With day-of lift passes well over the $100 mark for many resorts (they’re now as high as $130 at Colorado’s Vail and Beaver Creek), buying a ticket at the window is simply a fool’s game. The good news is that many mountains are experimenting with dynamic pricing online, enticing skiers with advance-purchase deals (to lock in an early commitment) and even last-minute sales when it looks like a slow weekend is ahead.
Begin by looking for multiday passes on a resort’s own website, which can yield up to 40 percent off window prices. To comparison-shop with specific dates in mind, try the site Liftopia, which collects and sells tens of thousands of deals from more than 250 resorts worldwide. Some things to keep in mind: Book as early as possible. Preseason sales are generally the best. And stay flexible with your dates. Lift tickets are usually lower midweek and during quieter times: before Christmas; following major holiday weekends; and before and after the Spring Break rush, which takes place the last three weeks of March. Liftopia also offers sales on traditionally slow days: Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Super Bowl Sunday.
Plan on spending more than a long weekend on the slopes? Consider investing in a multi-mountain season pass. For $729, the Epic Pass from Vail Resorts offers skiers unlimited access to the company’s 12 resorts in California, Colorado, Utah, and beyond (with a few days at several European resorts as well). The Mountain Collective, which includes Alta, Aspen, Jackson Hole, Squaw, and Whistler, has a pass for $349 that gives skiers 12 days among its six destinations (two days at each), plus 50 percent off additional tickets. The hitch: both these passes are only sold in the off-season.
Finally, if you’re traveling with children, look for a resort that will help you out with lift tickets. Many let kids ages five and under ski free. Several mountains have gone a step further: Steamboat Springs gives complimentary passes to children ages six through 12 if a parent (or grandparent) buys a ticket for five or more days. At Keystone, in Colorado, you just need to spend two or more nights at a resort-owned property to get free passes for your kids.