Beat the winter prices with these tips on saving money at the slopes
Many Calgarians are more worried about breaking the bank than their bones this ski season.
One of Calgary's premier winter pastimes can be pricey without the proper guidance. But, with the right strategy this ski season could cost far less money than you might expect.
Many deals are available to get you smiling in awe at the top of the Rocky Mountains with your friends and family.
There are deals on lodging, lift passes and gear to get you shredding down a powdery slope without draining your bank account.
Staying at a ski-in, ski-out (on-hill lodging) certainly has some perks. Skip the long drive home, and instead soak your sore muscles in a hot tub all while saving up to 60 per cent off this ski season.
Third party websites host deals for lodging in the Rocky Mountains, often with lift tickets included, at significantly discounted prices. Websites like Groupon.com and Travelzoo.ca offer an assortment of deals for hotels on and around the ski hill.
The best time to look for these deals is early in the season before Christmas and late in the season around February or March, according to Matt Mosteller, marketing specialist for the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies.
10 Ways to save on your ski vacation or day trip
1. Book early – Booking before Christmas and after March and get the best deals on lodging.
2. Consult the deal websites – Third-party websites host deals for lodging in the Rocky Mountains, often with lift tickets included, at significantly discounted prices upwards of 60 per cent off - Check out Groupon.com and Travelzoo.ca.
3. Hill promos - Closer to Calgary are Lake Louise Ski Resort and Sunshine Village, which are perfect for day trips, quick escapes and luxury stays, ranging between $99-$119 per person for lodging for two and two lift tickets.
4. Resort cards – Ski for free on your first, fourth and seventh visits to Sunshine Village or Louise for $89-$99. You also save a few bucks on times in-between.
5. Lift ticket deal website - Liftopia.com offers lift ticket discounts in British Columbia for as low as $35. You must plan ahead and pick what date you wish to ski, though.
6. Lift tickets only – Costco Wholesalers also offers deals on double lift tickets to many hills around Calgary for around $100 for a pair of lift tickets.
7. Gear websites - liveoutthere.com offers deals that come out regularly that can sometimes save you 50 to 60 per cent off gear. eBay and Amazon are great too if you know your size.
8. Sales – If you're not in a rush, after Christmas is a great time to find deals at most stores in Calgary. Online there is a gear swap organized by Mountain Equipment Co-op, too.
9. Stores – Ask ski and snowboard stores if they have anything in the back from last year; often times the gear they have is heavily discounted. Play it Again Sports offers gently used equipment for trade and purchase in Calgary.
10. For Kids – For $149 a season you can pick up your kid's ski or snowboard gear on the first day and then simply drop them off at the end of the season at your Resorts of the Canadian Rockies Hill of choice.
You can also sign up for email updates from most hills and see all the ongoing deals throughout the entire season.
Mosteller said that if you were looking for an adventure, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in Golden B.C., is the hill for you. If you're looking for value, look at Kimberley Alpine Resort, which has night skiing at a reduced price on weekends and holidays.
Closer to Calgary are Lake Louise Ski Resort and Sunshine Village, which are perfect for day trips, quick escapes and luxury stays.
The Great Divide Lodge at Lake Louise is a ski-in, ski-out resort, and for $99 you can stay the night at double occupancy — a travel accommodation for two persons sharing one room — and receive one free lift ticket. That's nearly the cost of an entire lift ticket alone, which means lodging is practically free.
The Sunshine Mountain Lodge is Banff's only on-mountain lodge and you can ski and stay for $119 per person each night. Daily lift tickets would cost you $89 at the hill, so staying would only cost an additional $30 per person.
There is also Nakiska Mountain Resort, which is Calgary's closest hill and there are many hotels in and around the ski hill.
If you're a person who likes to plan ahead, you can save money by buying tickets in advance from Liftopia.com. Visitors to the website can sign up for email updates for deals at their favourite hills — Kimberley Alpine Resort single day lift tickets have been posted for as low as $35.
Unfortunately, no Alberta hills were listed at press time but you can still find savings by using resort cards.
"If you're only going to go out five to seven times a year, (resort cards are) your best bet to buy the Lake Louise Plus Card for $99," Dan Markham, communications director for the Lake Louise Ski Resort, said.
After paying the initial $99, your first, fourth and seventh visits are free. You also save $20-30 on the rest of the lift passes. Additionally, kids under five-years-old ski for free with adults who hold the Lake Louise Plus Card.
Markham also said when you have this card "if you bring a couple of friends then they can save $20 off of their tickets," when purchased at the hill.
"This is the best program that we offer," Markham said.
The card is good to use at five different hills in close proximity to Calgary: Lake Louise, Castle Mountain, Panorama, Revelstoke and Schweitzer.
Sunshine Village offers a similar card where in addition to "three free days, card holders save up to $22 off adult, youth, and senior lift passes throughout the season," Lindsay Gallagher, marketing coordinator for Sunshine Village said in an email.
Sunshine Village's resort card is called the Marmot Card and can be purchased for $89 at Safeway and other local outlets.
Resort cards to both Sunshine and Lake Louise allow you to load the card with money in order to avoid bringing cash up the hill. Extra discounts at the restaurants and stores are directly applied when you use your card.
Costco also offers deals on double lift tickets to many hills around Calgary for around $100 for a pair of lift tickets.
To ski and snowboard requires the right gear. Some of the new, popular brands can cost upwards of $1,000 for a set of skis or a board. However, don't get discouraged by the price of professional-level gear, find the fit that's best for you.
Resorts of the Canadian Rockies' Mosteller recommends signing up for websites like liveoutthere.com to find deals that come out regularly that can sometimes save you 50 to 60 per cent off.
"And if you're not in a rush to get your equipment immediately, after Christmas many things will goon sale," Mosteller added.
There are also great programs and trade stores that cater to families with growing children and those who can't afford to constantly buy new gear.
"There is a program called the RCR wings program for kids, which is for families with kids who outgrow their gear each year," Mosteller explained. "For $149 a season, you can pick up your kid's ski or snowboard gear on the first day at your resort of choice and then simply drop them off at the end of the season.
"For an additional small charge you can purchase the gear. Sometimes these kids grow out of their gear within the season, so we'll trade them in for something that fits," Mosteller said.
Markham said that come springtime, Lake Louise sells all of their rental fleet at a large discount.
Markham said another great way to find gear is "to check out Mountain Equipment Co-op online, they provide a gear swap," and also deliver right to your doorstep.
- By Alexandra Fish