“Mountain Memories: How I Used Miles and Points to Save a Ton of Money on a Ski Trip!”

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“Mountain Memories:   How I Used Miles and Points to Save a Ton of Money on a Ski Trip!”

Chris“Mountain Memories:   How I Used Miles and Points to Save a Ton of Money on a Ski Trip!”Million Mile Secrets Team

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Want to get your adrenaline flowing on some of the best mountains in the US?  You can, and it’s easier than you think!

Million Mile Secrets contributor Chris recently returned from a ski trip to Colorado.  I’ve asked him to share how he used miles and points to make it happen.

Chris:   Thanks, Daraius!  I had a fantastic trip to Colorado.  And I booked most of it using Chase Ultimate Rewards points earned from my Chase Sapphire ReserveChase Freedom, and Chase Ink Business Preferred cards.

I love the flexibility of Chase Ultimate Rewards and that they can be used for flights, lodging, and other experiences!

Mountain Memories How I Used Miles And Points To Save A Ton Of Money On A Ski Trip
Just 5 Guys Enjoying the Mountains!

I’ll show you how I booked an amazing ski trip and how you can do the same!

Free Flights to Denver

After deciding on taking a trip to Breckenridge, Colorado, the first step was to book flights.  Within the US, I love flying Southwest.  Southwest has incredible customer service, no change fees, and allows 2 free checked bags.  I took the trip with 4 friends, so this alone saved us up to $250 in checked baggage fees!

Using Southwest.com for booking is easy.  The site shows all of the flight options on a single page and makes it easy to change the requested dates.  I was able to find direct flights and book in less than 5 minutes!

Mountain Memories How I Used Miles And Points To Save A Ton Of Money On A Ski Trip
Just ~25,000 Southwest Points and ~$11 Will Have You on the Mountain in No Time!

After confirming the flights I wanted, I logged-in to my Chase Ultimate Rewards account to transfer 25,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest.  The transfer occurs instantly and the points were reflected on Southwest.com moments later.

The outbound flight from Baltimore to Denver arrived at ~10:30 am, so we were able to get a half day on the mountain even with the travel.

Ground Transportation in Style

With the flights booked, I next looked into a rental car.  Breckenridge, Colorado is a ~2-hour drive from the Denver airport, so if you plan to visit, you’ll definitely need to rent a car or book an airport transfer service.

I chose to book a rental car to have more flexibility while in Breckenridge.  A few weeks before booking, I received free Hertz President’s Circle status thanks to a tip from a Million Mile Secrets post, so I was eager to put it to use!  I logged-in to the Ultimate Rewards travel portal to check out the car prices.

Mountain Memories How I Used Miles And Points To Save A Ton Of Money On A Ski Trip
4,356 Points per day for an Intermediate Car. Yikes!

The prices on the Ultimate Rewards travel portal were less than stellar.  The total cost of a 5-day rental was 21,780 Chase Ultimate Rewards points – almost the same price as the round-trip flight!

Keep in mind, with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1.5 cents per point.  If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink Business Preferred card, your Chase Ultimate Rewards are worth 1.25 cents per point, so the car rental would have been even more.  But either way, Chase Ultimate Rewards are valuable, so you want find good way to use them!

Not wanting to pay so many points, I decided to check out the pricing on Hertz.com.  A few years ago, after reading a Million Mile Secrets post on car rentals, I became a USAA member.  While mostly known for offering services to members of the military and their families, anyone can join USAA to take advantage of some of their features, like discounts on car rentals!

Mountain Memories How I Used Miles And Points To Save A Ton Of Money On A Ski Trip
If You’re a USAA Member, You Can Get Some Serious Car Rental Discounts

With the USAA discount, I was able to book the same rental car for just $148!  Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth at least 1.5 cents per point to me, so this was a much better deal than paying 21,780 points!

Mountain Memories How I Used Miles And Points To Save A Ton Of Money On A Ski Trip
It Pays to Shop Around! This Was a Much Better Deal Than Using the Ultimate Rewards Portal

I paid for the rental car with my Chase Sapphire Reserve card which earns 3X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on travel purchases.  It also comes with primary rental insurance coverage for collisions and damage.

You can also find cheap rental cars through Costco or by using sites like Autoslash.

Ski-In, Ski-Out Lodging

Unfortunately, there are limited hotel options in Breckenridge.  But part of the appeal is the small, secluded, mountain-town environment.  Plus, I prefer to stay in a house directly on the mountain with ski-in, ski-out access.

Using Summitrentals.com, I found a 2-bedroom, 2-bath condo on the slopes for just $1,237 for 4 nights. This equates to ~$309 per night ($1,237 / 4 nights) and a total of ~$247 ($1,237 / 5 people) per person.

Mountain Memories How I Used Miles And Points To Save A Ton Of Money On A Ski Trip
Just ~$247 per Person for 5 Nights!

My buddies and I split the cost of the house, but if you’re looking to take a similar trip, this is a great opportunity to use a cash back credit card to lower the cost.  Cash back cards like the Citi Double Cash Card, which offers 1% cash back when you make the purchase and another 1% cash back when you pay at least the minimum payment, can help offset housing costs when you can’t otherwise redeem points.

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard, which allows you to “erase” travel purchases at an effective rate of 2 cents per mile, is also a good option.  For this, there is a minimum redemption of $100 (10,000 Arrival miles).

