“Mountain Memories: How I Used Miles and Points to Save a Ton of Money on a Ski Trip!”
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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 Reserve, Chase Freedom, and Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card cards.
I love the flexibility of Chase Ultimate Rewards and that they can be used for flights, lodging, and other experiences!
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!
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.
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 Card or Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit 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!
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!
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.
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.
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 2% cash back; 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.
The condo had a living room, dining room, and kitchen on the lower level. And the 2 bedrooms and bathrooms were located upstairs.
The kitchen was well equipped and served us well for the 5 days.
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!
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.
We started off with a round of coffee and Baileys Irish Cream.
Next up were the main breakfast entrees.
I had a massive southwest omelet and a side of home fries.
My friend Shawn also ordered the southwest omelet and asked for a side of pancakes.
My other friend Pat ordered the steak and eggs combo.
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.
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.
I had an amazing trip out to Colorado.
Using Chase Ultimate Rewards points from cards like Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase 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?
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! :)