Families looking to take a ski vacation are also looking for the deals. Montana may be the perfect option to get some bang for your buck, while enjoying a rustic, gorgeous corner of the United States. The population of the state is less than one million people with plenty of elbow room.
Big Sky is one of Montana's bigger resorts. One program they have available is the 10 & Under Ski & Stay For Free program. There is no additional charge for lodging, and the skiing is free with a paid adult.
Big Sky also offers plenty of family free activities through its Kids Club. It happens every evening from 4:30-6 p.m. that fills the gap between the lifts closing and dinner time. Nightly themes at the base lodge could be Wild Wednesday, or Manic Monday. Either way, there are lots of arts and crafts and different hands-on projects. The Kids Club gang goes outside Saturdays to do a campfire and make s'mores, while watching a rescue dog demonstration. It's all free, as are the Fireworks every Saturday night.
Big Sky's Dax Schieffer adds, "Montana and Big Sky in particular is a great place to bring the kids to learn the sport of skiing in an atmosphere that is very relaxed, with a professional snow sports school, on terrain that is not overcrowded. Mom and Dad feel safe hitting the slopes with their family knowing that the crowds won't overtake the experience."
Mike Harrelson is in the state tourism office for Travel Montana, and he also has kids of his own who love to spend time on the snow. He says the majority of Montana's 16 resorts have reasonably priced lift tickets, which helps.
"When you start crunching the numbers, you're in to a lot of money before you've bought new socks, new clothes, and ski gear for the kids." Harrelson adds that Montana has a tradition and heritage of sharing within the communities, through ski swaps or making used gear available, and having reasonable lift tickets."
Many of these resorts tend to be in more rural places, "where it is skiing the way it used to be." Harrelson says you can get a hotel room for under $100 in some of these smaller towns. He suggests going to Great Falls and skiing or riding at Showdown Mountain. Or go to Bozeman or Red Lodge to ski and ride Red Lodge Mountain Resort.
Most of the Montana areas are day-use where you might commute in. Stay in the town of Wisdom at Jackson Hot Springs and have fun at Lost Trail. "Lost Trail is definitely one of those mountains that has the proletariat powder, contrasting that to the bourgeois nature of so many ski areas these days. It's skiing for the people, where you don't have to have a trust fund to go," says Harrelson.
Harrelson adds that because you're not really near an urban center, the pressure on the powder is a lot less. "You might get to experience some good fluff in the afternoon. Things get tracked early at those bigger resorts, or those resorts that tend to be closer to population centers."
If you are looking for first-timer lessons, try the Learn To Ski In 3 program. It's a statewide three-lesson package for three days that includes rental gear, lift tickets and lessons. It's good for kids and adults. Prices range depending upon which Montana ski area you are visiting.