By Kristen Lummis, www.braveskimom.com
To save money and stretch your ski dollars this upcoming ski season, our best tip is to plan ahead. Late summer is when big retailers and small ski shops offer their biggest discounts. It’s also when you’ll find the best deals on season passes, ticket packs and advance purchase lodging. I know, your kids are settling into school, while your mountain bikes are still beckoning. But take a quick look at your calendar. Snow, and the Colorado ski season, will be here soon.
Before you get to the mountain you have to gather the right gear. And while snow sports require a lot of equipment, you don’t have to buy it all brand-new or at full-price. Although you’ll see sales and discounts in the spring, prices really bottom out in late summer as retailers make room for new clothing and equipment. Here’s how we suggest looking for deals:
- Check in with your local shop for discounts on soft goods, and great deals on last season’s rental and demo gear.
- Ask about consignments. Many shops offer gently-used gear for resale.
- Go to a ski swap. Often benefitting worthy causes like Ski Patrol, you’ll usually find an assortment of new and used boots, skis, snowboards and more.
- Check websites like Craig’s List for almost-new gear or, if you have kids, join forces with other families and do the hand-me-down thing.
- Rent, don’t buy. Not only do many ski shops offer season-long rentals (especially useful for fast-growing kids), but companies like Colorado’s own GetOutfitted.com will rent ski clothes and accessories for a weekend, a week or longer.
- Check out the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Expo, November 6 – 8, at the Colorado Convention Center. Inside, you’ll find everything imaginable related to skiing and snowboarding. Much of it will be on sale, including lift tickets.
Tickets to Ride
Speaking of tickets, if you can help it, you should never, ever pay the full daily price. Get a Season Pass. Season pass sales ramp up in fall and generally end before Thanksgiving. Many resorts raise prices incrementally throughout autumn, so get your pass early. Spread the Love. Want to ski more than one resort this winter?
- If you’ve got a season pass, look for reciprocal deals with other resorts.
- Get a multi-mountain pass like the Rocky Mountain Super Pass or the Gems Card from Colorado Ski Country USA.
- Pick up a 3-pack, a 4-pack or a 5-pack. Lots of resorts sell a pass good for a set number of days, each discounted significantly off the single day rate.
For Kids Only. Colorado 5th and 6th graders get the best deal around with the CSCUSA Passport.
Get Online. Check resort websites throughout the season for advance-purchase, discount tickets.
To score flash deals on tickets, lodging and dining, sign up for newsletters and alerts and follow your favorite resorts on social media. You can also look for discounted tickets at sites like Liftopia.com and GetSkiTickets.com.
Visit A Gem. Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to saving money. While Colorado is home to some of the most famous resorts in the world, you can also find plenty of smaller ski areas to explore and enjoy at a fraction of the cost.
Spend Money to Save Money. Yes, lessons cost money upfront. But nothing, and we mean nothing, will maximize both your investment and your fun so much as learning the fundamentals (or upping your skills) with lessons from a certified pro.
Start the New Year Off Right. January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard month, which means savings on single and multi-day group lessons at many Colorado resorts. Deals are especially good for first-time skiers and snowboarders.
Shop Around. One of the best things about learning to ski or ride in Colorado is the availability of high-quality instructors. Most, if not all, of the ski and ride schools employ PSIA/AASI certified coaches. This means you can get first-rate instruction at any resort, big or small.
For Kids Only (Again!). The CSCUSA Fifth Grade Pass is good for a free “never-ever” lesson and rental during January. Also, some schools and school districts provide discounted lessons and learn-to-ski/ride days.
While the above tips cover the three biggies, gear, tickets and lessons, here are a few more practical tips to help you save your pennies and stretch those dollars.
Ski Off Peak. At some resorts, mid-week lift tickets are discounted and you get the added bonus of having the mountain largely to yourself.
Night skiing is another cost saving option, as is skiing before Christmas, and after spring break. For the biggest savings, avoid busy holiday weeks and weekends.
Stay Off-Mountain. We love ski-in/ski-out, but the convenience comes at a price. Stay off mountain, in a condo or independent hotel, and save money. Condos are especially good for families who want to cook their own meals.
Brown Bag It. While you don’t want to be a freeloader and eat in areas reserved for paying customers, many ski areas have “picnic” or brown-bag areas. Bring you own fuel and save big.
Pump that saved money back into more lift tickets, or splurge on a swanky lunch at the end of the season.
Ask A Local. Locals can tell you where to find the best après, happy hours, drink specials and nightly dining discounts. If they have kids, they’ll also know where children can eat free, or at least which restaurants have a decent children’s menu.
We think the best place to find locals is on the chairlift. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll discover in just five minutes.
Volunteer or Get A Job. Finally, if you live near a mountain, look into ski resort jobs and volunteer positions. These often come with lift tickets or season passes.
Apply with a genuine smile and a love for the sport, and start skiing, for free.