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Ways to Save Money on Skiing

If you hate the snow, you can go ahead and skip over this post. I like it less and less as I get older, but my philosophy is that if you are going to live in it, you might as well take advantage of the activities winter offers. I am not a great skier, but we like to make some turns a few times each season.  The absolute best way to save money on skiing is to not go. No matter how much you cut corners, it’s still expensive. This year, we used bonus income from side hustles to fund our ski outings, but we still tried to save as much as we could. Luckily there are plenty of ways to save money on skiing.

Plan Ahead

If you can plan ahead before the season starts, it is much cheaper to buy lift tickets or passes in advance. Unless you live in a resort town, you probably don’t need a season pass, but there are usually other deals to be had. Telluride and Durango Mountain Resort both offer discount cards that are purchased before the season. With those your get your first ski day free, and then  a discount, usually 25%, off the rest of the days you purchase lift tickets. Even if you only go once, it is a substantial savings. All you need to do is start checking the ski area website in the fall and purchase when they become available.

I Didn’t Plan

If you didn’t plan ahead, there still might be ways to save. When traveling for ski trips, many hotels offer half price lift tickets. Hotels in resort towns can be pretty pricey, but often the accommodations in neighboring towns offer the same deals. In Telluride, you’ll pay at least $200/night for the most basic lodging, but if you stay in one of the neighboring towns, a room can be had for under $100 that still includes a discounted lift ticket. It won’t be ski in/ski out, but it does save money.

You might also check with the grocery stores in the area. Some chains offer discounts for certain ski areas. That doesn’t happen where we live, but I’ve seen some of the stores in Denver offer ski discounts.

If you have a student ID from any college, some resorts offer student tickets that are much cheaper than full price on certain days. The other option is to purchase a half day lift ticket if  you don’t feel you’ll ski for more than 3 or 4 hours in a day.

Gear: Buy vs Rent

Most people I know who only ski occasionally rent equipment. I think that makes sense when new skis, boots, and poles can cost hundreds of dollars. However, if you are a good planner, you can sometimes buy gear of your own cheaper than you can rent.

To rent gear, you are looking at $20-$40 per day, depending on where you are. There are usually discounts for multi-day rentals. Lots of the kids in our area do seasonal rentals. For around $100, you can rent for the entire season and if Jr. grows, you can trade in for the next size up.

For us to ski, we have an hour and 15 minute drive in good weather. The last thing I want to do is spend another 30 minutes in the rental shop getting gear. I own my own ski gear and have used the same stuff for over a decade. It was purchased for half price during an after season sale. I don’t remember how much it cost at the time, but I think I’ve more than made up for the purchase price. If you don’t need the latest year’s model, buying your own might be worthwhile.

With kids, you can find incredible used gear if you are willing to shop around. It’s like shopping yard sales. You never quite know when  you’ll find what you need, but when you do, it will be cheap. We went to two ski swaps before the season started and bought our daughter used boots and skis for $60. We also got a pair of Obermeyer bib ski pants for $10.

I saw an identical pair for sale at a shop in Telluride for $105! The only difference is that our pair has the name “Anna” written on the inside of the pants. Anna is not our daughter’s name, but for $95, she can be Anna on the ski slopes. Ebay or Craig’s List would be other places to look. Another great thing is that I will be able to sell it all when she outgrows it for about the same price, so essentially, her gear costs us nothing.

Pack Your Lunch!

By all means, if you want to save money, never, ever eat at a ski resort. The most simple sandwich without a side is usually over $10. To get hot dogs, fries, and bottled water from the self service line for the three of us, it could easily cost $50. We pack a cooler and head back to the car for lunch. If I’m paying $50, I better be getting an entree, side, and salad, plus have someone waiting on me! Resorts usually have a thermos or water fountain for free drinking water, but you might have to look to find it.

Skiing is one of those things that always seems to take lots of work to get there, but we have an awesome time once we do. We already have some great family memories, and every time I go up on the lift, I have to shake my head because it’s such a fluke that I’m even there. Most of my family would rather eat dirt than go out in the snow, but I’m thankful I found this hobby. Hopefully, if you like to ski, you can use some of my saving tips to make the experience even more fun.

Do you think skiing is worth the money? What expensive hobbies do you enjoy? 

