11 Ways to Save Money While Skiing

save money skiingHitting the slopes is one of the most popular recreational activities in the world. Many enthusiasts save their pennies all summer long, to be ready to head up to their favorite resort when the first report of fresh powder comes in. Still others travel during the off-season, scheduling entire vacations around chasing the snow. Unfortunately, skiing can also be one of the most expensive ways to have fun. A ski weekend can make a pretty sizeable dent in your wallet, and the cost of an extended skiing trip can run well into the 4-figure range.

Whether you ski locally or abroad, saving a few dollars while you're doing it might help you enjoy more trips per year and have a better time while you're there. Here's a list of several ways to keep costs down when you go. Hopefully you'll find one or two you haven't thought of.

Rent Smart

It's no secret that renting equipment can sometimes be more economical than buying, especially for the novice. Even expert skiers will rent equipment when they're vacationing or when they don't get many trips in during the local season. You don't have to rent from the resort, though; check with local sporting goods and ski shops and those around your destination while you're planning your trip – you'll probably find some that rent equipment reasonably.

You may also be surprised to learn that many resorts offer substantial discounts if you reserve rentals in advance. Check the website of your ski resort to see if it's an option. As a bonus, using either of these methods will get you to the lift faster when you arrive.

Buy Smart

Buying skiing equipment may actually save you money if you go often. If you plan to purchase your own skis, boots, poles, goggles, etc. go where the bargains are. Of course, you'll want to check the classifieds in your local paper and search Craigslist. Watch for swap meets if there's a local ski club. Look for those specials that come up at the end of the season as well as online specials for new equipment.

Choose Fun over Fashion

While this may fit into the category above, it's worth mentioning separately. If you're more interested in enjoying yourself than looking fashionable on the slopes, think about wearing what you already have, rather than buying an entire ski wardrobe. If you've got thermal underwear and a good winter jacket, gloves and hat, just a decent pair of ski pants will keep the bottom half dry.

Borrow Responsibly

Borrowing can be a touchy subject, but if you have friends that don't mind, ask them about gear or ski wear. Just keep in mind that if you end up in the trees, so does the borrowed stuff. Replacing someone else's equipment isn't cost effective.

Don't Lodge at the Lodge

Ski lodges are fun places to stay, but if you're on a budget, you'll find much less expensive accommodations close to most resorts. You might have to get up a little earlier to drive up the mountain, but you might save enough to extend your trip another day. Besides, you might find something you've been missing. The town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for instance, has a great night life and plenty of discount motels.

Book Early

Almost any hotel, motel or lodge offers substantial discounts for early booking. A few months isn't too far in advance to start making calls or checking sites like hotels.com as much as a few months in advance to lock in a better rate. This applies to the resort motels and ski lodges as well as chain motels.

“Bundle” Up

If you're planning an extended trip, there's a good chance you'll find savings on a ski vacation package. High-end ski resorts like Breckenridge or Deer Valley always have luxury packages available, but if you want fun at real discounts, check out expedia.com, snowventures.com or ski.com for some surprisingly good deals that may include travel, accommodations, lift tickets, rental discounts and more. Remember to shop early for these trips, too.

“Get High” for Less

Lift tickets can be pricey. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to save on them. Websites like liftopia.com can save you up to 50% on day passes and their deals are available for almost any ski area. Check out deals at the resorts on 2 or 3-day passes. And of course, if you plan to ski one place often, you should consider a season pass, but do the math to be sure it's the best deal, and buy before the snow flies, if you can.

Skip the Restaurants

On day trips, eat a good breakfast before you leave and take along something to snack on, like trail mix. For lunch, enjoy a sandwich or energy bar while you take in the mountain view. If you're staying a while, find a motel that offers kitchenettes and fix some of your meals in your room. When you choose to have a restaurant meal, try some of the local fare instead of paying ski lodge prices.

Try Some New Slopes

With all the choices available, a change of scenery can provide less strain on your pocketbook as well as new adventures. Smaller resorts compete with the big guns by keeping their prices lower. For example, in the Lake Tahoe area, Diamond Peak, Mt Rose and Homewood lift tickets can be 30% to 50% cheaper than Kirkwood and all receive great reviews. Remember, variety is the spice of life.

Check Weekday Pricing

Many popular resorts will offer lower ticket prices during the week. Not lonely will this save you some money, but you'll escape the weekend crowds. Make some calls or look online.

Look over this list the next time you get the itch to pack up your ski gear. Saving a few dollars might mean you'll get in another trip this season, and you might even make it back home with money in your pocket.

