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8 Ways to Save Money on a Winter Ski Vacation

Ski trips aren’t cheap. The gear alone can break the bank. Add lodging, lift tickets, and food to the mix and you can end up spending thousands of dollars to before you even hit the slopes.

The high cost is one of the reasons some people choose to vacation beachside instead of slopeside.

However, there are ways to reduce the expenses so that you can make it a reality for even the most budget-conscious travelers.

1) Time the Season You Ski In

There is peak and off-peak season during the period ski resorts are open. If you plan a ski trip during peak times, typically around holidays and when the kids are off from school, you’re going to pay top dollar. But if you go for off-peak periods such as the beginning and end of the season or mid-week, you’ll save. If you hold out until really late in the season, the savings will be amplified.

During off-peak seasons, you can usually get deals on lift tickets, lodging, and rentals. Ski equipment stores also tend to run sales during off-peak periods to unload excess inventory. That’s particularly true at the end of the season.

2) Book Early, Book Flexible

The earlier you book your trip, the better chance you'll have of landing a good deal. After all, how many people are planning a winter ski trip at the beginning of spring? While booking early can reduce the costs of your ski trip, it's not without risk. You have no idea how the weather will be when you do travel. If airfare is involved in your trip, consider travel insurance or flexible flying dates so you can reschedule without penalty.

Likewise, check with your resort to make sure your lift tickets are refundable. If they're not, ask about other discounted lift ticket options that aren't tied to a specific date. For instance, some resorts sell punch cards worth a specific number of ski passes. These are typically good for an entire season, which means you don't have to worry about losing your money if you change your dates.

3) Vacation Mid-Week

Ski resorts get flooded on the weekends, so room rates and lift ticket prices increase accordingly. If you can book a vacation in the middle of the week, do it. Many resorts have mid-week lift ticket deals, and hotels slash prices to fill rooms. On top of the savings, you’ll face shorter lift lines, fewer people in the lodge, and faster service.

4) Save on Your Lift Tickets

You don’t have to pay full price for your lift tickets. There are a host of websites that enable you to save money by purchasing lift tickets in advance. This usually works if you’re flexible since the discounts will vary depending on the date you’re skiing. The savings don’t end with the lift tickets. Many of these sites also offer deals on lodging, travel, and gear.

Physical retailers and daily deal websites will also run sales on lift tickets and ski packages. Sign up for these services and get alerts when a deal pops up. If you have children, they may be able to ski for free depending on the length of your visit and where you’re staying. The programs vary from one ski resort to the next.

5) Rent Equipment Away From the Mountain

You pay for convenience, and that is especially true of rental equipment when you ski. The ease in which you can purchase your lift ticket and get your ski rentals on-site means more money out of your pocket. A cheaper alternative is to obtain your equipment rental off of the mountain. The road up the mountain is usually dotted with ski equipment rental shops where you can get deals.

6) Stay Off the Mountain

Waking up, throwing on your skis, and skiing down to the lift is what winter vacation dreams are made of. But that level of convenience also comes at a high price.

If you are looking to cut back on vacation spending, consider staying off the mountain rather than slope side. You may have to drive a couple of miles to the mountain, but the savings can be significant. As a general rule of thumb, the farther out you stay, the more money you’ll save.

7) Enlist Your Friends

Almost all resorts offer discounted lift tickets when you book for a crowd. Rules vary from location to location, but most resorts start discounts for groups of 15 or more. Call your resort to ask for details.

Lift tickets aren't the only place you can save when traveling with friends. Instead of renting individual hotel rooms, check into vacation homes that are big enough to host your whole group. Check out websites like Airbnb or Vrbo to find unique vacation homes around the world. Many of these properties boast nice features, such as hot tubs and gourmet kitchens. And if you're lucky, you can score one with ski-in ski-out access.

If you have a whole group chipping in, the total cost might end up significantly less than you'd pay for a hotel. Cooking your meals at the house instead of eating out will save you even more.

8) Sign up for a Travel Rewards Credit Card

If you use your credit wisely (pay your statements on time with no interest charges), then signing up for a new credit card to get bonus miles or points can often result in free airfare to your favorite ski destination. Here is a list of the top travel cards, with some offering 50,000-60,000 bonus points.

Final Thoughts

While skiing and snowboarding may be the ultimate winter vacation activities, don't forget about other fun things you can try on the mountain which can save you a ton of money. For instance, instead of buying lift tickets for a week, buy a three-day pass, then spend the rest of the week tubing, cross-country skiing, or snowshoeing. Most resorts support these activities, and they're usually offered at a fraction of the cost of an actual lift ticket.

This article was written by freelance writer and entrepreneur Jill Morrison in partnership with MoneyCrashers.com

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