Don’t Fall for These Massive Rip-Offs Found at Every Ski Resort

Headed on a ski vacation? Great, because now is the time. But before you go paying top dollar, you’ll want to read this, because the ski resort of your choosing will try to up-sell you any chance it gets.

Curious about whether you’ve been duped in the past? If so, you’re about to find out. Here are 15 ways ski resorts try to rip you off — and how to avoid their money-making traps in the future.

1. Ski valet

Feed of Skier on the mountain

You can carry your own skis. | oneinchpunch/iStock/Getty Images

  • Avoid it by: Carrying your own skis (it’s good for you)

Newsflash! Ski resorts try to suck every last penny from you any chance they get. Case in point: ski valets. “What is this?”, you ask. Oh, let us explain.

A ski valet is a program where you pay — and tip — a hotel or the resort itself to hold your skis at the base of the mountain. The selling point here is that you can drop your skis at the end of the day, and pick them up the next morning right at the lift. So, it’s basically just promoting laziness.

People, carrying your skis is good for you. Plus, the locals won’t judge you for falling for the ski valet ploy.

Next: Too many Americans waste their money in this department. 

2. Eating at resort-owned restaurants

restaurant terrace at ski station

Pack your own lunch for an easy way to save money. | anyaberkut/iStock/Getty Images

  • Avoid it by: Packing your own water and lunch

If you’re so inclined to ski with a backpack, then bringing your own lunch is definitely the way to go. Even though you’re on vacation, you want to save your hard-earned money for food that actually tastes good. Food you find at on-mountain cafeteria-style spots, however, often leaves something to be desired.

These spots charge an arm and a leg, and it’s just not worth it. So, be sure to toss a PB&J in your pack or pocket for the day. Furthermore, some resorts have moved to a BYOWB (bring your own water bottle) system in which certain places on the mountain won’t even offer plastic cups for water. We love the reduce, reuse, recycle message here, and it’s worth knowing about. If you don’t bring your own bottle, you’ll be stuck paying for bottled water, and there’s never any reason to do that.

Next: This can be a big-ticket item if you don’t do your research.

3. Waiting until the last minute to buy your lift tickets

Skiers queue to the lift in ski resort, a lot of people. North Russia, Khibiny Mountains

It’ll save you time and money. | Natasha-Aleksandra/iStock/Getty Images

  • Avoid it by: Buying ahead on a deal ticket site

Buying ahead typically pays off more often than not. While lift tickets are pricey, there are ways to ensure you get the best rate possible. For starters, do your research. If booking lodging accommodations through a local property management company, ask them about group rates and discounted tickets. Also, check out the popular ski ticket deal site Liftopia.

Next: There’s plenty more to cover on this subject. 

4. Buying a lift ticket for every day you’re there and forgetting your ID (which could give you discounts)

Whistler ski resort in winter

Bring your discount card. | puflic_senior/iStock/Getty Images

  • Avoid it by: Having every ID that could possibly help on hand

Lift tickets are such a costly, yet unavoidable ski vacation item, so we thought we’d dedicate two points to it. After all, we’d never want you to fall victim to full-price lift tickets.

So, another way to ensure you’re not spending one cent more than necessary? Be sure to bring any applicable ID that could possibly warrant a discount. For instance, most resorts offer discounted rates for students, senior citizens, and perhaps members of the military. The person at the ticket window probably isn’t going to ask if you qualify for a discount, so it’s up to you to let them know.

Furthermore, don’t buy a ticket for every day you’re there. This may seem contradictory to what we were saying about buying in advance, but chances are, if you’re there for several days, you’ll want — and need — a rest day.

Next: So, how will you spend that rest day?

5. Expensive spa punch passes

Outdoor view recreation area at modern SPA

Skip the spa and check out some classes. | slava296/iStock/Getty Images

  • Avoid it by: Finding free classes in town

Yoga studios and luxurious spas in a ski town go together like rosy cheeks and icy beards on a powder day. But don’t be duped; if you’re traveling on a budget, steer clear of high-end spas and opt for a cheaper alternative. First off, there’s no reason to purchase a multi-day spa pass — unless spending your whole trip at the spa is your goal, then more power to you.

