This winter, you can pay more than $100 for a one-day lift ticket at Whistler Blackcomb or on Montana’s Lone Peak.
In Washington, prices aren’t quite as shocking, but at an average of $59.50 per day at the six Cascades ski areas, the cost is still enough to scare off some people.
“Skiing has become such an expensive sport,” said Jordan Lindstrom, marketing director for Mission Ridge. “We are looking for ways to make it more affordable.”
One step that Mission Ridge is taking this season is changing the price range on its season passes. Instead of charging the full adult rate for season passes when skiers turn 19, they’ve upped the age to 25.
Lindstrom said an analysis of the resort’s demographics showed the income level of most people 24 and younger didn’t allow them to afford their $459 season passes. So this year the new “Youth/Young Adult Pass” went on sale for $269. Prices were set to increase earlier this month, but Lindstrom said discounted rates still will be available on season passes and daily lift tickets for those 24 and younger.
The sport might be expensive, but there are plenty of ways to save money. Here are some ideas:
SKI FREE FOR A WEEK
Easily the Northwest’s best ski deal, 49 Degrees North offers a week of free skiing at the end of each season. Toyota sponsors the free event and resort owner John Eminger says it’s become wildly popular. Last year, 12 people came from Eugene, Ore., most traveling in the back of rented moving truck. The group camped in the parking lot for the week. “It’s turned into Daytona Beach,” Eminger said. “It started as way to say thanks to our regulars but it has really grown. We might have to narrow it down in the future.” This season’s free week is April 1-7.
Lookout Pass on the Idaho-Montana border claims to have introduced about 60,000 kids to skiing and snowboarding in the resort’s 76-season history. Even better, many of the parents of those kids didn’t pay a penny. The ski area offers free lessons on Saturday mornings for kids ages 6-17. All kids need to participate is their gear. The free lessons for beginners and intermediates are Jan. 12-March 16 this season, with registration opening online Jan. 12-26. Go to skilookout.com
GET A SEASON PASS
The great thing about season passes is that the more you ski, the greater the discount. While you can still get season passes at Northwest ski areas, the best time to buy is in spring for the following season. At many resorts, purchasing your ticket for next season before the end of this season not only gets you the best rate, but resorts often let you ski out the current season at no extra charge.
CHECK THE WEB
You can pay full price at the ticket window or you can check out resort wesbites for discounted rates before you go. Many ski areas offer discounts for buying multiple tickets. Crystal Mountain is offering new deal this season in which you can save $50 on a five-pack of tickets. The passes are loaded onto a radio frequency identity pass that can be transferred between skiers. However, only one pass can be used per day. Some ski areas, like Whistler Blackcomb, will offer discounted rates if you purchase your tickets online.
The exchange rate won’t get you a discount at Whistler Blackcomb, but the Edge Card will. Only Canadians and Washington residents are eligible to buy Edge Cards that allow you to pre-purchase lift tickets for rates from $77 for a day to $65 per day for 10 days. If you add more tickets later, the rates are also discounted to $55-$83 depending on the time of year. The card is also good for discounts on lessons, rentals, merchandise, lodging and other activities. The deadline to buy an Edge Card is Nov. 19. For more information, visit whistlerblackcomb.com.
Paying $20 to watch “Flow State,” the latest Warren Miller movie, will get you a free midweek pass to White Pass Ski Area and two-for-one lift tickets to Whistler Blackcomb, Sun Peaks, Big White and Silver Star. The Tacoma and Olympia shows have passed, but you can still catch screenings Nov. 15 at Bremerton’s Admiral Theatre and Nov. 18 at the Auburn Performing Arts Center. Visit warrenmiller.com for more information.
DRIVE A TOYOTA
Toyota is offering free ski days for anybody who drives one of its cars at several Inland Northwest ski areas in February. Ski free at Silver Mountain on Feb. 1, Mount Spokane on Feb. 8, Lookout Pass on Feb. 15 and 49 Degrees North on Feb. 22. Go to skinwrockies.com.
GET A JOB
Scoring a part-time job or volunteer position at a ski hill almost always comes with free lift tickets. Job fairs have passed for the season, but resorts typically post job openings on their websites.
BE A FIFTH-GRADER
Mount Baker allows as many as two fifth-graders to ski free with a paying adult. Visit mtbaker.us for an application and more information. You must register for this program at the Bellingham office or through the mail before arriving at the mountain.
Most ski areas will cut you a discount on lift tickets – often 10 percent or more – if you stay at a local hotel as part of your trip. Mission Ridge offers discounts for those staying in hotels in Wenatchee and Leavenworth and, new this year, will throw in transportation to the ski hill from selected hotels in Wenatchee. Visit MissionRidge.com for more information.
11. MILITARY DISCOUNTS
Many ski areas offer military discounts and military appreciation days. At Crystal Mountain, members of the military can purchase vouchers online good for $56 lift tickets (instead of $66). The Summit at Snoqualmie lets troops purchase discounted lift tickets ($46 instead of $64) and offers preseason season pass rates all year. White Pass discounts its tickets from $59 to $49. Also, militarymerits.com directs families to other discounts.
12. GEAR PASS
You can pay $30 per day or more to rent skis at a resort and buying gear doesn’t always make sense for growing kids. At the Summit at Snoqualmie, however, you can buy a gear rental season pass for $79 for children 6 and younger, $99 for youths ages 7-12 and $119 for those 13 and older.
13. LEARNING PACKAGES
At White Pass, you can get three days of group lessons, lift tickets and equipment rentals for $139, or $129 for those 5-12 years old. The Summit has a similar offer, but prices ($119 last season) weren’t announced as of press time. Crystal Mountain has a similar package with longer lessons for $195.
14. NIGHT SKIING
One of the easiest ways to save money is to ski at night. A night pass typically gets you six to seven hours of skiing for a fraction of the price of a day pass. A night pass at the Summit at Snoqualmie is $40 while a day pass is $60. A night pass is $40 ($25 less than a day pass) at Stevens Pass. White Pass is $25 at night compared to a $59 day pass, but most of its intermediate and advanced terrain is closed for night skiing.
15. EARN YOUR TURNS
It costs almost nothing to ski if you don’t use a chairlift. Pack your boards up a slope on Snoqualmie Pass or Mount Rainier or pick up some touring gear and ski deep into the backcountry. Take a partner, an avalanche beacon, probe and shovel and know how to use them. Check weather and avalanche forecasts at nwac.us before you go.Craig Hill: 253-597-8497 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/adventure