The condo itself was cozy and located just off of the longest trail on the mountain.

Mountain Memories How I Used Miles And Points To Save A Ton Of Money On A Ski Trip
The Beautiful Mountain View From Our Patio!

The condo had a living room, dining room, and kitchen on the lower level.  And the 2 bedrooms and bathrooms were located upstairs.

Mountain Memories How I Used Miles And Points To Save A Ton Of Money On A Ski Trip
Our 2-Level Condo. The Skis on the Wall Were Just for Show.

The kitchen was well equipped and served us well for the 5 days.

Mountain Memories How I Used Miles And Points To Save A Ton Of Money On A Ski Trip
With 5 Guys Cooking Breakfast and Lunch Each day, This Kitchen Saw a Lot of Use!

Bonus:   A Sweet New Addition to the Priority Pass

While waiting in the Denver airport to board our return flight, I checked out the Priority Pass website to see if there were any lounges available.  To my surprise, I saw that the Timberline Steaks and Grille had been added!

Normally, Priority Pass gives you access to airport lounges.  But in this case, the Priority Pass card holder and each guest receive a $28 meal credit at a great restaurant!

Mountain Memories How I Used Miles And Points To Save A Ton Of Money On A Ski Trip
Yum! $28 in Meal Credits Is a Great Deal!

Because I have a Priority Pass Select membership through my Chase Sapphire Reserve card, guests are free, and there is no limit to the number of guests I can bring to a lounge!  Keep in mind, according to the terms, if the lounge is full, your guests could be denied entry.

We went straight to the restaurant and were not disappointed.

Mountain Memories How I Used Miles And Points To Save A Ton Of Money On A Ski Trip
Plenty of Available Seats Here!

We started off with a round of coffee and Baileys Irish Cream.

Mountain Memories How I Used Miles And Points To Save A Ton Of Money On A Ski Trip
Coffee, Whipped Cream, and a Little Bit of Baileys

Next up were the main breakfast entrees.

I had a massive southwest omelet and a side of home fries.

Mountain Memories How I Used Miles And Points To Save A Ton Of Money On A Ski Trip
Nobody Left this Meal Hungry!

My friend Shawn also ordered the southwest omelet and asked for a side of pancakes.

Mountain Memories How I Used Miles And Points To Save A Ton Of Money On A Ski Trip
No Small Pancakes Here. These Were Huge!

My other friend Pat ordered the steak and eggs combo.

Mountain Memories How I Used Miles And Points To Save A Ton Of Money On A Ski Trip
Protein, Anyone?

Overall, the meal was fantastic, particularly for an airport restaurant.  We took our time and spent about an hour and a half enjoying the food and conversation.

And better yet, when the bill arrived, all of the food was completely covered by the Priority Pass credit!  We left a cash tip and walked out feeling incredible.

Mountain Memories How I Used Miles And Points To Save A Ton Of Money On A Ski Trip
The Only Thing This Meal Cost Was a Nice Tip!

Double Bonus:   A Fresh Powder Day at Breckenridge

For any ski or snowboard enthusiasts, I want to show 2 quick videos from the trip.  Breckenridge is an amazing mountain and much better than anything out on the East Coast, but the conditions on the first few days were slightly below par for Colorado standards.

In this video, the trail is a little bare and icy.  This makes the ride fast but hard to control.

 

 

 

 

 

This next video was shot on our last day.  We got at least 10 inches of fresh powder and the runs were incredible!  In some places, the snow drifts were even several feet tall, which you can see at the end of the next video.

 

 

 

 

 

Keep in mind, you can use cash back cards like the Citi Double Cash Card to help pay for your lift tickets and passes.

Bottom Line

I had an amazing trip out to Colorado.

Using Chase Ultimate Rewards points from cards like Chase Sapphire ReserveChase Freedom, and Chase Ink Business Preferred is a great way to save a ton of money on flights, hotels, and rental cars.  I was able to take a round-trip flight for ~25,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points and just ~$11 in fees!

And if you are staying at a vacation rental or condo that doesn’t accept miles and points, you can still use a cash back card like the Citi Double Cash Card or a travel card like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard to offset the cost.

Where will you hit the slopes this winter?

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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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Be careful telling people they can use Barclay Arrival to redeem for a condo–it all depends on how it is coded! You might get in trouble if it doesn’t code as travel or goes through an individual. We have used Barclay a lot for AirBNB and never had any trouble, but rentals through VRBO usually don’t work.

Good point, Holly!

Yes, VRBO does not code as travel, but some other rental agencies do. If in doubt, it is always best to call to confirm!

I love Brek and always try to do a few long weekends there a year. The worst part is the lift tickets though, even if you fork out for an EPIC pass up front.
How did you get a half day skiing in the first day? Seems like you wouldn’t have gotten to the mountain until 1 and that doesnt seem worth the hassle and cost for a few hours of skiing.
The Doubletree Breckenridge isnt a fancy hotel, but can be a good deal for 60k points a night when prices are often over $500 a night. But i do like a condo when there are more than 2 people though.
Doesnt seem like you used a lot of points on this trip and had some out of pocket expenses, but still a good time.

We were on the mountain by 12:30 thanks to the early flight and quick rental car pickup. Everyone has already purchased an Epic pass so we were eager to get as much time on the slopes as possible!
We definitely had a few out of pocket expenses on this trip, but the miles definitely help to save money on the flight and provide some cash back on the other expenses.