Let's make a deal. Deal or no deal. The price is right. Those aren't just the names of classic TV game shows. They're the annual dance of ski bums everywhere searching for a break on the cost of doing their favorite winter sport.
But you don't need to put your bank account in... "jeopardy" (sorry!) to enjoy Inland Northwest slopes. The first bit of good news: ticket prices and season passes in the region are generally significantly lower than elsewhere. Powder magazine put the average daily lift ticket in the U.S. at over $110 — in 2017. Regional ski and board areas come in much lower than that, particularly midweek.
Still, a full season pass can be a pricey proposition for the budget conscious (knowing you may need to save for lodge beverages and midmountain lunch breaks — not to mention summertime recreation).
Some tips to cut ticket costs:
1. FIRST, DO THE MATH
A season pass is all about return on investment. Are you going to ski enough times during the season to make it worth the cost?
Schweitzer marketing manager Dig Chrismer says before committing to a pass at any one area, ask, "How many times are you really going to ski in a season?"
Chrismer says if the answer is fewer than seven or eight, maybe a full pass isn't for you.
But, fear not, there are plenty of other options. Such as...
2. COMBO DEALS
Mountain managers are well aware that people like to hop, particularly in this region with multiple options close by. Aside from the national multimountain passes like Epic and Ikon that give you access to destinations like Vail and Whistler, regional mountains offer incentives and discounts.
Just announced this year: A season pass at either Silver Mountain or 49 Degrees North gets you the option of adding unlimited access to both mountains for just $80 more.
And any season pass at 49 comes with several free day-use passes at further afield ski areas like Mission Ridge (Wenatchee), Loup Loup (Okanogan) and White Pass (Highway 12, west of Yakima).
3. SIX / THREE / WHATEVER PACKS
Most areas offer smaller packages to get you in the door but don't make you commit to a full season pass. Mt. Spokane and Schweitzer offer three pack "stocking stuffers." Lookout does the same for a six pack.
If you know you're not going to ski weekends and prefer to avoid crowds, buying a midweek-only pass at most places will save money. Silver Mountain's will save you at least $130 off the full season pass.
4. LEARN FIRST, PLAY LATER
All regional mountains have a learn-to-ski/ride program with knowledgeable instructors. And most any place will have deals for those learning the sport (or wanting to sharpen their skills) to buy a pass after a trial period.
For example: 49 Degrees North offers a three-day lesson package (with equipment rentals), after which you can buy a season pass for the rest of the year for a greatly discounted price. In other words: learn early, ski the rest of the year for less.
5. SKIP THE TICKET WINDOW
The sticker shock that may come with buying a single day ticket at the window isn't necessary. Like paying full retail price in a store, there are ways to find deals on a day ticket – direct from the mountains themselves. For example, buy tickets online at least a day (or more) in advance from Mt. Spokane or Schweitzer, and you can save significantly off the window price.
"The ticket window price is really there for destination guests," Schweitzer's Dig Chrismer says. "The locals are more savvy."
6. HOST OR PATROL
If volunteering is your gig — i.e. you have the time and temperament — consider being a mountain host or joining the ski patrol. Most areas have a volunteer patrol, those friendly folks in red jackets who help keep us safe. Mountain hosts are guest services ambassadors — usually out on the slopes, not just in a parking lot. And in exchange for your time and efforts, you'll often get unlimited skiing (and usually a cool jacket).
Talk about a... wheel of fortune!