacation accommodations.

Raising Kids Can Be A Costly Affair If You Let

One recurring critique of my carefully crafted family six-figure budgets often revolves around the line item for kids' lessons or miscellaneous expenses. What's becoming increasingly apparent as my children grow older is that I may have underestimated the financial demands of parenthood. Persistent inflation isn't helping either.

$375,000 household income and corresponding budget - Perhaps not enough budgeted for childrens' lessons, vacations, and ski school

For those without children, such expenses might elicit a scoff or a raised eyebrow. But once you become a parent, an innate urge to provide your children with enriching experiences kicks in, partly driven by a desire to shield them from feeling excluded.

For individuals belonging to minority groups or the LGBTQ community, the urge to provide the best for their kids might be even more pronounced. The desire to ensure their children don't have to go through the same challenges they faced growing up can be a strong motivator.

Not Raising Ski Champions, Just Wanting Family Bonding Time

All I aspire for is for my family members to share enough common interests to be able to spend quality time together. For skiing, I envision us spending hours on the lifts, carving through the snow, then indulging in burgers before hitting the slopes again. Afterwards, it would be family hot tub time, chatting about our day and life in general.

How fun! However, this type of family bonding on the slopes requires all of us to ski at an intermediate level or higher, which can be a costly endeavor.

It would be an absolute delight if my kids and wife developed a fondness for pickleball, a fun and inexpensive sport. I picture our family of four engaged in doubles matches at our local park, enjoying each other's company. Alas, so far only one of us is interested in playing.

Thus far, we've nurtured a love for free nature walks as a family. With time, perhaps my kids will build up their stamina for longer hikes. I still reminisce about the enchanting experience of hiking Haleakala Crater in Maui with my parents over a couple of days when I was growing up.

Should skiing or snowboarding ignite a passion in my family, I'll wholeheartedly support their endeavors. However, if not, no problem. Given my range of interests, I remain optimistic that we'll eventually discover another shared activity that brings us joy as a family.

The main goal for family vacations is to develop lifelong memories and unbreakable bonds. Once kids go off to college, such opportunities will be harder to come by. I hope to make the most of our time together before then.

Reader Questions

What are your thoughts on the costs of a family ski vacation? What strategies have you employed to trim costs on ski lessons, lift passes, and family ski getaways? Do you have other favorite types of family vacations?

Invest In Real Estate More Strategically

Instead of buying a vacation property, consider investing in private real estate for potentially better returns instead. Yes, owning a vacation property is a lifestyle choice. However, I'd rather own investment property that generates enough passive income and distributions to be able to vacation anywhere for free.

Take a look at Fundrise, one of the largest private real estate platforms with over $3.3 billion in assets for over 500,000 investors. Fundrise funds generally invest in residential and industrial real estate in the Sunbelt, where valuations are lower and yields tend to be higher.

With only an investment minimum of $10, you can dollar-cost average into private real estate. Since 2016, I have personally invested $954,000 in a couple private real estate funds and individual deals outside of expensive San Francisco, Honolulu, and New York City.

Fundrise is a sponsor of Financial Samurai and Financial Samurai is a six-figure investor in Fundrise.

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59 thoughts on “Family Ski Vacations: The Cost Could Break The Bank!”

  1. Hi Sam, as always, great context and content. Our family prefers warmer climates but has a similarly expensive family vacation choice…. SCUBA diving also requires some equipment and the destinations are not cheap or easy to get to but have given memories and experiences that are worth the expense. Keep living life to the fullest.

  2. Check out the ikon day passes. (The epic day passes are a steal – gets you down to $80/day on only Tahoe resorts – but obviously doesn’t cover palisades.) I’ve heard that kirkwood rates for ski school are more reasonable. You can also do a season long rental at sports basement for the little ones. Finally, I’d consider doing the less glamorous spots like Tahoe Donner or Diamond Peak for first-time skiers – you can’t ski the good stuff anyways so no real point to paying up for Palisades (except in your specific case of having ski-in/ski-out on the mountain).

    1. Too late. Got the Ikon season pass with blackout dates for $869. But good to know for the future.

      I hear you on the smaller mountains and saving money. I’m not into glamour. But I am into convenience with little kids. And given we have a condo at Everline in Palisades, we’re just going to go that route.

