Strategies for Saving Money at Ski Resorts

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Top tips to keep your dough from melting in the snow.

· Infill: Traditional holidays and Saturdays are popular, so these days make the most demands on your wallet. Instead, go during the "soft season," the days or weeks on the borders of holidays. Try for midweek days instead of weekends.

· Hang online: Resorts are trying more "dynamic marketing" via their Web sites and e-mail lists. If demand drops, they'll offer special discounts and packages to fill in a soft week. So, check sites of your favorite resorts early and often.

· Join the club: You need not join a traditional ski club to score discounts on everything, but it doesn't hurt. Some resorts offer their own "frequent flier" cards, such the Alpine Club Card at California's Alpine Meadows and Vermont's Killington Express Card.

· Go as a group: Assemble your own posse of 12 to 25 (depending on the resort) pals, workmates or family members to score group discounts on lift tickets. Phone resort offices to try to customize the deal with special lodging, meals, gear rentals and other goodies. Don't wait until the last minute: Resorts prefer to arrange things in advance.

· Carpool: Your car may look like a gas-hogging SUV. But fill it with passengers and it's transformed into an ultra-efficient shuttle van. Everyone can split the hit at the pumps. Some resorts even help you hook up. California has to help you form pools through its forums, and resorts such Kirkwood, in Carson Pass, Calif., are adopting carpool programs. The Ski Areas of New York association is preparing to do the same via

· Go late: Night skiing is an acquired taste. But seeing your lift-ticket price chopped in half can help you acquire it. Five nights of midweek skiing after dark at Liberty Mountain/Whitetail Resort/Ski Round Top resorts in Pennsylvania cost just $119.50.

· Go really, really late: As in, late in the season. The most awesome deals and shortest lift lines will be found during the final weeks of an area's ski season. In the East, thicker snowpacks now last later. In the West, spring corn snow is also called "hero" snow, for its buttery, edge-holding qualities. Roads become clearer, skies balmier. What's not to like?

-- P.McH.

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