While many people find skiing and snowboarding to be among the most fun winter sports, it can be easy to get turned off by the cost. With the price of lift tickets, gear (expensive whether you rent or buy), and travel and lodging, it quickly adds up. Below are some of the best tips you can use to plan a ski trip on a budget.
One of the easiest ways to plan an affordable ski trip is to simply avoid the busiest times of the year. For ski resorts the busiest time are between Christmas and New Year's, Martin Luther King Day, Presidents Day Weekend, and Spring Break. If you plan a trip during these periods, expect it to be much more expensive than normal and also be very crowded at any ski resort you choose.
In terms of airfare, the cheapest time to travel is mid-week to mid-week. While that may be hard for some, try flying out on a Thursday and then flying back on a Tuesday. This will keep your flights relatively inexpensive and you'll save on lift tickets which are cheaper during the week.
Typically, the earlier you book, the better savings you get. Start looking at flights up to 6 months in advance and watch to see if the prices drop. If you want to truly save, you should have everything booked around 3 months in advance of when you leave. This will also give you something to look forward in the weeks up to your trip.
In order to keep your flights affordable, try choosing a ski resort that is close to a major travel hub. Of the ski resorts out west, the Denver airport and the Salt Lake City airport are two very popular destinations for ski trips. The majority of the ski resorts are less than 40 minutes away from the airport in Salt Lake City. In Denver, you will have to drive 2 to 3 hours depending on the ski resort you're going to. That doesn't mean you'll have to rent a car though! Many ski resorts in Salt Lake City and Denver offer a shuttle between the airport and ski resort.
Many resorts offer a package deal that includes lift tickets and lodging with the option to also include rental gear. While these package deals typically offer steep discounts on the normal rates, make sure that they are worth it. Compare the package to the price of booking everything individually. You may end up saving more money by staying a little further away from the resort and booking everything individually.
One of the biggest ways you can save on costs during a ski trip is to make as many of your own meals as possible. Often, ski resorts have exorbitant prices for simple food and drinks. When you are looking for a place to stay, try to find an apartment, condo, or townhome, that has a kitchen so you can make your own dinners. During the day, pack a lunch. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in a ziplock bag along with a protein bar or two can keep you skiing or snowboarding all day without a break.
While most of the apartments, condos, or townhomes further away from the resort aren't ski in/ski out, they are much cheaper. The price per night drops dramatically the further away you get from the ski resort. This does come at the expense of convenience though so it can be a personal choice. If you're ok walking a bit while carrying your gear, stay a little further away and save on housing costs. If you know that being slopeside is the easiest and most convenient option for you, then choose to spend a little more on housing and keep it more affordable by making your own meals or visiting a smaller resort.
While everybody loves to mention how they went to Breckenridge or Vail last week, consider going to some of the smaller resorts. Obviously, smaller resorts are not as big as the mega ski resorts but that's reflected in the price. Lift tickets, lodging, and gear will all be cheaper at smaller resorts than they will be at bigger names. If you want to go to Colorado to ski on a budget, avoid Vail and Breckenridge where a 1 day lift ticket can cost $100+. Instead try out Arapahoe Basin and Loveland Ski Area. Both feature bowls, advanced terrain, and powder days – at a much cheaper cost.
Skiing can be expensive but if you plan ahead, you can go on a great ski trip on a budget. Remember to start your planning early and be sure to evaluate all of your options. You may have to make some sacrifices in order to stay within your budget so make sure you know what to prioritize and what isn't as essential. For many people, going to a smaller resort and staying a little bit further from the slopes can save you a lot of money while still ensuring that you'll have a great trip.