The average cost of an adult lift ticket will rise above $60 in the Cascades for the first time this winter.
This is still a bargain compared with places such as Whistler Blackcomb ($109 Canadian), Montana’s Big Sky ($99) or Aspen Snowmass ($109), but still enough to deter some people from hitting the slopes.
While the sport might be expensive, there are plenty of ways to save money. Here are some ideas:
1. SKI FREE FOR A WEEK
The undisputed king of Northwest ski bargains is 49 Degrees North’s free ski week held the final week of each season. It’s become especially popular among college students, some of whom even camp in the parking lot. “It’s turned into Daytona Beach,” John Eminger, president of the Chewelah Basin Ski Corp., once said. Info: ski49n.com.
2. VISIT SKI DAZZLE TODAY
Ski Dazzle wraps up Sunday at 6 p.m. at the CenturyLink Field Event Center. Even a quick visit can save you money. Your $15 ticket can be redeemed at the show for a free lift ticket to Crystal Mountain, Stevens Pass, Mission Ridge, the Summit at Snoqualmie or White Pass. You can also find discounts on gear. Info: Skidazzle.com.
Liftopia.com offers a limited number of discounted lift tickets for those willing to purchase in advance. A recent survey of deals showed Western Washington deals sold out quickly, but several discounts of more than 40 percent for Spokane-area resorts. The website claims discounts sometimes reach 80 percent. The site offers discounts for ski areas worldwide.
4. FREE LESSONS
Almost everything you need to know about Lookout Pass’s most popular skiing program is in its name: Famous Free Ski School. It’s famous. Why? Because it’s free. The ski area on the Idaho-Montana border claims to have introduced more than 60,000 kids to the sport. The free skiing and snowboarding lessons are for kids ages 6-17 every Saturday morning from Jan. 11-March 15. Register online Jan. 11-25. Info: skilookout.com.
5. GET A SEASON PASS
Float the idea that skiing is expensive in a ski area’s marketing office and you’re sure to get this response: Not if you ski more. That’s the great thing about buying a season pass. The more you ski, the more you save. But season passes tether you to a single ski area, you might respond. This is often true, but season passes at some ski areas now come with access to other ski areas. For example: A Stevens Pass season pass includes three free days at each of 11 other ski areas. To maximize your savings, buy your lift ticket as early as possible. Buy next season’s pass in the spring and many ski areas will honor your pass for the remainder of the current season, too.
6. BE YOUNG
In an industry constantly working to get future generations hooked on their sport, it pays to be young. At Mount Baker, fifth-graders ski free with a paying adult. At Stevens Pass, fifth-graders can get the same deal in February. And at Mission Ridge, you can get teenager rates through the age of 24. Info: mtbaker.us, stevenspass.com, missionridge.com.
7. EDGE CARDS
If you live in Washington, you’re pretty much Canadian as far as Whistler Blackcomb resort is concerned. That entitles you to an Edge Card, a discount program offered only to Canadians and Washingtonians. The card will save you $26-$40 off the $109 lift ticket and score you discounts on lessons, rentals, merchandise, lodging and other activities. The cost of the card depends on how many tickets you want to pre-purchase. One ticket is $83, and 10 go for $689. Edge Cards are on sale until Nov. 24. Info: whistlerblackcomb.com.
8. GET A JOB
Landing a part-time job or even volunteering at your favorite ski hill comes with some perks. 1. You get to work in the mountains. 2. These jobs almost always come with free or deeply discounted lift tickets. Sometimes they even allow you to get discounted lift tickets for friends and family. Ski areas typically post job openings on their websites.
9. STAY OVERNIGHT
Most ski areas will cut you a deal on lift tickets if you stay at a local hotel as part of your trip. Mount Hood Meadows unveils a program this year that allows people to buy a “Ski 3-out-of-5 days” pass for $99 for those who stay locally. Mission Ridge offers discounts for those staying in hotels in Wenatchee and Leavenworth. And you can find similar deals at local resorts such as Crystal Mountain. Info: hoodriver.com, missionridge.com.
10. NIGHT SKIING
Night skiing might be a bit colder and a lot darker than daytime skiing, but it’s also less expensive. A six-hour night pass at the Summit at Snoqualmie is $40 while a day pass is $62. A night pass is $40 ($27 less than a day pass) at Stevens Pass.
11. CHECK THE WEB
You can find special offers on ski area websites. Crystal offers a card loaded with five lift tickets reduced by $10 each. One catch: You can use only one ticket per day. White Pass offers a discounted and transferable six-pack that could save skiers $13.50 per ticket. Multiple tickets can be used on the same day. Some ski areas also offer discounts for those who purchase their lift tickets online. Resort websites can sometimes show you other ways to save a few bucks. For example, White Pass gives a $10 lunch voucher if you reload your lift ticket on the second Wednesday of the month.
12. MILITARY DISCOUNTS
Many ski areas offer military discounts and military appreciation days. Crystal Mountain sells discounted lift tickets online for military. (This season’s rates weren’t announced at press time.) The Summit at Snoqualmie lets military purchase discounted lift tickets ($48 instead of $66) and offers preseason season-pass rates all year. Also, militarymerits.com directs families to other discounts.
13. GEAR PASS
You can pay $30 or more per day to rent skis at a resort, and buying gear doesn’t always make sense for growing kids. However, at the Summit at Snoqualmie you can buy a gear rental season pass. Rates are $79 for children 6 and younger, $99 for youth ages 7-12 and $119 for those 13 and older.
14. EARN YOUR TURNS
Not only will you save a bundle, but you’ll avoid the crowds if you skip the ski resorts and make your own way in the backcountry. Just remember, this isn’t for everybody. Take a partner, an avalanche beacon, a probe, a shovel and known how to use them. Check weather and avalanche forecasts before you go. nwac.us.