Skiing and snowboarding is never cheap, but there are plenty of ways to hit the slopes without breaking the bank — if you know where to hunt for bargains.
Sometimes the deals are unexpected. For example, two ski areas near either end of the Roaring Fork Valley are celebrating 50 years with very different offers. On Dec. 15, Snowmass is celebrating its 50th anniversary with $6.50 lift tickets — the cost of a one-day ticket on opening day in 1967, when it was called Snowmass-at-Aspen to help people locate it. Down the valley, near Glenwood Springs, $700 buys a full day of skiing or riding at Ski Sunlight, a hot-springs pass and a pair of handcrafted Meier skis (skisunlight.com).
To find more widespread deals, try these ways to save on the slopes:
1. Shop online. Know when and where you plan to ski? Buy tickets at Liftopia.com. The Colorado page lists deals mostly in the range of 40 to 50 percent off regular price. Buy early, especially if you wish to ski over a holiday.
Mountain Sports Club membership unleashes buy-one-get-one tickets and other savings at resorts nationwide, with resorts added weekly. Basic membership is now free, but premium membership (currently $30, but it’s expected to climb to $60 as more resorts join) will gain you access to more bargains. mountainsportsclub.com
2. Look in-store. Some local ski shops, including Colorado Ski & Golf, Christy Sports and Crystal Ski Shop, sell discounted lift tickets and season passes. King Soopers sells lift tickets at its customer service desks. Costco offers discounted tickets for its members. Check the gift card display for deals once the season starts.
3. Fill ‘er up. Colorado skiers can receive a buy-one-get-one free voucher for participating ski resorts with the purchase of 10 gallons or more of gasoline at select Shell stations. skifreedeals.com
4. Embrace January. Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month is a nationwide program offering beginner packages that include well priced lift tickets, rentals and lessons so newbies can get interested in (or even addicted to) snow sports. skiandsnowboardmonth.org
5. Kids ski free. Every year, Colorado Ski Country issues a free Fifth Grade Passport. The passport allows every fifth grader in the state to ski free three times at each of 22 participating resorts. There’s another deal available for them the following year: For $105, sixth graders ski free up to four days at each resort. Purchase the Sixth Grade Passport by Nov. 30; the cost rises to $125 through Jan. 31. coloradoski.com
Kids age 6 or 7 ski free at many areas, but Steamboat’s Kids Ski Free program pioneered free lifts, lodging and lessons for kids 12 and younger (one kid per adult) during stays of five days or longer. steamboat.com
Vail Resorts’ participating Epic Pass resorts offer four or five days of free skiing to kindergarten through fifth grade students as part of their Epic School Kids program. epicpass.com
Crested Butte is offering their no-strings free skiing deal for kids 12 and younger Nov. 23-Dec. 15 and April 1-8. skicb.com
6. Think small. The Colorado Gems Card, a discount card for use at smaller Colorado ski areas, costs just $25 and is good for either two two-for-one lift tickets or two tickets at 30 percent off at each of 10 participating ski areas: Arapahoe Basin, Echo Mountain, Eldora, Hesperus, Loveland, Monarch Mountain, Powderhorn, Ski Cooper, Ski Granby Ranch and Sunlight. coloradoski.com/gems-card
Wolf Creek, the deep-snow mecca in southwestern Colorado, sells a $48 day ticket on 12 local appreciation days throughout the season. wolfcreekski.com
Ski Cooper, celebrating its 75th anniversary this season, will offer 2FER Tuesdays between Jan. 9 and Feb. 27; $30 Thursdays between Jan. 4 and March 29. It closes out the season with $25 lift tickets April 2-8. skicooper.com
7. Try online direct. Not all resorts allow you to buy from resellers, but there are other ways to save. If you plan to go just a few days, look for lift-ticket bundles — three- or four-packs — after the cut-off date for regular season passes. Vail Resorts (vail.com) offers tiered pricing that varies according to dates and conditions, for example. On an early- or late-season day when not all lifts and runs are open, prices can be at least 30 percent lower than during the holidays. However, these must be purchased early.
8. Take a pass. Just like a museum membership, a season pass lets you ski or ride whenever you like. If you use the pass to the maximum (or close to it), you’ll definitely save more than the occasional skier. Pick up an Epic Pass (on sale through Nov. 19 at epicpass.com) or buy a season pass to a mountain: for example, adult passes at Echo Mountain are $249, $399 at Ski Cooper. College students, families, teens, seniors or members of the military might also find individual deals.