Winter is knocking on the door, and for ski enthusiasts, that can only mean one thing—it’s time to embrace the powdery slopes. But as the excitement builds for ski season, so does the concern about the cost. Skiing isn’t cheap.
Here, we unravel the secrets of squeezing every ounce of value (and fun) from your skiing adventure while keeping your hard-earned cash in your pocket. From game-changing ski passes to the some of the most affordable mountains across the country to smart money-saving hacks, we’ve got the scoop how to ski affordably this year.
The Best Ski Passes
The best ski passes—Epic, Ikon, Mountain Collective, Indy—are your golden ticket, each unlocking a unique array of resorts, experiences and discounts. But whether you’re a seasoned pro or a first-timer, navigating the intricacies of these passes isn’t always easy. Here’s what you need to know.
The Epic Pass provides exclusive access to the Vail Resorts network. With 54 resorts across the U.S. and Canada, including Vail Mountain, Breckenridge, Park City Mountain, Whistler Blackcomb, Stowe and many more, it’s a skier’s paradise. Vail Resorts has expanded its reach to partner resorts in Japan and Europe. The Epic Pass has severa; options, catering to a variety of preferences and budgets. The full Epic Pass (currently $969 per adult; $494 per child) gives unlimited access to practically all the mountains in the network, with a few all-star resorts like Telluride getting just seven days. There’s also a slightly more limited Epic Local Pass (currently $719 per adult; $585 per teen; $377 per child), and an Epic Day Pass (starting at $110 per adult; $58 per child) that can be customized from one to seven days and is a great gift. And they all unlock 20% savings on food, lodging and rentals—plus free buddy passes and discounts for friend’s passes. The thing to know about the Epic Pass is that the rates are the cheapest when they go on sale in the spring and prices go up as you get closer to the season. But it’s still the best value of the bunch. Epic sales end on November 19.
Ikon Pass—part of Alterra Mountain Company, a family of year-round resorts—gives access to 58 mountain destinations around the world, including Winter Park in Colorado, Mammoth Mountain in California, Vermont’s Stratton and more. Of the Ikon passes, the full Ikon Pass (currently $1,309 per adult) offers the most access and zero blackout dates, with unlimited access at 16 mountains and up to seven days at 41 other destinations. For those looking for a more budget-friendly option, the Ikon Base Pass (currently $979 per adult), with some blackout dates and access at 14 mountains and up to five days at 36 other destinations. There’s also a 4-Day Ikon Pass (currently $539 per adult) with blackout dates and access at 41 mountains. Like Epic, you’ll get the best pricing by purchasing the Ikon Pass early in the season; they’re for sale until they sell out.
For those who crave a different kind of skiing adventure, enter the Mountain Collective Pass. Started by the Aspen Skiing Company back in 2012, the Mountain Collective compiles 24 mountains into one pass, including destinations like Aspen Snowmass, Sugarbush, Snowbird, Alta and Jackson Hole. You get two days at each partner resort. The pass (currently $650 per adult; $530 per teen; $210 per child) has zero blackout dates and the option to snag 50% off on additional days. The passes are for sale until they sell out.
A collection of independent mountains, the Indy Pass offers two days each at 180+ independent ski areas across the U.S., Canada, Japan and Europe plus 25% off your third day. The Indy Pass current has a waitlist for this upcoming season, but rates are $499 per adult; $249 per child).
Tips for Maximizing Savings
Early Bird Discounts
Seize the moment and snag your pass early. Early bird discounts are the golden ticket to significant savings. Be on the lookout for exclusive promotions and special offers that come with planning ahead and securing your pass well before the snow starts to fall. This means—it’s time to start thinking ahead for the 2024/25 ski season—passes will go on sale in the spring.
Bundling Accommodations and Passes
Why settle for one when you can have both? Consider bundling your ski pass with accommodations for a seamless and budget-friendly experience. Resorts often offer enticing package deals that include lodging and passes, ensuring your winter getaway is as cost-effective as it is exhilarating.
Consider planning your ski trip during the middle of the week. Weekends and holidays are typically peak times, and prices for accommodations and lift tickets tend to be higher. Midweek skiing not only saves you money but also provides a quieter and less crowded experience on the slopes.
Gear Rentals and Purchases
Consider renting your gear instead of buying, especially if you’re an occasional skier. It’s a cost-effective solution that ensures you have top-notch equipment without the hefty price tag. And a tip: You’ll usually get lower rates if you rent from an outfitter in town versus on the mountain.
Season Passes for Locals
If you live near a ski resort, check for season pass options designed specifically for locals. These passes may offer substantial savings compared to daily lift tickets. Look out for early-season discounts on these passes.
Student and Military Discounts:
If you’re a student or part of the military, inquire about special discounts. Many resorts offer reduced rates for students, and some provide military discounts as a way to express gratitude for their service.
Bring Your Own Food
Ski resort dining can be expensive. Save money by bringing your own snacks and lunch. Packing a cooler with sandwiches, fruit and other snacks can help you avoid high-priced meals on the mountain.
Off-Peak Season Skiing
If you’re flexible with your timing, consider skiing during the early or late season. Resorts often offer discounted rates during these times when snow conditions might be slightly less predictable but still enjoyable.
Affordable Ski Resorts Across the Country
Here are some smaller, more affordable ski mountains across the county.
Snowbasin Resort – Utah
A jewel in the Wasatch Range, Snowbasin Resort is known for its world-class facilities and immaculately groomed slopes, combining affordability with top-notch amenities. Pass: Epic Pass.
Homewood Mountain Resort – California
Overlooking the pristine waters of Lake Tahoe, Homewood Mountain Resort is a picturesque and affordable winter getaway with stunning lake views and a diverse terrain that caters to skiers and riders of all levels. Pass: Ikon Pass.
Taos Ski Valley – New Mexico
Tucked in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Taos Ski Valley is known for its challenging terrain and vibrant cultural atmosphere, attracting skiers and snowboarders seeking a unique and affordable mountain experience. Pass: Mountain Collective
Mad River Glen – Vermont
Nestled in the scenic Green Mountains of Vermont, Mad River Glen is known for its commitment to preserving the classic ski atmosphere—an authentic experience with challenging trails and a welcoming community vibe. Pass: none
Bridger Bowl – Montana
With its vast terrain and breathtaking vistas, Bridger Bowl in Montana is a budget-friendly paradise for avid skiers. Diverse slopes cater to various skill levels, and the absence of major resort crowds adds to its allure. Pass: none
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