Skiing and snowboarding are two of the most popular winter sports; they're also two of the most expensive. Unfortunately, after getting to the mountain, renting (or buying) gear and buying a lift ticket, your wallet can be a lot skinner than it was before you left. However, if you plan ahead and consider all your options, there are some easy ways to save a few bucks on lift tickets...even if you're just going to spend it on lunch in the lodge.
- Season Pass. The best way to get a discount on lift tickets, if you know you're going to be skiing a lot at one resort, is to buy a season pass. A season pass isn't for everyone, however. Most season passes are only good at one ski resort (or a handful of resorts), so if you're planning to travel around this ski season, a season pass is likely not for you. Additionally, if you're not going to ski at least (roughly) 20 days this season, a season pass is not worth your money either. Prices vary at different resorts, so take the time to do the math. If you think you'll be skiing a lot, look into a season ticket, find out what it costs and estimate the number of days that you'll hit the slopes. It might be well worth the cost up front to have your ski season paid for and your lift ticket on hand whenever you need it.
- Buy Early and/or in Bulk. Many ski resorts, like Vail in Colorado, offer discounted lift tickets if you buy a book of tickets before your trip. For example, you can buy a book of 10 lift tickets for almost (but not quite) 50% less than 10 regular lift tickets as long as you use the first ticket before 1/31. Some ski resorts, like Vail, are paired with other resorts (Vail is paired with Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone in Colorado, and Heavenly in Tahoe), so you can use those 10 tickets at any of the affiliated ski resorts as well. While buying multiple lift tickets only makes sense if you know you'll be skiing at a certain resort for a certain number of days, it's a great alternative to buying a season pass. It gives you the flexibility to travel around, since you're not committed to one resort for the entire season. However, you're still committing to that ski resort for a minimum number of days, which gives you a discounted rate on lift tickets.
At some resorts, if you purchase a book of tickets at the beginning of the season, you can buy more throughout the season at the same discounted rate, so if you end up skiing there more than you initially thought you would, you can upgrade for the same, or perhaps slightly higher but still discounted, rate. Check with your ski resort of choice to determine what deals they offer for buying your lift tickets in advance and whether or not that discounted price extends beyond the initial deadline.
- Package Deals. If you're planning to rent ski or snowboard equipment and/or take lessons, most ski resorts will offer you a discount on a combination package that includes lift tickets. Since getting a ski or snowboard lesson requires that you actually be on the mountain, your lift ticket will likely be included in the price of your lesson-usually at a discounted rate. Since most people taking lessons are renting equipment as well, it makes sense for ski resorts to tie all three purchases together. Check with the ski resort you'll be skiing or boarding at and find out what package deals they offer. You might even be able to work in a place to stay if you want to purchase an entire ski vacation package.
- Multi-Day. If you know you're going to be skiing or boarding for multiple days, a lift ticket that is good for the duration of your trip might be of interest. Not only will it (most likely) save you some money, it will also save you the hassle of standing in line to buy a lift ticket every morning and of fiddling around with a new lift ticket each day (a single ticket will usually be activated for the duration of your trip). You'll also have the option to take a day off from skiing or boarding with a multi-day lift ticket. Typically ski resorts sell 3 out of 4 day, or 4 out 5 day-you get the picture-lift tickets. This means that you have 5 days to use the 4 lift tickets that you purchased. You can use them all consecutively, but if you want to take a day to relax, you're not locked in to skiing every day.
Some resorts even allow you to tie a credit card to a multi-day pass so you can buy food on the mountain and additional lift tickets with it as well (no waiting in line, just have the lift operator scan your ticket and your card is charged for another day)-you can decide whether or not this is a good idea for you. It can be very convenient, but if you're not careful your expenses can add up quickly.
- Half-Day Tickets. Most mountain resorts offer both full and half-day lift tickets. A full-day lift-ticket lets you ski from 8:30 or 9am (when the lifts open) until 3:30 or 4pm (when the lifts close). A half-day lift ticket, which is usually only $5 to $10 cheaper, will let you ski from 11:30 or 12:00 until the end of the day. This might not be the best solution if you like fresh tracks and plan to be in the lift line at 9am when it opens, but if you're a slow riser you might be able to take advantage of this deal.
- Seniors, Students and Children. If you fall into one of these categories, make sure to inquire as to whether you are eligible to receive a discount. Seniors, especially, are often rewarded with major discount on lift tickets. Most ski resorts price their lift tickets differently for weekdays and weekends, peak and off-peak times and younger and older skiers. It would be a shame to miss out on a great deal because you didn't know it was available-it never hurts to ask!