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Stretching a College Budget Across a Colorado Ski Season

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Walking through resort towns, skiers and riders are constantly surrounded by dollar signs. The ski shop in the strip mall, the ticketing office, a slice of over-priced yet delicious deep-dish pizza. Skiing can be an expensive hobby, but there are ways to mitigate some of the financial hazards and quell some of the all-too-common sticker shock. College budgets are notorious for being especially tight, yet young twenty-somethings continually fill the slopes every weekend. How can they possibly swing it?

My first piece of advice is to channel your talents, whatever they might be, into an internship or job that pays you in discounts, ski passes or other industry perks. If you have skills and experience in journalism, gear testing, photography or videography, try to leverage these talents for an organization that will help reduce the cost of skiing. 

Another option is to work at a ski resort on the weekends or over breaks from school. Most schools have long enough breaks that ski areas find it worth their while to hire you for their busiest times of year – The week between Christmas and New Years, long holiday weekends, and Spring Break. You might find work in the rental shop or ticketing office, or in the ski area’s food and beverage operations. These positions have great on-mountain benefits, and a little extra cash flow can’t hurt in these trying times of $150 lift tickets and $14 hamburgers.

Often, ski resorts will offer discounts on their season passes for full-time college students, so it’s always a good idea to ask about a college discount before you buy. If you’re not springing for a season pass, keep an eye out for lift ticket deals and specials offered by ski areas, which can help keep costs down. Many schools’ outdoor education departments or clubs host outings at discounted rates.

Hiking for your turns is another way to keep costs low. If you have the training and the gear, backcountry skiing keeps crowds low and stoke high with great snow and gorgeous views. However, if this is not an option, some resorts allow skiers and snowboarders to hike up and ski down for free. Colorado ski resorts each have an uphilling policy to follow while earning your turns. 

As far as gear is concerned, there are some great discounted equipment options. Many shops have end-of-season sales where the cost of a brand-new pair of skis or snowboard is cut in half, and some shops will even make deals with you at this time of year. Ski swaps happen in many mountain towns and can be absolute gold mines if you attend early enough. Keep your ears to the ground at your school or university, too, for deals on gear that people are getting rid of or selling for cheap.

If you’ve recently decided that skiing or snowboarding is the newest adrenaline-laden adventure for you, or if you just want to see what everyone’s been raving about, borrow a friend’s gear. This will give you the opportunity to try it out without springing for rentals, and usually borrowing a friend’s gear for the day comes at the very reasonable price of a six pack.

Transportation can be another challenge on a college budget, but there are many options to cut down on costs. Many schools close to the mountains have free or cheap shuttles to and from the hill that can save heaps of dough in gas. If you do drive yourself, make sure to carpool to halve the money and double the fun. 

Resort food is notoriously pricey, and though I do not detract from their delicious offerings, I will offer that packing your own food is well worth having to carry a backpack all day. Some resort cafes also offer discounted day-old pastries that still taste about 98.7% as delicious as they did twelve hours before.

Hopefully some of these tips and pointers can help college students ski and snowboard without breaking the bank. See you out there!