While some die-hard snow lovers may decide to become ski or snowboard bums, others are simply looking for ways to save a little money when they hit the slopes this winter.
Whether you’re planning an epic ski trip to a faraway destination or just want to save a little cash on the local hill, use these strategies to keep more hard-earned money in your pocket while you’re chasing the powder.
1. Find the Right Mountain
Deciding where to go for your ski vacation is the first key to saving money. Of course, staying close to home helps you save money on gas and lodging, but if you want to head out of town, consider heading to a smaller-name ski hill.
Sometimes the big-name resorts have smaller options nearby that also offer great skiing or snowboarding. For example, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming is known as one of the best ski resorts in the U.S., named by SKI Magazine as the top North American resort in 2013. However, it’s not cheap. During the peak season, a one-day adult ticket costs $121 at the ticket window ($109 online).
Just a few miles away, Snow King (known locally as the “Town Hill”) offers adult single-day passes for $47, with the option of a two-hour pass for $25. You can buy an adult season pass at Snow King for $349 — the cost of just a few days of skiing at Jackson Hole. Smaller resorts often have shorter lift lines, but they also typically have fewer runs, lifts and amenities.
2. Save on Extra Expenses
All the little expenses on your trip will add up. Eating slopeside at ritzy restaurants or grabbing a latte in between runs will quickly boost the cost of your day on the slopes. To save, bring your own snacks and a thermos full of coffee or hot chocolate.
Carpooling out to the resort or taking public transit are both money-saving options. Many resorts offer free or reduced-price parking for carpoolers. Going with another family and splitting expenses (driving together, staying in a rental cabin instead of renting two hotel rooms, etc.) can be a fun cost saver as well.
Also, if both families don’t want to ski every day, you can share gear and take turns using it. But before renting gear, consider buying and reselling it — you could save even more money.
3. Pick the Right Time of Year
Holidays are prime time for ski resorts. Save money and avoid the crowds by going at off-peak times. Earlier in the season is often less expensive, though snow can be unpredictable and many times only part of the mountain will be open.
Tickets are not always the same price every day of the ski season. At Jackson Hole, tickets range from $83 at the beginning of the season to $121 during the holidays. Lower rates are available if you purchase the tickets online in advance (as opposed to showing up at the ticket window).
4. Buy in Bulk
The more days you ski, the less you pay per ski day. A 10-day adult lift ticket at Jackson Hole costs $965, which adds up to a savings of $12.50 per day (as opposed to buying 10 one-day tickets).
5. Be Realistic
Be honest with yourself about your abilities. Sure, you may want to head out for a full day on the slopes, but after eight months of not skiing, are your legs ready for that? Or would you be happier purchasing a half-day afternoon ticket for a lower price?
Another option, if you’re not ready to crush the powder, is to consider getting a beginner lift ticket when available and fine-tuning your turns on the mellowest slopes. Even at pricey Jackson Hole, an adult all-day beginner ticket is only $30 ($16 with a child) and kids’ tickets are just $16.
6. Choose Discount Tickets and Packages
Lift ticket and lodging packages are often great deals. Many hotels in ski towns negotiate special deals with resorts to offer ski ticket at reduced or subsidized prices. Typically, you have to schedule these packages well ahead of time, so look into this option early to find the best deals before booking lodging or purchasing lift tickets.
In Colorado and other areas, some grocery stores sell discount lift ticket packages. Check with any auto clubs or other membership-based associations you belong to in order to see if they have specials.
7. Consider Season Passes
If you’re planning on doing a lot of skiing or snowboarding on one mountain, it often makes sense to get a season pass. Do the math by adding up your ideal number of ski days and the cost of that many lift tickets versus the season pass to see whether one makes sense for you.
These passes often come with additional benefits, such as complimentary bus passes, ski lessons, summer discounts and savings on food and retail items. Some even offer discount tickets at other resorts. Season passes for seniors, college students and kids are usually less expensive.
The earlier you buy, the better the deal you’ll often find. The best time to buy is in the spring, right after the last ski season ends. Prices often go up in the summer, then again in the fall. Tickets during ski season are typically the most expensive.
8. Look Into Multi-Mountain Passes
If you plan on traveling to different resorts during the season, consider a multi-mountain pass such as The Mountain Collective. This pass, which costs $399 for adults and $99 for kids, offers two free days at each of the seven participating resorts, as well as 50% off additional tickets for the passholder at those resorts.
Multi-mountain passes like this one can be a good deal even if you plan on skiing only at one resort. Look at the costs and do the math to see whether they’re worthwhile for you. For example, skiing for six days or more means it makes sense to purchase the Mountain Collective pass instead of individual day passes at these pricey resorts.
Your Turn: What’s your favorite strategy to save money on ski and snowboard trips?
Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.