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Skiing on a budget: Families can hit the slopes without breaking the bank

From discounts to rentalsto special programs, there are ways for families to save

Published: Tuesday, July 28 2015 4:35 p.m. MDT

Skiers are reflected in the goggles of a companion as they wait for a chairlift at Brighton. The best bargains for both equipment and passes are the preseason sales and swaps. Better bargains can be found during the summer.  (Associated Press) Skiers are reflected in the goggles of a companion as they wait for a chairlift at Brighton. The best bargains for both equipment and passes are the preseason sales and swaps. Better bargains can be found during the summer. (Associated Press)

"Too old" and "too expensive" are two of the main reasons people choose to stay away from ski and snowboard slopes.

Not much can be done about aging, but lots can be done with respect to the cost of skiing and/or snowboarding.

True, skiing and snowboarding can be expensive if an individual chooses to pay top dollar for equipment, passes, lessons, fashionable attire and midday lunches.

A little planning, especially for locals, however, can cut out-of-pocket expenses considerably. Among the tricks are buying discount passes, looking into season rentals and package programs, and visiting areas with kids-ski-snowboard-free programs.

Passes

As one local skier said, "There's no reason to pay ticket-window prices for a pass." And it's true.

Cassidy Murray, age 5, learns to ski with Patrick Murray at Park City Mountain Resort in Park City on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012.  (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News) Cassidy Murray, age 5, learns to ski with Patrick Murray at Park City Mountain Resort in Park City on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

Online passes on www.liftopia.com, for example, can be considerably less if purchased for certain days.

Costco sells discount passes to Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons for 35 and 33 percent off, respectively.

Ski rental shops sell discount tickets for all the major resorts, and there's no need to make a purchase to participate.

Kathy Black, marketing manager for A.J. Motions Sports, said discount passes range anywhere from $5 to $23 off, "and are good any day during the season."

A regular day pass at Park City Mountain Resort, for example, is $102 at the window, but $82 at rental shops. A junior pass is $62 at the window and $53 at discount shops.

Most all resorts offer discount passes through various outlets.

Colby Hine grinds a rail at Brighton. January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month. (Ben Brewer, Deseret News) Colby Hine grinds a rail at Brighton. January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month. (Ben Brewer, Deseret News)

There's also the option of buying a half-day pass. With today's high-speed lifts it's possible to get in all the skiing or snowboarding an individual can take in half a day.

Kids ski free

There are a number of resorts that welcome children under age 7, and in some cases 5, to ski and/or snowboard for free.

Brighton, for example, allows children 7 and under to ski/snowboard free any time; Canyons allows children 6 and under to ski/snowboard free when accompanied by an adult; Park City Mountain Resort welcomes children 6 and under anytime; Solitude opens its lifts to children 6 and under anytime; Sundance allows children 5 and under to ski/snowboard free; Snowbasin allows children 6 and under to ski/snowboard free when accompanied by a paying adult; and Snowbird welcomes kids 6 and under.

Powder Mountain Ski Resort, Monday, Dec. 3, 2012. (Ben Brewer, Deseret News) Powder Mountain Ski Resort, Monday, Dec. 3, 2012. (Ben Brewer, Deseret News)

Passport

Ski Utah offers a passport program where fifth- and sixth-grade students get a pass to ski and/or snowboard free at all 14 Utah resorts.

Fifth-graders can ski or snowboard up to three times free at all 14 Utah resorts, and sixth-grade students can ski or board once at all 14 resorts. Sixth-graders must pay a $25 processing fee. Contact Ski Utah for passes at 1-801-534-1779.

There are also other benefits to the pass, including discount rentals and lessons.

It's not possible this year, but parents can ski and board along with their kids next season. Ski Utah's Yeti passes have sold out. The pass, which sold for $549, allowed parents to ski along with their fifth- and sixth-graders and was good for one pass at each of the 14 resorts, which when broken down is $39 per day.

Skiers ride a chairlift at Brighton Ski Resort. Brighton allows children 7 and under to ski or snowboard free any time when they are accompanied by an adult. (Associated Press) Skiers ride a chairlift at Brighton Ski Resort. Brighton allows children 7 and under to ski or snowboard free any time when they are accompanied by an adult. (Associated Press)

Most of the passes, in fact, were sold to parents looking for an adventure with their kids.