  3. The cost is ever increasing. I just renewed the families season epic passes and it was 3300 dollars for 5. 2 adults, 2 teens and one 12 and under. It’s 800 more than last year. Freestyle training for the two younger kids is another 4k total. I love skiing more than anything else, but the sting of over 7k even made me have second thoughts. I will keep paying it, but dang! I think that high of a cost is going to make me insist we get up every weekend and some nights to get the cost per trip lower.

    1. Financial Samurai

      Ouch! That’s big bucks. Freestyle training for 4K? Whooo whee!

      Hope they can use these skills to get into college. But maybe not with the banning of such sports that cost a lot of money.

      The good thing is going up the mountain more with family is a wonderful thing for memories and happiness.

      1. 2k per kid for 8 weeks of training. It’s insanely expensive, they already have their 529’s funded and I always wished I could have had that training when I was young. I hope they will appreciate it later! It’s really fun to throw a 360 or backflip off a rock in the back country (0:

        1. Financial Samurai

          That’s awesome! I remember going off a launch ramp with my snowboard and then flailing with my arms rotating like helicopter blades. Then I crashed. Ouch. I decided my days of free styling were over.

  4. Ski school helps a ton. I live in Colorado and feel my kids should be at least competent skiers (some FOMO too I suppose – what if they get invited on a ski trip?!) I am 2+ hours away from the nearest ski “resort” (a “locals-only” kind of place in Colorado standards). We used to do sporadic lessons for my oldest, and she just didn’t pick it up very well. It was even worse if we tried to teach her.

    For the last 2 seasons, the kids have done a weekly lessons program. It’s a huge hassle to drive up there every week, but they get the same teacher and the same group of kids for a couple months of lessons. My now 9 year old went from being a disaster on the bunny hill and hating skiing, to now comfortably navigating most black runs at any Colorado resort no problem.

    My 4 year old can go down easy black runs on his own. While we also do an annual week-long trip to one of the big-name CO resorts and do lessons there for a week ($$$$!!), most of the kids’ improvement has been from the weekly lessons at our small mountain.

  5. Best post yet FS. Snowboarding with our son has created some of our greatest memories. The time, money and patience invested have an infinite ROI as it is an activity we’ll be doing together until I die.

  6. Great article! I just had a VERY similar experience, so I feel the need to share as well. I just brought my family skiing for the first time at Palisades on spring break 2 weeks ago. I have a wife and 2 kids, 7 and 9 years old, and all 3 have never skied. I grew up skiing, then converted to snowboarding, in SoCal, probably started around 10 years old. We used to do day trips and some weekend trips to Big Bear, but it was nowhere near as expensive as it is today. I’ve been holding out due to the high costs of skiing and the age of my kids, and in general I prefer beach vacations (we typically go to Hawaii/Mexico). Finally, some friends of ours offered up their vacation home in Tahoe City for us to stay in, so we decided to go. I went back and forth between Boreal and Palisades, with 3 days at Boreal being significantly cheaper than 2 days at Palisades. But being an avid snowboarder myself, I imagined myself getting quickly bored with Boreal being such a small mountain. In the end I chose to do 2 days at Palisades and I am so glad I did. I did 2 half day private lessons for my wife and kids, and we rented all of our gear at Palisades. Below is the cost breakdown of our trip:

    Free – 4 nights lodging
    $3,100 ski/snowboard rentals, lift tickets, 2 half day private lessons and tip for a family of 4 for 2 days of skiing. EEK! This includes saving $100 total on lift tickets from my friends Ikon Pass discount codes.
    $2,000 airfare from SoCal
    $800 Jeep 4×4 rental with snow tires (it snowed over a foot that weekend), gas, and uber rides to/from the airport
    $700 for eating out and groceries
    $6,600 Total (with free lodging!)
    I spend less than that for 7 nights in Hawaii!

    In the end it ended up being an amazing trip! My wife and kids ended up having the same, amazing instructor both days. I got every morning to myself snowboarding all over Palisades which I found frightening, challenging, and extrememly rewarding! Then I would meet up with my family for lunch and they would show me what they learned in the afternoon. My 9-year-old went on her first real ski lift ride with me on the afternoon of Day 1, and it was such a great feeling riding down with her on her first non-magic carpet run. The next day the instructor skipped the magic carpet all together and brought my wife and kids on green and blue runs all morning. We again met up for lunch and we rode together a couple more hours in the afternoon. Palisades even had “free” overnight ski storage for consecutive day rentals so we got to leave our skis/snowboard there after Day 1 (which was super helpful with kids). And Palisades was so much closer than Boreal to where we were staying in Tahoe City. Was it worth $1,500 more than 3 days Boreal? For me it was.
    I’m already planning our ski vacation for next season. My kids picked it up and had so much fun, and it brought so much joy to my wife and I watching them. I’m doing all the math with Ikon passes vs. daily lift tickets, different ski resorts, and potentially using credit card/airline/hotel points. It’s so expensive, but at this point I think I’ve committed to at least getting my kids to the point where they can consistently go down with me on blue runs.