Guest post by Jeffrey Strain, Co-Owner of  SavingAdvice.com – a personal finance website that attempts to inspire and teach different ways of saving money.

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29 Responses to 11 Ways to Save Money While Skiing

  1. Paul 03/20/2012 at 8:00 am #

    Bartering and collaborative consumption is growing in popularity as people look for creative ways to do more with less! Have you read my post on car sharing?

  2. Derek 03/20/2012 at 7:41 am #

    I love to ski but unfortunately I’m a student on a tight budget. I found the perfect solution though: I offered my services as a gardener and dog walker at barterquest.com and got an entire equipment in return.

  3. David Urmann 03/15/2012 at 9:19 am #

    Dont overdo the gear. If your a great skier its probably worth buying great skis. If your an average skier the latest equipment wont make a huge difference. Just get average or used gear at a ski swap and enjoy and not to worry when you hit a rock or two.

  4. cashbacklady 03/13/2012 at 4:21 pm #

    Thanks for the article. I haven’t been skiing in about a decade. but I look forward to making a trip very soon.

  5. Melissa@PersonalFinanceJourney 03/10/2012 at 5:27 pm #

    We just discovered RVBOs and will be using one on our upcoming trip. We will save over $30 a night going that route.

  6. Kay Lynn @ Bucksome Boomer 03/10/2012 at 4:57 pm #

    I’m not a skier anymore, but these are great tips for many types of vacations.

  7. Scottrick 03/10/2012 at 4:12 pm #

    I would caution against booking a hotel too early, since some areas may have unusually warm or dry seasons. If you do book in advance, try to get a refundable rate so that you can change your booking if prices later drop.

  8. Paul 03/09/2012 at 6:06 pm #

    HA! Have some experience with smooshed sandwiches Jeff?

  9. Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog 03/09/2012 at 3:12 pm #

    Best tip here is to skip the lodge food -t hat stuff is unreasonably expensive. 1 tip – dont bring sandwiches, you’ll crush them when you fall. Wraps, granola bars and trail mix are best, as you cant smoosh it and ruin it.

  10. Paul 03/09/2012 at 6:12 am #

    That’s the best kind of discount!

  11. Jai Catalano 03/09/2012 at 4:44 am #

    I use some of these philosophies with other things in my life and it saves me money. Especially if I am going to do it often. Like buying the equipment and yes skip the restaurant. In fact skip eating all together. Everyone always says they need to loose weight (including me) so skip eating until desired weight is reached and don’t forget to ski. 🙂

  12. Marissa @ Thirty Six Months 03/08/2012 at 11:24 pm #

    My brother is a snowboard instructor at the ski hill behind our house. Instant discounts! 🙂

  13. Paul 03/08/2012 at 9:30 pm #

    I went skiing last winter with some friends and I rented the equipment since I don’t ski very often. We had a great time.

  14. Saving Advice 03/08/2012 at 8:47 pm #

    Great ideas — asking locals is also a great way to find the best restaurants in town when you want some good, inexpensive food on the town.

  15. Saving Advice 03/08/2012 at 8:45 pm #

    The obvious way to save is to buy a season ticket, but for those of us that don’t ski often or do so in a variety of places, that just doesn’t work. There are also some ski resorts that offer some great late season promotions that are worthwhile keeping your eyes open for.

  16. Saving Advice 03/08/2012 at 8:43 pm #

    It is certainly possible to get some excellent deals with VRBO — i have done the same on the past.

  17. Jamie 03/08/2012 at 3:43 pm #

    Good suggestions.It might also help to look into lodging that’s just down the road. Many of these expensive ski resort towns have communities nearby where the resort employees live and spend their time. We were in Aspen not long ago and couldn’t find decent lodging for less than $200 a night, so we stayed about 30 miles away and spent a fraction of the cost. Once you get to town, ask the locals about where to go and how to spend money, as well.

  18. Jackie 03/08/2012 at 11:45 am #

    Great suggestions. I had no idea there were sites that sold discounted lift tickets. I’m not a big skier (mainly due to my issues with ski lifts!) but I do like to go up to the ski resorts occasionally 🙂

  19. WorkSaveLive 03/07/2012 at 8:52 am #

    I love to use VRBO for all of my vacations. Many of the places have great prices and you get to choose the exact condo/house that you want to stay in!

    I’ve used it vacationing in Breckenridge and Steamboat Springs.

    I’m with you on the rentals too; I don’t go skiing often enough to buy my own equipment and it’s definitely wise to rent!


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