Wednesday, October 17, 2018

How to Become a Ski Family (without breaking the bank!)

I think we can all agree that downhill skiing is one of the most expensive sports a family can choose as a winter activity. By the time you've purchased gear for another season (somebody tell these kids to stop growing,) and perhaps invested in seasons passes for a local hill, you're easily spending upwards of $2000.00 (and that's if you were on the ball and bought passes at early season rates!)

Chasing kids down the ski slopes is a great winter activity (if you can afford it)

While I probably won't share any earth shattering secrets in this story, I would at least like to attempt to get you started in the right direction with the following topics:
How to become a ski family without breaking the bank


  • Gearing up and getting started

  • Choosing a local resort and getting seasons passes

  • Discount passes, ski cards, and lift pass savings

  • Day trip cost busters

  • Tips for planning an affordable ski weekend

  • Tips for stress free ski days





Gearing Up and Getting Started



This is the topic that's on everybody's mind right now:

"Where can I get skis and boots for my growing children (without buying brand new equipment - because who can afford to do that for recreational skiing?)"

Visit the Ski Swaps early Season for skis, boards, and boots




Visit Second Hand Stores for ski gear and outerwear 



Save money on ski gear by swapping with other families

Learn how to use Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace effectively 



Set up alerts with Kijiji 

When you search for something (youth downhill skis for example) you can set up an alert so that you receive emails with all new items posted. Just scroll down the left hand side of the page (after your search item comes up) and look for the spot where you can sign up for alerts. (It's a ways down the page.) You'll enter your email address, wait for the email asking you to confirm that you want to receive alerts, and then you're good to go.

I receive emails each morning, one per alert I've set up. 

Note, you may have to use a desktop computer to set up alerts. I haven't figured out how to do it on my phone. 


Why do they keep growing?
Follow search items with Facebook Marketplace 

When you search for something in the Facebook Marketplace, you can choose to follow the search item. The follow box is right underneath the search box.

And speaking of Facebook, there are a TON of buy/sell groups that you can join if you're looking for second hand outdoor gear. 

In the Calgary area, check out the following groups:



Other Ways to Save Money on Ski Gear 



Becoming a ski family starts with good (but affordable) gear


Choosing a Local Resort and Getting Seasons Passes



So now you've got the gear, the next step is to get lift passes for your hill of choice. 

Below are a few stories I've already written on the subject: 



Midweek skiing at Nakiska Ski Area

For my family, we chose to get seasons passes for Nakiska Ski Area, our closest mountain hill. This will allow me to get out with my son on PD days, over school holidays, and maybe even on a half day of school some Friday. 

A few considerations to look at when buying a seasons pass:

Half pipe at WinSport's Canada Olympic Park
  • Is the resort close enough to visit on PD days or school holidays?

  • What's the parking situation like? (Would you have to show up at 8am on a weekend just to find a parking spot?)

  • How busy is the resort on weekends? (unfortunately Nakiska does not have this one in their favour, but we plan to ski a lot mid-week and on days off school.)

  • What will the drive be like for a weekend trip? (Can you visit as a day trip or do you need to add accommodations on?) - This is the big reason we did not choose Fernie, one of our favourite hills, for our primary resort. We want a ski hill we can easily visit for day trips - and that left us with Nakiska as our number one choice.

My family also has a seasons pass for WinSport's Canada Olympic Park in Calgary. My son is in LOVE with the half pipes, the terrain parks, the beginner slopestyle course, and the jumps. It was also a no-brainer since the hill is a 5 minute drive from our house. We have no excuse not to visit for after-school outings, on PD days, or for a couple of hours Sunday afternoon. 

Beyond Nakiska and WinSport, we'll visit other hills as special weekend getaways or when there are promotions offered for them (Toonie Days at Mount Norquay for example.)

PD Days at WinSport's Canada Olympic Park in Calgary

Discount Passes, Value Passes, and Lift Pass Savings 


I don't know about you, but I almost need to create a spreadsheet just to keep track of everything happening at our local ski hills, special discount days, promotions, where to buy the cheapest lift tickets, and when I can ski for the best price. 

Below is my best attempt to sum it all up for you:

Look for discounted lift tickets


The cheapest option is to buy a seasons pass (when they go on sale in the fall.) If you didn't buy any passes though, you'll want to find discounted lift tickets for the few times you head out to a ski hill. 