    1. Sounds like a great trip! The rental program and ski school at Palisades is a well-oiled machine. Great instructores.

      Given y’all are from SoCal, what about just driving to Mammoth? I heard it’s a great mountain too.

      1. I go to Mammoth annually on a guys trip. Definitely an option, but I did like going to a new mountain like Palisades so it has me wanting to go back or to a new resort. Literally a slippery slope!

  7. When our kids were young (maybe 8 and 10), we took them to Squaw/Northstar learning how to ski. My reason at the time was that we wanted to help them to learn how to ski safely so when they are at college age, they can go on ski trips with friends without us worrying. As you mentioned, ski trips are expensive for a family of four. Fortunately I had a co-worker who owned timeshare at a beautiful newish condo development in Lake Tahoe, and she was able to book an accommodation for me at a deeply discounted rate as friend/family without me having to attend any sales pitch. This generous offered cut our stays from typically $300 down to $50 per night for a two bedroom condo. We were able to cook daily and saved money by not eating out for lunch and dinner. With this inexpensive accommodation option, we were able to take the kids ski for several years in a row.
    We occasionally had talked about buying a second home in Lake Tahoe area but I didn’t really understand the need to have a second home. However, we were very fortunate to have found a foreclosed home built in 2018 with 3600 sf in Truckee. After outbidding 17 others, we bought the house for less than 50% what the previous owner/contractor had put in. The previous owner/contractor took some stuff (vanities, mirrors, toilets, ceiling fans, door knobs etc) out of the house, and we had to do some work but luckily our kids (middle and high school) were able to help and it became a fun family project.
    We are very lucky to have bought our second home close to the bottom of the market so our kids could continue to go ski very season.

      1. The house was built in 2018 and we bought it in summer of 2010 which was closed to the bottom. We have invited friends to stay in the summer and winter for free since we don’t use the house all year around. Due to pandemic restriction, we rented out the house LT for about three years.

  8. If you did not have the condo up there did it make sense to have day trips? from SF to Lake Tahoe 3 hours each way sounds like a day trip ski for half a day eat there and come back home sounds like an alternative to spending an addional 700-1000 dollars a night.

    1. Yeah, that’s what I did in my 20s. But now that I’m in my 40s with a family, I need to make the trip more worthwhile by staying at least one night, but probably more like two nights.

      It’s more like 3 1/2 hours to Palisades. But it’s about two hours 1:30 hours 45 minutes to Sugar bowl. Which is the day trip that I’ve done before.

  9. Patti Melancon

    Ski school is worth it! We would put our young girls in 2 full day ski school and then half day on the 3rd day. This allowed us parents to ski as much as we wanted for 2 days and then on the 3rd day we were pretty much tired so when we picked up kids for lunch, we skied with them on the green slopes to show us their progress. It was great!

    We did that every year for 3 years with finally letting them ski with us once they could ski blues.

    1. Sounds like a great plan to me! Oh, instructor brought our son on the second day ever skiing on a blue. But it was just one run, and then they went to a green.

      I think staying together after the third season. Sounds like a great plan. My son will be 10 and my daughter will be seven.

  10. Your experience tracks for me, as our kids are the same age. Fortunately my older kid was comfortable on green runs after 3 days of ski classes. My younger kid still isn’t self sufficient after 7 days of instruction, so my patience for paying $200 per day for ski instruction when we go skiing is wearing thin. I hope she gets it soon! Then we’ll be able to hit the slopes as a family.

  11. Hi Sam. May be you should consider ski trip in Japan. We live in Tokyo and go ski in Shiga Kogen once a year. The lift ticket for adults is around 6000 JPY / day, and kids can be free on some mountain. This is the price pretty much through out Japan ( Niseko is more expensive). Ski hotels there are still cheap, we pay around 50 000 JPY / night at the Prince hotel ski in ski out including BF and Diner for 3 people. Snow quality in Japan is amazing. (USDJPY exchange rate is 152 ).

