A ski trip doesn’t have to wipe out your whole paycheck.
Most Colorado’s ski areas won’t close for another four to six weeks — with the notable exception of “does-it-ever-close” Arapahoe Basin — which means you’ve got time to plan a few outings for cheaper than you think.
Here are some of my tried-and-tested tips for saving money on skiing (and snowboarding) in Colorado.
1. Buy your lift ticket(s) in advance online.
Lift tickets will probably be your biggest expense, so shop carefully. You can find some pretty great deals on Liftopia (liftopia.com), especially if you look a few weeks out or can go on a weekday. Weekday lift tickets are often at least $20 cheaper than weekend tickets. Look for one of the cheaper ski areas, like Loveland, Eldora, Granby Ranch or A-Basin.
Two- and three-day passes will save you a lot, too, but be sure to note the difference between “any day” passes valid within the entire season and “in 7” passes that are valid only within a weeklong period. You wouldn’t be the first one to make that mistake.
2. If you’re renting gear, make a reservation.
Skip the rental shop at the ski area. Set a calendar reminder to reserve rentals at least 24 hours in advance at Christy Sports, 3500 S. College Ave., and you’ll save 20 percent.
Other affordable options for one-day rentals include:
- Mountain Rentals, 401 E. Eisenhower Blvd. in Loveland: $22 for sport skis, boots and helmet
- Outpost Sports, 931 E. Harmony Road: About $25 for sport skis, boots, helmet and poles (must present this coupon, valid until April 2)
If you’re headed out for more than a day trip, rent skis (or a snowboard) in the area so you can return them sooner and possibly save a little money.
3. Know when to rent, borrow or buy.
A pair of used poles will quickly pay for itself if you’re planning to ski more than a few times. You should probably rent skis, boots and a helmet if you don’t plan to ski often. Keep cost-per-use in mind.
You can usually rent a pair of ski pants at the ski area, but you can also find them used for a good price on Craigslist and at used gear shops like The Gearage, 119 E. Mountain Ave. Try to borrow goggles and pants if possible, and be open-minded about sizing — I’m a short woman and have worn my tall male roommate’s ski pants every time I’ve gone out this season. No complaints.
Used helmets, while cheap, can be risky because you can’t trust they haven’t been damaged. Just looking out for your skull here.
4. Two words: Snowy. Range.
Avoid the infamously horrific Interstate 70 weekend commute and save on lift tickets. If you’re willing to venture beyond Colorado for your trip, southern Wyoming’s Snowy Range Ski and Recreation Area is a frugal skier’s fantasy. It’s about two hours from Fort Collins, and adult lift tickets are $49. The ski area has a range of trails for all skill levels and is open till April 8.
5. Please don’t buy lunch at the ski area.
Make like an elementary school kid and pack a lunch. Your bank account will be thrilled.