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How to Save on Winter Sports

How to Save on Winter Sports

There’s a chill in the air, snow in the forecast, and ice on your windshield. That means it’s the perfect time to get outside and enjoy skiing, snowboarding, ice skating and other cold weather sports. But while the temps are going down, the price to partake in winter sports is rising. A recent article in The Washington Post reported that lift ticket rates for a family are looming toward $200 per day.  Do the high costs of winter sports make you want to hibernate? Don’t worry—there are plenty of simple things you can do to make your activities more affordable. 
Whether you are a seasoned winter sports enthusiast or just testing the (frozen) waters for the first time, here are some strategies you can use to save money. 

Ski Deals & Money Saving Tips: Save on the Slopes

The price of lift tickets and equipment can seem as steep as the slopes.  If the mountains are calling your name, use these tips for cutting skiing and snowboarding costs.
Time it right
Weekends and holidays are the most popular times to ski and snowboard, and hence, the most expensive. Try to visit the mountain midweek when lift tickets, equipment rentals and lodging may cost a lot less. In an effort to attract midweek skiers and snowboarders, many resorts offer special off-peak promotions that can save you money or give you more bang for your buck (i.e., two for one deals, free meal, etc.). Visiting a resort during a non-peak time also means fewer crowds and shorter lines.
Look for beginner bargains
New to skiing or snowboarding? Many ski resorts offer packages for beginners which may include lift tickets, equipment rental and lessons. Check out the Learn to Ski and Snowboard website to find special offers especially for first-time skiers and snowboarders.  
Use discounts
Students, seniors, military and members of groups and organizations such as AAA may be eligible for special savings.  Look online for discounts that may apply to you, or inquire in person when purchasing your tickets.  Always be sure to carry your applicable membership card or ID.
Pre-purchase your tickets
The early bird gets the savings. Resorts frequently offer significant lift ticket discounts if you pre-purchase your tickets online rather than at the window. Even deeper discounts may be available if you purchase tickets at least a week prior to your visit. To buy lift tickets online, visit your desired ski resort’s website or a discount lift ticket website such as Liftopia, GetSkiTickets, SkiCentral or Compare prices and see which site has the best deal.
Go off the beaten path
Big-name, amenity-filled resorts can cost big bucks. If you are trying to save money, visiting a smaller, less popular resort or mountain can be a better choice. Smaller mountains and resorts are typically much less expensive–not to mention less crowded–than larger ones, and can be an especially good option if you or your children are novice skiers or snowboarders. Why pay the higher price of a big mountain resort if you don’t need advanced terrain or a bunch of amenities you won’t use?
Get a season pass
If you plan to visit a mountain several times during the season, do the math and see if it makes financial sense to purchase a season pass.  It can be worth it if you are a frequent skier or snowboarder. Season passes usually give you unlimited skiing and riding at the resort and may include additional benefits such as discounts on lodging, food, guest passes, lessons and more.  Some season passes give you access to other mountains as well.
Is a season pass too much of a commitment?  Consider a multi-day lift ticket if you are going to be spending more than one day on the slopes. Chances are it will cost much less than purchasing separate single day tickets.
Find free programs for kids
Take a cost-effective family winter sports vacation by looking for resorts that offer free or discounted ski or snowboarding programs for children. Most resorts offer free skiing to children under five, and some resorts have special kids ski/snowboard free programs for older children as well.  Programs may include everything from lift tickets to lodging to lessons.
Buy used gear
If you or your family members are trying skiing or snowboarding for the first time, borrowing or renting your equipment makes sense. After a couple of days, you may decide that you favor the shore over the slopes.
Once you fall in love with skiing or snowboarding, and start taking part in the sport(s) regularly, it will be more cost-effective to invest in own equipment. However, you don’t have to buy brand new equipment. Search Amazon, eBay, Craigslist or your local sporting goods store for high-quality, gently used gear.
Also let your family and friends know about your search. You might find that your neighbor has a barely used snowboard sitting in his shed or that your younger cousin outgrew her gear.
Keep in mind that if you do own your own skis or snowboard, you may have to deal with extra costs related to transportation. For example, if you are traveling by air you may have to pay additional fees or hire a car service at the airport that can accommodate your equipment.
Stay off-mountain          
Staying at a resort that gives you ski-in and ski-out access can be expensive. To cut costs, lodge away from the resort, perhaps at an Airbnb or at condo or apartment where you can cook your own meals. 
Ski cross country
Cross-country skiing can be an inexpensive, albeit less adrenaline-inducing, alternative to downhill skiing. Check out your local parks or recreational areas for free public trails.

Ice skating savings

Ice is nice…but the costs for recreational ice skating and ice hockey can really add up. Lace up your skates and take a spin on the ice for less by keeping these tips in mind:
  • Take advantage of any available skating discounts you may be eligible to receive: senior, student, military, AAA, etc.
  • Consider a season pass. For frequent skaters, rink season passes can be a great value. You’ll enjoy unlimited skating privileges, spend less time waiting in line and may be entitled to other benefits such as guest passes, lesson discounts, and more.
  • Visit frozen ponds or lakes for cheap, possibly even free, outdoor skating. Verify ice conditions ahead of time to make sure the ice is skate-safe and don’t forget to bring your skates – these natural spots generally do not have rentals.
  • Purchase new or used skates and gear. Sometimes the skate rental fee is higher than the rink admission. If you plan to continue ice skating on a long-term basis, buying skates instead of renting will be cost-effective.
If it is your child who needs skates, buying gently used skates can be smart idea.  You’ll be able to keep up with their skating needs without shelling out a lot of money every time they outgrow their skates. Visit your local secondhand stores, ask family and friends if they have any old skates, or search Craigslist, Amazon or eBay. Be sure the skates are in good condition, comfortable and fit well. Painful, ill-fitting skates are unlikely to be worn very much—and that’s a waste of money.   
If you or your children are beginner ice hockey players, you may also want to consider purchasing pre-used sticks, helmets, goalie pads, gloves and other equipment. 
Winter sports are a wonderful way to enjoy the great outdoors and get some exercise, but some of the most popular activities are not cheap pursuits.  With some strategic planning however, you’ll be able to savor a season of frosty, frugal fun with your family and friends.
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