  • Costco sells lift ticket bundles for most of the major resorts in the Canadian Rockies.

  • The ADmazing Savings Coupon book has coupons for 2 for 1 lift tickets for some resorts along with 50% off savings at other resorts.

  • AMA members save up to $20 off direct-to-lift tickets, ski rentals, and lessons, when purchased in advanced at an AMA centre.

Savings and discounts make this mom happy! 

Purchase lift tickets in advance


Purchase lift tickets 7 days in advance off the RCR website and you'll save up to 20% at Nakiska, Fernie, Kimberley, or Kicking Horse Resorts.

I'd venture to say this would be the same for other resorts as well.


Bundle lift tickets with vacation rentals or hotel rooms


Many vacation rentals with Resorts of the Canadian Rockies include lift tickets. Several hotels in Banff also offer lift tickets included with your hotel room.


Save money on half day lift tickets 


Half day tickets are available at many ski resorts if you want to ski for an afternoon. Half day pricing begins at 12:30pm at Nakiska Ski Area.

School in the morning, skiing in the afternoon 

Save money when you ski with your toddlers and preschoolers


  • Kids 5 and under ski for free at most hills if accompanied by a paying adult on the hill. At several hills, you can get a Tiger Pass for $20 to $25 which allows for quick direct-to-lift access for your little ones. Otherwise you'll have to go to customer service each time you visit to pick up your free pass.

  • Most mountain resorts offer free foot passes for parents just helping kids in the beginner areas serviced by magic carpets. Note at WinSport's Canada Olympic Park in Calgary you'll have to pay for a foot pass but it's valid for the entire season and is pretty affordable.

    At Nakiska, adults can ski with their children for free in the beginner area as long as you get a special pass from the ticket office.

  • At Fernie Alpine Resort, adults can ski on the beginner platter lift, the Mighty Moose, for $18.95 + GST. Kids 17 and under are free. This lift is an excellent progression from the magic carpet and most beginners would do well spending their day learning to ski here before heading up the chair lift.
Start them young and save big on Tiger Passes 

Score big with a Grade 2 Ski Pass 


Grade 2 students get special discounted seasons passes at many ski hills.



We skied a lot when my son was in grade 2!

Score even bigger with a Grade 4/5 Snow Pass 


Students in grades 4 and 5 can ski or snowboard at each participating area 3 times for only $29.95. 

Resorts near Calgary include Sunshine Village, Lake Louise, Mount Norquay, WinSport's Canada Olympic Park, Marmot Basin in Jasper, Nakiska Ski Area in Kananaskis, Castle Mountain Resort, and everywhere in BC. There are over 150 different resorts featured so wherever you travel, you'll definitely find a hill!

Note that you only get 3 visits per resort total between the two years so spread the skiing out and don't use all your days in the first year.

Read more about the Grade 4/5 Snow Pass here (where you can purchase them as well.)


I just ordered our Grade 4/5 Snow Pass and will have a happy kid this winter

Buy a special discount ski card or value pass


Below are some of the options here:

  • Mountain Collective Pass - Pay $469 USD (kids 12 and under are only $99 USD) and receive two days skiing at Lake Louise, Sunshine Village, and Revelstoke Mountain Resort (so that's 6 days total) + receive two ski days at each of the other 14 resorts in the United States if you want to do some traveling.

    And if you did the math, it comes down to $78 per day (for those 6 days of skiing in the Canadian Rockies.) - not really worth it. Where it does become worth it though is if you plan to visit any additional resorts south of the border. More ski days = less money paid per day. You'll also receive 50% off all additional days at Collective Resorts. (So choose to spend more days at Louise and Sunshine, and you've justified the cost.)

  • RCR Rockies Card - Pay $109.95 and receive three free ski days at any RCR Resort (Nakiska, Fernie, Kimberley, or Kicking Horse.

    Your first, fourth, and seventh day are free and then you get discounts every other day. We often ask for these discount cards as Christmas presents and then it pretty much guarantees us at least one free day of skiing. And you'll save even more if you ski after April 8th (until the resorts close) with a $40 discount per day.

  • Sunshine Super Card - Pay $99.00 and receive three free ski days at either Sunshine Village Resort, Marmot Basin Resort in Jasper, Revelstoke Mountain Resort, or Castle Mountain Resort.

