When it comes to skiing, the early bird gets the deal.
For obvious reasons, North American ski resorts like to get cash flowing as early as possible in the winter season. One way they get skiers and boarders to spend money long before they ever hit the slopes is through special promotional lift passes that are much cheaper when paid for in advance.
The deals come in a few different varieties. Some are four-packs or six-packs in which a discount is given for buying in bulk. Others involve the purchasing of a pass that ensures discounted lift access throughout the entire season. Some offers are limited to a single ski mountain, while others involve more than one partner resorts. Sometimes, but not always, the passes are transferable. In most cases, offers must be purchased early in the season, but the discounts are valid whenever the skiers and boarders want.
By now, you're probably getting the idea: Each pass is a little different, and skiers should weigh the options and read the fine print to see which, if any, offer is right for them.
Nearly every ski resort has some sort of early season lift ticket special. Here's a not-remotely-comprehensive list, giving a half-dozen of examples around the U.S.:
The Legend's 4 Pass costs $148 and, as the name indicates, allows four days of skiing at Arapahoe Basin in Colorado's Summit County anytime throughout the 2011/2012 season. That means you're paying $37 a day, quite a deal considering the walk-up daily price is usually $68. Passes are nontransferable, and must be purchased by December 5.
A ten-pack of passes for this New England resort runs $579. Since a one-day adult lift ticket usually costs $68, the package of passes saves you $10 a day. Passes are fully transferable, so this is one to go in on with friends or family, then split them up.
Skiers have a choice of five different passes that allow varying access to seven top-notch resorts in the West. Perhaps the best option for the casual skier is the Epic 7-Day pass, which allows seven days of skiing any time during the season at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Heavenly, Northstar, or Arapahoe Basin. This pass costs a pretty penny ($519), and to get the most bang for the buck, you'll want to use it at the resorts that charge the highest walkup prices. Vail, for instance, is charging an astonishing $105 per day during peak ski periods.
Loveland's 4-Pack costs just $129, averaging out to $32.25 per day. They're unrestricted, with no blackout dates, and fully transferable. But they're available for sale through November 20.
Stratton's X2 Express Card works differently than the passes listed above: Buy the card ($69 until November 28), and skiers get $30 off the usual daily lift ticket price on weekdays, $20 off on normal weekends, and $10 off on peak weekends and holiday periods. The pass also comes with one free day for use during any non-holiday period of the season.
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