For the last four winters, my family has taken a ski trip to Colorado. Each year, we like to try a different mountain. Each year since 2011, we have stayed for free on these ski trips.
How? With Starwood Points! AND by booking the hotel early!
There are many Starwood Resorts in the Colorado ski towns all of which require, what I believe to be, very few points for free night awards. Also, when you book a room at a Starwood resort, if you book four nights, the 5th night is free. Lastly, there are no black out dates. So even though we travel during very busy school break weeks, as long as the hotel has availability, we can book the room on points.
In 2011, we skied at Beaver Creek. We stayed for a week at the Sheraton Mountain Vista Villas (SPG Category 5) in Avon. The hotel was nice, and the one bedroom suite that we stayed in was 12,000 – 16,000 points per night. Cant remember exactly right now and my account activity does not go back that far :-). The rate for the one bedroom suite would have been about $300 per night, and you also get the 5th night free. So by using Starwood points, we saved about $1,800. (300 per night for 6 nights) However, the hotel was not ski in/ski out, each day we had to get on a bus for 5 minutes to get to the mountain. Not a big deal, and you know the expression about beggars? The hotel was free, we were in Colorado, my family was just psyched to be there! It got better moving forward……
In 2012, we stayed in Avon once again and took it up a notch. We stayed at the Westin Riverfront Mountain Villas (SPG Category 6) and drove to ski at Vail each day, an easy 15 minute drive and easy parking! Ok, there is a gondola from the hotel that takes you to the base of Beaver Creek, but we skied at Beaver Creek in 2011, and we were there to try something new! We had a studio suite for about 16,000 starpoints per night. It would have cost conservatively about $400 per night, so we saved abut $2,400.
The Westin Riverfront is amazing. The villas are new and modern as is the hotel. Rob says that the gym is the best one he has been to in any hotel. It is huge! The spa and pool are gorgeous and the lobby is a hot spot for apres ski with live music. It is located in Avon which has lots of restaurants, a supermarket, etc. and the hotel has a gondola that takes you to Beaver Creek Village. We love it here and have stayed here other times. We stayed here last summer and Rob stays here on his annual MLK weekend ski trip with our boys to Beaver Creek.
2013 we went to Snowmass, CO and finally stayed in a Ski in/Ski out resort! We stayed at the Westin Snowmass Resort (SPG Category 5) for a mere 12,000 points per night. Granted we had a standard room (one son does not mind sleeping on the cot), but we were ski in/ski out, it was totally worth it!!!! This hotel is also really really nice. It reminds me a little of the Westin Riverfront in Avon. It is very modern with a great apres-ski lively lobby. The rooms are big and the location can’t be beat. You basically get your skis at the ski valet, put them on, and ski down a little hill to the lift at the base of Snowmass Village. This room also would have cost about $400 per night, so again we saved about $2,400 by staying on Starwood points. Yay me!
We headed to Steamboat in 2014. There we stayed at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort (SPG Category 5) for again just 12,000 points per night! We had a standard room (yes again we squished but beggars….), but yet again, this hotel was ski in/ski out! and the location of the hotel was amazing. From the hotel ski valet, you can ski to a few lifts or take a 1 minute walk to the gondola. Coming back, you ski down to the hotel ski valet.
Although I did like the Westin Riverfront and the Snowmass Westin better than this hotel, I still really liked this hotel. It also was modern, it had a beautiful view of the mountain from the lobby. The lobby was happening every night with food and live music and most importantly, Rob was happy with the gym. 🙂 A stay here would cost conservatively $400 per night as well for the standard room, so chalk up another $2,400 in saving for my family!
One common technique that I used in booking all of the above free hotel stays was that I BOOKED EARLY! These hotels do sell out, especially over school breaks. Sometimes I book a Starwood hotel on points even before I know we are definitely going to that hotel. There is no downside to doing this as the cancellation policy is a day or 2 before. It is easy to cancel the reservation online and once you do so, your Starwood points are immediately deposited back into your account.
Also, don’t get immediately discouraged if you go to book your Starwood hotel with points on the website and the site is saying there is no availability for your dates. Call them up! I have found that there are some other point redemption options available when I have called and spoken with a live person. The number to call is 888-625-4988.
Lastly, I should note that Starwood has recently changed how the SPG program is structured and they have raised the number of points needed to stay at some of their hotels. This means that you may not get some of the same point redemption rates that I got over these last four years, but I bet it will still be a pretty good deal. If you are a family that skis, keep earning those Starwood Points!