If you’re there to ski, you’ll likely only get to the spa on your rest day. And if you’re just looking for a yoga class, you’ll likely find one within the community. You can check out the local library for free classes, or hit up a local studio (as opposed to one at a larger spa within a hotel) and ask about a first-timer’s rate. No promises, but it’s worth a shot.

Next: This is definitely avoidable. 

6. Buying all new gear you’ll only use once

woman skiing in mountains

Rent ahead of time rather than buying all the expensive stuff there. | FamVeld/iStock/Getty Images

  • Avoid it by: Renting ahead of time

Unless you’re planning on moving to a ski town and living a life in the mountains, you probably don’t need your own gear, at least not brand-new, top-of-the-line gear. If you’re a hardcore skier who skis often enough, then yes, owning the latest and greatest makes sense, but not for a novice.

Don’t be that person in the ski shop who knows nothing about the sport or lifestyle, yet drops over $1,000 on a new pair of skis you don’t know how to use. There’s no shame in renting from a local shop. You’ll get great service and knowledgeable experts.

Next: This is a big, big mistake.

7. Buying just about anything for young children

Little cute boy with skis and a ski outfit.

A kid probably won’t remember their first ski boots or even care. | nata_zhekova/iStock/Getty Images

  • Avoid it by: Seeking out second-hand clothing and used gear

Most folks wouldn’t spend hundreds of dollars on a pair of baby shoes, so why would they drop even more dough on a pair of ski boots the kid will just grow out of in a year or two?

There’s nothing to think about here, just heed our advice. When it comes to growing kids who may not even end up liking the sport, never buy new. Instead, seek out used gear, rent their equipment, and hit up friends for second-hand outerwear.

Next: Don’t be duped by false promises. 

8. VIP experiences

Ski climbing on a crevassed slope and infinite glacial scenery

Don’t waste your money, just wake up early. | FredericFaure/iStock/Getty Images

Avoid it by: Just not doing it. Period.

Listen up, folks, because this is important. Ski resorts are big business, and they’ve figured out how to profit off of just about anything. Resorts market VIP experiences to tourists looking to get the most out of their ski trip. But signing up for one of these is often a total waste of your hard-earned money.

VIP experiences include things like first light ski programs, for example. People who pay for this experience have the chance to access the mountain before the resort officially opens to the public. Sounds awesome, right? Wrong.

While paying customers have high hopes of getting fresh tracks, that’s often not the case. If it happens to be a powder day, ski patrol has to do avalanche control work during that time, which means your chances of hitting fresh pow stashes before they actually open the resort are slim to none.

So, the moral of the story is, don’t waste your money. Just wake up early to secure first chair when the mountain opens.

Next: There’s an easier way. 

9. Renting a car instead of taking a shuttle

A man clearing snow off his car to go skiing

The bus system is definitely a better option. | wojciech_gajda/iStock/Getty Images

  • Avoid it by: Booking a shuttle and taking advantage of the bus system

Most ski resorts have a bus system to get you from where you’re staying to the base of the mountain. It’s convenient, efficient, and free. So really, there’s no need to have a car, so long as you’re in the near vicinity of town and the slopes. Just be sure to do your research and make sure you’re on the bus route or close to a stop.

Once you’ve done your research and realized you don’t, in fact, need a car during your stay, find a local shuttle service for transfer to and from the airport.

Next: Treat yourself, but don’t go overboard. 

