Powder to the People: Ski and Snowboard on the Cheap?
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (MCT) - It can be pricey to gear up and get into position for snow sports like skiing and snowboarding. To get good, though, you have to practice and, let's face it, that costs more.
But skiing and boarding are really, really fun. Truth is, the cheapest way to enjoy the snow is to buy season passes and buy all the stuff. Use it enough times and you'll get your money's worth.
But how about a day trip for the everyman?
There are ways to get to the snow on the cheap, saving a few bucks here and a few bucks there to make it possible to smile and speed down a hill during even during crummy economic times.
So, powder to the people, brothers and sisters of the cheap-o revolution.
STEP 1: Pick your mountain, get your coupons
An easy way to save is to pick a ski/snowboard area that is close to you. Time is money in this case.
Time in a car means money on gas and less time to actually use that pass.
Another good way to save is with coupons, several of which can be printed out from online sites. These are free money, so make sure you get them.
STEP 2: Hit the sales, check the tags
There's no room for fashion on the slopes. No one cares and no one looks at it as much in such economic times.
Dig through old trunks and the bottoms of drawers. Where are those thick socks? Where is that beanie Grandma knitted for you? Isn't there a pair of thermals (preferably of those wickable man-made fibers) somewhere around the house?
Then, get what you don't have and what you can't rent at the sales.
And are there ever sales.
The snow will be around for only a month or two longer. That means places like Sport Chalet and REI have bins of what you need at significantly reduced prices. Bask in the beauty that is a red line drawn through original prices.
For example, a pair of gloves that originally cost $45 were around $19 with tax at the Sacramento REI.
Another smart move is to check a given store's inventory online. That way you know exactly what you are getting and how much you are going to spend. It's also an easy way to compare prices.
If you just head into the store and you're looking at goggles, for example, ask yourself if you need the super-fancy ones, locked in a case with three figures on the price tag? Or, will a $29 pair (that might fog up a bit) do fine for a trip or two?
And really, beanies need only keep your head warm. They don't need to match your boots, they don't need to have built-in iPod hookups. If you're wise enough to wear a helmet, it won't matter.
STEP 3: Rent down here
More than likely, it's cheaper down here than up there.
There is one potential drawback to renting down here. If your ski or board has some sort of technical problem, you will have to pay at the ski lot at which you're playing. Meanwhile, if you rent at the lodge, it can fix you up for free.
The good news is that most ski-rental shops, if you can prove an equipment defect, will reimburse or partially reimburse your rental fee.
Pick a rental spot that is closest to you.
STEP 4: Pack a lunch, water and snacks
Don't depend on the lodge when it comes time to sate a vamped-up appetite.
Go with what you have in the house, pack a couple of sandwiches and empty your pantry of crackers and chips that have been sitting around.
Snow brings out everyone's appetite. And if someone was pooh-poohing those wheat crackers in the cupboard, they'll scarf them down on the slopes.
STEP 5: Get there smartly, get there green
Even though gas prices are on the rise again, enjoy the fact they are not at $5 a gallon and indulge in the American luxury that is the personal car.
But careful now, don't go leaving big old carbon footprints in the snow.
Try to split your trip among several passengers.
© 2009, The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.).
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.