The economy seems to be thawing a bit, but few skiers and snowboarders are feeling rich these days.
So, how can a snow addict save a few bucks and still hit the slopes this winter? Here are a few ideas.
GET A JOB AT A SKI AREA
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Lots of ski areas look for part-time help to run lifts, flip burgers, shovel snow and even teach skiing. A part-time job at many resorts comes with a free lift ticket.
Flipping burgers and running chairlifts are time-honored ways to get a pass and enough money to be a ski bum for a winter, but retired people and weekend warriors also take jobs at ski areas.
At some ski areas, volunteers get a pass. Many part-time workers at The Summit at Snoqualmie hold down a part-time job and then ski on days off or during the night-skiing session.
SKI UNDER THE LIGHTS
A lift ticket for night skiing is usually much cheaper than a daytime ticket.
Skiing or boarding from 4 to 10 p.m. at The Summit at Snoqualmie costs $38, while you’ll pay $52.10 for a day ticket.
At White Pass Ski Area, skiing and snowboarding under the lights is just $20, although night skiing and boarding is offered only on Saturday nights and holidays.
But the screaming deal for dedicated night skiers is the $229 season pass at Snoqualmie. You can ski or board from 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday all winter long.
An inexpensive night pass is a great way to get in some turns, and it attracts a lot of bargain-minded – and busy – people to the slopes, said Guy Lawrence, Snoqualmie marketing manager.
HIT THE ROAD
A combination stay-and-ski package is a great way to take a minivacation without breaking the budget.
Book a package early or late in the season and you can often get big discounts.
For example, Whistler Blackcomb, which will host many alpine events during the 2010 Winter Olympics, has stunning deals for skiers and boarders who are willing to hit the slopes between Nov. 26 and Dec. 21.
One package offers four nights of lodging and three days of unlimited skiing and snowboarding for $102 a night for each person. The price drops to $98 per night for a five-night, four-day stay.
Other ski resorts offer similar deals. It pays to surf the Internet – sooner rather than later – to snap up these deals. There are also great deals for skiers and boarders who are willing to hit the slopes later in the season.
BUY A SEASON PASS
Right now is the time to buy a season pass and save serious money.
For example, a season pass at White Pass Ski Area is $639 – if you buy it before Nov. 30, when the price jumps to $700.
A daily lift ticket at White Pass is $50 this winter, so it doesn’t take long until you’re skiing for free.
And a season pass is a great incentive for getting up the mountain, said Kevin McCarthy, White Pass general manager.
“People who don’t buy a season pass are always waiting for the perfect day – and they end up not skiing or boarding,” McCarthy said. “Pass holders go up to the mountain more, and ski and snowboard more.”
The gaudiest deal in Western Washington ski passes remains the $399 season pass at The Summit at Snoqualmie Summit. This pass allows skiers and boarders to use any open part of the mountain at any time.
And a regular day lift ticket is $52.10 this winter, so it takes less than eight days of use before you’re getting on the lifts for free.
Now is the time to check the season pass prices at your favorite ski hill.
Chester Allen: 360-754-4226