British Columbia

Skiing on a budget? It's possible, even near Vancouver

Three Vancouver-area skiers and snowboarders share their tips for cutting costs on gear, lift tickets and food this season.

From the best places to find used gear to snacks for the slopes, 3 skiers and boarders weigh in

Starting Jan. 20, Mount Seymour offers discounted lift tickets on Monday nights, with half of the proceeds donated to charity. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Michael Kennedy has been hooked on alpine skiing ever since he first tried it as a two-year-old. 

In the decades since the Vancouver man graduated from pizza turns on the bunny hill to powder turns in the backcountry, the sport has surged in popularity — and in price. 

At Whistler Blackcomb, a family of four can now expect to spend almost $600 on lift tickets for one day of skiing. 

"There's ways to bring down the costs but resort skiing is not a cheap affair," said Kennedy, an advisor to the Alpine Club of Canada's Vancouver chapter. 

For beginners and experts alike, three local skiers and snowboarders share their tips for cutting costs this winter.

Lift ticket deals

Kay Cahill wanted to ski as much as she could when she moved to Vancouver from the U.K. in 2004, but she didn't have much disposable income.

On Monday nights, she went to Mount Seymour in North Vancouver, where women can buy lift tickets for $15. Half of that amount goes to a local charity. The deal is meant to incentivize more women to enjoy the sport, but men can also hit the slopes for a discounted $35 ticket. 

The deal starts again this year from Jan. 20 to March 23, from 5 to 9:30 p.m.

Now, Cahill buys a season pass early on in the season when they tend to be cheapest. Buying lift tickets online from ski resorts in advance is also slightly cheaper. 

For a big mountain experience, Whistler isn't the only option. Kennedy suggests driving a few hours to B.C.'s Interior, where lower prices can be found at resorts like Manning Park, Big White, Silverstar and Apex.

"They're all very reasonably priced destinations that can be done as a weekend trip," he said.

Joining a club, like the Alpine Club of Canada or the B.C. Mountaineering Club, is a great way to connect with people who can offer rides or want to carpool, Kennedy added. 

Skiing isn't cheap, but snow angels are always free. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Gearing up

If you're new to skiing or snowboarding and unsure of whether you want to invest in equipment, Kennedy suggests renting.  

Some resorts offer deals on rentals and lift tickets and will even rent out ski jackets and snow pants. Otherwise, plenty of quality used gear can be found online.

Cahill has scored deals on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist.

"It just seems to be a great place for both buying and selling," she said. 

Angela McLaughlin, who has been snowboarding for 20 years, found some of her gear at local shops.

She recommends Sports Junkies and Cheapskates in Vancouver.

"Also, the Function Junction Re-Use-It-Centre in Whistler has lots of good finds, especially at the end of the season when all the Australians go home," she said. 

Backcountry

You can skip the chairlift entirely, but it'll take more planning, training and upfront costs.

Anyone adventuring in the backcountry will need a different setup: touring skis or a splitboard to hike up trails. They should always carry an avalanche kit: a shovel, probe and beacon, and know how to use them.

All of these items can be rented at MEC, but an avalanche skills course is worth the money, Kennedy said. 

ACC members can get a discount of around 10 per cent on avalanche safety classes, he added. 

"The price of an [avalanche safety class] is not even that much if you look at the wealth of information that it can provide to people," Kennedy said.

Backcountry skiers and boarders should also check avalanche conditions before they go out, and throughout the day.

The avalanche risk is currently rated as high for the South Coast region. 

Brown-bag it

All three mountaineers agree: While the hot ski lodge food may be tempting, brown-bagging is the easiest way to save money.

Kennedy stuffs his pockets with high-energy snacks like Cliff bars that can be eaten while waiting in line for the chairlift.

Bringing a backpack with a Thermos of soup can warm you up during the day, he said.

McLaughlin brings trail mix, chocolate and dehydrated soups.

Now and then, she's helped herself to someone else's leftovers — though we wouldn't recommend it. 

"Grazing on half eaten items is an activity some of my friends and I have, at certain times, partaken," she said.

"Certain foods are more amenable to it than others, like a half-eaten pile of fries. That's fair game. Maybe not something like a soup. Microbes in there."

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