After the first big snow dump of 2014, the smart skiers are getting ready for a powdery season of New England skiing. Sure, our mountains aren’t known as the best or fluffiest snow in the world, but there are so many places to ride in the region, deals are what we have to offer out-of-towners and locals alike. Here are some tips for how to get the most out of your next ski vacation.
The best deals site invented over the past few years is Liftopia.com. The unimaginably easy interface makes it fun to check multiple locations and many dates throughout New England. If you know you want to ski but don’t really mind where, this is the perfect tool. You can also sort by amenities, like free wi-fi or tubing. The site will also find unbelievable deals (like $49 lift tickets at Jay Peak), and sometimes up to 70 percent off, by keeping an archive of all mountains’ special dates and deals from across the web.
If you’re going about it the old fashioned way, remember that weekday skiing is significantly less expensive than weekends or holidays.
Group rates are also a great way to get money off. A “group” is generally defined as anywhere from 17-25 people and rates can be as low as 40 percent less than the usual prices. This is perfect for frats, teams, or the great wedding idea you’ve been trying to think up.
Snow birds are common in New England, and since sites like AirBnB have become an accepted means to a warm bed, those who have flocked to Florida see ski season as a way to make a little side cash. Most of the big ski resorts have representation (Killington and Stowe are where I’m looking right now), and the local bed and breakfasts seem to have caught on as well, so it’s easy to find deals on rooms all in one place. If you’re looking for a romantic getaway, or you’re past the age you feel it’s appropriate to stay in a hostel, this is your best bet. Nice rooms in major resorts can go for less than $50, and entire mountain homes can house 8-12 people for about $70-$100 per person.
- Local hostels
Ski bums are generally friendly people and for us, winter is a magical time when people from all walks of life can hang out together, chill with a beer, and relax in the outdoors. Many ski areas are run on the hyper-local economics of small towns, meaning commodities like fancy hotel rooms and modern ski chalets are expensive and often hard to come by. Luckily, the ski community isn’t really into super fancy lodging and has a “the more, the merrier” attitude. If you happen to be skiing with a moderate to large group, a couple rooms in a clean ski hostel may be the best idea for saving money and meeting like-minded people. Rates run from about $30 per person per night.
Search for hostels in the town you’re staying, or check out this list of approved crash pads from ski bum site Huckzone.
Be smart. If you’re new to skiing or boarding, the first few times you go, make sure you rent equipment that is fitted to your body and experience level. The average ski shop employee can answer any questions about length, what “twin tip” means and why you might want some, and if you really do need to rent a helmet. (Do us a favor, just rent the damn helmet.)
You can often find the best deals on rentals in the mom ‘n’ pop shops in town, although most mountain resorts have a ski shop in the main lodge. Mixing and matching days and times is a good way to save, especially if you plan to ski one morning and leave that afternoon. There’s no reason to pay for the extra time if you’re not going to use it. The good places do offer half-day rates and the best ones offer combo deals for skis, boots, poles, and a helmet. Generally, try not to pay more than about $30 per day. Some New England mountains will charge up to $44, so shop around when you arrive in town to find the best deal.
The easiest way to avoid a hassle? Rent your equipment in Boston before you get on the road and you don’t have to deal with it when you get to your ski destination.
Food and Drink
Just like home, it’s less expensive if you make food yourself instead of going out, even if the local mountain restaurants look nice and cozy. For a real deal, make sure you pick up family-style dishes that come in big portions for little prices. Also, choose a nice box of wine (they do exist!) and a couple winter 12-packs of beer.
Comfort food is the best for an apres-ski feast, so go with easy, cheap fixings like mac ‘n’ cheese, fondue, soup, roast chicken, chili, and my favorite ski classic, raclette.
Make sure you check the RadioBDC Drafters schedule for the 2014 season of parties and shredding. Come hang with us. The crew is coming to mountains all over New England and giving away prizes like new goggles, RadioBDC hats, and lift tickets.