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Winter is just around the corner, and that means that it’s almost SKI SEASON! While that’s probably great for the happiness factor in your life, skiing is a sport that’s hard on the wallet. So we’re sharing ways to make family skiing more affordable and sharing our best ways to ski for cheap with kids.
How Much Does It Cost To Ski With Kids?
The cost of a day on the slopes can vary greatly depending upon where you go, but here are some rough costs for budgeting purposes:
Lift Tickets: At your average ski resort in the US, ski lift tickets cost $75-$130/day for adults and kids ages 12 and older. For kids, plan on paying about 30% less for kids lift tickets. Most ski resorts have deals where kids under a certain age, usually 5 or 6 ski for free.
Ski Rentals: Plan on paying between $20-$40 per person per day for ski rentals
Ski School: Ski schools cost between $100-$250/day, and many also require you to buy a lift ticket in addition to your ski instruction.
If you do the math quickly, you’ll see that skiing can easily be the most expensive family sport. Especially if you have a big family like we do. For our family of 7 to ski for a day, the costs can be astronomical.
Fortunately, there are plenty of budget ways to ski with kids that can save you money and make family skiing more affordable (and maybe even fun!). Let’s talk about some budget friendly budget skiing for families.
8 Ways To Ski For Cheap (and still have an awesome time)
Skiing on a budget is actually much easier than you might think, but it does require a little bit of planning ahead. In fact, if you figure out how to plan a ski trip on a budget, you’ll really just be able to ski more! Cheap ski trips are always a great way to go if you want to get more skiing for your money.
Best Ways To Save On Family Ski Gear
If you’re going to be skiing more than a handful of times each season, it makes sense to get a season ski rental package or just buy a set up used.
Buying Used Ski Gear
In our big family, we buy used ski gear for our kids and then pass it down to the youngest siblings as everyone grows. We shop at ski rental shops (they often sell their used rental equipment), at online classifieds, and at fall ski swaps. Occasionally we even find good quality used ski gear at thrift stores. Typically, we can get a full set up for kids for $60-$100 depending on the condition. For adults, we pay about $150-200 for a full set up, but if we get good gear, it will easily last 10 years, so it’s a bargain.
Buying used ski gear is the most economical way to get budget ski gear for kids.
TIP: For kids, we’ve found that buying adjustable ski boots for kids is usually a better deal than getting several pairs of used boots as kids grow. Check out our top recommendations for kids ski boots.
Season Ski Rentals To Save Money
Season ski rentals are a great way to save money if you don’t want the hassle of searching for your kids size, and you don’t want to have to store gear for the entire year that you only use for the summer. Season ski rentals usually cost about $90-$140 per season.
Trade Ski Gear With Friends
In our experience, kids ski gear does not wear out quickly, so chat with ski friend and see if you can swap sizes with them. Often if you have multiple kids, there is a year or two when the gear won’t be used (while it’s waiting for someone to grow into it), so offer it to friends for the season, and see what they have that fits your kids. This is something that we saw families who ski at Solitude doing regularly!
Recently, we went through our skis with some good friends of ours to see which kids needed skis and boots and then each looked through the other families ski stash to see where we could share. Not only were we both saving money, but it felt wonderful not to have to buy more STUFF.
Ski At Budget Ski Resorts
If you’re a beginner or are just learning how to ski, consider looking into a budget family ski resort. Budget ski resorts are simpler and often less crowded than big well known resorts, and you’ll often pay less than 1/4 of the price. At our favorite Utah budget ski resort, our family of 7 was able to ski for a day for less than $80 FOR ONE DAY! We couldn’t even get one lift ticket at most resorts for this price! While this resort didn’t have any advanced or technical terrain, it’s the perfect place for a ski day with friends or for teaching beginners how to ski. Brighton ski resort also has an amazing deal where kids 10 an under ski free with a parent!. Just because a resort is well known DOES NOT MEAN that it’s going to be the best fit for your family, so look around so you can go skiing on a budget.
Buy Ticket Packs Pre-Season
Lots of ski resorts sell early season or pre season ticket packs at a major discount. Most of the time packs are sold in sets of 4, 8 or 10 and are a fantastic deal if you want to ski a bit, but not enough to justify a season pass. When we lived and skied in Colorado with our kids, Arapahoe Basin sold a 4 pack of tickets before the season started for just $150, which was a fantastic deal!
