Like any pastime that requires buying the right gear, skiing and snowboarding can be costly. It means purchasing warm-weather clothing on top of skis or boards, in addition to lift tickets, food and the expense of getting to the slopes. Multiply that times an average family of four, and the costs can be discouraging.
But plenty of families throughout Colorado have found ways to make their favorite wintertime sport much more economical. Follow some of these tips and tricks from parents who are finding ways beyond brown-bag lunches to save some money while maximizing the number of days on the mountain.
Get some used gear. For kids in particular, who grow out of gear at least once a season, buying second-hand gear for them at thrift or consignment stores—even a garage sale or two—can net parents some good deals on gently-used items. In fact, several local moms say they’ve established an unofficial group of friends who trade gear routinely as their kids age and change sizes, another way to find gently-used clothing and gear that will get you through the season. “There’s a pile of skis we push around to other kids in our friends’ group,” says mom of two Christine Kjeell. You say you don’t have friends like that? Find some!
Seek out seasonal gear-rental or trade-in programs. Many sporting-goods stores throughout Colorado offer seasonal gear rentals, which is ideal for families with younger learners who may not be ready to invest in brand-new gear. As well, check your local ski retailers for kids’ trade-in programs, which generally offer a set price for gear that can be traded in for bigger sizes the following season at roughly half price.
Find a hill. If you’re a seasoned skiing or boarding parent willing to teach your young kids without having to pay money for a lift ticket, mom of two Megan Williams suggests starting with a good tubing hill. “We pulled them to the top of the hill in a sled—yes, we were younger then, and they were lighter—and we got lots of good teaching in that way for free.” Once your children get a little practice, she says, then you can buy lift tickets and tackle more challenging terrain.
Find pass deals. Not every family wants to buy a full-fledged season pass to one or multiple resorts. So aside from the “kids ski free” programs, there are always package deals to be found, such as four-pack discount options for many resorts, or discounted rates at local grocery and sporting-goods stores. Additionally, there are often “buddy passes” available, where season-pass holders can offer a certain number of discounted lift tickets to friends.
Save on parking. For those of us who commute to ski areas, parking is always an issue. And since snowboarding mom Jamie Taylor—along with husband and son—heads most weekends to one ski resort, Copper, it makes sense to buy a parking pass. “It doesn’t guarantee a spot and is more expensive than the free lot (of course), but we get our money’s worth,” she says. Also keep in mind that many of the smaller ski areas or “gems,” including close-to-Denver ones like Eldora, Loveland and Ski Cooper, offer free visitor parking.
Freelance writer Heather Mundt is a Colorado native from Longmont who didn't learn to ski until her late 20s. Now she spends ski season barely keeping up with her husband and two boys. Read more about her family's travel adventures at or read more of Heather's skiing stories .