How to Hit the Slopes on a Budget

Longing for a fresh powder run that won't break the bank? Here are our tips for hitting the slopes while sticking to your budget.
Keystone Ski Resort, Colorado
Keystone Ski Resort, Colorado  (Ski Colorado)

Planning a ski trip starts with answering these three questions: What mountain should I ski/snowboard? Where should I stay while I'm there? And how much am I willing to spend on lift tickets and equipment rental? A ski excursion can easily cost a traveler thousands of dollars, but consumers who are frugal can get by on about $150 a day per person without sacrificing creature comforts. Here are some of our money-saving strategies to help you hit the slopes in style this year without coming home to a house without electricity.

Look for areas with multiple resorts
Time for a quick economics lesson: Competition drives down cost. Consumers can find better deals in areas that have multiple ski resorts, so look at places like Salt Lake City, which has seven resorts within a 30-mile radius. Many Colorado mountain towns, such as Breckenridge and Vail, have multiple resorts and lodges to choose from as well. Online resources like's Ski & Snowboard Guide have resort guides and user reviews to point travelers in the right direction.

Find resorts near airline hubs
More flights coming into an airport typically means more deals for customers, so look for ski resorts that are near a major airport. Denver is a hub for United and Continental airlines, and a focus city for Southwest, which means travelers are likely to find better deals from these carriers. Denver also nabs a spot on's Holiday Travel Index as a top destination for the holidays because of moderately priced airfare and deals on hotels.

Research package deals and "low key" resorts
Continue planning by looking at resort package deals that cover airfare, lodging, and lift tickets. Sometimes resorts toss out some mighty competitive deals, but either way this is a good baseline for a ski trip search. Remember, the fancier the resort, the more expensive the lift ticket, food, and lodging will be. Places like Vermont, West Virginia, North Carolina, or Oregon have slopes that are considered "off the beaten path" and can make for a fun ski trip without the high price tag. Travelers who are spontaneous can likely grab a room the week before they leave, when resorts often have last-minute specials to reach their occupancy goals.

Go with a multi-day pass
Rather than buying multiple one-day passes, save $10 to $20 a day by buying multi-day passes. Also shop the lesson/tickets deals—sometimes a ski pass will be cheaper as part of a package. And, check individual ski-area websites for daily specials. Families will be pleased to know that many resorts offer a free youth ticket with every adult ticket purchased.

Rent equipment off the mountain
On-mountain equipment rental shops will be more expensive and crowded; ever been in a pole room with more than 10 people? Ask fellow skiers or boarders to recommend a local ski shop off the main path—the deals will be better and the employees will be less stressed.

Eat like a local
Eating at mountain lodges can get expensive. Do some research or ask employees for the local hot spots. Visitors will likely discover nearby restaurants or pubs with cheap burgers and happy hour specials. Consider packing a lunch for the slopes; either make a sandwich or grab one from a local deli. Bring it along if skiing with a backpack, or store it in a cooler in a locker.

Visit during off-peak times
Arapahoe Basin, Colorado, was still open for skiing on July 4 this past season, and Breckenridge saw its first snow in September. Suffice it to say that travelers have plenty of time to get in that ski vacation. Save money on airfare, lodging, and lift tickets by avoiding travel over the main winter and spring holidays. Plus, fewer people on the slopes means more runs down the mountain. Sites like allow you to check different dates and compare multiple carriers to aid in finding the best deal.

Published: 18 Oct 2012 | Last Updated: 14 Nov 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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