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Pay Less for Lift Tickets

Only suckers buy their lift tickets when they arrive at the mountain. Smart skiers plan ahead. Here are fresh tactics for finding ski deals at every turn.

(Jeff Vanuga/Corbis)

Most ski resorts gouge the walk-up customer. Walk up to the ticket window in Aspen, for example, and you'll pay $87 for a one-day pass. Buy a multiday pass on the spot, and you'll shave a little off the daily rate. But plan ahead and you'll knock a significant chunk off expenses. For early-season skiing (through December 7), for example, a four-day pass purchased one week in advance costs $220, or an average of $55 a day (aspensnowmass.com).

So don't get gouged. Follow these strategies for saving money on lift tickets.

Buy in bulk
Go to resort websites to scout the possibility of purchasing several days' worth of lift passes at a discount. Here's a recent example: Loveland Ski Area, about 55 miles west of Denver, normally charges $42 to $54 for daily passes, but 4-Paks—four lift tickets that can be used on any day of the season, by anyone—cost just $109. That's roughly half as much as tickets purchased individually. The catch: You have to order them by November 23 (skiloveland.com). South of Lake Tahoe, California's Kirkwood sells two-day passes online for $99, compared with $69 to $72 a day for walk-up buyers (kirkwood.com). At Idaho's Brundage Mountain Resort, Select Cards cover two to five days of lift tickets and can save you $10 to $45 a day (brundage.com). Note that these passes and cards can only be purchased online or by phone.

Take the express way
To build customer loyalty, many resorts have been pushing express passes and frequent-skier cards. Customers pay an up-front fee to receive a discount on each day of skiing and the privilege to head straight to the lifts, skipping the lines. For example, Vermont's Stratton Mountain charges $79 for its X2 Express Card; with it, a midweek day of skiing costs $39 (compared with the walk-up price of $69), and a weekend day of skiing is $58 (normally $78). In addition, X2 cardholders receive their first midweek ski day for free. So it is probably worth the expense if you visit Stratton for just a few days (stratton.com). Other resorts with worthwhile frequent skier cards include Big Sky Resort in Montana ($125 for $20 discounts daily and 14 free days in early and late season, bigskyresort.com), New Mexico's Taos Ski Valley ($35 for $12 off daily passes and every seventh day free, skitaos.org), and New York's Whiteface Mountain ($79, with the first day free; $12 to $16 off other days; valid also at Gore Mountain, whiteface.com).

Pay by the turn
Most skiers' legs are only up for a couple hours of skiing, so why pay for more? Check out resorts that charge by the run or in short blocks of time. Single rides up the lift are available for $10 each at Utah's Brighton (brightonresort.com), while Oregon's Mount Bachelor sells 10 rides that can be used anytime over two seasons for $70 (mtbachelor.com). Ski Norquay, in Banff, Alberta, offers passes for as little as $30 for two hours (banffnorquay.com). Similarly, beginning skiers might steer clear of a pass that covers the entire mountain and focus on a few easy green runs. Limit yourself to the area served by a beginner lift, and your day of skiing will cost as little as $5 at Montana's Bridger Bowl (bridgerbowl.com), $10 at Wyoming's Jackson Hole (jacksonhole.com), or $19 at Utah's Snowbird (snowbird.com).

Watch out for high costs for kids
Different resorts charge different rates for children. At some mountains, only kids under age 5 ski free, while at others the cutoff is 10. Still other resorts have several layers of rates, meaning a pass for an 8-year-old may cost less than one for a 13-year-old, and both are cheaper than an adult ticket. You may fare better if you take advantage of family promotions. Nevada's Mount Rose, a 1,200-acre resort just 25 minutes from Reno, has a $124 family package available every day of the season, which bundles two adult and two child lift tickets for a savings of $34 (mtrose.com). On 10 Family Fridays at Vermont's Bromley Mountain, adults pay $25 each, and up to three kids pay $12 apiece (bromley.com).

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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