How to Snowboard on a Budget

Snowboarding can be pricey, but it doesn't have to be! Let Snowboard Expert André Santos walk you through a few great ways to ride without breaking the bank.

Several snowboards sit against a snowboard holder outside a lodge. There are yellow, green, and blue snowboards.
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Snowboarding and skiing have a reputation for being pretty costly sports! Between the lift tickets or season passes, the gear, and the overpriced resort food, the cost can seem like a barrier to many people. And while it's true that these sports can be pricey, there are definitely ways to hit the slopes without taking a hit to your bank account!

There are many reasons you may see high price tags in the winter sports industry. There's always new gear coming out, demand is ever-increasing, snow operations need to be bolstered with climate change, liability insurance for resorts goes up, lifts need upgrades and maintenance, our beloved mountain ops and ski patrol need pay raises too, and so forth and so on. There is almost a limitless cause of what is driving prices higher and higher in winter sports!

So with all the sharp cost increases, market fluctuations, and traps of excessive gear purchasing—how does one stay on budget without sacrificing your love for the mountain?

Snowboarding doesn't have to be as expensive as one may think. There are lots of ways you can be extra thrifty! Below we will cover some of the key ways for saving money when hitting the slopes this season!

Resort Access

Ski resort passes and lift tickets seem to get more expensive every year. According to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), the average weekend regular season walk-up ticket price across the country is now $142. And, season passes can get pricey too. The almost $3,000 price tag for an Aspen Snowmass pass this year might have you wondering how you are ever going to have time to snowboard with the seven jobs you'd need to be working in order to afford a pass.

Now, if you’re reading this, you’re probably like me and think that these are absurd amounts to pay for a few hours of ripping at a resort, especially when you account for the time you’re sitting on the lift or waiting in line, and the premium you have to pay just to grab a beer at lunch. Pro tip: pack a pocket sandwich!

But it doesn't have to be that expensive to ski at a resort! Since resort access is a reoccurring cost every year, it's worth doing some serious research to see what the affordable options are near you!

Avoid Peak Periods

Several people are at a ski resort. The trees are covered in snow and it looks to be getting dark. It is very crowded.

Photo by Timo Newton-Syms

Many resorts offer midweek discounted pricing, so it’s worth making a shortlist of the places you really want to visit this season and then checking to see how their prices fluctuate during the week vs. peak periods. Many resorts will also offer discounts if you buy two, three, or four consecutive days in a row when taking a bit longer of a trip.

Consider planning your trip during off-peak months and look for resorts that offer half-day or night-skiing tickets at reduced rates. At Bolton Valley in Vermont, you can nab a Monday special for just $44. During the week they also rip the lifts from 9 am to 10 pm, so if you’re looking to maximize a full day ticket, you can look at the plays that also just stay open past the short winter daylight hours. A win for night skiing!

Head to Smaller Ski Hills

A ski lift at a small mountain. There are not a lot of people at the mountain and the lift says "Grand Canyon Express".

Photo courtesy of Coconino National Forest

One of the best ways to save a significant amount off your snowboarding endeavors is to do a bit of research finding the local spots around you that have not been eaten up by the big guys like Vail yet. Over in my neck of the woods, there’s an abundance of local small mountain fun and I'd bet you can find plenty of options wherever you are as well, so long as there's mountain and snow! These places almost always go for at least half, if not more, off the average ticket price of $142.

For example, there’s a secret little spot called the Middlebury Snowbowl that is not too far from the famous Killington Resort that dishes out $40-weekday lift tickets! You’ll also find that everything is cheaper when you take this option as well, even the afternoon beer—because, well let's face it, some of these smaller places probably don't even have a bar! A lot of places have BYOB and snacks, and this goes without saying, but be responsible and leave no trace! So make sure you fill up those pockets with granola bars.

Buy a Pass

If the Vail passes are a bit out of your range, there should be some local or independent passes that you could go for at a discounted rate.

Pro Tip: Look for deals on season passes in the summer or even spring. Many places have an early bird discount that will save you hundreds!

For myself this season, I went ahead and purchased an Indy Pass—their whole thing is getting some more money flowing to the remaining independent resorts across North America, and even Japan. With this pass, I can access a ton of skiing and snowboarding around New England, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, and as I mentioned, Japan! There are a ton of cool ski destinations out there.

If you have one mountain that's close to home, it may be worth the pass, even if it is a bit more than competitors because just the travel and time savings alone may be enough to warrant the extra cash spent up front! For example, there are two pretty small resorts near me that are only 20 minutes away, splurging for a season pass there means I spend less on gas!

