|SKI TOGETHER: Spend at least part of the day skiing as a family (courtesy, Park City Chamber & Visitors Bureau/Dan Campbell)|
You may only need a half day lift ticket. Modern lifts triple the number of runs you can squeeze into a day, and most areas offer specially priced half day tickets that start around noon. That way you can check out the conditions and not have to rush getting ready. And you won’t burn out your legs in the beginning of the vacation. If you live close to a mountain, consider buying your family season passes. Most ski seasons last five to six months, so you’ll save money if you go to the mountain a lot. Plus, the cost of a season pass generally adds up to less than what you’d pay for a few days at Disneyworld. Most ski resorts allow children five and under and seniors over 65 or 70 to ride the lifts for free.
When it comes to outfitting your kids, buy second hand our via closeout. Look for ski swaps, second-hand sporting goods stores, and end-of-the-season closeouts. Careful shoppers generally find both equipment and apparel at markdown prices when they take the time to look. Do you homework first though, as once you’re familiar with brands, chances are you’ll find better equipment. Keep in mind that technology in boots, skis, and bindings keeps moving forward. Search the Internet for a brand and model number to find out if the ski, board, or jacket works for your needs. Always bring second-hand equipment into an authorized ski and board shop to be checked for safety—especially the bindings.
For hardgoods like skis and boots, rental is another viable option, whether for one weekend or for an entire season. Short-term consider resort rental and demo programs, which saves you from lugging your own gear around—plus you get to try the season’s top models. On-mountain rentals can have slimmmer pickings, however, and sometimes prove to be more expensive, so also try to contact a local ski or snowboard shop or log on to a site like www.rentskis.com, which coordinates skis and snowboard rentals in dozens of resort shops in the western U.S. and Canada. If you rent in advance most shops will offer a discount, or you can sometimes get deals when buying a multi-day rental and lift ticket.
Season-long rentals let you get a good deal of experience with the gear, and if you like the equipment and decide to buy, chances are the rental cost will be subtracted from the purchase price. Most good sporting shops will offer full-season rentals for a low, flat fee. They’ll generally swap out the equipment if your child outgrows it during the season, so you’ll have the right stuff for your child’s height, weight, and ability. And of course, ski and snowboard manufacturers have equipment demo days at resorts throughout the season, a sly marketing program that lets you try state-of-the-art skis and boards for free (www.snowlink.com).
When picking a destination, keep in mind that large, glitzy resorts charge more for everything. Smaller, mom-and-pop ski areas are ideal for families—especially those with beginning and intermediated boarders and skiers. Plenty of areas in the States offer a day of skiing, rentals, and lessons for less than $50. Other, top-name destination resorts charge nearly double that just for riding the lifts. Scour resort websites for package offers.
And when arranging a trip, be sure to shop online. The earlier you book a vacation package, the better the price. Look for deals that include lodging, rentals, and lift tickets. Many resorts have deals with restaurants, local hotels, and even airlines that can save 25 to 50 percent of the total cost. In regions with lots of competition (New England, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California) you may be able to obtain passes that allow you to sample a number of resorts. When you book a multi-day trip, sometimes you can get breaks on airline fares for children. Costco often sells discounted lift ticket packages, and local grocery stores and gas stations offer coupons that lower the price of daily tickets. Most resorts have special days when lift tickets are free or discounted, with the proceeds going to support local schools and charities.
Even if you live in the plains of Nebraska, you can bet there’s a group of passionate skiers or boarders nearby. There are hundreds of ski and snowboard clubs, from church groups to school groups to like-minded families and individuals. In addition to the fun and camaraderie, group discounts on travel, lodging, and lift prices are usually significant. Many clubs own or lease their own lodging, so the cost per night is in the $20-to-$40 range. Resorts actually bid on big clubs scheduled trips. Sites like www.snowskiclub.com and www.skisite.com list hundreds of clubs and councils (who represent multiple clubs) across the country.
If you have a large group, consider renting a condo or vacation house, generally cheaper than hotel rooms, and can sleep a lot more people comfortably. Plus, you have the luxury of buying your own groceries and preparing your own meals. You’ll save money, the parents get some privacy, and you’ll have more room to spread out and relax after a long day on the slopes.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication