8 Ways to Ski for Less this Winter: Cheap or Free Lift Tickets

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With ski season quickly approaching, my family is getting very excited. The biggest hurdle for skiing though is keeping the cost down. After paying for all the gear and a hotel near the mountain, you still have to pay for that ridiculously expensive lift ticket. These days, at some of the more fancy and popular mountains, you can easily be looking at spending around $200/day for a lift ticket. For us on the Northeast, the price is definitely less, but it still adds up.

For this upcoming winter, my family took the approach of purchasing a season pass. We ski a lot and the numbers shows us that it should save us money. But, even if you aren’t skiing every weekend, you can still find some great ski lift ticket discounts. There are even some opportunities to ski for free!

Some mountains are opening in just a few weeks (fingers crossed)

8 Ski Lift Ticket Discounts

Purchase a season pass

If you are traveling out west to ski, purchasing a season pass can possibly save your family a ton of money. Although there are many season pass options, some of the more popular ones include the Epic Pass, the Ikon Pass and the Mountain Collective pass. These passes include the most number of ski resorts in a single purchase. There are different variations of the pass, depending on the mountains you are skiing at and whether you are skiing on a holiday or not.

discounted lift tickets with a season pass

Purchase a seasons pass, such as the Epic Pass, to lock in a set price for your ski season.

If you will be skiing at the same mountain for the bulk of the winter or at a family of mountains in the same area, many times you can get mountain specific passes or a pass that covers a group of mountains. Just call the resort to find out your best option.

My families plan…

For my family, we actually ending up purchasing the Epic Local pass. My husband and I have a ski trip to Park City already planned and while we could have simply purchased 3 days of the Epic Day passes for $309 each, we found that going all in with a season pass was a better idea. When we purchased the pass it cost $699, but the pass has gone up to $719 as of right now. Since we live in New England and Vail Resorts just acquired the Peak Pass mountains, this will increase the mountains we can go to nearby and absolutely allow us to save money on our entire ski season. It might also motivate us to take another trip out west as we really love Beaver Creek. Note: Epic Passes go up in price on Oct. 13th, Ikon Passes go up in price on Oct. 17 and Mountain Collective prices are on sale until they are sold out.

Gearing up for our 2019 / 2020 ski season!

For our daughter, instead of purchasing the Epic Local pass, we actually just purchased her a kids Peak Pass season pass. While she won’t have access to all of the mountains out west (which is fine since the west coast trips are kid-free), she will have access to all of the mountains that the Epic Pass just acquired — which include some great New England mountains. At just $60 for the season, this was a great deal.

Lock in ticket prices today

If you know of an upcoming ski vacation, you can book today and get some ridiculously low daily prices. Many mountains offer a limited number of extremely discounted lift tickets available. The one catch is that you are locking in your ski dates now and if the weather doesn’t cooperate with you, you might be stuck.

Discounted lift tickets by booking early

Skiing for as low as $17 at Attitash Mountain in New Hampshire! Prices do not get better than that. Any many other days throughout the season are just $30 a day.

Use Liftopia.com

The third-party website Liftopia.com is a great way to purchase lift tickets at a significant discount. With this site, typically the earlier you buy, the better discount you’ll receive. These are date specific tickets and you can many times buy for tickets for up to 8 days. They also give you the opportunity to purchase packages including ski gear and lessons. Every mountain offers different discounts, but it is absolutely worth checking it out. Unfortunately though, the tickets are non-refundable.

Discounted lift tickets at liftopia.com

Pay just $49 to ski at Arapahoe Basin

Shop at Costco

Costco is a great place to get everything many items at a discount, including ski lift tickets. Seasonally, Costco sells lift tickets typically for local mountains in the area — at an incredible discount. The best part about purchasing lift tickets at Costco is that if you end up not using them, you can return them back to the store after the season is over. Tip: Select resorts are available online, but as of right now, none are yet on sale.

Discounted lift tickets at costco

My local Costco always sells a ton of discounted lift ticket options.

Shop at sporting equipment stores and local ski shops

Many local ski shops (and sometimes even grocery stores) offer discounted lift tickets. For example, if you are flying into Salt Lake City, stop at Canyon Sports ski shop first before heading to the mountains. They typically offer discounted lift tickets to Alta, Brighton, Snowbasin, Snowbird and Solitude.

Ski season is almost here!

REI also offers discounted lift tickets both online and in-store. Right now, there are a few available online for Killington, Hunter Mountain and Big Bear Mountain Resort. As winter approaches, more will come available. Eventually, you’ll be able to purchase them in-store as well. Tip: They do sell out.

