Skiing and snowboarding are both fun, exciting sports, but they can cost a fortune. If you know when to go and what equipment to get, it's not impossible to ski or snowboard on a budget.

Skiing and snowboarding are two of the more difficult sports to do on any sort of budget and to learn in general—at least in my experience.

Unless you’re lucky enough to live near some prime ski resorts and you have the money to pay for lift tickets and equipment, skiing or snowboarding require a lot of cash.

If you want to get into skiing or snowboarding (or both), but don’t have thousands of dollars to invest in the sport, here’s some areas where you can save.

Get used equipment, or rent

Whether you buy or rent your equipment is based on how frequently you ski or snowboard. Obviously skiing and snowboarding are seasonal sports, but if you spend your entire winter at the mountains doing one or the other, it’s probably ideal to own a pair of skis or a snowboard.

You can buy used equipment at ski shops—aim for buying at the end of the season, usually there are huge discounts because the shop is trying to sell the rest of last year’s products.

If you go skiing just a few times a year, you can save a lot of money by renting at whichever resort you go to.

You’ll likely need lessons—pay attention to ski packages

Unless you go with someone who knows how to ski or snowboard and is patient enough to try to teach you, you’re probably going to need some lessons.

Luckily, most resorts offer family packages, or discounted lift prices if you take lessons. Sometimes they even offer free lessons if you stay at their lodge. Take advantage of these, they’ll save you a lot of money.

For example, a ski resort near me offers a “learn to ski or snowboard program” where you can stay at the resort for two days, take a couple lessons, and then use the slops for just $75 a person.

Stick with cheaper resorts

If you’re lucky enough to live in an area plentiful of ski resorts, you’ll obviously save a lot more compared to someone that has to travel. Growing up in Maine, I knew a lot of people who could easily hit a different resort every weekend—day passes saving them a fortune and usually costing between $40-$70 for rentals and lift passes together.

If, however, you don’t live in a snowy or mountainous area, you can still try skiing or snowboarding without spending a ton of money.

First, avoid traveling to big name ski resorts. There are plenty of smaller mountains that offer a range of slopes with varying difficulties, but aren’t as expensive because they lack in the glitz and glamor of larger resorts.

Go to Idaho, Utah, and New England; stay away from Colorado

Many people forget about Idaho and Utah, thinking there isn’t much that they offer besides potatoes and Mormons, but they’re home to a ton of budget friendly ski resorts.

The Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort in Holladay, Utah is just one resort that gets high ratings. With one-day passes starting at a little over $50, it’s not a bad deal in the ski world.

Vermont offers particularly good discount skiing and snowboarding—with all kinds of deals for a variety of people.

Colorado is home to big-name resorts that can cost a fortune if you travel with family, so you may want to avoid them until you turn into a huge ski or snowboard buff.

When should you go?

During the week

As with most vacation deals, if you go to a ski resort during the week, whether you’re staying overnight or not, everything will be cheaper. Flights are also cheaper during the week (Tuesdays are the best days to buy your ticket).

Early in the season and at night

Most ski resorts offer discounts at the beginning and end of the season—there’s less snow and these aren’t peak travel times.

There are also discounted lift passes at night at most resorts. Obviously, most people prefer to ski or snowboard during the day, but if you’re a night-owl, that’s the perfect time to get deals—and the slopes will be a lot quieter.

Don’t stay at the resort, stay down the road

Ski resorts can be expensive. This is because all you have to do is roll out of bed and strap on your skis or snowboard and you’re off. But, if you stay down the road a few miles, you’re likely to save quite a bit on lodging.

Sites like Airbnb, where you can rent homes and rooms through individuals rather than expensive hotels, have been a Godsend to skiers and snowboarders. You should have no problem finding people around ski resorts that are willing to rent out rooms.

Become a ski bum or mountain ambassador

If you really want to live the ski or snowboard life, there are ways to ski for free in exchange for work.

Lovingly called ski bums, those who are hired for various casual jobs, can make a little bit of money and live and ski for free at resorts. As long as you aren’t picky about what job you’ll have, it’s not too difficult to work as a ski bum.

If you don’t want to dedicate your entire life to living at a ski resort, you can become a mountain ambassador. These tend to be volunteer positions where you’ll be a greeter or hand out granola bars and hot chocolate to those coming back or going out to ski. In exchange for your time, you get to ski for free!


Skiing and snowboarding are expensive. there’s no denying that, but they don’t have to be impossible for those on a budget. A few rules to live by—go to resorts during the week, use Airbnb, and buy equipment at the end of seasons.

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About the author

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Christopher Murray is a professional personal finance and sustainability writer who enjoys writing about everything from budgeting to unique investing options like SRI and cryptocurrency. He also focuses on how sustainability is the best savings tool around. You can find his work on sites like MoneyGeek, Money Under 30, Investor Junkie, MoneyCrashers, and Time. You can find out more about Christopher on his website or via LinkedIn.