Although I’ve been skiing and snowboarding for most of my life, one thing always stops me in my tracks. Money. In-resort skiing and snowboarding is an expensive endeavour, no matter how you cut it. However, I’ve managed to find some type of loophole. A small tear in the seam of the ski industry that allows my pockets to burn a little less when it comes time to spending time on the slopes. Perhaps I’ve cracked the code and managed to find a way to make a ski vacation a little less bougey and a little more affordable. Here are a few ways to save money on your ski vacation.
Not All Ski Resorts Are Created Equal
Before you set your sights on anywhere and everywhere to shred the gnar, consider where you plan to go. A lot of the household resort names charge ridiculous prices for lift tickets. For example, Vail’s walk-up price for a lift ticket is $159. You read that right, one hundred and fifty-nine big ones. That’s just dumb. I’m sorry, but no one, and I mean no one, should have to pay that to ski all day.
Here’s the good news, you don’t have to. There are a lot of world-class resorts that don’t charge that much. If you’re hell-bent on a particular region, search for other resorts than the most popular ones. Popular doesn’t always mean better. Nearby Copper Mountain has just as much fun terrain as Vail, but it doesn’t cost you half your paycheck. Look for resorts that don’t have a town associated with them, such as Loveland or Arapahoe Basin. Or look for resorts that aren’t in populated areas. Take Crested Butte, for example, the terrain is fantastic, the lifts are fast and it doesn’t cost a small fortune to ski there.
Savings: Depends on where you decide to go, but for comparison’s sake the difference between a lift ticket at Vail and a lift ticket at Copper is $52 at the time this post was written.
Be Like a Local
Here in Colorado, we are spoiled with ski deals. Did you know that we have annual BOGO deals for many fine ski resorts, just for filling up your gas tank? It’s true. Google around for local deals and see if you can make something happen. We used our BOGO passes to ski Crested Butte this year for half the price. In other words, we paid $58 a day to ski some of the finest terrain in Colorado.
Your other option is to buy a pass. This takes a bit of pre-planning. The best deals on a season pass are at the end of the prior season, so if you know you’re going to go, try to snag a pass during the spring of the season prior. For the iconic Epic Pass here in Colorado, you’ll save hundreds of dollars.
Savings: BOGO will save you big, on average around $58 per ticket. Passes are a bit more difficult to calculate, but if you’ll be skiing for a week and you’re looking for a five-day pass you can save, on average around $200 by purchasing a next-season ski pass.
To Travel During a Holiday or Not to Travel During a Holiday?
I don’t have kids and I work for myself, so avoiding holiday travel is a no-brainer for me. However, if you get paid time off, do a quick cost analysis. Is the amount of money you’ll “save” by utilizing a paid holiday worth the extra costs you’ll incur on lodging and possibly lift tickets?
If not, don’t bother. You’ll avoid the crowds when you travel during odd times and you’ll often pay less than you would during busy holidays such as spring break and Christmas/New Years.
Find Your Perfect Mountain Getaway
Next to your lift ticket, lodging is your biggest enemy. Ski-in/ski-out sounds fantastic, but it’s costly. Avoid staying in a hotel room without a kitchen. I can promise you that you’ll spend more on food than you would if you just snagged an AirBnB with kitchen access.
Cooking your own meals will save you big, and I mean REALLY big. Typically, we eat only one meal out when we go for a ski getaway, and it’s usually a low-key spot with good, cheap eats. Otherwise, we cook to our heart’s content. We’ve even brought a crock pot from home, so we can make simple, easy meals. Nothing says “welcome back and relax” quite like the smell of a crock pot full of something tasty back at the condo.
Savings: Assume that a meal for one is around $30 at a moderately-priced restaurant. That’s factoring in a happy hour. Multiply that by two to account for breakfast and you’re looking at a $60-a-day savings.
Save Money on Your Ski Vacation: Brown Bag It!
Lunches on the mountain are outrageous. The average meal is around $15 on the mountain. Add a drink and a snack and you’re looking at a daily expense of $25. Opt to pack your lunch instead. Put some hot soup in a thermos, bring a sandwich, your favorite snack and pack a water bottle. If you don’t want to carry your food around, stash it in a locker at a ski rental place or on the mountain for quick access during meals.
Savings: $15 to $25 per lunch.
Get Ahead of the Crowd Rent Your Skis or Snowboard in Advance
Rentals on arrival come at a premium. Oftentimes, if you rent online prior to arriving, you’ll receive a discount. If you know you’ll ski every day you’re out, then rent them in town ahead of time instead of right on the mountain.
Savings: I saved $6 per rental when I used this method at Crested Butte.
The tally? Just adding up the low numbers on this list gives you a combined savings of approximately $447 over the course of three days. THAT’S some serious savings. Now you know how to save money on a ski vacation. Make your ski vacation a reality and save big the next time you hit the slopes.