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It’s no surprise that the best way to save money on a ski trip is to plan ahead. Way ahead. Wait until the last minute, and you’ll pay top dollar on lift tickets, flights, and lodging. Of course, booking ahead means you’ll take a gamble on snow conditions, since you won’t know if there will be fresh powder or week-old hardpack until closer to go-time. But the savings you’ll get from these simple tricks makes the toss-up worth it.
Go Early or Late Season
Resorts give out the best deals if you’re willing to come at the very beginning or very end of the season. Those are also the least-crowded months to visit, due to uncertain snowfall. Sugar Bowl, California, will sell $99 lift tickets throughout December, including weekends and holidays, as long as you buy them online at least two days ahead of time.
Solitude, Utah, is offering 30 percent off lodging rates if you book a trip for two nights or more at participating accommodations from November 23 to December 19 and March 27 to April 19. Purgatory, in Colorado, has $49 lift tickets—a $50 savings—plus deals on rentals and lessons if you come for spring break and purchase tickets online at least 48 hours ahead of time.
Get Free Kids’ Passes
Going on ski trips as a family can be ridiculously expensive. Between lift tickets, ski lessons, hotels, flights, and hot chocolate breaks, it all adds up. These ski resorts make it easier to come as a family. At Sunday River, Maine, between January 5 to 10, if you stay three nights or longer at a resort hotel, your kids ski free—including lessons, tickets, and gear rental. At Colorado’s Purgatory Resort or Hesperus Ski Area and New Mexico’s Pajarito Mountain or Sipapu Ski Area, kids ages 10 and under get a free season pass—no fine print, no blackout dates.
The Epic SchoolKids program from Vail Resorts offers four free days of skiing, including first-timer lessons and gear rental, at resorts across Colorado, Utah, and British Columbia, including Park City, Vail, Breckenridge, and Whistler Blackcomb. In New York, a ski-and-ride passport program grants free lift tickets and discounted lessons at more than 20 ski areas, like Gore Mountain, Hunter Mountain, and Whiteface, if you apply online in advance. At Steamboat Springs, Colorado, if you purchase an adult five-or-more-day lift ticket, kids get free lift access. At Keystone, Colorado, if you stay two or more nights in resort lodging, you’ll get free tickets for the under-12 crowd. California’s June Mountain guarantees free passes for the same age group any day of winter.
Don’t Forget Discounted Lodging with Your Ikon or Epic Pass
If you bought an Ikon or Epic Pass, you already have a season pass to dozens of world-class ski areas. But remember that they’ll also get you more savings on the ground. Some of the best deals include Sun Valley, Idaho, where Epic Pass holders save up to 25 percent on lodging at resort properties like the Sun Valley Inn (from $299) if you come during select dates, and at least 10 percent off lodging at hotels like the Fairmont Chateau Whistler (from $277) and the Pangea Pod Hotel (from $50) in the village at Whistler Blackcomb, BC.
Ikon Pass holders get 15 percent off lodging at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Wyoming, if you travel during specific weeks. Stay at Squaw Valley Lodge (from $199), at the base of Squaw Valley, California, for 40 percent off nightly rates. Mountain Collective and Ikon Pass holders also get 25 percent off at the Limelight Hotel Aspen (from $450), near the base of Aspen Mountain, Colorado, when you stay two or more nights.
Weekends are always the busiest and most expensive time to visit a ski area. If you can plan a midweek trip, you’ll save money and avoid crowds. Sugarbush, Vermont, sells $30 lift tickets to its Mount Ellen terrain on Thursdays throughout the season. Donner Ski Ranch, in Nevada’s Tahoe National Forest, has throwback Tuesdays and Thursdays for most of the winter, with $40 adult lift tickets. And West Virginia’s Snowshoe Mountain has a midweek ski-and-stay package that’s $99 for two people per night, including lift tickets and overnight lodging.
At Whitewater, in British Columbia, a midweek vacation package includes a stay in downtown Nelson’s Adventure Hotel, plus lift tickets for $86 per day, per person, if you stay for three or more nights.
Save While Giving Back
Since 2008, Mount Bachelor, Oregon, has held charity ski week. Visitors can buy deeply discounted $49 lift tickets in advance and use them on select dates throughout winter. This season, the dates are January 6 to 9; January 13 to 16; and April 27 through the end of the season, which is usually sometime in May. Mount Bachelor donates 100 percent of the money raised from the tickets to its partner nonprofits around central Oregon, like the Boys and Girls Clubs, Oregon Adaptive Sports, the Environmental Center, and more. Tickets are limited, so get them while they last. Meanwhile, at Boreal, California, Feel Good Fridays take place throughout the season. You get a lift ticket for $25, and $5 from each ticket is donated to the High Fives Foundation.