Tales from the Lift Line VIII: Nickels and Dimes

Part I

By Mary-Colleen Jenkins

“How’d the lessons go?” I asked my friend on Monday. “Did they love it?”

Her two boys had taken their first ski lesson over the weekend.

“Oh, yes,” she said. “They had so much fun!”

“Are you doomed?” She knew exactly what I meant.

“Pretty much. When we got to the car Milo said, ‘I plan to do this for the rest of my life!’”

This is the year that a lot of families I know have discovered (or rediscovered) a love of skiing. They tried it, had a great time and can’t wait to go back.

Unfortunately, with any kid’s plans to “do this for the rest of my life” comes a problem that all skiing families face: Sticker Shock.

Getting Hauled Up the Mountain

Lift tickets are expensive and unless you have particular backcountry skills and equipment, there is no skiing without them. The best way to save money on tickets is to buy a season’s pass to your favorite ski area. Most ski areas start season pass sales in the spring and have incremental early-bird pricing – the closer it gets to ski season, the more the passes cost.

It might be hard to think of spending hundreds of dollars in April for passes you won’t use until December, but if you break down the per day cost of early-bird pricing against the daily in-season lift ticket price, you see it only takes a few ski days for the pass to pay for itself.

Savings are possible on daily tickets, too. Prices are lower for half-day and night-skiing passes. Most ski areas discount tickets during early and late season because the conditions aren’t quite perfect and they want people to come ski anyway. Some areas offer discounted multi-day passes that you can use whenever you want to during the ski season. Larger resorts, like Whistler and Mt. Bachelor, have online specials — tickets purchased at least 48-hours in advance are slightly discounted.

Almost every ski area I’m familiar with offers special deals for veterans, active military personnel and their families. Some places require that military tickets be purchased online in advance — they also require specific forms of ID, so know before you go.

Skiing as a family is a big investment, but there are ways to save money.

“Who are you wearing?”

Oddly, the best way to save money when it comes to outerwear is to go for name brands and to be willing to spend some money on high-tech clothing.

If you look closely at people in the lift lines, you’ll see glimpses of duct tape here and there. The duct tape is not about being a hipster, it’s actually a way to stretch the life of high-quality outerwear. Duct tape is cheap, water proof and indestructible. So, if there’s a small tear in your Gortex, just patch it up with a bit of tape. Gortex jackets and pants can cost hundreds of dollars, but they’ll hold up well for years with some TLC and a little patch job every so often.

Online stores and brick-and-mortar stores need to clear out the winter gear in early spring to make room for summer gear, so we are right in sales season now. Companies that make high-tech outerwear are proud of their products and most guarantee them for the life of the item even if you’ve bought them from the clearance rack.

I know that Arc’teryx isn’t the only company to do this, but they are so willing to stand by their clothing that they’ll either repair it for a nominal fee or replace it if something goes wrong that’s out of your control. When the zipper on my husband’s Arc’teryx hard-shell jacket failed this winter after five years of heavy use, he decided to send it back to see if they’d repair it for him. The jacket was still in very good condition and he didn’t want to invest in the cost of a new one. Arc’teryx inspected the jacket, determined it wasn’t worth fixing, and sent him a new one at no cost. They didn’t care that he’d originally bought it on sale.

Investing in outerwear during sale season and taking good care of it during the season — hanging it up after skiing, washing it with special care products like Nikwax Tech Wash — means that you can hold on to it year after year.

There’s only one downside. When you invest in good outerwear you will look exactly the same in every ski picture you take for the next ten years at least. People will look at the photos years down the road and eventually they might say, “You look so different in…um…uh…this one!”

“Yeah,” you’ll say. “I finally bought a new jacket.”

(*I know what you’re thinking: “But what about the kids? They’re the ones who grow out of everything year after year!” Tune in next week for Nickels and Dimes: Part 2.)

Winter weekends call Mary-Colleen out to the snow, but during the week she can be found warm and dry and working with words. Jenkins is a freelance editor, writing coach and writer of two blogs, Too Fond of Books (toofondofbooks-sea.blogspot.com) and Along the Branches (www.alongthebranches.wordpress.com). You can find her on Twitter at @EmceeReads

Catch up with all the previous posts of “Tales from the Lift Line” below.


>> I. Waiting for Winter

>> II. Dorothy and Oz

>> III. The Poles You Save May Be Your Own

>> IV. Vittels

>> V. What kind of parents let their kids…?

>> VI. Olympians

>> VII. Emergence

>> VIII. Nickels and Dimes

>> IX. Nickels and Dimes Part II

>> X. Letting Them Run



>> I. The Beginning

>> II. When Seeing is Believing

>> III. Expeditionary Forces

>> IV. Velocity

>> V. Pack Rat

>> VI. Dude

>> VII. Expectations

>> VIII. Don’t Cry in the Trees

>> IX. The Sounds of Silence

>> X. Known/Unknown

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to our Enewsletter