Uphill Access

Several snowboarders walk uphill.  It is snowy and the sky is blue.

Photo by Julian Wixon

Earning your turns is a fantastic way to save dough overall during the winter sports season. Make sure you check whatever resort you plan on skinning up for their Uphill Policies. Due to the pandemic and an increase in interest in earning your turns, it has forced resorts to implement much stricter policies for access. This is mostly for the safety and efficiency of the people putting in the hours at the resorts to give you the best experience possible. Just remember, don't upset the snowmakers and the groomers, we love them and want them to continue to enjoy laying out the best lines!

The good news is many resorts offer uphill rates at a fraction of the cost, sometimes 70% off, of what a full-day purchase would be. That's a good deal! Plus you don't have to wait on the lifts or in the lines, the only thing you’ll want to consider when budgeting for uphill days is the extra calories you'll need to consume!

Gear

The next most costly part of this sport is going to be your gear. With snowboards averaging about $600 without boots, bindings, or anything else — the cost of gear can be a real show-stopper for some. And while rental gear can be pretty cheap at the moment, that adds up too! The first bit of good news is that there is a multitude of options for finding cheaper gear. And the second bit of good news is that, unlike resort access which will be a yearly cost to figure out, once you have your gear you'll be set for a while!

Thrift Your Gear

One of my all-time favorite ways to save money when updating or adding to my gear closet is to hit up the local thrift stores. Believe it or not, I have a $20 pair of skis that rip trails! I may have spent a significant amount more on my snowboard setup, however, the thrift shop stuff is more about saving money on snow pants, coats, midlayers, gloves, and so on.

You want to have quality gear that is going to last you many seasons so thrifting is not going to work for everyone, but it can be a great option for many of those looking to save money on their winter sports budget.

Thrifting is especially good if you are brand new and don't know whether or not you’re going to stick with the sport for a long time. This way you can get what you need and try a few different things on the mountain before going all in. This is also a great option for a growing family!

Renting Gear

Several skis and other gear sits in a rental shop.

Photo courtesy of Canyon Sports Utah

If it's your first season out or you are only going to shred some trails for a few days, the option to rent short-term will save you some cash. A lot of shops will let you rent for the whole season as well so you can try things out before committing a lot of funds for your own gear.

Heck, some places may even rent you out a seasonal helmet and goggle set! If you are planning to really get into the outdoor lifestyle though, the next option is going to make a lot more sense when looking at cost savings in the long run!

Invest in Your Own Gear

Maybe the most important ways to save money on your snowboarding habit can be a little counterintuitive at first but actually will have the biggest impact in the long run. If you are going to be spending significant money right upfront, I’d recommend getting into the details with myself or another Curated Expert so we can get the right products for you!

There's an old saying that I heard all the time growing up and as I’ve studied financial planning—buy the better boots. They might be $400 today but they’ll last four times as long as those $200 ones. Snowboarding gear is no exception to this principle!

When it comes to saving money on snowboarding, investing in the right gear is one of the most important aspects to consider, as well as properly maintaining all of that gear (hot wax and re-edging are a must!). When you get the right setup it can easily last you years on the mountain and save you from having to continuously update low-cost gear. Aim for quality bindings, as these tend to be the most common piece of snowboarding equipment that breaks, warm socks, boots that work, and of course, a solid deck!

Planning

Several people ride lifts at a snowy ski resort. There is a snowboarder standing to the side looking at the lift.

Photo by M. Vorel

There are loads of deals and discounts out there and your wallet will definitely be thanking you for thinking ahead.

We’ve covered a lot but to really get the most savings, you’ll have to put in that extra research and planning time to optimize savings! A simple Excel sheet can go a long way. Decide how much you can spend and then figure out what kind of experiences would be feasible based on that!

I hope these strategies for maximizing your winter sports budget were helpful! Now you are ready to start saving that cash so you can maximize your time on the slopes this winter instead of being riddled with worry about if you should pick up another job just to afford a day-ticket! If you have any other questions about shopping for quality snowboard gear without breaking the bank or want some suggestions on some sweet new gear at a great price, hit up a Snowboard Expert on Curated and we'd be happy to help!

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Written By
I've been in the Outdoor Industry for the past decade. From ski clubs, to outdoor education courses, to helping friends get sweet setups and good deals on lift tickets. I also have spent a good amount of time in gear shops and resorts working and talking with other gear experts. I'd love to help you...

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