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It’s that time of year again. Snow season is fast approaching and although snowboarding is my most favorite thing to do, it’s an expensive past time. From buying season passes to gear and booking flights and lodging, it can put a big dent in your finances if you’re not careful.
There are ways to help minimize costs of winter skiing, including the most important one, flights. Book your flights before the full-blown winter skiing season starts. Prices will only go up. According to a 2018 CheapAir Annual Airfare Study of when to book flights, the best time to buy is roughly 70 days before departure.
The name of the game is to plan ahead. Here are the best ways to spend less on the slopes this season.
1. Book now (and avoid holidays if you can)
Seasoned snow bunnies know the most popular dates for mountain getaways include December’s holidays, New Year’s weekend, Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, and President’s Day in February.
If you know you’d like to get away during one of those weekends, book something now. Consider using one of these limited time offer credit cards offering a substantial sign-up bonus.
Perhaps you already know you want to avoid those weekends because of blackout dates for your season pass. Alternatively, you may prefer to ski when it’s less crowded. But know that it may save you some money to book around the busiest times. For example, book the weekend after MLK’s birthday when prices drop.
I made a habit of doing this last year. I was able to score some really cheap hotel deals ($59 a night?!) in Lake Tahoe’s casinos, like Harvey’s and Hard Rock.
2. Consider flying in January
After the holidays in December, ticket prices for flights and travel tend to go down. January is a great time to take advantage of deals, such as Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month.
Take advantage of deals that are offered in January for lodging, lift tickets, and lessons.
ColoardoSki.com also has some great deals for beginners.
3. Opt for cheaper lodging further out from resorts
Instead of booking a spot in the resort village, go out further. When my friends and I go to Northstar in Lake Tahoe, we usually stay in Reno in a cabin or even at the casinos downtown. They’re way cheaper than if we were to get a cabin near the resort or Heavenly. It’s about a 40-minute drive to the Northstar from Reno, but it’s worth it.
There are also cheaper spots to scope out in other popular resorts, including Cottonwood Canyons for Salt Lake City and Mont Tremblant for Whistler. I recommend having a look around to find what is reasonable for you.
4. Pick ski resorts near major airports
This makes everything so convenient! For cities with popular resorts, they even offer a shuttle ride to your hotel or lodge straight from the airport. When I flew into Vancouver last year for Whistler, an awesome shuttle bus picked us up and whisked us away to the mountain straight to our cabin in about two hours.
Other major airports located to resorts include:
- Reno-Tahoe International Airport
- Denver International Airport
- Salt Lake City International Airport
5. Consider getting a season pass for winter skiing
If you ski or board regularly every season, or plan to, get a season pass now before prices go up in October. It’s totally worth it.
This year, I purchased an Epic Pass that did not have any blackout dates (it was pricey at almost $900). However, considering I was on the mountain more than 20 days last year, I know I’ll be saving some major dough. Regular day lift tickets in the Lake Tahoe area cost about $130. If you went up seven times this season, it would be worth it.
Here are some examples of season passes and where they can be used:
- Epic Pass for Vail Resorts and access to Telluride, Crested Butte, Okemo, Mount Sunapee, Stevens Pass, Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, and Hakuba Valley, Japan (around $929 for an adult and $479 for a child)
- IKON Pass for Squaw, Mammoth, Big Bear and 36 other destinations around the world (around $699 to $999 for an adult)
See this helpful comparison chart to compare different passes and what they offer.
If you don’t ski or board enough to justify such a big purchase, check out Liftopia. It’s an awesome site that searches for lift tickets in advance and saves you money.
You can also book lift tickets from the resort’s website ahead of time. Sometimes they offer discounts like the one going on at the time of writing for Heavenly. You can save up to 25 percent for an adult lift ticket ($92) as long as you book seven days in advance.
6. Look out for deals that offer discounts or free skiing for kids
If you have little ones, look for free winter skiing deals. This list offers a comprehensive look at which resorts in the U.S. offer these deals.
Steamboat Springs offers Kids Ski Free programs for kids under the age of 12 to get on the slopes for free.
Some mountains offer discounts or free lift tickets if you rent equipment for your children.
7. Other quick tips on how to save on winter skiing
- Bring your lunch and skip the expensive resort food (unless you want to pay $16 for a bowl of chili?)
- Follow your local resort’s social media like Twitter and Facebook to get the latest news on deals and packages
- Subscribe to their newsletters to be among the first to hear about exclusive offers
If you’re like me, you’re more than ready for summer to be over and itchin’ to get on the slopes this winter. Prepare yourself this season and don’t get sucked into last-minute, expensive prices for flights, lodging, and lift tickets. Plan ahead and save money on your winter skiing.