With the expectation for a record-breaking snowfall this year (thanks, El Nino), ski and board enthusiasts are gearing up for an epic season. Unfortunately, between flying to your destination, purchasing a lift pass, and renting equipment, winter sports can be put a serious dent in your bank account. That’s where these tips come in.
Find the cheapest airport
Typically, flying to a big international airport is more expensive than flying to a smaller regional one. That's not always the case when it comes to traveling to a resort during peak season. If you are headed to Colorado, for example, your flight to Denver International Airport can cost up to $100 less than its smaller counterpart Durango-La Plata. The reason? "It's […] about how much competition there is at the airport relative to how many people want to fly there," says Hipmunk.com CEO Adam Goldstein. The closer the resort is to the airport the more visitors are willing to pay for the convenience to fly there. So to find the best price always check for airfare to all nearby airports.
Avoid trendy resorts
We all want to spend a week in Aspen or Vail rubbing elbows with celebs on the slopes, but the truth is that unless you are prepared to pay up, you might want to avoid trendy spots. Some good alternatives are Wolf Creek and Powder Horn in Colorado, Alta Ski Resort in Utah, or Bridger Bowl Ski Area in Montana. All of these less-heralded ski resorts get plenty of powder in the winter and have great winter sports facilities that you can enjoy without breaking the bank.
Shop online for a lift pass
"Buy a two or three-day [lift] pass online before you arrive to get a discount. Typically, you can save as much as 10 percent," says Kevin Malone, Director of Commerce at Hipmunk.com and a former competitive ski racer. If you already know where you are going, be on the lookout for specials like ski appreciation days, opening day discounts, or multi-ticket package discounts (typically found on the resorts' websites). To avoid lift lines, Malone suggests you hit the slopes on Monday or Tuesday.
Look for transportation alternatives
Renting a car for your ski vacation may be the most convenient way to get around, but it can also cost you quite a bit of dough (not the mention the icy roads and crowded parking lots). "Look into shuttle service from your hotel, as it is often free," says Malone. Even smaller hotels can sometimes offer transportation to and from the slopes at little or no charge so make sure you ask about that before your book your stay.
Consider (gasp!) buying your equipment
When it comes to saving money on ski or snowboard equipment, it all comes down to how often you hit the slopes. Purchasing decent skiing or snowboarding gear can set you back over $1,000, and you also have to pay extra baggage fees at the airport ($20-$50). If you only ski once or twice a season, you are better off renting. Do some research on what ski shops in the your resort area are offering—aside from cheaper rental prices, some would also deliver the gear to your hotel or take you to the slopes for free.