  12. I didn’t try skiing until middle school. The only reason I tried it was because our school organized a day trip and we got discounted tickets. Neither of my parents knew how so I had no other exposure growing up. I was a bit traumatized b/c that first time I went, someone on my bunny slope lost control and skied over my hand when I was on the ground after my own fall giving me a scar I still have today. Hence I wasn’t keen on trying again for a long time. If I had learned properly as a kid in a safer environment I probably would have developed a much more positive association with the sport and found more ways to go and get better.

    1. Oh no! Even with gloves on? That’s some of bad luck and I’m sorry.

      I never really thought about it until a wealthy friend told me he pays an instructor to teach his son everything so that he does not develop bad fundamentals early on.

      His father taught him tennis at a young age, and he blames his father for having a bad backhand!

  13. We’re in the mountains of Colorado and fortunate to live 20 minutes from a great resort. My wife and I buy a weekday pass ($450 x 2 = $900) and own our gear. Our two kids (ages 4 and 6) ski free and they rent skis for the entire season for $70 (x2 = $140).

    So for around $1,200, we skied as a family of four a total of 8 times this year and I skied another 4 days solo. Pretty lucky to have that resort so close!

  14. I wonder if cross country skiing would be cheaper, or just find some cheaper hobbies? Europeans ski quite a bit, is it as expensive as in the USA?

  15. I keep trying to convince my kids that they’ll like skiing, but so far no bites.

    My hope is that next year I can finally talk at least my youngest into it!

    Mainly, I need a ski buddy for future trips…but you are right, it is dang expensive and not really a super affordable family activity any longer. Maybe it never was.

    1. Did they try and just not like it? If they didn’t do ski school, maybe that’s a solution? My boy got to make friends with one other girl a year and a half younger and they were buddies for the entire day. It made it more fun for both of them.

  16. I was at school in Denver when I was 28. My classmates made me go ski with them. Bought a jacket, gloves, sprayed 2 cans of Scotchgarde on blue jeans worn over two layers of long john, rented skis, boots, poles, got some discount lift tickets and away we went. From the top of Breckenridge the tiny little highway down at the bottom is miniscule. Then they showed me how to snowplow and let me go. It’s a miracle I survived the next 45 minutes. I mean seriously a miracle. Later that day had a beer next to Mark Hamill and a couple of Playboy bunnies down at the lodge. After a few weekends of this, I have to admit, I was getting pretty good. Broke a pole the last weekend and discovered they were completely unnecessary. It was beautiful and I loved it. It was like flying at low altitude, in a snow globe that was better than reality, surrounded by the so-called “beautiful people.” Never been anywhere close to ski country since, sadly. The price didn’t seem too bad, though.

  17. Hi Sam, most ‘local’ resorts have a ‘local’ annual ski pass. An epic local pass with Vail resorts which allows skiing worldwide is only $731 for an annual pass. Kids <13 $380, Teens $591. The pass also gets you a hefty discount for food and beverage on the mountain and ski school. Here’s the catch you need to own a property ‘locally’ to qualify, but you do. Tahoe may have something similar‍♂️

      1. Nah, not a great investment as I bought only one year after the peak.

        But the property is paid off, and it is now a small portion of my net worth.

        It is also a cash cow now with some months generating $7,000+. But then there are dead months like May and November. Overall now it’s a good passive income generator. But it took over 10 years to get here.

        But now that we have children, the value of the vacation property has gone way way way way up. It is so much better to live in a two bedroom, two bathroom condo with a kitchenette and a dining area at a ski-in/ski-out resort.

        We can’t go on vacation just renting a room or a suite anymore.

  18. Great article. I’m going to Palisades in two weeks with my son for a 5-day mini-vacation. We have the Ikon pass (not the Base with the blackout dates) as the price was still affordable last year as my son was 12, so that’s something to take into consideration for next year. It will be the first time for me to ski on the West Coast. Usually we go to Europe as while it sounds glitzy, the cost of the plane is the same as going out west, lodging and food is a fraction of the cost here, ski resorts are the best (Dolomites are a UNESCO site, Zermatt & Cervinia and Mont Blanc you do not get them here) and the food is real food, not the usual chicken tenders, burgers, pizza & French fries. I have friends who went to Japan and Chile with the Ikon and all say that skiing in the US is outrageously expensive and this is because the resorts in the US are now owned by large corporations and not the local communities. I would recommend to anyone going to Europe and save money!