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. Oh, how I really wish that someday I could experience skiing! I want to make a snowman and play in the snow, that’s just one of my childhood dream. :)
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  2. Sounds like a lot of fun, and a great way to save money on skiing. I’ve never been skiing! Wes and I were just talking about this the other day and how we need to make plans for it soon.
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  3. I’ve only been skiing once or twice and remember that renting was definitely the way to go if you’re a more casual skier. My latest somewhat expensive habit has been homebrewing. Thankfully the cost begins to go down over time, which is even better if it’d something you like as opposed to something nasty.
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    • I can’t help but think of an old fashioned hillbilly still when someone talks about brewing at home. All you’d need is a straw hat and overalls.

  4. I gave up snowboarding when I moved to LA….even when I had a full time job, because it was too expensive and it was too far to drive (and then pay for a place to stay) like when people go to Mammoth. I still want to sell more stuff related to the sport. I did always bring my lunch though. The food can be crazy expensive!
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  5. I snowboarded for 2 or 3 years starting my senior year of high school. It was expensive to get started and the only way I wanted to do it was with a season pass (daily passes are so pricey it seems hard to justify). I like to go for shorter periods of time, too, versus going for hours and hours. I stopped because of the cost. It became too expensive to pay for the pass, the transportation to get there, and finally the time. I had to give it up and haven’t returned since. If I do start snowboarding again I want my wife to be able to do it with me and I’d want both of us to get season passes. So basically it could be a while before I end up snowboarding again.

  6. Ski food is pretty depressing. We used to go to a resort including breakfast and dinner, which was a pretty good deal compared to renting a super small ski studio and making your own meals, as ski town convenience stores are also overpriced.
    With a kid that often includes kids club too and you can take an afternoon or two to ski between adults.
    The only really overpriced weeks were school holidays but if you go the week before without kids it is way cheaper.
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  7. I’ve never actually been skiing, which is sort of ironic since I’m from Maine. I guess it just wasn’t something I was interested in (I hate being outside when it’s cold). It’s probably a good thing I was never interested since it can be so expensive. My expensive hobby is probably knitting and quilting (although I haven’t been doing much of either lately). Expensive yarns and fabric can really add up.

  8. I live in Salt Lake City and the resorts seem to be trying to lure more locals up to the slopes. Some of the things we take advantage of include:
    1- Free lift tickets to all resorts in Utah for 5th and 6th graders. The kids get 3 tickets to each resort. There is also a parent pass that you can purchase.
    2 - January is “Learn to Ski” month. All the resorts do specials on lessons. We signed my 5-yr. old up for a full day lesson with rentals and lunch for $40. It is usually $200 at the same resort.
    3 - Locals Only passes 40% off the Deer Valley rate.
    4 - Entertainment Book coupons or Groupons. If you aren’t set on one particular resort, then you can usually find a great deal.
    5 - Night Skiing. We only have a few resorts that offer this but it is about 1/3 of the price and the weather is bearable in the Spring.

    It is still an expensive hobby for our family of 5, but my kids love it.

    • Other examples of why it’s great to take advantage of local discounts. My first ski trip ever was to the SLC area, and we hope to make it back again when our daughter is a little older.

  9. We love to ski, and it’s worth it for us a few times a year. I work in education and have a school aged son, so we have to do weekends and holidays if we do it at all. Still, we’ve learned some tips:
    -If your employer offers Working Advantage, check it out for deals on lift tickets all over the country.
    -Check out Liftopia for deals, too.
    -Hit the slopes on the early side, pack an energy bar and eat it with tea or hot chocolate, ski through to 2ish, and then have your own lunch.
    -Sometimes there are better deals at great “local” mountains- try Pico or Magic instead of Killington or Stratton in VT; Arapaho or Loveland in CO.
    -Maybe this one’s obvious, but if you’re teaching your kids to ski, don’t buy a premium ticket at a huge mountain for the bunny slope.

    • Thanks for the tips. Ski areas try to make most of their money on tourists so the more you do as a local, the better off you’ll be.

  10. I never been skiing but I think it is so much fun and friends told me you will enjoy very much.
    I am thinking of trying skiing. Thanks a lot for sharing!
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  11. I really love skiing! Thank you so much for this tips Kim! You did a great job and hope this is also helpful to others like me who love skiing but doesn’t want to spend much.

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