We just got home after an amazing week out in the mountains of Utah. As we are currently experiencing our worst winter snow-wise in 60 years at home (not just a feeling, there are measurable statistics about the lack of snowfall) we were very excited about spending the week in Utah on some natural and hopefully fluffy snow. For the first part of the trip a couple of our friends joined us and then some family and their friends joined for the second half of the trip.
The week started out great with fresh snow on our first full day out there. After reviewing the mountain reports we decided to spend our first day at Brighton. The mountain was reporting 12 inches of snow but as some of this actually fell the day before it really was like 5 fresh inches of snow. Considering our abysmal winter back home this was a wonderful way to start the trip.
The rest of our days we spent at Snowbird. One of our friends got hurt on the first day so he unfortunately didn’t get to ride the rest of the week. Our other friend also hurt his knee early on so Mr. SFF and I had a couple of days just the two of us. Although Mr. SFF has been skiing since he was 2 years old I can almost keep up with him on my snowboard. Well, at least better than any of the other women in our group of ski friends (he said he won the wife lottery). We really are each other’s favorite ski buddies so we had a blast together even though we missed our friends who were back at the ski house.
Wednesday was by far our best day. The forecast was only calling for 1-2 inches but by the time the lifts opened 6 inches had fallen. The best thing about surprise mid-week storms that come just before the lifts open is that locals may not have made up to the mountain so the lines were very manageable. The winds were a little high for the first couple of hours but then the wind died down, the sun came out, and additional trails started opening. We had the most incredible timing where around noon as we got to the top another section of the mountain would open. For 4 incredible runs in a row we had full top-to-bottom skiing in untracked snow, in addition to the great fresh and wind blown snow we had been skiing for a few hours already. It was incredible! Even though it was only 6 inches of snow, this turned out to be my best day on snow ever. This truly made the vacation for me. We are both just dreaming of doing this all the time once we reach FI.
We didn’t get any measurable snow the rest of the week but our family and their friends showed up on Thursday so there was great company and many laughs in addition to some more time on snow.
The Cost Breakdown
As we have this big FI goal we were very conscious about this trip and how much money we were spending and tried our best to keep our costs in check. Airfare is usually one of the big ticket items when heading on a vacation. Last year we actually ended up cancelling a trip to Revelstoke, BC because they were not getting any snow and we were getting pounded with snow back at home (the opposite of this year). This turned out to be a great decision as we had the most amazing stay-cation and we saved a ton of money on lift tickets by going to our home mountain. We still had the vouchers for airfare from this trip so our flight costs to Utah were slightly reduced. We were charged $200 per ticket as a rebooking fee (obscenely high in my opinion) plus the difference in the cost of the flights but it still was less than full price.
Another big expense for trip is the lodging and here is where we scored the biggest savings. For the first night we stayed with a local friend in the valley to help acclimate to the altitude before heading up to an aunt and uncle’s house which is slopeside between Snowbird and Alta. The house is huge and can sleep a lot of people so there was plenty of room for all of us. So not only did we have luxurious accommodations, but they were right on the slopes, free, and had an amazing view!
Our relatives have a car that stays at the house so this meant that we also had transportation without the cost of a car rental. Another huge savings. This enabled us to go down to the valley whenever needed and we only had to pay a little in gas.
Next for a ski vacation is the cost of tickets and we scored some savings in this category as well. Mr. SFF’s local friend is a huge skier and has a friend who is a ski instructor. She has two amazing passes which offer 30 days at each of the 4 major mountains that she lends out to her clients and friends at a discounted price. She didn’t have any Alta days left but we were able to use the passes for either Brighton or Snowbird at the cost of what a 3 day ticket would normally cost. The only caveat was that we had to pay for the tickets for all 7 days, regardless of whether they were used, because there was no way to get them to someone else. As we both planned on skiing/riding every day this wasn’t a big deal. I ended up tweaking my knee on Saturday and skipped Sunday so this was the only day lost but even with this, the cost savings was good.
Our food costs were slightly higher than what we would have spent if we were at home as there were some dining out costs but we did our best to keep them in check. The first night we treated our friend to dinner out as a thank you for letting us crash at his house the first night. We also went out Tuesday night as an old high school friend lives in town as I hadn’t seen her and her husband for 6 years but they were so gracious and picked up this tab. Other than that we went to the grocery store and cooked all of our meals or brought food on the trails with us for the entire week. We even planned ahead when we left for the trip and had enough food on our flight out to avoid any airport food. Heading home our supplies were a little low (only some trail mix left) so we both bought lunch at the airport.
The last of the expenses was the transportation back to the airport from the ski house and from the airport to our home. Our friends had picked us up when we arrived in Salt Lake but as everyone in the house was leaving on the same day we hired a shuttle to take us to the airport. My mom was supposed to pick us up at the airport when we got home (she had dropped us off the week before) but she was home sick with a terrible cold so we took a cab.
Airfare: $534.24 (after using vouchers from last year)
Checked bags: $100
Dining out with friends: $79.91
Ski tickets: $880 (or $62.86 per person for 7 days-regular full price is $98)
Shuttle to airport with tip: $82
Airport food: $35.01
Taxi cab home with tip: $24
Not bad for a full week of fun on the slopes. Once we hit FI or at least a semi-retirement we would love to come out west so we can enjoy conditions like this more often. Although I am not sure if I would want to move to Salt Lake City full time I could see staying for a couple of months and being ski bums. We could either do short term rentals through AirBNB or get an RV and stay in a year round RV camps wherever the best snow is falling, whether it is Utah, Tahoe or British Columbia. For now it is back to the daily grind at work while I dream of being a financially free ski bum.