Tips on How to Save Money on Gear
The first order of business is addressing the cost of equipment, which consists of skis, bindings, boots, and poles. You can either rent from the ski resort each time you visit, rent for the season from a local ski shop, buy used equipment, or buy new equipment. Each option has its pros and cons. The cost effectiveness will be proportional to the number of times you go skiing and your skill level.
1. When you should rent from the ski resort
This is the best option for recreational skiers who only ski once or twice a year. The one-time rental fee will average about $150-$200 for a family of two adults and two children. You don’t have to worry about transporting the skis to the resort, and when you are done skiing for the day, you can just return them.
However, if you plan on skiing more than twice a year, you should really consider another option. The rental fee will quickly skyrocket with each additional day on the slopes. The rental equipment at ski resorts will often be the lowest models that have been heavily banged up. If you get stuck with ill-fitting boots or skis with a lot of gashes, you will probably spend more time thinking about the pain in your feet rather than the amazing mountain views or the beautiful white powder. Also, the rental shop can get very busy on weekends and holidays, so you will spend at least an hour being fitted for the equipment and another hour returning it at the end of the day.
2. When you should rent for the season
This is a good option for any family with young children who intend to go skiing a few times a year. A season rental package can cost around $150 for adults and $100 for children, so our family of four will spend $500. You can rent your ski package at the beginning of the season and get properly fitted. You can use it as many times as you want during the winter and return it in the spring. The following year, you can rent the next size up for your children, who will have grown exponentially over the summer. As an added incentive, many ski shops can provide coupons or vouchers for discounted lift tickets at many ski resorts in the area.
This may not necessarily be a good option if you (or your children) are going to really bang up the gear. Gashes, scrapes, and other damage that go beyond what is considered normal wear-and-tear can cost quite a lot when it’s time to return the equipment. You should also consider purchasing your own ski equipment if you intend to ski every year for the foreseeable future with your children. Otherwise, it will be $500 every year to rent.
3. When you should buy used equipment
Families that plan on skiing for many years to come should consider investing in their own equipment. Beginners and intermediate recreational skiers will find a lot of used gear options online. Even if your children are young and will need bigger sizes each year, you can offset the cost of each purchase by selling the gear that they have outgrown. This year, I went on eBay.com and spent around $500 on used skis with bindings, boots, and poles for our entire family of four. The gear for my two kids cost about $100 each. Next year, I intend to buy one used set at $100 for my older child, pass down one set to my younger child, and sell the small set for $50. This way, I will only be spending an additional $50 each year on gear. (My husband and I will obviously keep our current equipment since we finished growing a long time ago.)
When buying used equipment, especially online, you should do as much research on the particular items that interest you and ask all your questions to the seller before making the purchase. Stay away from items that are very old or have any rust. Look for skis that have mounted adjustable bindings that will fit a range of boot sizes. Be sure to buy bindings with the correct DIN, which is based on your height and weight. If you are a 5′ 10″ adult weighing 185 pounds, you should not be getting junior bindings with a 2-7 DIN range.
The downside is obviously that you are purchasing used items online, and you may not always like it when you receive it. The colors on the skis might be different from what you saw in the pictures, or the boots may not fit as comfortably as they should. Buying from seller with a simple return policy will help somewhat, but you will still have wasted time and money in shipping the item back.
4. When you should buy new equipment
Once your family reaches the intermediate-expert skill levels, you will invariably begin to look at upgrading your equipment. This is the most expensive method and the price will range anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars per person. Check out a retailer and try out the equipment that interest you. If you are still looking to keep costs down, go shopping between February and August, when stores are trying to clear out last year’s inventory. Once you know which brands and models you like, you can compare prices online to get the most bang for your buck.
Tips on How to Save Money on Lift Tickets
1. Join a ski club
There are hundreds of ski clubs throughout the country that are in turn members of the state and federal ski associations. You can join a club for the season for a fairly nominal fee – $50 in our case for the whole family. Membership will give you access to discounted lift tickets and lessons at numerous ski resorts in your area. For example, after purchasing our family membership for $50, we immediately saved $80 on lift tickets on our first day for a net savings of $30. Every subsequent day of skiing was an additional savings of $80. Ski clubs also sponsor several ski trips throughout the season, giving you the opportunity to visit places such as St. Moritz or Breckenridge at a group discounted rate.
2. Look into government-sponsored programs
Many states sponsor ski programs to encourage skiing, recreation, and tourism in the state. For example, New York State’s ISKINY programs offer discounts on adult lift tickets and a Free for Kids Passport ($22 processing fee) that allow 3rd and 4th graders to ski for free with a paying adult. The national Learn to Ski & Snowboard program provides for discounted beginner packages at ski resorts all throughout the country during the month of January.
3. Check out gas station deals
Regional programs such as SKI FREE allow you to trade in vouchers obtained from participating gas stations for a free or discounted lift ticket at numerous ski resorts in California, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and Michigan. The Gasoline & Automotive Service Dealers of America also have a similar program for ski resorts in the Northeast, including Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. Getting gas is something that most of us need to do. Why not get a lift ticket discount out of it?
4. Local businesses may offer additional discounts
Local businesses such as hotels and restaurants often have a B2B relationship with the ski resorts and can provide discount vouchers for lift tickets. If you are visiting for the weekend and staying at one of these hotels anyway, go ahead and take advantage of the discount offer.
5. Sign up for ski resort emails, utilize social media, and buy tickets online.
Liftopia offers discount lift tickets to just about every ski resort out there. Also, many ski resorts may offer exclusive discounts through email or their social media sites such as Facebook. So go and connect online.
Final Tips About Money
1. Pack your own food
I cannot recall any ski resort where the food was reasonably priced. Often times, your food options are also limited and contain far more processed items than not. So instead of spending $100 to eat this overpriced fast food, invest in a cooler and pack your own lunch. You can leave the cooler in the car or store it in a locker at the lodge. This will give you the double benefit of saving money and feeding your family good, healthy food.
2. Tip your kids’ ski instructor
OK, I understand that this last tip is telling you to spend money. But, I’m including it here for the following reason: We shouldn’t get so caught up in trying to save money that we forget basic etiquette. The instructor has been caring for your children, helping them to overcome their fears about thundering down the mountain and to develop the proper techniques needed to enjoy and appreciate this sport for the rest of their lives. Many instructors go above and beyond. A tip at pick-up, whatever the amount, would be the proper gesture of appreciation.