The snow is dumping in the mountains and you are hopping to go skiing or snowboarding. Or maybe you work an unconventional schedule and just found yourself with several days off without a lot of notice during ski season. Whatever your reason for making that last-minute trip, the frogs are here to help. Ideally, you'll want to book a ski vacation in advance for the best savings, but if you are a powder hound who likes to ski based on the conditions or have a lifestyle that makes it easier for you to make last-minute trips, then you can actually take some steps to save on a last-minute ski vacation.
Here are some steps to take now to save on a last-minute ski vacation in the future. That way, you'll be ready to charge down the mountain without charging up your credit card to the max!
12 Ways to Save on a Last-Minute Ski Vacation
Put Away Money Now
Create a ski trip secret savings slush fund (say that three times fast) so that the money is kept separately and won’t affect your bank account when you spend it. Even if you take a small chunk of money and set it aside each week or month throughout the year, before you know it, you will have a stash for that last-minute ski trip. We call it saving for a snowy day.
Explore Pass Options
Say you know you are going to ski at certain resorts this next season, but you just don’t know when. Buy a ski pass like the Epic Pass, which is a multi-resort ski pass that is valid throughout the entire season. You can buy restricted (it will be blocked out for holidays) or unrestricted (without blackout dates) from Undercover Tourist. It’s available for purchase spring through fall (the earlier you buy, the cheaper it is). Then you won’t get hit with last-minute, expensive lift tickets (or blackout dates if you buy unrestricted). You’ll be ready to go whenever the mountains are calling you!
You can purchase a 4-, 5-, 6- or 7-day restricted or unrestricted pass, or an unlimited Epic Pass that is good at incredible family resorts. You can use these passes in Colorado at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and other resorts. It's also good at popular Lake Tahoe Resorts such as Northstar, Heavenly and Kirkwood. The Epic Pass covers Park City in Utah and Whistler Blackcomb in Canada, as well as several other resorts in the U.S. and around the world. We like the flexibility that it can be used on multiple trips and at multiple resorts. Plus, it's always ready to go when we are!
Sign Up for Newsletters
Sign up for newsletters and follow social media from travel companies such as Undercover Tourist and your favorite ski resorts. You can save on a last-minute ski vacation with deals that pop up. As February comes to a close and spring skiing is on the horizon, last-minute ski deals (especially later in the season) start to appear, so be ready to jump on those. You can also sign up for email alerts from airline companies so that you can take advantage of sale fares and last-minute deals.
Get Credit Cards
Some credit cards have great perks such as airline miles or points that can be used to book hotel stays or give you cash back. Sometimes there are incentives to get money back on your account when booking if you sign up for the credit card at that time, which can lower the price of travel by a few hundred bucks. If Alaska Airlines flies to your destination, sign up now to get free checked bags and a free companion ticket each year, as well as earning miles to use towards free flights. Sports equipment such as skis qualify for the free checked bag with that perk.
Shop Airline Deals (and Know How They Work)
If you have to fly to your destination, familiarize yourself with the airline baggage policies in advance so you don’t get roped into a bad deal in your haste to jump on a “deal.” How much does the airline charge for skis or snowboards, and what are the weight limits? Do they charge for carry-ons? Are ski bags and boot bags considered one item? Do you have a reserved seat with that price? Some seemingly discounted airfares to ski destinations charge a lot for checked baggage or even carry-on luggage. That is especially true if you do not pay in advance or package it with your fare. So shop carefully to make sure the cheap fare is really going to save money after selecting a seat and bringing a bag or equipment. A ticket from another airline that includes luggage and a carry-on might actually be the better deal.
Plan to Go Off-Peak
If you can take a last-minute ski vacation off-peak, you will find great hotel deals, cheaper lift tickets, cheaper lessons and lighter crowds. #Bonus
Plan for Mid-Week
If you can ski mid-week, you will avoid the weekend crowds and the pricing that comes with them. Restaurants in ski towns often have early mid-week specials, allowing you to save on food.
Save on Food
Book lodging that provides free breakfast, or bring items to make your own to save on food costs. Pack a sandwich in your backpack or jacket pocket for lunch to save money compared to buying expensive lodge food. Look for après happy hour specials for an early dinner.
Sleep Off the Slope
You can find some great deals on lodging just a little ways off the slopes and down the hill from the resort. If the lodging gets you lower in elevation, you’ll sleep better, too.
Find Free Lift Tickets
Can you package free lift tickets with a hotel stay? Or does your resort offer free half-day lift tickets the same day you fly in? Just bring your ID and boarding pass to the ticket window for a free afternoon of skiing. In some cases, you can get free night skiing the day you arrive. Some locations even offer free skiing the day you fly home! One time we lucked out and our flight landed just after midnight, allowing us to score free full-day lift tickets at a resort for flying in that day! While they are not free, Undercover Tourist offers terrific savings on lift tickets when packaged with a hotel stay.
Take Advantage of Free Entertainment
Look at the event calendars for ski resorts to find free entertainment. We especially jump for après ski free snacks (such as cookies and s’mores at some resorts) and events for kids. It's also easy to find free things to do on your own. That includes splashing in the pool, taking a dip in the hot tub or playing in the snow.
Keep Your Bag Packed and Ready to Go
At the end of each ski trip, my wife, Flora, insists that we wash our ski clothes and pack everything up in our bags so it’s all ready to go for the next ski trip. I dry my skis and poles and store them in their bag. Then, come trip time, there are no last-minute purchases to make or time wasted searching for missing gloves. It’s all there and we can grab our ski bags and go. Saving time is one of our favorite ways to save on a last-minute ski trip. With tadpoles, it is a little harder because they grow each season. But if you check sizes and pack their bags early in the season, you should be ready to go.
When you save for a last-minute ski vacation, you will be ready to head to the mountains when the mood strikes or the snow falls. Here are some more of our top tips for saving on a family ski trip. Be sure to purchase the Epic Pass for next ski season so that you can lock in the savings and be ready to hop to it for your next ski trip! You can also get a jump on discount ski hotels, ski and snowboard rentals and a car rental for your ski trip.
Have you headed out on a last-minute ski vacation? What have you done to save? Be sure to share your tips with the Frog Pond in the comments below!
Related: When Is the Best Time to Book a Ski Vacation?