If You Ski or Snowboard, Read This for HUGE Savings
Dear Rich Lifer,
I have Tyrolean blood and grew up at the base of the Pocono mountains, so it’s only natural that I started skiing at a young age.
Then, the minute snowboarding became legal at our local resorts, I made the switch and never looked back.
Snowboarding was a great option for a kid who really wanted to be at the beach surfing, and I’ve been doing it for more than thirty years now.
Of course, my biggest on-snow revelation came during my first trip out west when in my early 20s …
Up until that point I’d never had the opportunity to ride real powder on a real mountain. And after riding several feet of fresh snow at Snowbird in Utah, I was completely hooked on the thrills of serious terrain.
These days I only want to ride large mountains (preferably when it’s dumping).
There’s nothing like making fresh tracks with my 12-year-old daughter cruising right by my side, and I suspect she’ll surpass my ability over the next couple of years just like she already has with surfing.
Really, the only problem is that skiing and snowboarding – especially at world-class resorts – has become astronomically expensive.
Lift Ticket Prices Have Gone Up a Mountain
When I was a kid, a lift ticket was $20 at the local hill. A season pass was $300 tops.
In contrast, we’re heading to Vail later this month. The cost of a single lift ticket there exceeds $200!
Add in parking, food, gas or a flight, and you could easily drop thousands of dollars just for a couple of days playing in the snow.
Yes, it is usually possible to find discounts through multi-day purchases… through local ski shops… or even big-box stores like Costco.
And sure, you could learn how to navigate the backcountry and “earn your turns” by heading uphill under your own power.
But I think the best way to hit the steeps for cheap is through the small group of deeply-discounted membership programs that provide wide access to great ski resorts around the country.
If you ski or snowboard, even just a few days a year, one of these passes could make good financial sense. And since they are all starting to go on sale right now for next year – at their most deeply-discounted early bird rates – I want to give you a quick rundown of what they are and how they work.
How Do the Passes Work?
Essentially, each of these programs gives you access to a network of mountains and there are often different levels of membership.
The highest versions typically offer unlimited days and no blackout dates. Other flavors might limit the number of mountains, the number of days, have certain blackout windows, or carry other restrictions.
In nearly all cases, there are a few different purchase deadlines with bigger discounts and rewards the earlier you buy. Some programs are now allowing interest-free payment plans to make the upfront cost a bit more palatable as well.
Determining which pass makes the most sense for you will depend on where you live, how many days you ride, if you have a particular trip in mind, whether you have kids, and a whole range of other factors.
But there is probably an option that makes sense for you. You just need to do a quick and simple comparison.
For a real world example of the potential savings, my daughter and I will be using our Epic pass to ride Vail for five days at no additional cost – roughly $2,100 in lift tickets. That’s on top of five days we already spent at Northstar in California, another total lift ticket value approaching $1,700.
Meanwhile, our total combined price for the Epic pass – we bought the “Tahoe Local” version – was $888.
So, at the very least, we rode every day at about one-third the regular window price. And we will probably do at least one additional trip to Heavenly on the border of Nevada before the season ends … which would bring our total savings down to something like a quarter of regular advertised rates.
In prior seasons, we purchased the Mountain Collective pass and benefited in much the same way – riding at massively discounted rates in Aspen in Colorado, Jackson Hole in Wyoming, and here in California at Mammoth Mountain.
Indeed, the Mountain Collective pass is a good example of how even a “one trip a year” skiing family can save serious money by planning ahead.
Plan Ahead for the 2020/2021 Season
While the 2020/2021 pass hasn’t gone online yet, our 2018/2019 version of the pass paid for itself in one weekend at Mammoth Mountain. That’s because an early bird buyer received three days at the resort of their choice and was also able to purchase a child’s pass for just $1.
All in, our total cost for that year’s pass was $410 …
A single-day lift ticket at Mammoth was running about $160 that season …
Which means I rode our three-day weekend at a nice discount off window rates while my daughter rode completely free.
Any additional trips or days we did after that were just icing on the cake!
For next year, we’re giving the Ikon Pass a go. It’s not cheap but it offers access to many resorts that I really like, including a couple here in California. On top of that, a purchase right now even gives access to some of those mountains for the rest of this year’s season.
Which brings me back to the most important point I can make about these programs — the earlier you decide, the better. Some of the best perks are only available in the spring … and in some cases, only until a certain number of passes have been sold.
To a richer life,