6 Tips to Save Money on Your Ski Vacation

Smaller inns and bed-and-breakfast lodgings often have jaw-dropping midweek deals on lift tickets. For example, you can get a lift ticket for any of the major ski resorts in the White Mountains of New Hampshire for only $5 if you stay at the Covered Bridge House in Glen, N.H., for two nights, Sunday through Thursday. Sugar Hill Inn, in Sugar Hill, N.H., has a similar package running midweek for a three-night stay, with free lift tickets to one of the major ski resorts in the area.

You might also want to plan your ski vacation to coincide with special events at a particular ski resort.

"Some offer free skiing once a year if you dress up like Santa during the holidays, or nearly free skiing to those who drive hybrid cars," Mayne says. "A quick look at your favorite resort's event calendars, and you're sure to find special deals there."

4. Go in the off season

"Understand what peak (season) and shoulder season really mean," says Neil Hastings, director of sales and marketing for Mountain Lodge at Telluride, Colo.

The most expensive time to visit a ski resort -- its peak season -- is between Christmas and New Year's Day. But many people don't know that the least expensive time can be the weeks leading up to Christmas or just after New Year's Day, he says.

"Similarly, spring break prices can be sky-high ... but when spring break takes place can vary from resort to resort," Hastings says, adding that you should check your time frames and prices carefully. "If you're able to plan your trip with just a little flexibility, you can save significantly."

Cronheim says he books six months in advance for his ski vacation in early January during "dead low season. Our lodging costs are often less than one-third the price we would pay during holiday periods." He advises skiers to avoid not only Christmas week but also the Presidents Day and Martin Luther King Day weekends.

5. Beg, borrow or "steal" equipment

If you are a first-time skier, you won't have all the equipment necessary for the slopes. You can rent equipment at the resort, but it will be pricey. Instead, see if you can borrow equipment from friends or neighbors. You also can buy used equipment online through eBay or Craigslist.

Another option is to rent ski equipment from a local ski shop for the duration of your stay. "Even if you don't save a ton of money, you'll save yourself the headache of waiting in the (resort) rental line," Cronheim says. And, he says, your gear will fit you, "making you a better skier and enabling you to enjoy your hard-earned ski vacation."

Heidi Emery, owner of The Blue Angels, a youth ski and snowboard coaching program in Walnut Creek and Del Mar, Calif., says that many larger ski and snowboard shops now offer seasonal leasing programs for equipment.

"This is a great way to gear up with the latest equipment without making a big investment, especially with growing kids in the family," Emery says. Prices range from $150 to $199 for the season, which translates to three or four days' worth of rental equipment at many ski resorts, she says.

6. Fly smart to reach the slopes

If you have to fly to a ski destination, consider multiple airports near the mountain, and don't forget the cost of renting a car or using an airport shuttle, Cronheim says.

"Flying into Denver may be cheaper than flying into Vail-Eagle (Colo.), but be sure to factor in a pricey shuttle," he says.

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