You can pick up a ball and have fun pretty much anywhere, but snow sports require a considerably larger investment, from specialized clothing to gear, from lift tickets and — for those not lucky enough to live near a mountain — accommodations. A few years ago, CNBC did a segment titled “High peaks, lofty prices as skiing prices out middle class,” and things have not improved since.
Yet it is possible to ski and snowboard on a relative budget because deals abound in the Northeast. Some basic advice: Avoid holidays if at all possible; midweek is often cheaper; for a multiday trip, staying off-mountain is always cheaper than staying slopeside.
Below you’ll find some tips to help you plan family winter getaways that won’t break the piggy bank.
Okemo, go before Christmas
For weekends or longer getaways, Vermont tends to be New Yorkers’ destination of choice. In the southern part of the state, Okemo has a good deal for those who are not dead set on a white Christmas: go beforehand. Ski-and-stay packages between Dec. 15 and 25 are 50 percent off the rack price with a three-night minimum. For instance, a four nights and four days in a one-bedroom condo, with two adults and two juniors, is $1,817 — compare with $3,396 for a trip starting on Dec. 26.
Windham Mountain, first timers package
Windham Mountain has come up with a tantalizing offer: For $299, first-time skiers or snowboarders get three group lessons, three days’ worth of lift tickets and rental gear from Rossignol. The days don’t have to be consecutive but need to be used during the 2017-18 season. Best of all, you get to keep the skis or snowboard at the end.
Mount Snow's buy-now deals
If you can only travel during the holidays due to, for instance, school commitments, Mount Snow in West Dover, Vermont, has good deals for Christmas as well as the Martin Luther King Jr. and Presidents Day weekends — traditionally peak times when prices go up and lodging availability goes down. The trick: you must whip out the credit card before Friday, Nov. 17 in order to score savings of up to 20 percent. The same deadline applies to non-holiday deals, where the savings can add up to 60 percent.
Mount Peter's free beginners' lessons
If you’ve never skied or snowboarded before, how do you know if snow sports are for you? Mount Peter in Warwick, New York, offers free beginner lessons on weekends and holidays that introduce you to the gear — learning to squeeze into ski boots is an adventure in itself — and the basic feel for trying to move on snow. Located about an hour north of the George Washington Bridge, Mount Peter is also one of the hills closest to Long Island. This place is not going to test advanced skiers and snowboarders, but it’s a fine one if you are just getting your mountain legs.
Gore Mountain, lift and lodging deals
Gore Mountain in the Adirondacks does not have on-mountain accommodations but has partnered with nearby properties — usually in North Creek, five minutes away — for lift and lodging combos. For instance, you can get two nights at the Alpine Lodge and two lift tickets for $295, based on double occupancy (the same room midweek is $263). Gore is also a good place if you have kids 6 and younger: They can stay at the Alpine Lodge for free, and can ride or ski at the resort for free as well. Gore also offers an all-day program for children ages 4 to 12 that includes lessons, lift ticket, lunch and, more important, all-day supervision so parents get a bit of “me time.”
Sugarbush, buy now to save later
Vermont’s Sugarbush offers a pack of four adult lift tickets for just $229 — a 53 percent saving on the window rate — but you have to purchase it before Nov. 30. You can then use the tickets during the season, and even give them out as gifts since they are transferable. The resort is the only member of the Mountain Collective in the East, so pass holders get two free days and 50 percent off lift tickets after that.
January in New York, the month to learn
Skiing and snowboarding are thrilling sports, but they are also technical and can be risky — you are, after all, going down a hill at speed. Clearly, it is best to know what you are doing, but lessons are a costly line item on a ski budget. Whether you are learning as an adult or a child, it is much better to start off with a professional instructor than with a friend, a spouse or even a parent — for safety reasons but also to avoid fights and meltdowns on the slopes. Look for offers to emerge in January, which is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month. This year’s Discover NY Ski Day is on Jan. 18, for instance, with discounted lift tickets from $12 and discounted lesson packages starting from $25.
IN THE PHOTO: This skier is in fresh snow on Gore Mountain in the Adirondacks.