Ski Trips for Less

There’s a nip in the air, and that means ski season is just around the corner. Skiing is an expensive hobby—here’s how to get on the slopes without putting the freeze on your bank account.

Surf before you ski

Remember that buying a same-day lift ticket at the resort’s ticket window is the most expensive option. Before you get to the mountain, go to the resort’s website to look for online deals, or visit ticket discounters like Liftopia or GetSkiTickets for date-specific deals.

Consider a package

If you don’t own skis and could benefit from some instruction, a package—which includes rentals, a lift ticket and a lesson—is often the most affordable option. Resorts offer many variations (one-hour, half-day, group, private, etc.), so you can choose the package that works best for you.

Consider a package, part II

If you’re skiing for more than one day, look for a vacation package that includes accommodations, lift tickets and perhaps even airfare, if you’re not within driving distance. is a good place to start.

Go shopping

Many grocery stores, such as King Soopers in Colorado, as well as some REI and Costco locations, sell discounted lift tickets for local resorts. If you’re renting skis at a rental shop, be sure to ask if they have discounted passes as well.

Fill ‘er up

Some Shell stations in California and other western states will give you a voucher for a free ski pass if you buy at least 10 gallons of gas.

Look into school discounts

Have kids? Many resorts let very small children (under 5 or 6) ski free, but older kids can also get in on the action. Several states offer deals that give grade school students a limited number of free passes to participating resorts. These programs include I Ski NY’s Free for Kids Passport (3rd and 4th graders), Ski Vermont’s Fifth Grade Passport, Colorado Ski Country USA’s 5th Grade Passport program (6th graders can get a similar passport for $99), Ski Utah’s 5th and 6th Grade Passport program, Pennsylvania Ski Areas Association’s 4th/5th Grade Snowpass, Go Ski Michigan’s Cold is Cool Ski & Ride Passport (4th and 5th graders), Maine’s WinterKids Passport (5th, 6th and 7th graders), Ski NH’s SnowSports Passport (4th and 5th graders) and Ski Idaho’s Ski Free Passport (5th and 6th graders). Most of these passports carry a small processing fee—from $11–$35—and require proof of the child’s school grade. They can also only be used when accompanied by a paying adult (some allow each paying adult to bring two passport holders). In most cases, you do not need to be a resident of the state to buy a passport.

Capitalize on your student status

Many resorts offer specially priced season passes for college students. Also available are multi-resort passes: Ski Colorado offers three different passes just for college students, ranging from $359 to $439; the $359 College New England Pass includes Sunday River and Sugarloaf in Maine and Loon in New Hampshire; Four.0 The College Pass includes unlimited skiing at Killington, Pico Mountain, Okemo and Mount Sunapee in Vermont for $379; the Epic Local College Pass includes skiing at several Colorado resorts as well as some in Utah and California for $529. Don’t think you ski enough for a season pass? Don’t be so sure—with single-day lift tickets averaging around $100, you could break even in as few as four visits.

Avoid the big boys

There are a handful of ski resorts that everyone knows, but for every crowd favorite there’s a nearby hidden gem. These secret snow stashes may be smaller, harder to get to or less packed with amenities, but could very well offer a better deal (and shorter lines). Think Loveland rather than Vail in Colorado, Brian Head Resort instead of Snowbird in Utah, Bridger Bowl instead of Big Sky in Montana, Mad River Glen instead of Killington in Vermont.

Book through your employer

If you work for a company that offers an employee discount program such as Corporate Perks, Working Advantage, Plum Benefits, PerkSpot or Corporate Offers, check for ski deals.

Beware the blackouts

Almost every ski resort charges more (or disallows deals) during high periods such as holiday weekends. Ski on off-weekends or during the week for the best prices.

Rent long-term

If you don’t own equipment and think you’ll be skiing more than 10 days this winter, consider leasing equipment for the season. You can probably find a package deal for $200-$300, which will save you from renting each time for $30-$50 a pop, not to mention the hassle of waiting to be fitted each time.

Ride the bus

If you live within a few hours’ drive of a ski resort, check to see if any local bus companies run a ski shuttle. Fares are typically super cheap, and you get the luxury of sleeping on the way home.

Join a club

No matter what city you live in, chances are there’s at least one local ski club. If you join (there’s usually a small membership fee), you’ll not only meet like-minded members at regular meetings but also have access to group rates on trips, lift tickets and other perks.

Wait for spring

Even though you’ll find some of the best skiing in March and beyond, ski resorts slash prices for lift tickets at the end of the season, with many offering spring passes good for unlimited skiing though the closing date, priced as low as $99.

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