Winter is calling your name and the athletes of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, have left you inspired. You're ready for a halfpipe or some fast downhill tracks of your own, but unlike sponsored professional athletes, you're going to have to pay your own way to get there. Whether you're young and on a budget, looking to bring the whole family and not break the bank, or just staying smart with your money, there are several ways to make the almighty dollar stretch further when traveling to a ski resort.
Lift Ticket Deals
Because of the season's slow start, lodging and ticket deals are more plentiful than usual. Follow your favorite ski resorts on social media as those are often the channels resorts use to post last minute lift ticket deals—these may come in the form of single-day specials, multi-day passes, or buy-one-lift-ticket-get-one-free deals. Some resorts also offer discounted lift tickets when you show your season pass from another resort, an enticing way to get you to ski with them, rather than with the resort that issued the original pass. Of course, if you're not interested in social media, there are traditional ways to find a deal, such as searching the resort's website or calling and asking, especially regarding multi-day passes. Also keep in mind, the more you ski or ride, the more you save.
If you're taking the kids, look for resorts that allow children to ski for free or at a discounted price. Often the discount comes with an age limit, for instance, June Mountain allows kids 12 and under to ski for free. Find out which resorts offer this incentive if youngsters are coming along. It's a great way to save money, especially if they grow tired before the end of the day. You won't be bummed that you purchased a full-price lift ticket that only saw half-day use. Do, however, read the fine print. Often these deals come with blackout dates or the need to purchase a certain number of adult tickets to receive free ones for the kids.
Getting and Staying There: Look for Package Deals
Air packages and/or discounted room rates for staying more than one night are available at many resorts. If you plan to fly to the ski resort of your choice, look for air package deals, or deals that allow you to purchase a pack of flights. Grab an air pack of six flights, use four with the family and have two left over for a second trip down the road—maybe for a romantic trip with the spouse or a weekend adventure with friends. As for lodging, planning to stay for more than one or two nights and will often land you a discount. Many resorts also offer lift and lodging packages based on how many nights you stay, so make sure to ask when you're booking your reservations.
When choosing a ski resort to visit, find out if they have a mobile deals app to download to your smartphone (for instance, search for Mammoth Lakes Resort Deals and Coupons in the App Store or on Google Play). Not only will it help you find discounts for local restaurants, shopping, and activities, but it will help you navigate your way through a town you may be unfamiliar with or find new ideas for places to check out even if you've been there before. Deals can range from a discount on your bill to a free glass of wine with a meal purchase, and everywhere in between.
When at all possible, visit ski resorts midweek. Not only will there be fewer crowds, but resort towns are often trying to fill beds Monday through Thursday. Trust me, you will find discounted prices and deals to reward you for choosing to visit in the "off" times. Depending on storm cycles, visiting midweek may also help you find fresh tracks. Less people on the hill means also more pockets of fresh powder waiting just for you. This is especially important if you are traveling with the family and may not be able to make "first chair." When you visit resorts midweek, you'll most likely only be competing for fresh tracks with the locals rather than all of the other visitors who are just as eager as you.
Buy Gear Now
Think you're going to need some new skis or outerwear soon? Now is the time to buy. Visit a resort for spring skiing and peruse local shops. The closer you get to the end of the season, the bigger the deals you are likely to find. Retailers need to get rid of their inventory to make room for next year's newer and cooler items, so you could really score; even more so if the family is with you—update everyone for half the price.
This article was written by John Urdi, the Executive Director of Mammoth Lakes Tourism in Mammoth Lakes, California, home of the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. He has spent 28 years in the ski industry at resorts across the country.