Skiing and snowboarding are addictive winter hobbies — once you get a taste, you’ll want to hit the slopes as often as you can manage.
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For many of us, it can also be dependent on how often our bank accounts can manage. These days, buying a lift ticket day for a major resort like Vail, Powdr, or Aspen Ski Co can run you well over $200—for a single day! But with a few insider tricks, you can still score lift tickets for double digits—or at least get a substantial discount off the full price.
Ski local mom-and-pop resorts
Big resorts have flashy amenities and a ton of rad terrain, but pretty much every ski town has a local ski slope—like Sunlight Resort just downvalley from Aspen Snowmass in Colorado, Jay’s Peak within an hour of Stowe, VT, or Grand Targhee less than 1.15 hours of Jackson Hole, Wyoming (along with Snow King right in town)—that offers lift tickets for half the price of the buy guys. And usually, these ski resorts have enough advanced terrain to be just what the doctor ordered for a one-off ski day.
Ski in January for National Learn to Ski or Snowboard Month
January is Learn to Ski or Snowboard Month and many ski areas nationwide celebrate by offering discounted pricing on lessons, lift tickets and gear rentals. Some resorts only offer discounts on packages, like for three- or five-plus people, but most every ski state offers the program at some of their resorts, including Colorado, Utah and Vermont.
Buy your tickets early
The best deals for the everyday powder hound will come from buying your lift ticket as early as possible. Most every ski resort runs Early Bird Specials starting in the fall, with some even running Early, Early Bird Specials for those who plan ahead in August and September. In addition to full season passes, some resorts offer a bundle of five to seven single-day tickets that you can get at a discounted Early Bird rate.
If you book an impromptu ski day in the middle of the season, try and grab a ticket at least a week ahead of time for a discount. For example, if you buy your tickets at least seven days in advance, Vail Resorts offers a 15% discount, Aspen Snowmass offers a 13% discount, Jackson Hole a 10% discount and Stowe a 20% discount.
Skip holidays (and weekends if you can)
Unless you have a season pass, avoid booking your ski vacation over a holiday, regardless of the type of resort you’re visiting. We know: This is hard with limited vacation at work. But resorts raise their prices on both lift tickets and hotels for three-day weekends like President’s Day and MLK Weekend (not to mention these are days the resort will be much more crowded, making for a less pleasurable experience).
If you are able, plan your ski days on non-holiday weekends.
Better yet: Ski on a weekday, if you have a non-traditional work schedule (or can take an impromptu personal day after a big snow dump!) you can usually save about $20 versus skiing on the weekend.
A lot of people buy a day pass and only ski a handful of runs before their quads call it quits or they’re ready to head down to après. If you’re not really a dawn-to-dusk kind of skier or snowboarder, consider snagging a half-day pass, which usually allows you to ski from noon till last lift for just over half the original price.
Buy a multi-resort pass
One good thing about resorts being bought out by a single big company is you can score a discount on skiing multiple resorts throughout the year. Passes like the Ikon, Epic, Mountain Collective and Indy Pass offer access to dozens (usually upwards of 40) resorts for a single flat fee.
Smaller mountains have also banded together to offer multi-resort passes, like the Colorado Gems Card, which offers a discount at 11 smaller ski areas (including Cooper, Eldora, and Loveland); and the New England Pass, which includes riding at Sugarloaf and Sunday River as well as discounts at Mountain Collective Resorts.
Obviously this kind of pass isn’t ideal for someone with a single local hill they love, but if you live around multiple resorts covered under a single pass like this, it can be more financially beneficial in the long run.
Use a discount booking site
Deals scouting sites, like Liftopia, Ski.com, and GetSkiTickets, offer discounted date-specific lift tickets (as well as rentals and lessons) for most resorts in North America. Not every resort you’ll want to ski partners with the databases, but for those that do, you can score an average of 30-40% off day rates in some cases. This is a great option if you’re not picky about where you ski. You have to buy in advance to score the deal, but often they run specials even for holiday weekends.
See if you’re eligible for a discount
Most resorts offer discounts for active military, active students, as well as seniors and kids under 18—but some also partner with lesser-known businesses. For example, REI members can score 10-40% off a handful of ski resorts, including Killington, Stratton, and Palisades Tahoe. Some schools or employers also run lift ticket specials for certain weekends.
Know anyone who works at the mountain?
Most everyone who works for a ski resort, from ski instructors to ski patrol to HR employees, get a set amount of discounted tickets for the season to give out to friends and family. Considering most of these people live in the resort town and therefore most of their immediate friends and family buy their own season passes, it’s definitely worth checking if your friend-of-a-friend or second cousin can hook you up.
Save on gear rental and lodging
Sometimes, you have to pay full price for a lift ticket for a day on the slopes, and that’s just the way it is. But you can save money on the ski trip overall by looking for deals on lodging or ski rentals. Costco members are eligible for hotel and flight deals in certain ski towns, Groupon offers discounts on gear rentals, and if you know someone with a season pass to the town you’re visiting, they usually get a discount card for the local ski shop that they rarely use (because they own their own gear).