  19. You need to get your kids up to a skill level whereas they enjoy single diamond runs ASAP. Shorter lines, longer runs, less people, better views, better snow. I started out getting season passes for me and my boy and went to the closest slopes to train up. Once he was comfortable doing single diamonds (took a 9 year old about a dozen trips), it’s really enjoyable for all as you get to max out on the value of skiing better resorts.

    1. Sounds good. I’m assuming he’ll ski at least 10 days more before age 9. Maybe 15 days.

      I didn’t start until age 10, so I still don’t feel the rush.

      The good thing about our place at Everline Resort is there is a ski in ski out left right outside the lobby. Very low traffic and nice runs for blue and single black diamond.

      My favorite is hanging out in the hot tub with the kids after skiing though. That’s the best.

  20. Skiing big resorts is so crazy now. Costs, parking, lift lines. Grew up ski Tahoe but prefer small resorts now like Mt Ashland and Mt Shasta are great skiing. Under 30min from town, no lines, good terrain, good snow, cheap season passes, cheap to learn, and kids ski with their friends.

    1. Yeah, smaller mountains are better for kids and beginner-intermedia, especially with lower cost. I must be in one of the most expensive resorts/mountains in Lake Tahoe. But given I own a place here, I should focus on Palisades Tahoe. The mountain is massive and great for all levels, especially advanced.

      30 min from which town are you talking about?

      1. Town of Ashland OR. On powder days drop kids off school 8:20am…on the mtn by 9am. No lift lines. Go do work at Noon. I’m an advanced skier.

        1. Gotta love it! BTW, do you ever get sick of skiing? I got sick of it after about 15 years or so. But I think if my kids love it and I had friends who had the freedom to go up I’d enjoy it more. I feel like at least 40% of skiing is due to the company you ski with. Whatcha think?

          I’m too old and risk averse to do the launch ramps and half pipe now. I gotta stay healthy to raise my little ones.

          1. I took years off when kids were really young(sleep deprived) but got back into it once I tried shape skis vs the old narrow skis i used to use it was so much fun. I ski solo lots of days and meet all kinds of interesting people and a great way to be in nature and decompress

  21. Great call to opt for ski school for the kddos. As a professional ski instructor here on the east coast, I can attest to how important it is to get children started off on the right foot and making it a positive experience. Sounds like that is exactly what happened and you felt it was worth the cost. Bravo, you just made this instructor’s day.
    After reading your piece on tipping, I’m curious if you tipped your ski instructor instructor?
    Finally, a bit off topic, but my wife and I are well heeled retirees (we both have defined benefit retirements (Fed and State), but we opt to work for the ski area 1 mile from our winter home. Not only do we both get a free, unlimited season pass and on-site locker, but we stay busy and find it both interesting and rewarding to work seasonally for the ski area. We make a few bucks, defer the $3,000 cost of passes and lockers and I got to ski a total of 109 days this season!

    1. Yep, $20. What’s the standard, if there is one? We may hire one of them for a private family group ski lesson as well as they were great. What are your tips look like as an instructor?

      109 days in one season is incredible! I gotta imagine you must really love it, which is great.

      I think I’m good after 15-20 days skiing. That would equal three-to-four trips up.

      1. I would also love to know the tipping recommendation from a ski instructor. I usually tip $20-$40 per day, but am never sure if it’s the right amount. Especially with a young child that might be getting 1:1 or 1:2 instruction in a “group” class. I once forgot to tip the most friendly instructor that my daughter had and came back the next day to the resort to leave a tip for him at the ski school. The guilt wrecked me!

  22. 800 per month for kids activities is a wild underestimation. My 11 year old daughter’s weekly piano is $100, weekly clarinet is 100, weekly sports (training + membership fees) at least 200, art class about 70, weekend Chinese school is about 50 (the cheapest activity so far). All of those, plus spending on art materials, books, sport cloths, concert dress, musical instruments, etc is minimum $2,000 per month. This is for one kid only, and just lessons for fun. Professional level training will cost 2-3 times.
    Luckily we live in a great school district so we don’t need to pay for private school. It is really about trade-offs – only uber rich people can pay for it all – private school, hobby lessons, travel sports and luxurious vacations. For a normal HHI 400k family, we constantly weigh in what is worth it, and what we have to say no, despite our kids’ keen interests.

