skiWhen I was fresh out of college, I was hired by a big oil company. They assigned me to oversee a network of gas stations in…wait for it…Lake Tahoe (on both the California and Nevada sides). I took over the territory in October. Being a Texas girl, I had never driven in snow before and found the whole experience terrifying. During my nearly two years working in that territory, I drove over the snow many times. Once or twice I took chair lift rides at some of the big Tahoe resorts so I could get the "scenic view" of the peaks. And one time I made a (very large) snow angel on the snow-covered lawn outside my hotel.

But I never went skiing.

This year, I’m finally contemplating learning to ski. I’m discovering it can be quite pricey! Here are some options I’m considering to ski for less.

Average cost to ski for a day

Increasingly, news sources state that skiing is becoming quite costly. The average cost just for a single day lift ticket hovers around $100 (see NBC News for more). This doesn't include gear/apparel, transportation, lodging, meals, lessons, etc. Here, planning ahead can translate into big savings!

Tactics to find reduced price lift tickets

Try these tactics to score discounted lift tickets—for a day, a weekend or a season.

  • Buy well in advance: The ski industry operates much like the airline industry, hedging its bets to sell enough "seats" to keep its doors open. You’re rewarded for committing in advance with cheaper prices.
  • Go offpeak: If you want to ski at the same time everyone else wants to ski, you’ll likely pay full price for the privilege.
  • Opt for a season pass: If you plan to ski frequently, you will find deep discounts (when compared to per-day rates) by committing to a season pass.
  • Go with a group: You can expect discounts of 10% or greater with 10 or more folks going in together for a ski trip.
  • Buy a ski vacation package: Many packages will offer discounted lift tickets plus lodging and other perks—some will feature set discounts across the board while others will use "dynamic pricing" to adjust prices to the seasonal demand.
  • Go Groupon: Look for discounts on group sites like Living Social and Groupon.
  • Stay flexible on the "where": Bigger resorts tend to have greater overhead and more traffic. Check out smaller nearby regional and local ski destinations to see if you can get reduced pricing.
  • Check out website and social media promotions for the resort(s) you prefer: Often resorts will post their own promotions for times/dates they need to attract more customers.
  • Check out local retailers at your destination that sell discounted lift tickets: You may score discounted tickets by waiting until you reach your destination.
  • Ski at night: Day ski tickets can cost twice as much as night ski tickets.
  • Pay attention to kid rates: If you’re going with your family, be aware some resorts let kids up to a certain age (typically age 6) ski free. Then there will be a reduced rate for older kids up to a certain age (12, 13, and 14 are typical cut-off ages).

Score discounted season lift tickets 

If you love to ski, it just doesn't get any better than lift season tickets.

1. Costco offers discounted lift tickets

Here, you may need to purchase your tickets through the store at your intended destination (typically a phone call can facilitate this).

2. Check out the "Mountain Collective"

This collaborative venture brings together several well-known ski resorts to offer a low-price pass and other discounts (such as 25% off lodging and no blackout dates). While this is not technically a "season pass," you can ski for up to 12 different dates and get a 50% discount on additional dates through purchasing a Mountain Collective pass.

3. Visit Ski New Hampshire for discounted season tickets

You have 21 different options for lift and cross country ("Alpine" and "Nordic") tickets and passes.

4. Nab the Ski Salt Lake "Super Pass" for access to four world-class ski resorts

The "Super Pass" gives you a 25% discount on lift tickets, 20-40% off rentals, free transportation, direct-to-lift (no ticket window) access and more.

5. Consider the Rocky Mountain Super Pass

The Rocky Mountain Super Pass gives you unlimited, all-season access to multiple ski resorts. Various options are available.

6. Visit Liftopia for reduced day, multi-day and season passes