Home » Why skiing is so expensive. 5 tips to skiing on a budget.

Why skiing is so expensive. 5 tips to skiing on a budget.

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Skiing is expensive! Especially if you are a first-time skier. Some might even call it posh or a rich person sport! You need to get a lot of different equipment before you are ready to hit the slopes. Maybe you also need to rent some stuff. And then there is the cost of accommodation and food among other things.

I decided to find out, how to minimize the cost of the next ski trip without sacrificing all the fun.

Why is skiing so expensive?

In order to find out where to minimize expenses, let’s first break down why skiing is so expensive in the first place.

The reason skiing is expensive is because you need to buy or rent equipment (e.g. skis, boots, goggles, safety gear) and the right clothes for the shifting conditions in the mountains. You also need to travel to the resort, a place to stay and food and beverages for the whole week. And then you need to purchase ski pass to the mountain. Always get a special winter sports insurance if you’re unlucky on the slopes. And then you need to factor in the cost of lessons or ski school, especially if you are a beginner. So if you’ve never skied before the initial cost of skiing is very high.

So what can you do to minimize the cost of skiing? Below are 11 tips on how you can minimize the cost of your next ski trip.

1. Don’t buy the most expensive ski clothing

I remember ski fashion in the 1990s here in Denmark. We had moved on from the neon-colored jumpsuits of the 1980s. Now all the rave was about mountaineering jackets from brands like The North Face and SOS, with built-in avalanche beacons. And man those jackets were expensive!

Now I’m not saying, that having an avalanche beacon isn’t a good idea. You’re in the mountains after all, and avalanches do happen. And if you’re an avid off-piste or backcountry skier, those things make a lot of sense.

But most of the people, who bought those jackets, used them on groomed slopes for maybe two or three weeks of skiing combined.

The rest of the time they were either tucked away in the basement or used as everyday winter jackets for commuting here in Denmark. Though they were good at resisting the rain and snow and slush of the grey Danish winters, I haven’t experienced that many avalanches on my bike ride to work. So going with a cheaper jacket might have been just as good as an option.

Skiing isn’t about fashion. What to look for in ski clothing instead.

If you’re interested in buying affordable ski clothing have a look at my guide Recommended ski clothes – from baselayer to shell.

Skiing isn’t a high fashion show, and you’re not a model on the runway (though some people seem to think so). Though prices on ski clothing definitely reflect how much people prioritize looking like a fashion icon on the next Instagram photo.

The most expensive ski clothing doesn’t necessarily equal the best option. As with all things in life, you pay a lot for the brand name and all the money, that a particular brand has spent on marketing.

Don’t cheap out either though. You still need good protection from the elements, and you don’t want to get cold and start to freeze because your body heat can’t escape your clothing.

Instead of writing about particular brands of clothing, here are some guidelines to get you started instead. None of these guidelines are in the extreme specialist clothing division (e.g. like waterproofing over 30.000mm). So you should be able to find ski clothing to match your budget with these guidelines in mind.

When it comes to ski clothing, you should always think layers. You need a base layer, a mid-layer, and an outer layer or shell.

Base layer ski clothing

If you’re interested in learning more about base layers, you should read my guide How to pick the best base layer for skiing.

For the base layer, you need something, that’ll keep you dry at all times.

The base layers’ job is to transport the sweat from your body away, so your body always stays dry and warm. You’ll need both top and pants.

Look for a lightweight base layer (below approximately 200 grams/m2), which has a tight fit. It can be made either from a synthetic fabric (like Polypropylene), from Merino Wool, or of a blend of both materials.

Look for three-quarter-length bottoms, which have been designed to go down to the top of the ski or snowboard boots.

Mid layer ski clothing

The purpose of the mid-layer is to provide insulation, so you stay nice and warm at all times. Depending on where and when you go skiing, the mid-layer might change.

Mid-layers are usually made from either a polar fleece, some sort of synthetic insulation (like PrimaLoft) or natural down.

When it comes to buying on a budget, I would definitely go for a fleece jacket, as they tend to be the least expensive option of the three.

Also, you can get fleece jackets designed for different temperatures usually measured in fleece weight.

If you’re going skiing late in the season, you might opt for a lightweight 100-weight fleece. If you’re going skiing mid-season, you should probably look into a 200-weight fleece. And if you’re going skiing when it’s really cold look for the 300-weight option instead.

Outer layer ski clothing

If you want to learn more about ski jackets have a look at my guide Are ski jackets warm? The complete guide to ski jackets.

When it comes to ski jackets and ski pants you’ll want something that keeps the snow out while allowing the perspiration from your body to escape.

Ski jackets can be only a shell, that keeps out the snow and wind, or also include some sort of insulation. What you should choose depends on your choice of base and mid-layers and also how cold it is.

As a guideline, you should look for outer layer clothing with a good membrane (e.g. Gore-Tex) with a waterproofing between 10,000mm and 20,000mm and breathability between 10.000g to 20.000g (or a RET value between 8 – 18).

Now here’s a tip: ski pants and shells which include big brand name membranes like Gore-Tex and Polartec usually cost more. Thus a lot of brands have developed their own membranes in order to compete.

