I was not a skier as a kid. It was way to expensive, so it’s not something my parents ever even contemplated. However, when I met my wife, her family was full of avid skiers and she enjoyed it, so I took it up. I’ve never had a formal lesson but I’m good enough to get around anything on the East Coast these days after years of outings, weekend trips and plenty of wipeouts. So, now we’re getting our boys into it and the costs are really sinking in. Aside from a summer vacation and the occasional trip to Disney every few years, having a winter ski hobby is equivalent to a sizable vacation in terms of total dollars spent. Since this is now an annual ordeal, we’ve really taken great pains to cut costs. Here are some things that worked for us:
- Liftopia is Amazing – Maybe there are other sites out there like this, but my wife found this liftopia.com site and we basically save 10%-30% off our lift tickets every time we go skiing. You simply order them in advance and it’s like anything else these days where you get an email, you print it out and present at the ticket booth to get your real lift tickets for the day. Now that we’re taking 2 kids with us, saving $20 a ticket on a day’s outing is $80!!! That’s a lot of money (also reinforces just how expensive a hobby skiing itself is I suppose).
- Groupon is Finally Good for Something – For once, a deal that’s not colon cleansing or teeth whitening! Every so often, something that’s not crap shows up on Groupon. In our case, it was a discounted stay in Killington with an added $100 gift card to the mountain thrown in there. So, that enticed us to book a room for the family and do an outing up there. All told, we’d have spent probably $300 more for the 2 night stay and the equivalent $100 in trail passes. While we may not have made the trip at all, it’s nice to get out of our local area where the mountains aren’t get and ski a “real” mountain at least once a year. So, keep your eye on Groupon deals each year.
- Renting vs. Buying Skis and Bindings – I’m always analyzing rent vs buy decisions in life. For cars, it always makes sense to own over lease. For something you only use so often like major equipment for your lawn or a compressor or whatever, it makes sense to rent often times. With skis, it kinda depends. Here’s a real-life example. Right now, there’s a 50% off deal being offered on skis. You’d think that’s a great deal, but it’s so-so. Here’s why. The ones my wife wants are $350. We pay $100/season now for her to rent. However, apparently if you own your own skis, you still have to have them serviced, waxed, etc. each year which is $35. So, now, that reduces the equivalent rent option to say, $65. 350/65= ~5.4. So, the payback period for buying over renting is 5 and a half years. This isn’t bad. But it also doesn’t make me want to run out and buy my own skis overnight. I bought my own boots when the payback was more favorable (I think like 3 years), but I usually like to see 2-3 year paybacks on things like this where you’re taking on some risk. i.e. what if we don’t like the skis, someone is injured and stops skiing, the skis are damaged, whatever. When I bought this awesome Nest Thermostat (the talk of the techie and money-saving world last year), the ROI was clear. But sometimes, it’s murky. In any event, I think she’ll buy them, but good that she waited until now to get the 50% off rather than buying them at the start of the season.
- Helmets – Always makes sense to just buy, even for kids. So cheap and don’t have to worry about lice, wasting time at the rental counter each time, etc.
- Food at the Lodge – We always pack a nice lunch. Yes, we end up paying the couple bucks to rent a locker, but my wife does a whole bread and cheese thing and whatnot rather than buying food at the crappy lodge counters. We save money and eat better that way as well.
I’m sure there are plenty of other tips and tricks for saving money skiing; would love to hear them!