Purchase a seasonal rental for your kids

Many ski shops partner with mountains to allow you to ski for free. With just a seasonal rental, you could receive a free lift ticket or free season pass. For example, in New England, if you purchase a seasonal rental for your child’s skis or snowboard equipment, you’ll receive a free seasons pass to Bretton Woods mountain. (Although there is a $10 processing charge). This is a great way for your kids to ski for free all winter at a great family-friendly mountain.

Ski for free with seasonal rental

Take advantage of kids ski free programs

While some mountains offer free skiing to kids 5 years and younger (give or take), there are many opportunities for your kids to ski for free (or cheaper) as they get older.

Epic School Kids Colorado 

For kids between Kindergarten and 5th grade, you can receive four days of skiing at the following mountains: Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Crested Butte. This gives you a total of 20 days on the mountain, for free! Fortunately you do not need to be a Colorado resident, but you must enroll in person at a Front Range Epic Mountain Gear Store. Note: Enrollment ends Oct. 13, 2019

Epic School Kids Utah

If you are a Utah resident and have a child who is in Kindergarten through 5th grade, you can receive five days of skiing at Park City. Note: Enrollment ends Oct. 13, 2019.

Epic School Kids Whistler Blackcomb

If you are a Canadian or Washington State resident and have a child who is in Kindergarten through 5th grade, you can receive five days of skiing at Whistler Blackcomb. Note: Enrollment ends Oct. 13, 2019.

Colorado 5th & 6th Grade Passport

5th graders receive three days of skiing or riding at 22 different mountains — for free. That means 66 days of free skiing throughout the winter. 6th graders receive. Now, if you have a 6th grader, for $110, you’ll receive four days of skiing or riding at the same 22 different mountains. That means 88 days of free skiing, which is great. There is no residency requirement and you can apply online.

kids ski free

Ski at an amazing discount in Colorado this winter — if you are in 5th or 6th grade.

Utah 5th & 6th Grade Passport

5th graders will receive up to three tickets at each participating resort — which gives you up to 45 days of skiing. 6th graders will receive just one ticket at each participating resort — 15 days of skiing. Both programs cost $45. Unlike the Colorado ski pass, this is just for Utah residents.

Vermont 5th Grade Passport

For a $20 processing fee, if you have a 5th grader, you can get up to 88 days of skiing. Unfortunately though, this is limited to just Vermont residents.

New Hampshire 4th and 5th Grade Snowsports Passport

With this program, your 4th or 5th grader will receive one free lift ticket to 31 different mountains throughout New Hampshire. The cost is just $30 and there is no residency restriction.

Ski PA 4th and 5th Grade Snowpass Program

All 4th and 5th graders can ski or ride at participating ski mountains in Pennsylvania. You’ll receive three lift tickets to each mountain, which means 63 days of skiing. This is open too all students (no residency restriction), although it will cost you a $35 processing fee.

Ski New York Free For Kids

3rd and 4th graders receive three free lift tickets to each participating mountain throughout New York. With 27 participating resorts, that means you can receive up to 81 days of skiing for the winter season. With this program, your child will only receive a free lift ticket with the purchase of an adult lift ticket (or if the adult has a season pass). Alternatively, your child can receive one free beginner lift ticket, one beginner lesson and rental at each participating ski area without the purchase of an adult ticket. Both programs are open to any child from any state or country.

Michigan’s MSIA Cold is Cool

All 4th and 5th graders can ski for free in Michigan. You’ll receive up to three lift tickets at 30 different participating ski resorts. There is a $20 charge.

Ski Idaho 5th & 6th Grade Peak Passport

For those who live in Idaho, 5th graders will receive three free days and 6th graders will receive two free days at each resort. There are 17 participating locations so that means 34 or 51 days of skiing. The cost is just $18.

Show your airline ticket

If you are flying in for a ski vacation, many resorts out west will give you a free day of skiing simply by showing your boarding pass.

Discounted lift tickets with flying

Alaska has a huge partnership with the mountains for free skiing.

For example, if you are this winter to Steamboat, you’ll receive a free night skiing lift ticket the day you arrive. Or, if you are flying in on Tuesday or Wednesday when there is no night skiing, you’ll receive a ticket to ski for free Thursday night. Additionally, if you are flying Alaska Airlines home, you’ll get a free day of skiing on your departure date.

Overall…

Despite the expensive cost of lift tickets, there are many ways to get a great discount. If you can plan advance and figure out your families ski schedule for this winter, you might find that purchasing a specific pass might be more economical. If you are only going to ski once or twice this winter, then purchasing discounted lift tickets might be a better option for you.

What is your winter 2019 / 2020 ski plan?

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