How to Save Money While Skiing

Young child on magic carpet. Kids often ski for free.
Often ski resorts offer free ski tickets for young children!

Skiing can be an expensive sport. But, it doesn’t have to. There are many ways to save money when skiing as a family. Below you will find our top tips for saving money while skiing.

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How We Save Money Skiing

I’m sharing some tips we’ve used for years to save money skiing. If you’re like our family, skiing is a passion that borders on an obsession! I moved to the mountains partly to get to ski more. When I fell in love with Richie I also got a free ski instructor in the package. After I married into a skiing family I knew that we were going to be raising our kids to be another generation of rippers. However, we live on a small salary. We always have! And skiing can become expensive quickly! Especially in times of $200 lift tickets and pricey gear. Some of these tips are a bit unconventional, but sometimes you need to think out of the box to save some money!

Also, I am a skier. Richie skis and snowboards, but I do think these suggestions are relevant for skiers and boarders. In this article, I will discuss three ways that we have saved money skiing. First, we’re going to talk gear. Then we’ll talk ski resorts. Lastly, I will discuss food options and other additional costs. 

Ski Gear Savings

When you’re trying to save money on gear the easiest way to do this is by purchasing used gear. I’m talking about skis, poles, snowboards, and sometimes even your ski jacket and ski pants. I don’t recommend buying used boots unless your ski days are less than 10-15 a season. I’ll explain why too. 

Ski Swaps

Up until this year, my skis have always been used. My favorite place to buy used skis is at ski swaps. Ski Swaps are events that happen in the fall typically at ski hills, but sometimes in mountain towns where people can sell their used gear or buy others’ gear. You can also pick up used equipment from rental shops. I tend to steer away from rental gear because rental bindings are very heavy. If you are willing to get different bindings then this could work fine for you!

When shopping for skis at a ski swap I try to find something that I’m actually going to ski. So I come to the ski swap knowing what I’m looking for. I know what size ski I like to ride and know I want something that’s just a few years old. I have been open to the possibilities from there. I’ve bought powder skis, park skis, super fat powder skis, and some daily riders from the ski swap. My ski that’s been my favorite ski for 9 seasons was a ski swap find. But,  I’ve also found that some of these skis weren’t really what I was looking for. So I passed them on to new homes either through the ski swap or on Facebook Marketplace.

Facebook Marketplace

Facebook Marketplace typically has a wide selection of skis for a decent price. I say typically because Richie was always sending me pictures of ancient 80s or 90s skis with out-of-date bindings on the Minnesota Facebook Marketplace marked for ridiculously high prices. I’m not sure what was up with that… 

Facebook Marketplace is a great place to find used kids’ gear. Kids grow quickly and parents need to unload that used gear somewhere. If you missed Ski Swap season, definitely check Facebook Marketplace!

Your Local Ski Shop

The final place I suggest you look is at your local ski shop. Oftentimes ski shops will take used gear to give customers a discount on their purchase, then they will sell that gear. This is where we’ve gotten our kids used ski gear and our own gear for our recent purchases. The reason why I love getting gear at a local shop is that I’m supporting a local business. I am also getting skis that have undergone binding tests so I know they’re safe for my family. They also come with a complete tune-up, so they’re ready to shred. We’re fortunate that we have a friend who works at a small ski shop. He is willing to look for the gear we’re looking for and hold it for us. That’s the big way we’ve been able to outfit our kids in a time when finding small kids skis is very hard! So another tip to saving money on skiing? Make ski industry friends! Seriously, get to know your local shop and become a patron and friend. You could end up getting great gear at a lower price!

I mentioned that I don’t buy boots at ski swaps. The reason is in my opinion, the boot is the most important piece of ski gear. If you have a bad boot fit it is going to affect your skiing performance WAY more than an untuned ski or a ski that’s a bit too tall or too short. Going to a proper boot fitter is going to get you a boot that fits you, plus they’re going to be able to make adjustments to that boot to give it the PERFECT fit. I’ve also had this go terribly wrong so make sure you’re headed to a reputable boot fitter. We love Sports Creel in Spokane Valley. I’ve heard people will even fly there to get boot fitted. They fit me with some boots that I can only describe as cozy. So yes, I drove 3.5 hours to get new ski boots. 

