Finding a cheap lift ticket, however, is more difficult.
Many ski resorts don't sell lift tickets online, requiring skiers to either buy them at the mountain on the day of arrival, or buy them ahead of time at a discount at a grocery store, ski shop or at stores such as Costco for slight discounts. With many ski resorts opening next week, Liftopia.com is offering a simple way to find lift tickets online.
As hotels were 20 years ago in not wanting to sell inventory at a discount because they didn't want to lessen their walk-up prices, ski resorts are slowly coming around in offering discounted lift tickets that can change in price daily to meet demand and variables such as the weather, said Ron Schneidermann, co-founder of Liftopia.com, which sells discounted lift tickets at 120 ski resorts in North America.
"Just because you lower your price for a day doesn't mean you're going to make less revenue," Schneidermann said in a telephone interview.
With deals of 30% to 80% off what the resorts are offering on-site, Liftopia is giving resorts another way to sell lift tickets ahead of time instead of just relying on walk-up sales. Tickets for specific days can be bought at Liftopia as late as a day in advance, giving resorts the security of knowing that customers are coming on those dates ahead of time. Liftopia never allows same-day sales.
The ski resorts set the prices on Liftopia, and prices change on many variables, including:
- Day of week. midweek or Sundays are best.
- Weather and snowfall. Cheaper tickets are easier to find when a storm hits.
- Time of season. Each month has its own mini cycle, so the week before spring break is a better deal than when all of the students arrive for spring break.
- Proximity to holidays. Christmas Day, the Super Bowl and week after New Year's Eve are good deals.
- Gasoline price. When gas cost $5 a gallon, resorts lowered prices to attract customers.
Its lift tickets are date specific and customers just print out a paper voucher to give at the resort for their lift ticket. Liftopia limits the number of tickets on its site as a way to create scarcity and encourage people to book in advance, he said. This year it started selling gift cards, which have no fees or expiration date, and can be used on its Web site to buy lift tickets at any of the ski resorts it sells for.
"Our best deals are typically the lower demand days," Schneidermann said.
The Web sites of ski resorts are typically brochures for the resorts, so it may be a while before they catch up to what Liftopia is doing and sell discounted tickets online.
"Most resorts don't have the ability to sell lift tickets on their sites right now," Schneidermann said.
And even if they do, Liftopia may be the best answer. After all, lift tickets could be free and ski resorts would still make money. Ever had a $10 hamburger or $8 beer at a ski lodge?
Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area who can be found at www.AaronCrowe.net