    Your first, fourth, and seventh day are free at any of the big resorts above with discounts on your other ski days. You also get a bonus day at either WinSport in Calgary, or at Rabbit Hill or Snow Valley in Edmonton.

  • Louise Plus Card - Pay $114 and receive three free ski days at either the Lake Louise Resort or at one of the following resorts in British Columbia: Panorama Mountain Resort, Schweitzer, RED Mountain or SilverStar.

    Your first, fourth, and seventh day are free at any of the resorts above with discounts on your other ski days.

  • Mount Norquay 90 Family Pass - For just $649 (until October 29th) the whole family can ski at Mount Norquay all winter long. This is a Monday to Friday pass (why it's so affordable) but there are many bonus weekends included as well as night skiing.

    The regular pass (with full weekends) is also quite affordable at $1499 - and unlike some ski resorts, you can still purchase this early bird special price until the end of October.

  • Panorama Snow + Card - The Panorama SNOW+ CARD includes 3 or 5 days of skiing or riding at Panorama Mountain Resort for one low price! Plus, receive $20 off additional tickets all season long.

    There are a variety of different options for these discount cards so visit the Panorama website to choose the card that would work best for you. Cards range from $189 (3 days of skiing with blackout days) to $339 (5 days of skiing with no blackout days.) Youth and children's cards are also cheaper.

    And note that unlike the RCR or the Sunshine cards, you don't have to pay between your free ski days. This is a total of 3 or 5 ski days (which you can use all together over one long weekend or one ski vacation.)

  • Fairmont Hot Springs H2O Cards - Pay $99 and get three days of skiing at Fairmont Hot Springs. After, enjoy free entrance to the hot springs on the day that you ski. Children are only $59 (youth are $79.)

    Deadline to purchase is December 24th and you can also upgrade to a seven-day pass for $199 ($89 for children.) Ski days do not have to be consecutive either, so you can spend several weekends skiing in the valley with this card.

    And this is a pure three or seven days of skiing with no blackout dates. And you don't have to pay for ski days in between your free ones. You can use all three days in a row if you want.

  • Marmot Escape Card - For those who live in Edmonton (or who just really like skiing in Jasper) this is a great pass! Pay $79 and get lift tickets for 50% off all season long at Jasper's Marmot Basin Ski Resort. No blackout dates.

    Note that unlike the other cards above, there are no free days.

  • Castle Mountain Wonders of Winter (WOW) Car for Southern Alberta - Pay $79.95 (before December 31st) and receive 50% off all lift tickets for Castle Mountain Resort outside Pincher Creek, Pass Powderkeg in Blairmore, and Hidden Valley Ski  Resort in Medicine Hat.

    There are no "free" days but you get discounted skiing every single day and there are no blackout dates.

    You'll also get tons of other benefits including 40% off cat skiing, 20% off scenic snowcat tours, and 20% off last tracks snowshoe tours.

    AND if you plan to visit Castle a few times this winter, check out their SnowKids Seasons Passes for kids ages 6-12. Kids pay $49 for a season of skiing ($149 after November 16th)

    Finally, it should be noted that adult seasons passes for Castle offer up some pretty sweet benefits as well. Castle Mountain has joined the Powder Alliance for the 2018-2019 season which means that season passholders will be able to ski up to three free days at 18 premiere winter destinations in four different countries. Early bird pricing for seasons passes has unfortunately finished already, but it's still pretty affordable for an adult pass.
Oh the places you'll go when you purchase ski discount cards! 

Look for special offers, events, and free skiing days


Here are just a handful of events I'd watch out for:

  • Subscribe to the Sunshine Village newsletter and you'll never miss any of their special offers. They have been known to hold a one-day Halloween special on discounted multi-day passes, and last year Sunshine Village gave an extra 20% off their Sunshine Super Card and on lift passes on Cyber Monday (which this year is November 26th.)

  • Also for Sunshine Village, They've had a "Fat Tuesday" sale in February where you could get 30% off a spring ski pass. Fat Tuesday occurred on Feb 28th in 2017 and on Feb 12th in 2018. All I can say here is to watch carefully starting in February.

  • Last year there was a special incentive at WinSport's Canada Olympic Park in Calgary called Servus Ski Tuesdays, sponsored by Servus Credit Union. Skiers and snowboarders were able to purchase a lift ticket between 3 pm and 9 pm for just $10. - and while I don't know if this will continue for the 2018-2019 ski season, it's something to watch out for.

