I started skiing less than 2 years ago . Prior to that, I thought skiing was wayyy too expensive and a total hassle. All that gear? Lift tickets that cost over $100 for one day? Driving in snow? It sounded like the worst experience. Luckily, this year I’ve figured out some good options on how to ski for a relatively affordable and easy price in Lake Tahoe.
First, buy an Epic Pass. They have lots of options so you can figure out what pass works best for your price range. This year, Jack and I purchased the Tahoe Value Pass which costs just $470 for the entire season. Considering tickets cost $120 if you buy them in advance ($135 at the window), this pass pays for itself in 4 visits. The Epic Pass also has a more expensive option for $580 that includes 5 free days in Colorado or Utah. If you’re planning a ski destination vacation, this makes the pass a no brainer! You also have access to Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood which means lots of terrain. The other pass I’d recommend in Tahoe is Squaw/Alpine.
Second, get your equipment on Craigslist. Renting skis costs around $40-50/day at the resort or $55 for the weekend if you pick them up from Sports Basement the night before. Jack found an entire set of skis for $80, and my entire set was $150. No these are not high performance skis, but they work great for intermediate skiers like us. As long as I get 2-3 seasons out of them, I will have saved lots of money! For other gear like helmets, ski pants, etc, check out Amazon. They have some really affordable but good quality options.
Third, consider when you’re leaving for the weekend. Friday and Sunday nights are going to be traffic hell. We’ve found that leaving around 4-5AM on Saturday morning is always an easy drive. Of course, I’m a morning person so I’d much rather get up early than be driving until 1-2AM in the dark and snow. If you do end up having to put chains on, it will also be light out which is ideal. On Sundays, try to get to the resort right when it opens and then leave around 2PM to avoid traffic. My legs are always so tired on the 2nd day anyway.
Fourth, stay in Reno. You can get hotels for under $50 that are actually nice with hot tubs vs. super sketchy motels in South Lake Tahoe for $100/night. Yes it is extra driving but if you are splitting your weekend between Heavenly and Northstar it works out. If you split the room among 4 people, it could be anywhere from $10-20 per person – less than a hostel!
Fifth, put together a ski bag. Put everything you need for skiing in that bag, and just grab it and go. So much easier than trying to find all your gear the night before (or at 4Am if you leave on Saturday morning). We’ve made the mistake of forgetting a critical item (like ski boots), so your life will be much easier if you stay organized and coordinated.
So while skiing is not cheap and it is a bit of a hassle, if you keep in mind some of these tips you’ll have an awesome time!