Rentals

Equipment can be an expense, especially when trying to keep up with the growth years of young children.

Renting is a great option. For as little as $80 a season, parents can get updated equipment early in the season and not return it until the end of the season.

Ski 'N See offers a unique rental program. For $350, parents can upgrade ski and snowboard equipment during most of a child's growing years, which in some cases can be up to 10 years. It's based on size, not age. Children can start in boot sizes for 2- or 3-year-olds and skis at 80 centimeters and continue to upgrading sizes, as warranted, to a woman's 51/2 and men's 61/2 and skis up to 140 centimeters.

A.J. Motions Sports offers junior rental packages for $79.99 a season and adult rentals for $99.99 a season.

Skiers ride the lift at Snowbird. If you can't afford a full-day pass, try buying a half-day pass. With high-speed lifts, it's possible to get all the skiing or snowboarding you can take in half a day.     (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Skiers ride the lift at Snowbird. If you can't afford a full-day pass, try buying a half-day pass. With high-speed lifts, it's possible to get all the skiing or snowboarding you can take in half a day. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

It can also pay for people to rent by the day for those planning limited ski or snowboard time. A daily rental at Motions for juniors is $11.90 when booked online and $15.40 online for an adult. It's $15.40 for junior snowboard equipment and $22.40 a day when booked online for an adult package.

Canyon Sports offers a daily junior ski package for $15.99 at the store, but $12.79 if booked online. An adult package is $24.99 at the store or $19.99 online. An adult snowboard package is $29.99 at the store or $23.99 online and a junior package is $20.99 at the store or $16.79 booked online.

A benefit to renting vs. hand-me-downs for children is that rental equipment is updated typically every two to three years, where hand-me-downs can have old technology and, in some cases, be dangerous. Shops, for example, are now allowed to work on old bindings.

Programs

January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, a national program intended to introduce people — young and old — to skiing and snowboarding inexpensively. The goal is to put 10,000 people through the program, says Susie English, director of communications for Ski Utah.

Among the offers are:

Park City Mountain Resort offers a "StartNOW" learn-to-ski-snowboard program. It is exclusively for Utah residents ages 6 and older who are first-time learners. Students get five lessons, ski or snowboard equipment and lift access. Cost is $200.

Snowbasin offers a Learn and Earn program for first-time boarders and skiers. This program is for people ages 7 and up and includes five lessons, rentals and lift access, plus a free season pass after the completion of the sessions that is good after Jan. 22. Cost is $295.

Food

If you don't want the expense of eating at a resort, consider putting an energy bar in the pocket to eat on the lift. With today's high-speed lifts, it's possible to get a complete day of skiing or boarding in within a few short hours, so a little pick-me-up is all that's needed.

Resort food may cost more, but it's far more convenient. Also, there are items on the menus that are a bargain. Then there's always to option of a sack lunch eaten in the car.

Preseason

The best bargains for both equipment and passes are the preseason sales and swaps.

Park City Mountain Resort, for example, offered a preseason 10-day EZ Access pass for $585 to Utah residents only, which drops the ticket price from $102 at the window to $58.50 a day. Brighton offered a five-book package for $245, which makes a day pass only $49. Other resorts offer similar bargains to Utah residents when purchased preseason.

Better bargains can be had during the summer and around the big Labor Day sales when ski and snowboard equipment and clothing go on sale.

And there are a number of ski/snowboard swaps in November, including those at Snowbird, Park City, Rowmark, Snowbasin and Weber State.

What makes ski/snowboard swaps so good is that they are one of the best ways the average skier and/or snowboarder can sell equipment and clothing children have outgrown or adults choose to upgrade.

Some of the equipment and clothing are like new and typically are of the latest technology. Prices, however, reflect a desire to sell. Some of the sales are large and equipment ranges from skis and snowboards to clothing to accessories, such as gloves, hats, parkas, and cross country equipment and snowshoes.

Again, skiing and snowboarding need not be as expensive as people believe if they would but do a little planning before heading into the hills.

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