  • Watch for monthly discount days at Mount Norquay this winter. Dates have not been announced yet for the coming season but you can watch out for that on the Mount Norquay website. I will update this as well once the official announcement is made later this month.

  • Watch for other special dates and mark them on your calendar! (Example, moms ski for free on Mother's Day at Sunshine Village with purchase of a child lift ticket or dress like Santa to ski for free on Christmas at many hills)

  • Ski for FREE on your birthday at Marmot Basin Ski Resort in Jasper. You'll also receive 15% off for family and friends joining you. 


Spring skiing at Mount Norquay (and yes, he does need to learn how to handle his poles when he jumps!)

Take up spring skiing as a family and save BIG!


Last year you could buy a spring ski pass for either Sunshine Village or Lake Louise.

Last year at Sunshine Village it was $944 + GST for a family pass valid from March 17th through May 21st (and only $354 + GST for a midweek pass, Monday through Thursday.)

Lake Louise was $949 + GST for a family pass valid from March 1st through May 6th.


Spring skiing at Lake Louise

How to Make Day Trips More Affordable (cost busters)



Tip One: Bring you own lunch, snacks, and drinks


Most day lodges have microwaves and hot water taps for instant noodles. You can also bring your own cups and hot chocolate, apple cider or coffee mix to save money on buying drinks at the hill. Many families pack a thermos with their favourite hot beverage to the hill as well and I recommend bringing your own water bottles rather than paying for water at the resort.  

Alternately, in spring when it's warm enough to eat outside, bring a jet boil stove and some ramen soup packages. Have lunch at your vehicle and escape the madness of the day lodge. Bring some lawn chairs as well and try to park beside friends. (This works great at Marmot Basin in Jasper where there are multiple ski in/ski out parking lots along the side of the hill.) 

And my final suggestion here is to pack a hot lunch for the kids in a thermos (like you would for school.) My son loves a thermos filled with Kraft Dinner at the ski hill. 

Tip Two: Stash snacks in everybody's pockets 


Pack granola bars in your coat pockets so you don't have to buy expensive snacks at the day lodge between runs. Save your money for those "emergency" times when one of your children is having a bad day and you might need to buy a hot chocolate or some other special treat.

I also like to save my money for a special treat at the end of a ski day (though I've started buying those at the grocery store in advance as well because I was getting tired of spending $4 for one cupcake at our local hill when I can buy an entire tray of mini cupcakes for the same price at the grocery store.)

Tip Three: Rent skis off the ski hill 


You'll save up to $15 per person if you rent a ski package in Calgary before hitting the slopes. You'll also save time when you reach the hill because you won't have to wait in the long rental line. Most rental companies in Calgary also offer discounts for multi-day rentals and many places will allow you to pick up your skis the night before at no extra cost (Sports Rent for example does this and is located on 16th Ave for easy drop off on your way home from the mountains.)


Coffee is the one thing I do believe in splurging on at the ski hill 

Planning an Affordable Ski Weekend 


I love going away for a weekend and staying right on the hill in a ski in/ski out condo.  I find it to be much more relaxing when I can pretty much ski out the door of my condo in the morning and I enjoy having a place to retreat to mid-day to avoid the crowded day lodges.

While a ski vacation is never "cheap," you can make it more affordable with these following tips:

  • For a close-to-Calgary ski getaway consider staying a the HI Kananaskis Hostel,  located just a few minutes away from the Nakiska Ski Area. It has separate dorm rooms for women and men and also has a few private rooms for families.

    Read more here at Affordable Family Ski Weekends in the Canadian Rockies.

  • Plan a ski weekend to Lake Louise and stay at the Lake Louise Alpine Centre, a very comfortable hostel with many private rooms for families or small groups.

    Read more here at Affordable Ski Weekends at the Lake Louise Alpine Centre 

  • Rent a two or three bedroom condo or house on a ski hill and share with friends. The Fernie Lodging Company  or the Kimberley Lodging Company websites are good guides if searching for a larger property to share.

    You'll also find a wide variety of options at Panorama Mountain Resort - and all bookings at Panorama Mountain Village include access to the Springs Hot Pools.

  • Look for vacation packages and specials which usually include lift tickets along with your condo or hotel room.

