Okay, full disclosure - it’s not actually a “free” ski trip. Rather, it didn’t cost me anything extra for hotel and skiing. Since that wasn’t easy to work into a blog post title, I went with “free”. Here’s how I got our hotel and skiing at Mont Tremblant without shelling out for additional costs!
I had nearly 600,000 Hilton points from a combination of points I accumulated and an upgrade to my credit card from a American Express Hilton Ascend ($95 annual fee) to a American Express Hilton Aspire card ($450 annual fee - ouch!). Sure the annual fee went up significantly, but the card had other perks that helped me stomach that fee. Since I stay at Hilton hotels frequently, I decided to try the Aspire card. Here are just a few of the perks:
The upgrade came with 150,000 points bonus after a $4,000 spend within 90 days. I knew I was going to make a large purchase, so the $4,000 threshold was relatively easy for me to achieve. I wouldn’t have considered the card upgrade if I hadn't anticipated a big ticket purchase.
A free weekend night annually. Sweet!
Complimentary Diamond status, which gives me access to priority parking at Hilton properties (nice when it's cold out!), 100% bonus points, room upgrades.
Unlimited Priority Pass airport lounge access. This is a bit of an overlap with another card, but whatever.
$250 in airline fees (of which I will use every penny of!)
Now that I’m done justifying (mostly to myself) why I upgraded my card with an insane annual fee, here’s what I did.
We made reservations from Friday to Tuesday, checking in Friday and leaving Tuesday at the Homewood Suites by Hilton Mont-Tremblant Resort. The original cost was 252,000 points for a queen studio. After we booked our room, we had to change our plans a bit and move the days to Saturday to Wednesday. I called the Hilton awards line to make the changes and was pleasantly surprised to learn that although the points went up slightly on Saturday, from 60,000 to 67,000, the points went down significantly on the other days from 60,000 to 51,000. I can put the points I saved towards future nights on another trip! Total points used: 220,000. What it would have cost in dollars: $650 just for the room (without taxes). So having paid with the points I received from upgrading the card basically offset the $450 annual card fee.
Although I get a free weekend night annually with my upgraded credit card I didn’t use it for this trip. Why? Because I'm saving it for another trip!
Pro tip: When you make reservations with Hilton, if the points drop for the price of your room after you book, you can actually call the Awards line and request that they change your reservation to reflect the new points value, and save yourself tons of points! Conversely, if the points go up, you’re gonna pay more if you have to change!
I recently wrote about our ski vacation we took to Deer Valley Utah and saving money on lift tickets by purchasing a multiple resort ski pass such as IKON, Epic, Mountain Collective or Powder Alliance. The pass costs about the same as a season pass to a single resort. Depending on the level of pass you buy, you get access to a bunch of different ski resorts across the U.S. and some other ski resorts throughout the world. We bought IKON Base Passes (at $599 each on the early season deal). That’s not the highest level of pass, but it still gives us access to 38 ski resorts, including unlimited skiing at Tremblant in Canada.
Window passes* at Tremblant are $99/day. For three days of skiing, it would be nearly $300 a person. Although the IKON pass was $600 per person, we’ve already paid for the passes by using them at Deer Valley which has a window pass rate of $180/day! Yikes!
*Window passes are lift tickets purchased directly at the ticket window on the mountain.
Bonus – At Tremblant, you don’t have to go to the ticket window to show your IKON pass to get a lift ticket – you go directly to the lift – Yay!
Double Bonus – our IKON passes get us 10% off retail, food and beverage purchases on mountain at Tremblant – Super yay! (it’s still not cheap, but I’ll take what I can get!)
Sure, I used points from buying stuff on my credit card with a high annual fee, but I was going to buy that stuff anyway and I feel like I’m getting more than enough value from upgrading my card to justify the cost. As for the cost of the lift ticket, well, the whole point of the IKON pass is to use it as much as possible. So, I’m doing my best to hit as many ski resorts on my pass as I can schedule!
Well, you might ask, what about food and drink costs? Great question - I'll let you know when we get back!