You've been working all year for it. You already can smell the clear air, hear the "crunkly" swoosh and feel the winter sun making your cheeks tingle. You've had your eye on a set of Atomic Backland Carbons or maybe that Burton Barracuda, and you've been dreaming of flying down the black-diamond slopes. As you make your arrangements, however, you're hoping that your wallet can take the green circle trail – or at least the blue square. Here are three free financial skiing tips with some examples we found just Web surfing. Check out the deals we found, and then visit your favorite resort's website. You'll know just what to look for.
Book Your Ski Vacation Early
Start looking early. Unlike airline tickets or traditional hotel stays, whether you're buying a vacation package or season passes, buying early is usually better; prices only decrease if conditions turn poor. Most ski resorts operate on a healthy degree of speculation. They need snow for skiing, and despite the best snow machines, natural powder is what skiers are willing to pay for. Most resorts offer incentives and package discounts for early buyers; it gives them cash flow to start the season and cuts you a break.
At Vail, for example, you can save up to 40 percent on lodging between now and Christmas if you book by December 11, 2015. If you're a full-time student and you buy your pass by December 15 (2015) you can get the Four.0 ski pass at Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont at a 10% discount off the going rate. That pass gives you unrestricted access to the ski and ride at Okemo, Mount Sunapee, Killington and Pico. To cut costs a little more, reserve your equipment online in advance, and you can save 20 percent on that, too, and spare yourself some baggage.
The rule of thumb when booking ski vacations is always "he who books early gets the cheapest snow". Many resorts start fishing for skiers as early as the summer months, often presenting their cheapest deals to those willing to book months ahead of the ski season. If you are willing to take a gamble on good snow, you can save a lot of money. Just play it safe and book your ski holiday during snow-sure months.
Look For Ski Discounts, Package Deals And Reciprocity
Most resorts have season passes as well as perk or discount cards. You have the initial investment, but with ski prices, you can quickly recoup the expenditure. Whitetail in Pennsylvania, for example, offers Advantage Cards. The cards run $119 for individuals ($199 per family) and let you save 40 percent on rentals and lift passes throughout the season. If you purchase them yearly, the resort discounts the discount price for you, too. Killington in Vermont has a similar deal, offering an Express Card that provides significant savings options for those who don't want a full season pass but plan on skiing a number of days.
As an example of other breaks, Alta in Utah doesn't differentiate rates by day, but it does give package price breaks. An adult lift ticket for a day session is $84. Get a two-day pass, and you'll get a $5 break. Buy a 5 or 6 day pass, and you'll need to check their website for dates and prices, but it could save you well over $200 a piece. You can also add Snowbird for $32 a day, much cheaper than buying passes separately. If you check websites carefully, you'll find that many resorts have agreements with others nearby or within their network that let you add an additional site for a lower cost. In January, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming will be issuing 50-percent discounts for skiers who have a season pass from any valid ski resort in the world in honor of their 50th anniversary season.
In a similar vein, some resorts offer rewards or perks programs. Vail, for example, has its Stay Free Ski Free rewards program; pay for three, and get the fourth free. However, freebies have to fall within less busy periods. What are they? Basically, remove holiday dates like Christmas, New Year's, Martin Luther King, Jr., Monday and Valentine's Day. Killington in Vermont has a similar deal, and on passes for 5 days, each adult ticket comes with a free youth one. You can gain access to Okemo, and K-Tickets let you buy in bulk at discount for a group.
Schedule Your Vacation Around Holidays
Picking your days and scheduling around holidays (and weekends if you can) can also help you save money. Telluride in Colorado has it all mapped out for you on their stay and ski packages. You have seven to choose from. Their Jump Start and Winter Fest Stay and Ski Packages run through mid-December, followed by the Pre-Holiday Deal that takes you to Christmas Day. The Holiday Package covers Christmas through New Year's until the January White Sale takes over, running until (you guessed it) near Valentine's weekend. Mid-February, you can take the February Vacation, and then after that, it's the Spring Break Package.
Each of the packages gives you 4 nights and 3 days of skiing, with prices per person per night. Go for the Jump Start or Winter Fest deals, and for a family of four you'd be looking at about $1,500 to $1,700. Opt for the holiday extravaganza, however, and the price is very close to $4,000. A Valentine's escape will run over $3,000, but skiing early or even late, for spring break, will keep costs in the $2,000 range. Remember, however, that those are starting prices and that rentals add to that.
Some resorts charge different fees for weekdays than for weekends. At Sugar Mountain in North Carolina, an adult slope ticket will cost you a little over $40 Monday through Thursday, but once Friday hits, prices rise to $70 or so. Holiday rates are higher but only extend through New Year's Day, and March madness will get you a ticket for about $50. If you are up for a day trip, the resort honors holiday school snow days with $14 all-day passes, just as long as you have the proper school identification.
Do Your Research
If you're planning a ski holiday, do your due diligence. Research your options, and do it early. Once November is past, many of the best deals will disappear. Check the websites, and opt for purchasing and reserving online and in advance – it will save you not only money but also time as well. Most will ship passes or have pickup windows so that you can simply grab and ski. Check out discounts for college and military status, and don't discount reloadable resort plastic either.
Many have RFID-chipped reusable money cards that serve throughout the resort and will allow discounts often in the 10- to 20-percent range; some will even give additional discounts when you reload funds. Too, as always, don't hesitate to call, just in case they have a special deal that isn't on the website. Sometimes, the discounts may seem small, but when you start multiplying per person per day or night, savings can add up. Find the right bargains, and you just might be able to sail down the financial slopes without a spill.