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Fly to Ski Resorts Without Breaking the Bank

Travel website Hopper has got snagging airfare deals down to a science.

Even better if you can land a flight right on the ski mountain. (Kent Miller/Flickr)
The Mountain ski airlines fly to ski resort

Travel website Hopper has got snagging airfare deals down to a science.

If you love to ski, then at some point you have to make peace with the hefty price tag that comes with it. Deals can be found on gear, lodges, lift tickets and resort passes if you know where to look. Flights, on the other hand, are a different story. 

Airlines rarely post sales, especially to ski-centric airports during ski season. You can try your luck finding deals with flight search engines like Kayak (which shows you how prices have been trending recently, if they're expected to rise, and then, usually suggests you buy now), but before you head to there, visit the airfare price-tracking website Hopper. It works like the Kayak price tracker, except it pulls data from almost all flight search engines. And because Hopper doesn't sell tickets, its advice isn't biased toward getting you to buy.

They predict when prices usually dip by trend watching and will show you an enire year's worth of price fluxuations. In their Boston and Montreal offices, they've got a real-time ticker feeding them info on almost every single flight search on Earth. According to their chief data scientist, Patrick Surry, that's about 10 million flight queries a day. "We don't see which flight search tool they're coming from, just the results of a search," he says—so they're looking at the same price options you see every time you search for a specific flight. Except from everybody who is searching.

This live ticker for airfares is made possible by the relationship between airlines and flight search engines. Airlines hire outside companies or clearinghouses (also called global distribution systems) to maintain pricing and inventory for airlines (Sabre, formerly part of American Airlines and ITA, which is owned by Google, are two of the most well-known). When airlines change their fares, they do so through these companies. "Hopper has an agreement with a lot of these companies to send us live feeds," says Surry.

The only hole so far? They don't see prices posted on an airline's proprietary site, though according to Surry, "most U.S. airlines, with the exception of Southwest, post the same prices in these clearinghouses as they quote on their sites." 

From there, it's a numbers game. Hopper maintains a database of pricing history. "We can see how fares change over time and are able to use that data to determine what a good price is for any given route," Surrey says.

We put Hopper to task to help find where and when the best deals are to our favorite ski areas. The company created this interactive map that plugs in your local airport to the top ski destinations in the U.S and Canada. You can't buy your ticket directly though Hopper, but search results give you the tools to make a better decision when buying a flight. Click through to give it a try:

Your new favorite ski flight tool, created for Outside by Hopper.

After plugging in your desired flight, Hopper explains when the best days and weeks are to buy and fly, and reveals what a good price is for a ticket (according to Hopper, that's a price better than 90% of quoted ticket prices for the trip). For example, when we searched Dallas to Denver, it told us it’s possible to snag a $104 round trip ticket if you fly from the second week of January to the second week of February. It also says that because of demand, prices are likely to rise if you keep waiting and, if you’re really penny pinching, that a Wednesday to Wednesday round rip can save you $28 bucks.

Armed with that knowledge, you can then hop onto Kayak  or Expedia with a better idea of the numbers you're looking for. Hopper also provides links to specific "good deal" flights and suggests alternative airports—great for flexible schedules.

Or just follow this mantra, gleaned by looking at a weighted average of all airports: the best weeks for prices are the end of January and early February, just before the season really takes off. The most expensive times to fly are mid-February and mid-March when schools are on vacation. 

Filed To: Travel / Budget Trips / Weekend Escapes / Snow Sports / Tools
Nicolas Henderson/Creative Commons )

San Marcos, Texas

Billed as the world’s toughest canoe race, the Texas Water Safari, held each June, is a four-day, 260-mile jaunt from the headwaters of the San Marcos River northeast of San Antonio to the small shrimping town of Seadrift on the Gulf Coast. There’s no prize money—just bragging rights for the winner. Any boat without a motor is allowed, and you’ll have to carry your own equipment and overnight gear. Food and water are provided at aid stations along the way. Entry fees start at $175 and increase as race day approaches.

The Ring

(Courtesy Quatro Hubbard)

Strasburg, Virginia

The Ring is a 71-mile trail running race in early September along the entire length of Virginia’s rough and rocky Massanutten Trail loop. To qualify, you need to have run a 50- or 100-mile race before the event and win a spot through the lottery system. Entry is free. Complete the run and you’ll become part of the tight-knit Fellowship of the Ring and be eligible for the Reverse Ring, which entails running the trail backwards in the middle of winter.


(David Silver)

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Each spring, competitors gather in Santa Fe’s historic plaza with a simple goal: be the first to reach 12,308-foot Deception Peak, 17 miles and 5,000 feet of elevation gain away. Competitors run or bike the first 15 miles to the local ski area before transitioning to their waiting ski-touring setups for the final push to the top. Time stops only when they’ve skied back down to the tailgate in the resort’s parking lot, which is funded by the modest entry fee of around $25. To add to the sufferfest, some participants sign up for the Expedition category, in which they strap their skis, skins, boots, and poles to their bikes for the long ride up. Start dates vary depending on snow conditions, but look for the event page to be posted on Facebook in late March or early April.

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