With the 2014 Winter Olympics under way, many of us will want to try to follow in the footsteps of the athletes we’re watching. While access to, say, luge and bobsled tracks is generally limited to people who live close to former U.S. Olympic sites, certain activities are within easy reach. For instance, with hundreds of ski resorts across the country, chances are good that you can barrel downhill in states as diverse as Alabama and Alaska, New Jersey and New Mexico, or North Carolina and North Dakota. If you’re looking for some enjoyable, economical outdoor fun, here are a few tips on how to save money on ski outings this winter.
Think midweek and off-peak. The higher the demand, the higher the price. Weekends are obviously the busiest time of week, and that’s especially true in the middle of winter. If you head for the hills when trail traffic is light, ski resorts will be happy to see you — and you’ll be happy to see the lower prices.
Save on kids’ needs. If you’re planning a family trip, look for a mountain that offers discounts on lift tickets (and possibly ski gear) for your children. Resorts often provide free lessons for young ones, which helps to hook kids on the joys of skiing at a young age while enticing parents onto the slopes by offering them a chance to ski free of their parental duties. Few parents complain about getting a break that also encourages their kids to exercise.
Buy lift tickets online. Ski tickets can fluctuate as much as airline tickets, but savvy online consumers can find deals throughout the year. Liftopia.com, for instance, offers savings of 80 to 90% compared to lift tickets bought at the mountain. (Just be sure you can ski on the date(s) you choose; the tickets are non-refundable.) You can also subscribe to e-mails from resorts and ski shops, which will alert you to special deals as soon as they become available.
Arrive equipped. If you don’t already own ski gear, ask off-mountain ski shops how much it’ll cost to outfit you with skis, boots, and poles; you’re likely to get a better rate than the resort’s rental shop will offer. (You’ll also spend more time on the trails rather than in the rental shop.) Better yet, borrow equipment from friends or family; that price is (almost) always right.
Go big. Large groups often qualify for the best discounts. If you can talk 20 or so of your closest friends and family members into a ski trip, you can significantly reduce the per-person rates on tickets, equipment rentals, and more.
Before hitting the slopes, be sure to check out FreeShipping.com, where you can earn 5% cash back and enjoy instant free shipping at hundreds of websites, including Skis.com and other sporting goods outlets that can help you gear up for your ski trip. Happy trails!