The Best Ways To Save A Few Bucks On New England Slopes

Special To The Courant

With the arrival of November comes colder weather and the first flakes of snow, officially kicking off ski season.

While for enthusiasts it’s the most wonderful time of the year, it also tends to be the most expensive, because for the most part, a day on the slopes doesn’t come cheap.

There are, however, a few tips and tricks to keeping a few extra dollars in your wallet.

Hitting The Club

Start with joining a ski club. There are more than 40 clubs throughout Connecticut that belong to the Connecticut Ski Council, an organization that promotes skiing and winter sports, offering great benefits and discounts to its members.

“We offer a number of programs to the member clubs and their individual members, who total close to 30,000 people,” said the council’s president, Jonathan Houck.

“Awareness Days” is one of those programs and features deeply discounted tickets at designated resorts on specific days.

“The Connecticut Ski Council posts a calendar for the upcoming season, from December through March, every day, including weekdays as an Awareness Day at one of the ski mountains in Vermont or New Hampshire,” he said.

If you ski that particular mountain on its Awareness Day, Houck said, the savings can be substantial, sometimes up to half off regular lift ticket prices, if not more.

The deal, however, is only available to members, who are given an ID card by their club, then provided with a sticker from the council for the upcoming year, which unlocks the discounts.

He also said that area retailers, restaurants and lodging providers will often offer discounts of their own at the same time, further cutting costs on the trip.

A second program offers discounts in September of each year, when the council posts pre-season ticket prices for specific mountains. Members who’ve been with a club for longer than a year can pre-purchase tickets for upcoming trips, and save a bundle off the walk up price.

“So we have people who save quite a bit of money by planning out their winter ahead of time, joining a club, and going up to the mountains, and using either their discount or their Awareness Day stickers, to make skiing itself less expensive,” said Houck.

Joining a club is as easy as visiting the Connecticut Ski Council website, where member clubs are listed by location, along with their websites and contact information.

“The council website is an excellent way for somebody to do some quick research on what is available to them, and how they can virtually cut their ski trip in half in terms of cost.”

New Hampshire On The Cheap

Though it’s too late for this season, skiers will want to mark their calendars for next October when discounted lift tickets go on sale for 14 alpine ski areas in New Hampshire on the Ski New Hampshire website.

A limited supply of pre-purchase tickets go on sale for a short time in October, selling at 20 percent to 45 percent off of the window rate, and can be used any day during the season. They are also transferable to friends and family.

Don’t feel bad if you didn’t get them for this year, there are other ways to save, including purchasing a Snowsports Passport if you have children in fourth or fifth grade.

For only $30, students in those grades from any state can buy one lift ticket or trail pass that gets them into 34 New Hampshire ski areas season-long. The passports are on sale for the entire ski season, and parents who wish to purchase them must provide proof of grade in order to be eligible.

Another way to save on New Hampshire’s mountains is to buy a season pass.

“Each of our ski areas offers a season pass, and if you plan to ski more than a few times this year, it’s truly the way to go,” said Karolyn Castaldo, communications and marketing manager for Ski New Hampshire.

“There are partner pass programs, like the White Mountain Superpass, the Freedom Pass, and a number of other options that still allow you to ski at more than one location,” she said.

“Also, many resorts are offering a discount on lift tickets purchased online in advance.”

Beginners can save some money during the month of January during “Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month.”

“Participating resorts offer discounted beginner lessons during this time,” said Castaldo, “as well as “bring-a-friend” discounts for existing skiers and snowboarders.”

Green Mountain Deals

Like neighboring New Hampshire, Vermont offers deals and steals throughout the season, including pre-purchase lift tickets at popular ski destination Mount Snow.

On sale until they’re gone, discounted Mount Snow lift tickets are available starting at around $32, with tickets on Dec. 12 selling for the bargain-basement price of just $12 (while still available).

The Take 3 Beginner Package offers three beginner ski or snowboard lessons at participating Vermont resorts (including Killington, Okemo, and Stratton Mountain), for only $129.

Participants can choose to take all their lessons at a single resort, or shake it up and learn at different ones each time. Lessons include rental equipment and a lift ticket. Advance reservations are recommended.

Get a free lift ticket when purchasing a Sun Mountain Card for Bromley Mountain Resort. The discount card costs $74 if purchased before Dec. 15, and $10 more after. With it skiers can save $30 off lift tickets Monday through Friday, and $20 off on weekends; $10 on holidays.

There are some blackout periods including the week after Christmas, Martin Luther King weekend and February break.

Take It To The Max

Skiers seeking diversity, as well as a bargain can purchase a M.A.X. Pass; a program where skiers buy a pass for the season, and are then allotted a certain number of ski days at various resorts throughout North America.

Running roughly $729 for adults, $529 for teens, and $429 for kids ages 6-12 (children 5 and under cost $49), the M.A.X. pass gives skiers five days each at 44 different mountains including resorts in Canada, California, Colorado, and New England, for a total of 220 ski days in a single season, with no blackout dates.

Skiers already holding qualifying season passes at specific resorts can purchase a M.A.X Pass Add-On, which gives them five days at almost all the participating M.A.X mountains, with the exception of the resort accessed by the season pass.

The cost of the Add-On Pass is $379 for adults, $329 for teens, $279 for ages 6-12, and $49 for children 5 and under.

Buy Or Lease?

After lift tickets, ski gear is typically the biggest expense, especially for kids, who can outgrow their equipment after just one season.

Instead of purchasing new equipment, leasing has become an increasingly popular alternative.

“Our season lease program has been huge in terms of keeping families into the sport at reasonable price,” said Eric Barber, general manager of Alpine Haus ski and snowboard shop in Wethersfield.

For just $100, youth ski and snowboard equipment can be leased for the entire season.

“A season lease for convenience, for cost savings, definitely makes a lot of sense to keep costs down,” said Barber. And with plenty of inventory, he said that the packages will be available deep into the season.

Finally, when purchasing equipment, Barber said, buying consignment is another way to keep costs down but recommended using discretion.

“We go out of our way to make sure that the product is still supported by the manufacturer, that it’s within current standards for a modern ski or boot, and that it’s able to be worked on and serviced.

“Unfortunately a lot of times with a Craigslist purchase, or online purchases, the deal may be great, but unfortunately the product is outdated and can’t be serviced, or is missing critical pieces.”

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