The best deals for spring skiing are happening right now! Here’s how to save big on last-minute ski adventures.
By Amy Whitley
April typically marks the end of the North American ski season, but this year, a record-level snow pack throughout the West will ensure we are all making turns throughout spring, and perhaps even into summer! With the busy (and costly) spring break period behind us, now is the very best time of the 2018-19 ski season to hit the slopes for an exciting adventure.
Families as well as solo skiers and snowboarders can take advantage of uncrowded lift lines, warmer weather, smaller ski-class sizes and an average savings of 25 percent compared to regular season prices. Here’s how to capture the best spring ski vacation deals right now.
Go west! This year, it hasn’t been uncommon for ski resorts in the Far West and Rocky Mountain region to report nightly snow fall in feet (not inches), with some base depths as high as 235 inches in Northern California.
In Tahoe, Heavenly Mountain Resort has announced an extended season through April 28, 2019, plus a three-day weekend May 3-5. Northstar California has announced that they will remain open through April 21, and Kirkwood Mountain Resort will stay open through April 14, with a three-day weekend April 19-21.
Sierra-at-Tahoe won’t close until April 23, and Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows anticipates remaining open through May, with an estimated close date of June 2. But wait, there’s more: further south, Mammoth Mountain won’t close until June 30!
In the greater Pacific Northwest, Idaho’s Sun Valley Resort will remain open until mid-April, Oregon’s Mt. Hood Meadows will be open until May 5, and British Columbia’s Whistler-Blackcomb plans to remain open until May 27.
If you simply must go farther east, the slot canyons outside Park City, Utah have all been dumped on with Alta, Solitude, Brighton and Snowbird planning to remain open through April 21.
Quick Tip: When you plan ski trips for the spring season, you might enjoy bonus activities off-slope, such as spring festivals, wellness events or retreats. The Sun Valley Film Festival, for instance, runs in March each year, and many resorts host music or spring equinox festivals during the latter half of the snow season.
General ski information sites, such as snowpak.com and ski.com, can be a good places to start when looking for the best deals, as both sites also have features that help skiers and snowboarders compare resorts and narrow down the options.
State tourism ski departments, such as SkiUtah and SkiIdaho, are also great resources . For instance, SkiUtah is currently publishing a 20-percent-off spring skiing deal at select resorts. If you plan to head to a Vail resort (there are three in Tahoe alone), check out Vail Resorts’ snow.com page for Northern California deals.
The best way to find last-minute deals, however, tends to be on the official resort websites. Depending on the type of lodging you plan to utilize, bundled lift ticket and lodging deals specific to particular resorts will almost always offer greater savings than if you purchased each item separately. And money-savers you may not have considered searching for, such as lesson deals or après ski discounts, are often advertised only on official resort websites.
Quick Tip: Remember that in many ski villages, renting a car is not necessary. Most provide free shuttle services around the resort area and even in town. Park City, Utah and Sun Valley, Idaho both have shuttle systems that extend to the town, and Breckenridge, Colorado is completely walkable. Northstar, California has a shuttle route that connects all their condo and townhouse lodging to the village.
After the busy Presidents’ Day and spring break time periods, ski resort vacations go on sale. April and May are the time to plan that last-minute getaway. Plug in your details (such as number of people in your party, dates and desired add-ons) at snowpak.com and a plethora of options abound, at an approximate savings of 25 percent this spring.
For instance, a three-night stay at Heavenly Mountain Resort in Tahoe for two adults and two kids (mid-week in April) is advertised at under $1200. The package includes three nights of lodging and two days of skiing.
Similar savings can be found at many other area resorts with on-site lodging, and deals can also be had via the airlines that connect you with the West’s best powder. Delta Vacations and Southwest Vacations have current deals on offer, and don’t forget about Alaska Airlines innovative ‘ski free’ offer: just show your boarding pass at any of the ski resorts they fly to, and you can ski for free that same day. This offer is easiest to redeem in Utah or Tahoe, where landing in Salt Lake City or Reno, Nevada put you just 30-45 minutes from the slopes.
Once you’ve found that perfect resort for your spring ski vacation, if you don’t choose a package deal that combines resort lodging and lift tickets, you still have lots of cost-saving options.
Use a vacation site: Vacation rental sites, such as HomeAway, VRBO, and Airbnb, can be a good choice for larger families, family reunions and friend groups. And many are as close to the lifts as official lodging options.
Shop around: Be sure to compare all three sites, as many vacation homes are listed on all three…but not at the exact same total price. The price may vary depending on the number of people in your party (and whether the site charges per person or per night) and what deposits and fees you’ll be responsible for, such as security deposits and cleaning fees. The exact same home could be listed for a few hundred dollars cheaper on one site versus another, so it pays to shop around.
Go for a kitchen: Opt for condo or home rentals that include kitchenettes and washer/dryer combos so you can dine in for some meals and air-dry wet clothing.
Buy groceries before you ski: Stock up on essentials at a larger supermarket before arriving at the lodge or village, which will have far fewer market choices and higher prices.
Book a shuttle: If you plan to stay in a centralized location, such as a ski resort village, you may also save money by booking an airport shuttle to your condo, vacation home, or hotel room instead of renting a car. Keep in mind that in most mountain locations, an all-wheel-drive car will be required, which ups the price of renting.
Bring your own gear: You can also save money on ski and boot rentals by bringing your own, taking advantage of airline deals where skis and boot bags count as only one checked item instead of two. Participating airlines include American, Delta, Alaska, Frontier and United, among other regional carriers and international carriers.
Rent in town: If you do plan to rent, consider renting your gear in town or in the city after landing (for instance, in Salt Lake City, Reno, Boise, or Denver) to save you both time and money at the slopes.
Taking just a little time to do some research can save you hundreds of dollars on your ski trip and exercising some simple cost-saving tips could save you hundreds more. The main thing, though, is to just get out there and enjoy the best skiing of the season, which is happening right now.
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About the Author: Amy Whitley specializes in outdoor travel writing for families with children. She is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids, a family travel site dedicated to resort, attraction, and outdoor activity reviews for kids. Amy writes regularly for U.S. News Travel and Southern Oregon Magazine as is an editor for OutdoorsNW Magazine and Twist Travel Magazine.