12 penny pinching tips for skiers and snowboarders this winter

When White Pass launched a new deal designed to inspire people to try skiing, manager Kevin McCarthy wanted people “to feel like they can’t afford not to learn to ski.”

Money has long been an obstacle for many who might otherwise try skiing and snowboarding. A lift ticket, gear rental and a lesson could cost $175 for a day.

Most resorts offer discounted learning programs, but White Pass officials didn’t see those deals bringing a significant number of new people to their resort.

“We asked, ‘What are we doing about it?’ ” said Kathleen Goyette, the resort’s marketing director. “Clearly we weren’t doing enough. It is our goal to give people an incentive to try skiing.”

So they made like a late-nigh infomercial and started slashing prices — for a limited time only.

The resort partnered with Tacoma’s Sturtevant’s Ski Mart to put together the incentive it hopes will bring new faces to the slopes.

Through Dec. 15, visitors can get learn-to-ski or snowboard packages for $150. Each package is good for three gear rentals at Ski Mart, three lift tickets and three lessons for those 5 and older. The packages typically sell for $109-$155 each, depending on age.

“With this new program, it works out to $25 per day,” Goyette said. “I’ve worked in this business for a long time and I’ve never seen anything like that.”

Of course, once they get you hooked, you get to start paying the big bucks for lift tickets, although Goyette says the ski area is offering discounts for people who complete the EZ Ski/Ride program.

In fact, there are plenty of ways to save money on skiing and snowboarding in the Northwest. Here are 11 more ways to pinch your pennies:


Ski Dazzle, a ski and snow sports expo held at the CenturyLink Field Event Center, wraps up tonight at 6. Your $15 ticket can be redeemed at the show for a free lift ticket to Crystal Mountain, Stevens Pass, the Summit at Snoqualmie or White Pass. You can also find discounts on gear. skidazzle.com


Only residents of Washington and Canada are eligible to purchase an Edge Pass at Whistler Blackcomb. And the passes are only on sale through Monday. The pass is good for one ($89) to 10 ($699) days, and additional days can be added at a discounted rate. At the window, lift tickets are $119 per day. Those who purchase a 5- or 10-day pass get a free day of skiing before Dec. 15. whistlerblackcomb.com


A new program at Mount Baker this year is designed to take some of the sting out of paying full price for an adult ticket just to tool around with your kid on the beginner slopes. Kids ages 4-6 can sign up for the program that allows them to ski for free. As many as four adults can be designated part of the kid’s family, and as many as two of those skiers can buy half-priced lift tickets on days they ski with the kid. The tickets are good starting at 11 a.m and are limited to 10 per year. mtbaker.us


You can pay $40 or more per day to rent skis at a resort, and buying gear doesn’t always make sense for growing kids. However, several places offer the opportunity to rent for the season. Sturtevant’s Ski Mart offers packages for $150-$250. At the Summit at Snoqualmie, gear season passes are $89 for children 6 and younger, $109 for youth ages 7-12 and $129 for those 13 and older.


Those willing to commit to purchasing tickets in advance can find some pretty dramatic discounts at liftopia.com. Visitors can sign up for email notifications on deals from their favorite ski areas. Mount Spokane recently sold lift tickets on the site at 54 percent discount.


The more you ski, the more you get for your money when you buy a season pass. And the sooner you act when it comes time to buy, the better deal. Some resorts, like White Pass, allow you to finish skiing the current season on next year’s pass if you purchase them in the spring. In recent years, ski areas have been adding other incentives to their passes — discounts or even free skiing at other resorts. A season pass to Mission Ridge comes with deals for free tickets at 10 ski areas (four in Washington) and discounts on everything from beer to ski diving.


While some ski areas have reorganized their pricing structure to charge adult prices to younger skiers, some are doing the opposite. Mt. Baker, Stevens Pass and many ski areas in Idaho offer free skiing for fifth graders. And at Mission Ridge teenager rates are extended to those as old as 24. mtbaker.us, stevenspass.com, missionridge.com


The Lookout Pass Famous Free Ski School claims to have introduced more than 60,000 kids to skiing and snowboarding over the past 73 seasons. Lessons at the resort on the Montana-Idaho border are Saturday mornings for aspiring skiers ages 6-17 and snowboarders ages 7-17. Visitors must register online before Jan. 24. skilookout.com


If you don’t mind skiing under the lights, you can save money. Night skiing tickets, good for 6 hours, are $41 at the Summit and $40 at Stevens Pass. Compare that to $64 for eight hours of daylight skiing and you’re saving more than $1 per hour. summitatsnoqualmie.com, stevenspass.com


Many ski areas offer military discounts and military appreciation days. Crystal Mountain will sell tickets for half price to military on Jan. 14, Feb. 5, March 6 and April 12. It also offers discounted daily prices. Crystal and the Summit also offered daily discounted rates for military. Also, militarymerits.com directs families to other discounts.


Easily the best ski deal in the Northwest, 49 degrees North will once again allow free skiing for its final week of operation, said resort spokeswoman Alexis Hartmann. The free week is underwritten by Toyota and is scheduled for April 6-12. ski49n.com