Ski Report: Five Secrets for Planning an Affordable Getaway
Are ski trips inherently expensive? They don't have to be. Look around when you're waiting for a chair lift, and you'll see someone who has booked a slopeside ten-bedroom luxury home alongside a gang of broke college kids who are crashing in a cheap motel down by the interstate. When booking ski vacations, there a few key variables that affect the price -- here's how to game the system and score the most mountain for your money.
Five Secrets for Planning an Affordable Ski Vacation
1. Don't follow the crowd -- In general, the ski resorts that get the most traffic are also the resorts which are most consistently expensive. Savvy marketing and easy access add up. But for prime ski conditions, the fewer people who are on the hill, the better. Resorts like Big Sky (Montana), Snowbasin (Utah), Crested Butte (Colorado), Taos (New Mexico), and Jackson Hole (Wyoming) are beautiful, uncrowded resorts and offer incredible terrain with less competition for those fresh tracks. And they're each making an effort welcome to LGBT travelers, as well.
2. Lay your head a little further from the lifts -- Lodging is your biggest expense, so embrace morning walks and free shuttle buses. You can chop hundreds off your final price by staying a little further from the base lodge.
3.Never buy your lift tickets at the window -- Think like a shopoholic and never pay retail, as most lift tickets can be had at a discount these days. Inquire with your lodging company, check local ski and snowboard shops, and hit up sites like Liftopia.com, which specializes in discounted lift tickets. Some tourism associations even offer passes that you can use at multiple resorts: Ski Salt Lake (which has made a great effort to reach out to LGBT travelers) offers a popular "Super Pass" which is valid at four of the top resorts in Utah. And check with your airline, too -- some spots will trade in a boarding pass for a free same-day lift ticket!
4. Avoid peak season -- This one is a given but still needs to be said: rates are always highest when kids are on school holidays. Steer clear of MLK weekend, Christmas through New Year's, and especially in the East, Presidents' Week. Consider "shoulder season," the period where snowfall is less reliable but conditions can still make for a gorgeous trip to the hills. If you haven't experienced spring skiing (mid-March onward) you'll never forget what it's like to sit outside on a sun deck in your t-shirt, drinking cold beers with snowcapped mountains stretching in every direction.
5. Save on season-long equipment rentals -- With daily rates hovering in the $30–40 daily range, opt for season-long rentals instead, which can run as low as $250. If you spend ten days on the slopes this season, you'll save dough and see your skills improve on the mountain. It's always a better day when you're not spending your first few runs adjusting to whatever's under foot.
Chris French is the president of Ski Bums, the world’s largest club for LGBT skiers and snowboarders. He lives in New York City. Visit Ski-Bums.org to learn more.