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How to get to the Rocky Mountains on points

Major airlines offer myriad ways to fly to the Rockies’ top destinations using miles


My family visits the Rocky Mountains every year. Here are my tips on how you can use points to head out West for a fresh breath of mountain air, whether to see the golden aspen leaves in the fall, ski the slopes in the winter or go for a hike in spring and summer.

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The mountains have been one of my favorite getaways since I was a little girl, when my dad began taking me to Beaver Creek, a ski town outside of Vail, Colorado.

He explained to me how the Rocky Mountains of Colorado were one of the few places where he could clear his mind, and as I grew up, I began to agree.

You just can’t beat the crisp, clear air, the deep blue skies, the calming music of a gurgling mountain stream and of course the gorgeous peaks of this mountain chain that runs from Canada to New Mexico.

My family visits the Colorado portion of these jagged peaks nearly every year, usually outside of the winter months when we can hike, white-water raft, ride horses and simply take in the stunning views. It’s like a healing balm after a busy year.

Here are my tips on how you, too, can make your way out West for a fresh breath of mountain air, whether to see the golden aspen leaves in the fall, ski the slopes in the winter or go for a hike in spring and summer.

See related:  Using points for a ski resort vacation

Southwest Airlines

Southwest is my favorite way to get to the Rockies, largely because we hold a Southwest Companion Pass every year, which lets one of our family members fly entirely free (aside from the mandatory $5.60 government security fees). It’s a deal you can’t beat, and it saves us a ton.

We almost always book the rest of our fares on Southwest points as well, making our alpine adventure uber affordable. I like to keep our Southwest points balance full through bonuses, anniversary points and spending on Southwest’s personal and business credit cards. We also use the airline’s Rapid Rewards shopping portal and book hotels through SouthwestHotels.com.

I also like to use the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, which earn double and triple points respectively on dining and travel, and transfer directly to Southwest Rapid Rewards.

Southwest flies to several destinations within the Rockies. We usually start in Denver and drive west to towns like Aspen, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek and Telluride, Colorado. Colorado Springs is another favorite, with great activities like hiking Pikes Peak, wandering through the otherworldly Garden of the Gods or meandering through the Cave of the Winds.

Other Southwest destinations in the region include Spokane, Washington, which is a great spot to make your way to Montana’s Glacier National Park. You can also visit Albuquerque for New Mexico’s portion of the mountains, as well as Boise, Idaho, and Salt Lake City.

See related:  5 reasons to use your rewards points for travel now

American Airlines

American flies to some destinations closer to the Rockies than Southwest, including Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Bozeman, Montana; Montrose, Colorado (the closest airport to Telluride); Aspen; Durango, Colorado; and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

While standard award fares on American cost 25,000 miles round trip if you’re flying 500 or more miles, there are ways to score a cheaper award seat on the airline. American now offers economy web specials exclusively on its website, and they’re less than the standard award fares. However, these can be a bit difficult to come across.

American’s Reduced Mileage Awards program is a good way to save on rewards flights. If you hold select American credit cards like the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World EliteTM Mastercard® and the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®, you can get a discount of up to 7,500 miles per round-trip flight for flights you book from your account.

The discount is good only on select destinations, which change by the month. But Rocky Mountain-area destinations like Aspen, Eagle, Vail and Montrose, Colorado, Jackson Hole, Bozeman and Boise, are frequently included.

Some interesting ways to earn American miles in addition to holding American Airlines credit cards include booking dog-walking or pet-sitting through Rover, opting for a BankDirect Mileage Checking account or taking out a loan with LendingClub.

See related:  How to win with dynamic award pricing, and make the most of your airline miles

Delta Air Lines

These days, I’m really excited about options to fly Delta using miles. The airline regularly has amazing deals on rewards flights during flash sales, dropping as low as 5,000 miles per way within the U.S. That puts Delta’s fares more in line with what I can often find on Southwest.

Of course, Delta flies to many amazing destinations around the world, including those in the Rocky Mountains like Steamboat Springs, Eagle and Vail, Colorado; Casper and Cody, Wyoming; West Yellowstone, Montana; Calgary, Alberta, and many more.

Plus, Delta has some unique ways to earn SkyMiles in addition to Delta credit cards, including booking Airbnbs through a special Delta website, connecting utility bills in certain states to your SkyMiles account and even buying tickets through Ticketmaster.

What Rocky Mountain destination is on your bucket list? Are you saving miles and points to get there?

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