  • Book hotel rooms with Air Miles, look for Groupon deals (or similar deals from other websites,) or find discounted lodging from the school coupon book you probably have at least one of.
Panorama Springs Hot Pools at Panorama Mountain Resort

You can read about some of our recent ski vacations below: 







Magical Kimberley Alpine Resort and their ski in/ski out condo village

Stress Free Ski Days 


A fellow mom had the following words to say about downhill skiing as a family:

"You spend Monday-Friday waking up early, prepping lunches and meal planning so that by the weekend...there is zero motivation to prep another lunch-to-go and pack up kids early in the frigid morning." 
Sound familiar?

I encourage you to check out this previous guide I wrote: Tips and Tricks for Downhill Skiing with Kids 

Topics covered in the story include:

  • Tips for a stress  free morning

  • Organization tips

  • Tips for skiing with kids of different ages

  • Handling the crowded day lodge

  • Tips for keeping track of everybody on the hill

  • Special tips for keeping the kids happy 

First in line for the lifts! It IS possible!

Inspiration from Local Families (just like you!)



I wanted to share the following quotes from a couple of ski moms because I think they are encouraging.

"We are a family of 4 living on one single income. Both my husband and myself grew up skiing and we met on a chairlift so skiing is part of us. When the kids were little we always bought used equipment. We found we could outfit a kid with all the gear for as little as $100. We save up every month during the year to afford a family pass at Nakiska. We pack our own food and snacks because really $8 for a hotdog is just crazy. For us it's about having a passion and passing that down to our boys. Yes skiing is definitely an investment in both time and money but for us it's worth it to spend great times with our kids doing something we all find active and fun." - Kelsie 

"Yes skiing can be expensive for a family of four if you pay the day ticket price. Planning way in advance can cut costs though. Our kids are now 6 & 8 and there is only one salary in our household, so planning is essential. It is also part of a lifestyle decision. Hockey can cost up to $1000/per season per kid so it has to be a family lifestyle decision." - Susan 

Skiing is a great family activity that's worth investing in


The Next Step -  Lessons, Progress, and Learning to actually SKI


I'll add a couple links that I'd recommend reading once you reach the step where you've got the gear, you've got the ski passes, and now you're wondering "how do we teach the kids to actually ski?"

I wrote both of these stories last year and I've definitely seen a lot of progress in my son's ski abilities (as well as in my own) by following the tips I share in the two articles.

How to Make Learning to Ski Fun (downhill skiing with kids) 

Take your Skiing to the next Level in 5 Simple Steps 

I'd also recommend checking out this incredible online family ski school program being offered by several outdoor blogging families.

Parting shot


Disclaimer: I have tried my best to provide accurate information for each resort but details can always change so please visit the resort websites for the best up to date information on pricing, discounts, and special events. 

Also expect to pay GST on most prices mentioned in this story. 

This story was not sponsored but we have worked with most of the resorts mentioned. We have received free skiing and accommodations at many of the resorts as well in exchange for publicity and writing. 


4 comments:

  1. Thank you for putting together such a comprehensive list! My youngest son just started snowboarding last year because of the Gr 4/5 pass and loved it. I didn't grow up knowing anyone who skied/snowboarded, so this has been a huge learning curve. We got him an early bird pass for Winsport/COP this season, and plan to take advantage of after school/evening rides. We definitely bring all our own food/drinks, I definitely had sticker shock at the lodges! Currently scouring Kijiji for gear, and may end up with the Nakiska Wing Program if we can't find anything. These tips will definitely help me too, as I'm hoping to try snowboarding this year too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for your kind words and encouragement. I'm glad to hear your son learned to snowboard because of the grade 4/5 pass. That's exactly why the pass was created was to introduce children to a love of skiing they could enjoy their whole lives. Good luck with the gear. Always a challenge. And good luck with your own plan to start snowboarding. I'm still a skier here. :)

      Delete
  2. I love these suggestions! I am a regular reader of your blog and I know you have gone to see the Santa Claus parade in Banff for a number of years. We will be taking our 2 year old daughter for the first time this year. I see the parade is at 6pm which is right around the time we usually have dinner. I was wondering base on your experience is it better to grab a bite before or after the parade? Sorry that this comment is not related to the post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We usually have dinner before. Restaurants are less crowded this way.

      Delete

ShareThis