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Nothing says Christmas like a ski vacation, but who can afford such luxury these days? Lift ticket prices at destination resorts average $90 per person. Once the holidays begin, they will surely soar higher than Santa and his reindeer. Forget about those discount coupons, like the buy one, get one free from Shell. Trust me. I worked at a resort and had to be the Scrooge who explained that the Black Death, otherwise known as the blackout date, murders these tickets every holiday season.

Fortunately, you needn't spend yet another holiday season watching reruns of It’s a Wonderful Life. You know the score. You’re a coupon diva. A bit of coupon cunning and savvy social networking gets you to the slopes, with money left over for presents under the tree. I hereby present, Liftopia!

Liftopia – the largest seller of ski lift tickets online.  Utopian societies have cheap lift tickets. Liftopia deserves its name. It’s user friendly, and:

  • Its search feature lets you choose a state or a region, as opposed to a specific resort. So if there’s nothing available for your dream resort, check to see if there’s something close by.
  • Its dates are precise. You might go to a website and print a coupon code, only to discover that you failed to read the proverbial small print, which told you that “this coupon is not valid during Christmas week.” At Liftopia, you choose the exact dates. If nothing is available during Christmas, nothing will appear. As of November 20, 2011, Liftopia has discounts available for the holiday season.
  • Liftopia has a direct relationship with ski resorts throughout the world, which makes them privy to holiday discounts that are not available on other sites.
  • Liftopia offers more than just skiing. Some offers include a ski lesson, lunch, or a credit toward meals.
  • They have a gift card feature.
  • They have an 800 number: 800-349-0870

How it Works

  • Go to the Liftopia website
  • Register, and sign up for email alerts.
  • Enter your region and dates.
  • Select a discount.
  • Pay online.
  • Print your confirmation.
  • Bring the confirmation to the will-call lift ticket window.
  • Get your ticket.
  • Go skiing!

Liftopia might pose one specific problem: your tickets are non-refundable and non-transferable. So if Ullr the God of Snow decides to deprive Colorado of a white Christmas but dumps a heavy white powder blanket over Utah, you’re stuck. If you follow the snow in the same way that surfers follow the waves, you need to take advantage of some insider tips.

1. You’ve Got to Have Friends: My husband and I spent five years working at two different Colorado ski resorts. We had many friends, because insiders know that ski resort workers have access to discounts or sometimes free lift tickets. Some of these tickets have blackout dates, while others do not.  Make sure to thank those insiders with a nice gesture, like a dinner, since resort employees only earn about 10 bucks an hour, if that.

2. Become a Mountain Ambassador: Can you spare 14 days out of the season to work at the resort? Then a free season pass is yours. Mountain ambassadors give tours of the mountain and answer general questions asked by the guests. While it’s an unpaid job, the perks are many. Since nobody wants to work during the holidays, your willingness to do so makes it more likely that you will be hired. Most resorts list their mountain ambassador positions on their jobs page.

3. Destination Shmestination: Everyone flocks to the destination resorts during the holidays, and each resort tries to out-Christmas the next. But seriously, how much do you really need a Santa with a real reindeer, or a torchlight mountain descent on New Year’s Eve? These cute little ideas add big bucks to your lift ticket prices. Meanwhile, smaller ski areas might only add a minimal, if any, price increase during the holidays. Save money and take the contrarian approach. If anything, the lift lines are shorter.

4. When all else fails, ski at a later date. During the holiday week, we work like crazy and rarely get a chance to ski. We get lonely during the second week in January, because everybody has spent all their holiday money. Ullr sometimes plays a nasty little trick and dumps a big blanket of snow after the guests have returned home. Powder, powder everywhere, but no one left to ski. Resorts cannot survive for even one week without a given number of visitors. This is when you get some of the best snow and the best discounts. It’s a wonderful life!

This has been a guest post by Lisa currently living in Uruguay
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