Ski for Less

Big-Ticket & On-the-Ground Savings
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Big-Ticket Savings
As much as it may heckle your indie-traveler instincts, all-inclusive deals can be worth it, sometimes shaving hundreds of dollars off the total cost. In theory, companies combine resources to offer lower prices for transportation, lodging, gear, and lift tickets, and then pass these savings (and convenience) on to the consumer. But, of course, some all-inclusive packages are better than others.

Credit card partnerships with discount ski providers often bring bulk savings into play. This year American Express teams up with The American Skiing Company, giving customers the opportunity to redeem 15,000 of their points for a free adult, three-day, all-area alpine lift ticket at a number of banner resorts, including New Hampshire's Attitash; Sunday River and Sugarloaf in Maine; Killington, Mount Snow, and Pico in Vermont; The Canyons in Utah; and Colorado's Steamboat Springs Resort. Outdoor retailers have gotten into the act as well. For example, REI offers discount ski vacation packages to most prime ski destinations in the United States—Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Telluride, Vail, Sun Valley, Park City, Jackson Hole, and many others—and further discounts prices 15 percent for members.

On the Ground Savings
If your schedule dictates that you can only ski one place during one particular part of the year, don't think that you're out of opportunities to save money. Instead of heading straight to the ski area to get yourself set up with lift tickets, gear rentals, and a place to crash, do your online homework so you can hit the ground running and have a better idea about how to budget.

First off, never pay full price for a day ticket at the kiosk; even cursory online exploration can net discounts, and it'll save you the hassle of waiting in line. Half-day and night-skiing tickets are often the cheapest way to get on the mountain without breaking the bank, a good way to squeeze in a few more turns even if you arrive midday. And, if you can, aim for weekdays instead of weekends when the resorts are choked and some areas charge more for lift tickets. Many resorts run locals-only rates with a frequent-visitors program—joining a ski club can often net that elusive dream, the group discount. And don't forget to check out what personal rates may be out there waiting—Stowe's Learn to Stowe program, open only to Vermont residents, gets you three lift tickets and three equipment rentals for $159.

When it comes to gear, avoid renting at the mountain and try to get your goods from an in-town specialty shop—even if the price is the same, the selection and quality is typically better and the wait is usually less. The national ski-rental chain Ski Barn has cheap seasonal rentals and discounts on lift tickets, and they have an outlet in almost every ski town, guaranteeing you can beat the resort's lift ticket and gear rental prices.

Slopeside hotels offer you ski-in, ski-out convenience and the quaint surroundings of a mountain resort. Unfortunately, they can also cost two to three times the price of cheaper accommodations. Instead, try hotels and bed-and-breakfasts in town, or even online community classifieds such as those on Craigslist.org for house swaps, cheap rentals from one night to a month, and roommates looking to share accommodations. Most ski towns also have shuttles running from the town to the resort, should you wish to avoid the expense of car rentals—even if it may mean enduring the cold while you wait for that bus to show.

But staying in town may not be a viable option for some resorts—in those cases, start exploring on-site options as they typically have a range of cost structures available. The town of Jackson is roughly 30 miles from Jackson Hole Resort, which can eat into your turn time—but the resort does have a hostel with a view of the mountain base, promising both inexpensive digs and an overactive social scene. Or, get a group together and cash in on the low-cost options of renting an on-site condo.

"Booking a condominium instead of a hotel can save you money in the long run," Orbitz's De Lalio says. "Condos have kitchens, and if you buy your own food and cook at least breakfast and lunch in your condo, you'll save over the higher-priced resort restaurants."


Published: 15 Dec 2005 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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