Walk up to the window at any ski resort and purchase a ticket and you will pay big time prices. Only a fool would do this and yes I am a fool. At least at one time I was. I now know a few tricks of the trade.
SHHH, It’s a Secret
Trying to find out what they are charging at the window in advance is about as easy as locating a CIA secret prison. The resorts change their prices daily depending on expected crowds, snow conditions and the correlation between the rotational phases of the Moon and Mars. Even if you have a season pass with attached buddy passes, you won’t know what your buddy pays until you actually pay at the window. I would imagine the reason for this is embarrassment, or at least it should be when I walked up to the window at Copper Mountain last year and was charged $110 per ticket.
These used to be exorbitant and only worthwhile if you skied pretty much every day. They still are. If you want to ski Aspen on a season pass it will run you $2,049. If you bought it before September you could have gotten it for $1699 but if you’re skiing Aspen, what’s three hundred and fifty bucks or so to you anyway? Single mountain season passes are only for certain mountains that are not linked with other resorts. If you have a little hill near your home, and Aspen Mountain is actually a little hill but you know what I mean, you may find a deal there.
Multiple Mountain Passes
Vail Resorts, which is planning on taking over the world, or at least the ski world as we know it, has their Epic Pass. You get unlimited access to Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone, Breckenridge and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado plus Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in California, Park City and the Canyons in Utah and Afton Alps and Mt. Brighton back east. To show their worldwide domination they also offer, with limitations, days at Niseko United in Japan, Verbier in Switzerland and 3 Vallees in France. Their Epic Local Pass is similar but has restrictions as to which resorts you have access to (mainly Colorado resorts) and some limit you to 10 days but the price is less than the main Epic. These passes are only available in the spring, summer and early fall and must be purchased in person at the resort or certain ski shops.
Resort Online Sites
Most resorts offer deals if you order online and at least 14 days in advance. Vail is charging $129 for Saturday December 27 if you order online, in advance. The window price is probably about $149. I could tell you exactly but then would have to kill you.
Other Online Sites
Sites like Liftopia.com and Onthesnow.com offer great discounts. Some of them work with the resorts to help sell tickets in slow periods. This means your best deals are same day or next day sales. Part of this is due to the algebraic equations resorts seem to use to determine their pricing. Today may cost more than tomorrow and Saturday will definitely be more than Tuesday, unless it snows or the accountants are hung-over. I joke about this but I think it may be closer to the truth than you think.
If you book a stay in a room or condo owned by the resort they will offer discounted or free lift tickets. If you think that ticket is actually free, I have a ski condo in Kansas I’ll sell you. Sometimes these deals are good though, especially during slower periods. During the peak season, you will pay peak prices for that lodging so check other lodging options before booking. With the price of lift tickets today, which once again is a secret, you may save a lot by booking one of these package deals. One example is kids ski free with multiple days booked at a Keystone-run lodge. Keystone is smart in doing this to encourage the next generation to fork over big bucks for their condos.
Local Business Deals
In Colorado the big chain grocery stores like King Soopers and City Market (Kroger) and Safeway offer discounts at their customer service desks. These will save a few bucks but not much. On December 11, 2014 Kings was offering Keystone for $104 and Copper Mountain for $74. Great deal for Copper, not so much for Keystone. Sporting stores and rental shops offer deals as well so anytime you are buying or renting, ask what they have. In some areas, local gas stations, convenience stores and restaurants offer 2 for 1 coupons if you patronize their business. Look for these deals in the newspaper, on TV or, if anyone does this anymore, listen to the radio. You will definitely save over the walkup-to-the-window price which as I have taught you, could be $100 or more, especially if Pluto is in retrograde.
Once you get your lift ticket, make sure your wireless CHIPS® are in your helmet so you can get pumped while sitting on the lift.