If you’re paying full price for a hotel, a lift ticket, gear rental, transportation and food, a single day of skiing can easily cost $300 or more. But for many, remaining “ski-abstinent” this year is simply not an option, regardless of what their individual finances looks like. If you’re one of these people, we’ve gathered a few tips to help you ski on a budget.
First, let’s define what we mean by “budget” because skiing under financial constraint could mean different things to different people. For the one-percenters out there this might mean making some cutbacks at the family chalet, like not filling the hot tub with Merlot this year. For others, it might just mean setting a sane spending limit for the year, say $1,500 or less. Those with no moral compass may save on rental costs by stealing other skiers’ gear while they eat lunch in the lodge. (Please don’t be one of these joy-killlers.)
Skiing has a pretty high financial barrier to entry and lift tickets are the primary reason why. At the big resorts, you’ll spend $55–135 on a regular adult day pass. If you plan to go more than a half-dozen times — and don’t want to spend a lot of time hunting down discounted day passes each time — consider a season pass, which range from $600–1,300 (Deer Valley Resort is an outlier at $2,700). Once you’re invested, it feels great to watch your per-trip cost drop the more you go.
There are dozens of price variations depending on age, time of year, number of ski days, military status, family size, blackout days, local status, etc., so see if there isn’t a way to shave a little off the retail price. The best way to get a good deal on a season pass is to buy early. It’s a little late to catch the season pass discounts for this year, but you can start looking for the following season as early as spring.
More information on season passes:
ALTA SKI AREA (Salt Lake City)
If you’re starting from scratch, gearing up for a ski trip can be a serious pain in the heated seats. Along with your ski pass, you need the following (in ascending order of negotiability: gloves, helmet, skis, boots, bindings, poles, coat, the good socks, jacket, long underwear, ski pants, goggles, neck gator, decent friends, 4WD car, ski rack, etc. Three ways to save on gear:
Buy used: 2nd Tracks and Level 9 Sports offer a lot of really good gear. (A lot of hardcore skiers like to have the latest equipment every year so you’ll be amazed at what you can find used.)
Rent: There are usually rental options at every resort. The cheapest way to rent though is to hit a store that specializes in rentals. Check Canyon Sports near downtown SLC or Christy Sports for deals. It’s also an option to rent equipment for the entire season.
Ask your friends: Ah, the last (best?) resort. Borrowing. Sizing can be an issue, but if your buddy is having shoulder surgery this year…
Skip the holidays/Go during the week
If you’ve got a non-traditional work schedule, skiing during the week is pretty great. Not only is it cheaper, you might get lucky and have some runs all to yourself. There’s also the possibility of calling in sick. It’s Utah. Sort of a white lie (no pun intended). Just be sure not to post any selfies from the lift.
Packages and Discounts
There are so many different discount packages and one-offs it’s impossible to do an exhaustive list here. Like airline tickets, they’re usually limited and always changing, primarily because resorts want people on their slopes during the slow periods. We recommend liftopia.com, Costco (yes), the major gas station chains, and don’t forget the ski rental shops we mentioned above.
Students, military, seniors, and kids are often eligible for discounts. Though keep in mind, especially if you’re a college student, you’ll need to provide proof of current semester’s tuition.
Skiing burns a crazy amount of calories so skipping lunch isn’t really an option. Food and drink at the resorts can get crazy expensive. Pretty much ballpark-level pricing. Supply and demand and so forth. So think about bringing your own hardy little picnic: PB&J, carrots, jerky, dried fruit and the like. A little planning can save you $20 real quick. It’s also not a bad idea to bring a lot of energy bars or quick energy supplements to save yourself a(nother) trip back to your car or rental locker for something you prepared yourself.
The bottom line is this: Do a little research online. And don’t forget to ask around. Locals usually know what’s up. Sometimes friends have extra passes, or season passes with buddy pass options that allow you to buy a discounted rate for a daily ticket. If you feel too broke to go skiing this year, you may just not be thinking creatively enough yet.