Yay! It’s ski season! Boo! Skiing is expensive! Even if you have your own equipment, the cost of lift tickets, meals and lodging can sometimes make you feel like you have to take out a loan for a ski trip. So, here are a few ideas to maximize value and minimize expenses of a weekend ski trip for two people. There are many more ways to save, so by thinking a bit strategically you won’t have to take out a second mortgage to have a great ski weekend. Here’s to happy trails….!
1. Go on a non-holiday weekend
The prices are usually a bit cheaper and the mountain is less crowded. Depending on where you live, a holiday weekend lift ticket can run over $100/day whereas a non-holiday pass is often under $100. Not much of a savings you say? Hey, every little bit counts.
2. Where to stay:
If there is a hotel chain near the mountain and you belong to their loyalty program, you can use points to pay for the room. Breakfast may be included so you’ll also save there.
Bed & Breakfasts are very popular and some may offer discounted lift tickets to boot. Delicious breakfasts are almost always included. Prices can vary widely, but if you go on a non-holiday weekend, it may be less. The average cost of a B & B’s near some popular east coast resorts, is about $150-$175/night. Also, look for B & B deals on Groupon, Living Social, etc.
Airbnb rentals may be available depending on where you are, and that can also be a value.
If you don’t own your equipment, renting the whole ski kit with lift ticket could cost roughly $150. If you are considering buying skis, ski shops on and near mountains let you demo ski for about $20-$60, depending on the specific deal. If you buy skis, the cost of the demo usually goes towards the purchase of your skis.
4. Lift tickets:
Multi packs: Buying a 3, 4 or 6 pack of tickets can reduce the overall per ticket cost by about 25%. Also, many ski areas offer discounts for students and senior citizens. Keep in mind that multipacks may work better if you have your own equipment or are renting off site. If you rent equipment on the mountain, there may be a different discount available on rental/lift packages.
Ticket consolidators: Liftopia.com is a website that sells lift tickets to mountains all over the US, and other parts of the world, at a discounted price generally. If you’re a subscriber, they sometimes offer online coupons for additional discounts.
Advance purchase tickets: It’s an option if you know you’re definitely going to ski, since tickets might not be refundable. Check the policy at each ski area.
Frequent skier cards: If you know you’re going to ski at the same mountain a lot, you might want to buy a card that allows you significant discounts – anywhere from 25%-50% off. One mountain I checked even gives you every 6th visit free with the purchase of the card.
Lift ticket and lunch. You might also find deals that include a not only your lift ticket, but also a lunch voucher for maybe $10 or $20 to use at one of the mountains cafeterias. Not bad….
If you don’t score a lift/lunch deal, bring lunch – drinks, sandwiches, chips/pretzels, veggies, chocolate, cookies, etc. The cost of BYO lunch for two is less than $10, but could be more than double that for similar lunches on the mountain.
If you’re okay with a simple meal at the end of a long, fun-filled day, pizza is a great option. A large pizza with 2 sodas or 2 beers will set you back about $25. Even if you’re in the mood for something else, don’t forget to look for coupons that may offer a discount, a free drink or maybe a free appetizer.
7. Gas Up:
Use credit card points to get a gas gift card to help offset fuel costs
8. Never forget the last minute deal!
Frequently, deals will go on a resort’s website just before the weekend. If you’re flexible you could score a huge deal.
Here’s the “½ tips":
Some ski areas have “ski free on your birthday”. For example, if your birthday falls during ski season, say January 23, you get to ski free on that day. If your birthday falls outside of ski season, say June 5, you will be assigned a month, say February, but keep your day – the 5th. So you would get to ski free on February 5. Sweet!
I know of at least one mountain that offers $14 lift tickets on Valentine’s Day. The catch is, if you are with someone you have to kiss them in order to get the deal! A small price to pay for a cheap ski day!
Ultimately, skiing will never be a bargain, but there are ways to make costs less painful, so the only pain you'll have to worry about is sore muscles!