Boot fitting for little ones isn’t as crucial, since often boots may not even fit tiny feet for a couple of years. They also may not notice things like heel lifts and a delay in their turn due to a little foot wiggle. River at 4 is finally properly fitting into his ski boots, but his feet have always been tiny. Hattie’s on the other side of the foot-size spectrum and fits her boots comfortably at 2. They are two years apart and almost have the same size foot. Genes are weird. 

I spent a lot of time on the gear portion of saving money, but that’s because I believe it’s such a crucial way to save money. 

Silver Mountain is an affordable resort in Idaho.
Silver Mountain in Kellogg, ID

Saving Money At Ski Resorts

One of the biggest ways to save money skiing is by choosing cheaper ski resorts. Often smaller “mom and pop” type ski hills are going to have significantly cheaper lift tickets than major corporate resorts. Most smaller ski hills are going to have fewer amenities, like dining options and high speed lifts. But, some smaller resorts have just as awesome terrain as larger resorts. Others will have great beginner-friendly terrain and affordable ski lessons. 

Yes, you may make some sacrifices when choosing a smaller ski hill, but you could potentially save hundreds of dollars by choosing a smaller resort. This is especially true if you’re looking to take a vacation skiing. Daily lift tickets to major ski resorts like Vail, Deer Valley, or Big Sky are nearly $200 a day! Meanwhile, smaller ski resorts typically offer day tickets from anywhere from $50 to $100. 

If you are looking to save money, but do want to ski at a bigger resort consider choosing dates outside of the busier season. Early December or April will have cheaper day tickets due to early and late-season conditions. You could also consider night skiing. At our home mountain, a day ticket costs $89, but a night skiing ticket is $27. There’s obviously a lot less terrain, but it is a huge saving! Also, if you or your kids are just learning, consider buying a lower mountain ticket. These are usually only for beginner terrain and can save you a lot of money! 

Another less conventional way to save money at resorts is by working at a ski resort! Richie spent over 10 years working at ski resorts as a ski instructor, and two years as a board member for our local nonprofit ski hill in Minnesota. When Richie was a full-time instructor both of us got free season passes as a benefit. Richie also was able to score cheaper gear through pro deals and free tickets to other ski resorts. Even after Richie dropped to part-time instructing after River was born, Richie still received a free season pass and I got a discounted season pass. Working part-time at a ski hill can save you hundreds of dollars on season passes and lift tickets!

Saving Money on Food and Other Expenses

Food at ski resorts is typically expensive. It can also be pretty mediocre, depending on the resort. We usually pack our lunch and snacks instead of buying resort food. This definitely saves us a lot of money, and possibly a belly ache from fried food. There are some exceptions to this rule. If you ever find yourself skiing Deer Valley, eat the food too! It’s amazing and I think it’s part of the Deer Valley experience. Same can be said for SnowBasin. Eating lunch at the John Paul Lodge is an experience worth having! 

Another way to save money is by avoiding parking in lots with a fee. These parking lots are usually closer to the resort and come at a premium. Also, gear up in the car. If you get your gear on in the lodge you will need a place to store your stuff. This means paying for a locker! Some resorts, like Schweitzer, allow you to store your gear for free (and hope it isn’t stolen!). But, this is not typical. If you are choosing to rent gear make sure you do some price comparisons on getting it in town vs. at the resort. I haven’t rented gear in a very long time, but when I did it was always cheaper off the mountain. 

How to save money skiing

How We Save Money Skiing

There are so many ways to save money on skiing. Remember, purchase used gear, choose less expensive ski resorts, and bring your food from home! I hope some of these tips help you and your family save money so you can make the most of your skiing experience! 

How does your family save money on skiing?

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