Reporting Jay Lloyd
The guy buys his wife a $7,000 mink ski jacket for their ski week at Deer Valley, then he spends 20 minutes complaining to me about paying $35 for a lift ticket. Today, those lift tags today go for $108. Even in Pennsylvania’s less lofty heights, riding a weekend lift to the summit will set you back over $60. So how do you enjoy a day, much less an entire season, on the snow without stumbling into nation sized debt? Here’s how. – Jay Lloyd
Know how much you can afford — not for a weekend, but the entire season. Then plug it into a budget for weekends, day trips and destination ski vacations. The object is to get more time on the snow. Skiing and snowboarding skills come with frequent sliding, not the occasional western or New England “treat.” But they can also be in the mix with some careful planning.
JOIN A SKI CLUB
One sure fire way to cut the cost of skiing and riding is by joining a ski club that harvests deep discounts on lodging, transportation and lift tickets. THE EASTERN PENNSYLVANIA SKI COUNCIL, an organization of 36 local ski clubs, can steer you to one close to home that matches your own lifestyle (couples, singles, family, racing, etc). The Main Line Ski Club, for example, is going to Lake Placid for a three day weekend in February at a cost of $460 including lodging, transportation and some meals. Clubs offer discounted trips to the west and even the Alps. To contact the ski council or find a club, just slide over to: www.easternpaskicouncil.org.
PICK YOUR DAYS
Weekends and holidays always cost more green to get on the white. Pennsylvania’s popular Elk Mountain will get $63 this season for an eight hour adult weekend ticket. And remember, some of those eight hours will be at lunch, on coffee breaks or in a lift line. A four hour morning ticket is only $46 for four hours of solid, un-crowded skiing and riding without the lift line shuffle. Deals are even better midweek, when you can have trails all to yourself.
Some Pennsylvania ski resorts offer special rates for college students and military personnel. SHAWNEE MOUNTAIN drops the midweek rate for students by $9 and shaves $10 off weekends. If you’re over 70, you ski free. Free skiing is also on the menu for the growing crowd of “super seniors,” those 70 and over, at Bear Creek Mountain Resort. Check your favorite area for special pricing.
Online ticket sales have become a popular way to avoid ticket window lines, and they often come with a discount. BLUE MOUNTAIN, JACK FROST, BIG BOULDER, CAMELBACK and SHAWNEE in the Poconos all offer web-based discounted tags.
Ski shops put customers on the snow at deeply discounted prices in two ways: lift tickets made available at the store, and “Customer Appreciation Days” on the mountain. Salter’s Ski Shop in Jeffersonville has discounted tickets available for Bear Creek and Blue Mountain with Customer Appreciation Days set for Bear, Blue and Elk. Buckman’s Ski Shops have tickets available for Bear and Blue with discounted events set for Camelback, Elk, Bear and Blue.
If you want a combination of lift tickets, lessons, rental equipment, lodging and meals, buy a package. Most winter resorts offer them at savings that beat the a la carte prices by a mile.
MUNICIPAL SKI TRIPS
Many municipal Parks and Recreation Departments organize ski trips or make discount lift tickets available for local residents. For instance, Lower Providence in Montgomery County has cut-rate tags for most local and Pocono Mountain ski areas. Find out if your municipality has a similar program; the savings are substantial and some trips include transportation.
Other savings are available through radio station promotions, discount coupons from merchants and ski area specials like bargain Sunday night ski events. Watch and listen for the ads and check ski area web sites frequently for weekly deals.
Some creative budgeting and planning will turn the occasional ski weekend into an all-winter lifestyle.