10. Eating out every meal

Friends eating at mountain ski restaurant

A place with a kitchen will save tons of cash. | bowdenimages/iStock/Getty Images

  • Avoid it by: Booking a condo with a kitchen

Resort towns aren’t cheap, and it can be all too easy to get carried away when you’re on vacation. The glitz and glam of a ski town’s Main Street is an enchanting sight, but don’t be blinded by the sparkling lights

Pick and choose wisely between when you’ll eat out and when you’ll stay in. One of the best parts of a ski town is the abundance of lodging options. You can find everything from cozy cottages to sprawling mountain homes. So, book a spot with a kitchen and enjoy some family time at home. Being able to cook at home and enjoy the place for which you’ve paid will be all the more satisfying.

Next: Staying smart on the slopes goes a long way.

11. Ignoring safety rules

Newbie skier stuck in deep snow

There are rules for a reason. | anatols/iStock/Getty Images

  • Avoid it by: Wearing a helmet and knowing the rules of the mountain

We’re not suggesting every ski accident is avoidable. We’re just suggesting some are. And staying as safe as possible all starts with knowing the rules of the mountain. Too many people hit the slopes when they have no idea how to ski or know anything about skiing etiquette, and it’s just dangerous.

While anyone with health insurance probably thinks this is a bizarre tip, it’s time to get real. One thing you definitely don’t want to have to do is go to the local med center in a remote ski town. Why? Well, for starters, they may not accept your insurance, and the level of care may not be what you’re expecting. You really don’t want to return home with a bunch of medical bills and still have to see a doctor when you get back, do you?

Next: Get by with a little help from your friends.

12. Ski lessons (when you don’t really need them)

Ski instructor

Get a skilled friend to teach you. | 4maksym/iStock/Getty Images

  • Avoid it by: Asking an expert friend to accompany you on the mountain in exchange for a 12-pack

We don’t want to negate our previous point, because of course, safety comes first. If you’ve never skied before, take a lesson and ease into it. On the other hand, if you’re already an intermediate skier and are fully aware of the rules of the mountain, then paying top dollar for a ski lesson probably isn’t worth it.

If you’re just looking to get to know the terrain better, seek the help of an expert friend to show you around and offer tips on improving your form. You’ll be much happier — and richer.

Next: Choose wisely. 

13. Planning your ski trip during spring break

People stand before ski lift in queue in Bukovel

Avoid peak season like the plague. | maroznc/iStock/Getty Images

  • Avoid it by: Visiting during off-peak times

Just like any other resort town or major attraction, there are busy times and there are slow times. Obviously, forgoing a visit during peak season is advisable. While slower times may not be ideal for your schedule and certain places around town may be closed, it will be quieter and probably cheaper.

If you visit during spring break, on the other hand, you can expect to pay top dollar, wait in long lift lines, and struggle to get reservations at the best restaurants.

Next: Spend wisely. 

14. Shopping at boutiques

Views Of St Moritz In The Winter

Those boutiques are expensive. | Oli Scarff/Getty Images

  • Avoid it by: Setting a budget

There’s plenty to do at a ski resort. After all, any family member who’s not skiing needs to stay busy somehow. Of course, resorts have a plethora of high-end stores and boutiques that draw you right in.

If you’re an avid shopper, it’s important to set a budget for yourself. Furthermore, we’d recommend skipping the resort-owned stores (Vail, we’re looking at you) and heading to locally-owned businesses, instead. Or, just do all your shopping before you even arrive.

Next: Don’t be that guy.

15. On-mountain photography

Snowboarder with camera

Stick to your own photography. | shkonst/iStock/Getty Images

  • Avoid it by: Taking your own pictures (duh)

Resort photographers set up shop smack-dab in front of the most breathtakingly beautiful backdrops. They’re ready to snap your pic as soon as you get off the lift. While they take the picture for free, they rope you into buying the image by telling you to go down to the office afterward to check it out. That’s where they’ll be waiting to take your money.

Naturally, this is a total waste of money. These photographers are hardy professionals (sorry, guys). Skip the gimmick and go for your own shot. And oh, on that note, don’t be that guy who asks the on-mountain photographer to take your picture with your iphone. It’s just rude.

Read more: The Ultimate Ski Vacation: Steamboat Springs

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