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Frugal Families: Tips & Tricks


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Join a ski club. The nightly rate to stay in the club’s lodge is usually very low, and many clubs have bulk-rate lift tickets. They also often have reasonably priced group dinners, certified amateur ski instructors available to teach members and wax-rooms where mounting and maintenance secrets are swapped.

Offer to volunteer for your local racing league, chaperone your child’s school ski weekend or volunteer for special mountain events. There’s usually some compensation, whether it be a free day ticket or a season pass.

Take advantage of resort discount cards and websites such as Both provide discounts and even earn frequent skiers free lodging and lift tickets.

Attend ski shows in your area. Resort representatives are there to talk up their mountain. They hand out free-ticket coupons, discounts and brochures listing other deals. Local ski shops are also present, offering special ski trips.

Ask around about off-hill ticket outlets-grocery stores, ski shops and post offices where discount lift tickets are sold. In New England, Mobil offers discounts with gas purchases. Many banks in ski country (such as Chittenden Bank in Vermont) occasionally include discount ski coupons in monthly statements. Watch regional newspapers for other coupons, and chat up the locals, who often have inside information.

Call around to find out which resorts offer the best children’s discounts. At many resorts, kids under 6 ski free. Others offer ski-free deals once a month for kids. To draw families, some resorts, such as Jay Peak in Vermont, offer free daycare.

Hit up any friends who happen to be patrollers, lift ops, instructors, etc. They often receive free-skiing coupons for friends and family.

Take advantage of night-skiing, which is usually much cheaper per hour and less crowded.

Surf the Internet. Unexpected lulls in ticket sales often prompt resorts to offer Web specials that aren’t advertised on the radio or in newspapers. “Book-mark” your favorite resorts’ websites and check frequently.

Ski “second-tier” areas. If the price of Killington or Aspen is too high, check out their more humble neighbors. They may not have as much terrain or as many lifts but are less crowded and less expensive.

Ski mid-week, buy multi-day passes and bring your own lunch.AIRLINE TICKETS, RENTAL CARS AND LODGING

Check out the many travel-related web sites. The one most commonly mentioned by SKI readers is for airfares. Its “farewatcher” feature e-mails you when there are good deals on routes you’ve selected.

Look for motels offering AAA discounts and early-season deals on slopeside lodging. Many resorts reward you with significant discounts for visiting before Christmas and after Easter.

Share your condo with another family or two. Not only does it cut down the cost of lodging and eating, but kids have friends to play with and parents can take turns doing childcare.

Consider swapping a professional service (accounting, carpentry, etc.) or your home for a home in a ski town. Yankee Magazine has a “SWAP” section that includes weeks at Easternresorts. And check your college alumni magazine.

Buy airline tickets early. Consider buying winter tickets in summer months, especially ifskiing pre-season. Many summer specials can be used through December.

Book accommodations, airfare, rental cars, etc. through the Internet instead of going through a travel agent.

Consider using privately owned accommodations. You can find these on websites such as “Vacation Rentals by Owners.” Many ski instructors and resort employees open their homes during the season for guests at a fraction of the cost of a hotel or condo. Call the ski school.

Sign up for group lessons in the fall or spring, when students are scarce. You might find yourself one-on-one with your instructor for half the cost of a private lesson.

Use frequent-flier credit cards: One family paid foor groceries, utilities and school tuition with a card that issued a mile for every dollar spent.

Consider renting a ski house with a group of people for the season.


Buy unisex clothing for your kids so it can be handed down.

Look for kids’ clothing with big hems and cuffs so they can be let out to accommodate growth.

Lease (equipment and even clothing) instead of buying. Savings are huge, and everything fits.

Buy your equipment at this year’s end-of-season sales.

Scour the ski swaps. It’s easy to find near-new clothing and equipment that’s been outgrown.

Check out mail-order companies that sell seconds or last season’s stock at a discount.

Ask your ski store sales clerk, “Is that the best you can do?” Often he or she can shave a few dollars off the marked price.

Frugal Families

Frugal Families, Part 2