You don’t need to pay full price to ski in the Northwest. In fact, there are so many ways to save money on lift tickets, paying full price (as much as $74 per day) is paying too much.
The trick to saving is to find a deal before you head to the slopes, because once you’re on the mountain the bargains are scarce.
From gear, transportation, lift tickets and lessons, there’s no getting around the fact that skiing and snowboarding are expensive sports. So, do a little homework before you reach for your wallet.
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Here are a dozen ways to pinch a penny:
1. MAX Pass
Season passes are a good way to save money, but they also mean you’ll be doing most of your skiing at one resort in order to get the most bang for your buck. A Multiple Alpine Experience (MAX) Pass comes with options. The pass is good for five days of skiing at 39 North American resorts. Participating Northwest resorts include Crystal Mountain, Stevens Pass, the Summit at Snoqualmie, Oregon’s Mount Bachelor and British Columbia’s Cypress Mountain and Kimberley Alpine Resort. The pass is $699 (18 and older), $499 (13-17), $399 (6-12) and $49 (5 and younger). Those with season passes at qualifying resorts can add on a MAX pass for $349 (18 and older), $299 (13-17), $249 (6-12) or $49 (5 and younger). themaxpass.com
2. FREE WEEK
Bargain hunters will have a hard time matching 49 Degree North’s free week. Underwritten by Toyota, the ski area north of Spokane traditionally caps its season with seven days of free skiing. The event lures skiers from around the region. Some even camp in the parking lot. This year’s free week is April 3-9. Ski49n.com.
Liftopia is a website offering deeply discounted lift tickets for those willing to buy in advance. Skiers can find deals around the country, including 17 Northwest resorts. In early November, Mission Ridge, Mount Spokane, Bluewood, the Summit at Snoqualmie and Stevens Pass were among those offering deals on the website. liftopia.com.
4. MILITARY DISCOUNTS
Crystal, the Summit, White Pass and Stevens Pass offer discounts for those with military ID. Militarymerits.com also offers discounts.
5. $25 PER DAY FOR LEARNERS
On Friday, White Pass launched a deal designed to get new skiers and snowboarders on the slopes. For $149.95, skiers and snowboarders can buy a learn-to-ski package good for three days each for two people. The discounted packages are good for skiers of all ages who haven’t taken part in the discount in previous years. This is the third year the ski area has offered the deal, which includes rentals from Tacoma’ Sturtevant’s Ski Mart. “It’s a really good deal,” said Kathleen Goyette, spokeswoman for White Pass. She says the discounted plans typically sell out before Christmas. skiwhitepass.com.
6. BUY IN BULK
Tiana Anderson of Crystal Mountain Resort said the best deal for those who don’t want to invest in a season pass is to buy a five-pack. Buying five tickets saves skiers and boarders $7 per ticket. And there are no restrictions on how they can use the tickets, she said. crystalmountainresort.com.
7. SKI AT NIGHT
Yes, it’s colder than a penguin’s belly many winter nights in the Cascades, but nighttime can also help keep your budget in the black. The Summit at Snoqualmie and Stevens Pass have the most extensive night skiing operations. Here’s the savings breakdown using the Summit’s prices. Buy a weekend day pass ($74) and ski for $9.25 per hour. Buy a night pass ($45) and ski for $7.50 per hour. If you have 13 hours of skiing in your legs, rip for both sessions ($79) at $6.08 per hour. summitatsnoqualmie.com, stevenspass.com, skiwhitepass.com
8. BE A THIRD OR FIFTH GRADER
For ages, it’s paid to be a fifth grader. Many ski areas let these youngsters ski free. But this year, White Pass is bucking the trend and offering free season passes for third graders. “We want to help get kids interested in the sport sooner,” Goyette said. Don’t fret fifth graders, there are still deals for you. Mount Baker and Stevens Pass offer free skiing for fifth graders. And a $20 Fifth Grade Ski Free Passport gets skiers three days at 49 Degrees North, Mount Spokane, Loup Loup, Mission Ridge, Bluewood and Idaho’s Brundage Mountain, Lookout Pass and Silver Mountain. skiwhitepass.com, stevenspass.com, mtbaker.us and 5thgradeskipassport.com.
9. GEAR PASS
It can cost $40 or more per day to rent skis or snowboards at a resort, and your kid is likely to outgrow gear as soon as you invest to own. However, several places offer the opportunity to rent for the season. At the Summit at Snoqualmie, gear season passes are $99 for children 6 and younger, $119 for youth ages 7-12 and $139 for those 13 and older. Just pick it up at the rental counter whenever you visit the slopes. Or, for an extra $10 you can keep the gear for the season. summitatsnoqualmie.com.
10. PASS PERKS
Those who ski a lot at one resort typically aren’t going to find a better a deal than purchasing a season pass. The earlier you buy, the better deal. Most ski areas will offer their best rates for the 2017-18 season toward the end of this season. It’s become standard in recent years for season passes to come with some nice perks. A Summit Gold pass at the Summit gets 50 percent off day passes to Crystal Mountain and other resorts. A White Pass season pass comes with five free days at Mission Ridge and 49 Degrees North and two free days at Bluewood. And a Crystal Mountain season pass comes with 50 percent discounts at the Summit and other ski areas. A Mission Ridge season pass might come with the best perks: Unlimited free midweek skiing at the Summit, free Wednesday skiing at Loup Loup, a combined 18 days of free skiing at variety of other resorts, discounted rates at number of ski areas, discounts on beer and 20 percent off skydiving. missionridge.com, crystalmountainresort.com, skiwhitepass.com, summitatsnoqualmie.com
11. GET A JOB
From manning chairlifts to helping direct traffic in the parking lot, ski areas hire part-time employees each winter and some even use volunteers. A standard perk of the job: Free skiing.
12. CHECK WEBSITES
Be sure to check regularly with your favorite ski area’s website and social media pages. These are the places where they are most likely to announce unadvertised and last-minute discounts.