11 Ways To Save Big On Your Next Ski Trip

How to Save Big on Your Next Ski Trip

When you take into account the cost of snow-ready apparel, ski and snowboard gear, lift tickets and travel to the mountain, the expenses can drive people away from the sport entirely. Not to mention some of the other little costs that seem to pop up unexpectedly (looking at you, lodge food).

Those expenses don't need to be a deterrent, though. Even though some parts of skiing and snowboarding will always be pricey, there's room to save in most areas. From lodging to lift tickets, savvy skiers and riders can find deals on any mountain. And that, of course, means more money for après ski drinks—when they're half off at happy hour, of course.

Plan Early

It's the case for most vacations—the earlier you can book, the more flexibility you have and with flexibility comes better deals. Deciding on a trip and booking it before ski season begins will likely afford you more choices in terms of travel dates, available flights and lodging options and booking well in advance will save you serious cash. The same goes for equipment rentals, reserving gear early (or off-site) can also get you a discount.

Pack Wisely

If you happen to be flying to your ski vacation, realize that the seemingly small charge of $25 per checked bag (or whatever it is that your airline charges) can quickly add up when you've got a ski bag and lots of large ski clothes. The charges don't have to be out of control, though. Try to take advantage of the airline credit card programs, some of them offer benefits like allowing cardholders to skip the checked baggage fees. If you can't take advantage of those benefits, try to fit clothing in a carry-on sized bag and if the airline refuses to count the boots and skis as one item (which they should), carry your boots on too.

Get the Timing Right

If you've gone skiing during a holiday period or weekend you know just how busy the slopes can be—that means ski resorts, airlines and hotels are all charging a premium. If you can go mid-week and skip the holiday periods you'll save money and have the slopes (mostly) to yourself.

Go Where the Kids Can “Ski Free”

Several family-friendly resorts have "kids ski free" deals and it's well worth looking into. Most resorts have stipulations—for example, third and fourth graders from anywhere can ski free at most New York ski areas, but they must be accompanied by a paying adult and other mountains require you book lodging with them to unlock a similar deal. But if you were planning on purchasing an adult ticket or staying at the mountain anyway, these are deals you should consider.

Ski Free with a Same-Day Boarding Pass

Planning on flying to the mountain? Book an early morning flight and be on the slopes in the afternoon, either for free or at a deep discount. Vail, for example, offers the ski free with a boarding pass deal and Alta offers half off their normal rate. It's a great way to get on the mountain for cheap (or free) and there are several mountains that have these types of deals.

Learn to Ski in January

January is a great month for skiing, but more than that, it's a great time for beginners to learn. It's the official Learn to Ski & Snowboard Month and that means great deals for new comers to the mountain. A quick look at the website will turn up deals across the country, so if you've always wanted to learn (or know someone who's always wanted to learn), check the January deals page and plan a trip around the big discount.

Try Alternative Lodging Options

It may be tempting to stay in that luxury slope-side hotel—you know, the one with ski-in/ ski-out access and the top rated restaurant—but it's also expensive. Check out alternatives like AirbnbVRBO and similar sites to find a place close to the slopes that costs way less and comes with more, like a kitchen. It could be an even better fit if you have a big family or group of friends.

Pack Lunch

Ski resorts, much like movie theaters, know they can charge a premium for their food once you're up on the mountain without any other options. That $15 bowl of chili and $4 bottle of water can really hit hard when you're buying for the whole family or skiing for a few days. Pack lunch, like a sandwich and some small snacks. Just put them in your jacket pockets and save money for après ski deals.

Take Advantage of Après Ski Deals

Just as happy hour is a blessing for 20-somethings in the city, the afternoon food and drink deals at the base of the mountain can save you big bucks, as opposed to buying the same stuff at night. Sure, it might mean you skip the immediate shower after a day on the mountain, but who could pass up half priced beers and $5 small plates?

Remember Your Gear

Goggles, check—gloves, check—sunscreen, check. Make sure you have everything you need before you get to the mountain. The things you're missing will be available at the mountain, just at a significant markup. 

Avoid the Ticket Window

This might just be the easiest way to save—do not buy your lift tickets at the window. With sites like Liftopia and the option to buy direct from the mountains online, skiers and boarders can easily save big. Online rates purchased in advance are consistently cheaper than the window rate and multi-day tickets can bring even greater savings, so be sure to buy ahead of time online.