Jackets and pants from those companies are often cheaper, but will still get you through the day on the slopes, while still keeping you warm and dry.

Ski accessories you need to have

For your first couple of ski trips, I would recommend, that you rent your safety gear as well. Always check to see if the gear is in good condition and it fits comfortably.

I personally ride with back protection and helmet all the time. Should I go snowboarding, I will also consider wearing wrist guards and butt protection. I would hate having to stand up at every dinner table, just because I broke my tailbone.

If you want to learn more about back protection, you should read my guide How to choose the best back protection for skiing.

You can find some suggestions for affordable ski helmets here.

Ski socks should not be thick. Modern ski boots are very well insulated, so you can easily make do with a pair of thin sports socks. Make sure they’re calf-length though to prevent chafing.

If you already own a pair of gloves or mittens, those are probably fine, as long as they are waterproof and breathable. Don’t spend more than around $35-40 on your first pair.

You can read more about gloves and mittens in my guide How to pick the best gloves and mittens for skiing.

Protect your eyes with ski goggles

If you already own a pair of sunglasses, which are designed for sports, you can start with those. Though you should consider upgrading to a pair of ski goggles, as they provide much better protection from snow.

Goggles are designed to take a hit, and they are more likely to survive a tumble than your regular pair of glasses. Personally, I like to have a pair of both. When the weather is good and it’s sunny, I usually just wear sunglasses.

But as soon as it starts to snow or there’s a lot of wind and drift, I switch to my goggles for better protection. My goggles also have a colored glass, that makes seeing the uneven terrain much better when the sun isn’t out. That’s something else to consider.

You can borrow your first pair of goggles or buy some. Don’t spend more than around $30-40 on your first pair.

If you’re going somewhere really cold, you should also get a neckwarmer or thin balaclava. Don’t spend more than $25-30 on one though.
Remember to bring some sunscreen to. The sun combined with the snow at high altitudes is a killer. Any tube with SPF30 to SPF50 will do. Buy it from your local supermarket, and not at the ski resort. It is much cheaper that way.

2. Rent your skis, boots, and poles for your first ski trip

Don’t buy your own skis and poles for your first ski trip.

Instead, you should rent them. You can usually get all three in a package for around $18-25 per day. Or you could rent them for a whole week for around $100.

3. Bring a backpack, make a sandwich and have a nice picnic in the sun

Bring a backpack. Any backpack will do. If you have one with straps for the chest and waist even better.

Visit the local convenience store on your way back to the hotel or apartment in the afternoon and buy some bread, cheese, ham or chorizo, and some plastic bags. You could also buy some energy bars. Don’t buy the most expensive energy bars. All you really need is some sugar.

Next morning, make some nice sandwiches, take a bottle of water and maybe a thermos flask with some hot coffee and throw it all in the backpack, and you’re ready to go.

That way you’ll save a fortune on expensive fast food and you won’t have to wait in line. Instead, you can just pick a good spot on the mountain to have a lunch break and take in the scenery at the same time.  

If you’re a couple of friends skiing together, you can just bring a single backpack and take turns sharing the load.

4. Be sure to get a good winter sports insurance

Being rescued by helicopter isn’t cheap!

You should always get some kind of ski travel insurance, should you be unlucky on the slopes. This might seem like just an extra expense, but it will be the much cheaper alternative than having to cover all expenses yourself.

Besides the medical coverage, which should cover any injuries sustained on the slopes, your winter insurance should also cover personal liability, loss of use, lost ski pass and/or equipment.

You should also make sure, that general travel insurance elements are included, such as baggage coverage, cancellation, emergency assistance, etc.

Make sure you get the adequate cover to cover any expenses you might have. If you fall on a difficult to reach slope and have to get rescued by a helicopter and treated by a private clinic near the resort, you can be sure, that it won’t be cheap (e.g. $15,000,000 in medical bills aren’t unheard-of!!).

Always read the small print and know the risks. If you don’t follow the local rules e.g. ski while drunk or don’t wear a helmet, where it is mandatory, the insurance company can refuse to payout.

Always check if things off-piste, snowboarding, heli-skiing, tobogganing or ice skating is included. That’s not a given!

Make sure to talk to different insurance companies, your bank, and specialist brokers in order to get the best advice on insurance.

5. The most popular resorts aren’t the cheapest nor necessarily the ones with the best ski runs

Aspen isn’t exactly cheap.

There is a lot of money to be saved if you’re willing to skip the most popular destinations and head for a smaller and less known ski resort. Or you could even consider traveling to new, country or state, that you wouldn’t have otherwise picked, altogether. Accommodation, food and ski pass are often cheaper.

If you live in the US, you might want to skip Vail and Aspen, which are both pretty expensive. A good idea can be to look beyond Colorado and towards California instead. South Lake Tahoe, Kirkwood, and Tahoe City are good cheap alternatives to the popular resorts in Colorado.

If you plan to go to Europe, you might consider skipping Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, France, and Austria altogether and go to The Czech Republic or Hungary instead. The latter two countries offer excellent opportunities for skiing and snowboarding and the prices are a lot cheaper than the former.

I have often found some of the most exciting skiing experiences at smaller, less-known destinations.

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