Buy Discount Ski Lift Tickets Online
The best way to get discount lift tickets is to buy them online, as far in advance as you can. We love to use LIftopia for discount family lift tickets, but they only have a limited amount, so buy early for the best prices and before tickets sell out. The most expensive place to buy family lift tickets is at the ticket window.
Sign Up For Ski Discount Programs For Kids
Did you know that many resorts have discount programs for kids? Vail Resorts offers the Epic School Kids program where kids in grades k-5 can get 5 free lift tickets for the season. Other areas offer free season passes for kids if you sign up before a certain date. Many states also offer programs where 5th and 6th graders get free ski passes, so look into that as well. As a bonus, many of these programs also offer discount skiing for other family members as well.
NOTE: Many of these programs are only available very early in the season or fall. Act early.
Pack Your Own Lunch
Ski Resort lunch prices are absolutely CRAZY, so skipping the resort food is a great way to save money when skiing with kids. A couple of years ago, we bought our whole family lunch at the ski hill and it was over $100! While PB&J can get old after a while, there are plenty of other delicious options for ski lunches.
Check out our Top 20 Ski Lunch Ideas, with delicious recipes and some amazing hot lunch options you can make ahead too! If you still want some lodge time to warm up, splurge on some hot cocoa. We can get a large hot cocoa for $5 at our ski hill, and it’s big enough for 2-3 kids to share (grab free water cups and pour it in there at your table).
Work At A Ski Resort For Free Ski Passes
We live in a mountain area, where lots of families would love to ski, but don’t have the budget to do so. Instead, many friends of ours work at the ski resort and as a benefit, their family gets to ski for free.
Many of the moms at our local elementary school work as parking attendants and after dropping the kids off at school, they all carpool up to the ski hill for the morning, work a shift (then usually ski for a little bit together), and then are home in time to pick up kids at the end of the day. In return, their whole family gets season passes, AND they get paid for the shifts they work. Other friends work as ski instructors, lift operators, or restaurant severs on the ski hill. I personally have worked with a ski resort doing writing for them and gotten season passes in exchange. Get creative and then approach your local ski hill to see how they can work with you.
12 thoughts on “8 Brilliant Ways to Ski for Cheap with Kids”
Great tips! The worst mistake we ever made with our kids was not buying a warm enough coat. We didn’t go for a brand name, and it looked warm but wasn’t. After one miserable day, we ordered a down jacket from Lands’ End for our 3 year old. A great investment!
Good point Brave Ski Mom. Expect a post in the future on how to keep kids warm!
Being from Southern California, we may only make it to the snow once or twice a season. When it comes to gearing up on the cheap, we have benefited greatly from borrowing from others. Great tips – I’ve shared them on Twitter!
Great tips! I already swap and consign their other clothes, why not their ski gear? Has anyone found a good place to buy kids ski boots that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg? Also, does anyone have a kiddo who just doesn’t seem to like the cold weather? Our middle child just whines whenever we go out. I really hoped skiing could continue to be a family event. How can I encourage her to give it a try? I don’t want to force her to ski but if we are all going, we aren’t leaving her behind.
Great advice. How do you afford for Mom and Dad to ski though? That’s why we x-country ski here. WE can’t afford to ski. I’m sure we could afford for our son to ski. Most hills here are $80+ per day. You can buy ski cards that help you save money but it’s still really expensive and not something we could do more than once or twice/winter. Add gas to get to the hills (at least an hour drive for us) and hotels if we want to go to different hills that are 2+ hours away.
Thanks for the reality check! Last season we borrowed all our kid’s gear, but this season were going to do a rental package. That doesn’t make sense knowing that this is the 1st of 4 boys we’ll be teaching in the coming years. Why would we keep throwing that money away year after year?
I sure wish I had read this last year before I bought the “cute” helmet at the store. Keep up the great blogs I think you just might have become my new favorite blog.
One tip I learned last year was if the child gets snow in his gloves it won’t melt and warm up just by putting his gloves back on, I’m so smrt.
Some great tips for an affordable ski trip, but would always stress that it’s worth buying quality wherever possible, the difference is important.