    1. If $800 a month is a wild underestimation, what is a “proper estimation” for kids’ lessons etc a month?

      As a $400K household income family, what does your budget look like? With no private school expense, I would think you’d have a lot of cash flow left over to spend on your children. What’s a better expense than retirement savings and children? If you could share your ages and rough net worth too, that would be great!

      It’s fascinating, but I feel little-to-no spending pain when it comes to spending on my kids. Just on myself if it’s more than the basics.

      1. For 400k HHI, roughly:
        Tax around 25% – 100K
        Retirement accounts savings: 70k
        Kid activities for 11 year old: 24K (2000/month)
        Preschool for 2 year old: 10k
        Housing cost (includes mortgage, tax, insurance, HoA, basic maintenance for a 5,000 sqft house on half acre lot): 66k
        Utilities (electricity, gas, internet, water, sewage): 5k
        Yard maintenance (spring/fall clean up+ weekly lawn care): 5k
        Gas and maintenance for two beat up cars: 6k
        Groceries: 10k
        Dining out: 10k
        Family vacations: 20k
        529: 20k
        Donation: 4k
        That’s already 350k.
        We save the rest 50k in brokerage/treasuries, if we don’t do any big house projects.
        You see there is no room for private school and luxurious family vacation at all. We budget on everything, almost. Whenever our daughter develops some new interest, it still pains me to add one more item to her already quite expensive activity list… We enjoy seeing our kids thrive and fulfill their potentials. But it doesn’t mean that we don’t feel the financial pains of raising them!
        Our NW about 2.5m including house equities.

        1. Cool. How old are you guys and do you have one child or more?

          If you’re happy with your jobs, saving $50K is OK. But if you want to achieve financial independence sooner, I’d try to save more.

    2. Wow, here in Australia we only pay USD 30 for a one on one half hour weekly piano class. My other child’s group piano class is only USD 20. Swimming classes are USD 20 in total for half hour each.

      OTOH we are sending our children to private school, which works out around USD 315 per child per week.

  23. Bryan Heigert

    I’m happy to hear you got the kids out in the snow! I started all my kids skiing at 3 or 4. I was poor back then and spent many hours teaching them myself. Looking back, those days are my favorite memories, seeing the kids progress and hit little jumps, they were so adorable and so proud of themselves.
    Skiing didn’t use to be nearly as expensive. It’s out of control now, if you don’t buy a pass. Thankfully, all my family is skiing and we take multiple vacations to Whistler and Tahoe each year. It gets much cheaper when the kids have their own gear and passes, don’t need lessons etc. For example, we split a condo in whistler with some friends for 4 nights at a cost of $480. We split the food and cooked great meals for $180 per couple and 5 kids. Love the Canadian exchange rate! Skiing was free for 3 days with our epic pass. Total cost was around $900 with gas and a very nice authentic Chinese dinner at a restaurant for my son’s birthday. He is 14 now and has surpassed me in his snowboarding abilities. I live for family ski trips. We bought a duplex in leavenworth, wa, rent one side and use the other for a ski cabin. Then rent it out on Furnished Finder and airbnb the rest of the year. It’s pretty much break even, but we get a lot of weekends of free enjoyment out of it.
    For my daughter’s 18th birthday I got her all new gear, boots, skis, helmet, goggles, and a full montec ski suite, it was about 1500. It’s an investment but you can amortize it out over 7 or so years. Hope you and the Fam keep enjoying the snow!

  24. Sumonto Ghosh

    I didn’t see any expense for food/groceries and dining out in your annual budget for 4


      1. You are feeding a family of four on $56 a day in SF? Come on man….And some of it’s delivered? ONE meal out would be triple that.

  25. Eric Sullano

    I live in Park City Utah. I ski upward of 60 days a season as the resort is 12 minutes from my house. I only ski on weekdays and it costs me ~$25 a day to ski. Our young kids ski with us ~15 days out of the season. It costs us about $40 each time they ski (season pass divided by the number of days they ski). We buy second hand equipment (lots of great quality second hand equipment on the cheap for sale living in a ski resort town).

    The costs of skiing is ridiculous for anyone not living in a resort town like we do.

    Something to be said about proximity.

    1. Great convenience! Such a low cost to ski per day as you you can ski so much.

      I thought about staying up in Tahoe for a month or two months during the winter, but never got around to it. I think it’s partly because I want to do other things like play, tennis, see my friends, and eat different foods.

      I’m sure you have a network of friends up in Park city, but with skiing so often ever get boring? I got bored after 15 to 20 years. But I have still got up every single winter since 2001.

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