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A Miser’s Guide to Skiing on Mt. Hood

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Mt. Hood via Wikimedia Commons

As a sophomore in high school, I was introduced to ski club, going to Snoqualmie Pass in Washington after school on Friday nights over the winter. It seemed pretty cheap. Snow sports stuck but then I learned it was not an inexpensive habit. Since then, I’ve even done everything I can to keep the cost down.

After well over 20 years and a complete metamorphosis from scrawny teen into a near-40 year old curmudgeon, snowboarding remains a passion. When I reached the legal working age, I took a job as a prep cook at Crystal Mountain, Washington, where I worked off and on for several years. 

Why did I seek out this particular job? Free snowboarding. All you can eat. Boom. I was in heaven. Fast forward to last winter, I took a part time gig at a local resort. Why? See exhibit A. Apparently one other thing didn’t change from high school until now: I’m cheap. As a result, it has always been a habit of mine to chase down good deals.

Before we get into tips to keep your cost down, here’s a word to the wise: don’t buy second hand lift tickets. You do not know what you are going to get. The vast majority of tickets sold are non-transferable. If resorts know you bought them on Craigslist, and yes there are ways they can find out, you might find yourself shelling out retail after all.

Alright, here are a few tips to keep your cost down :

Buy Early

You’ve missed the boat on this one for this winter. Season passes are priced low before the season starts so the resorts can ensure some sales if, like this year, season starts very late. Starting around $500, the cost for passes rise as season nears (in some cases almost double). I recommend buying no later than the first weekend of November to get the best deals.

Go at Night

Season passes for night skiing start at $129 at Mt. Hood Meadows. It’s only $26 per night to ride at night at Timberline. The closest resort to Portland, Ski Bowl, is the largest night ski area in the country, and they are also highly rated. Tickets at night there are only $34.

Rig the System

Mt. Hood Meadows offers a new Southside lift ticket this year. It will get you on a couple bunny hill lifts and Vista, a high speed lift, which offers fun runs and even a wee bit of advanced terrain. It’s $59 per day. If you buy a Beginner Package online for $99, it comes with three days access to Vista. If you need rentals those are included. This is a ridiculously good deal. And hey, maybe even take a few lessons. They’re also part of the package.

Look for Promos

On Sunday, the first 6000 people in the door to the Winterhawks game got a free lift ticket to Mt. Hood Meadows. They are only valid on a couple days this season, but that is one heck of a deal. Promotions like this aren’t uncommon. Just start looking.

Over at Mt. Bachelor, they’ve got “Charity Week” coming up. It starts this Sunday, January 4th and lasts until January 15th. During that time, it is only $39 for a full day of riding. That’s half priced. Even better is that Mt. Bachelor has pledged $50,000 this year to local causes. Can you guess where I will be the next couple Sundays?

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is on a Monday when the lifts typically don’t open at night, Mt. Hood Meadows keeps their lifts spinning for the Hood River Rotary Club’s Annual Fundraiser. It’s only $15 and you can ride from 2-9pm.

Ask for a discount

Are you a full time student? Military member or veteran? Many resorts offer a price break. While there may not be a truck driver discount (I was actually asked that once), it cannot hurt to ask.

Get a Job

Do you have extra time in your schedule? Working at resorts is a fun way to connect with the mountain. Don’t rely on the paycheck – it might only cover your gas. But the discounted (and usually free) lift access makes it worth it.

Go with a group

Rates at Timberline drop from $64 to $46 if you are in a group of 12 or more at Timberline. Heck go with 10 or 11 people and just split the cost of the unused tickets and you’re all still saving money (even more if you carpool). Post something on Facebook or ask around your office. I think you’ll find it easy to rally that many folks for a day of fun.

Jesse is an East Portland resident, political junkie, snowboard fanatic, and former pub owner.


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Photo Courtesy of Deschutes Brewery

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ABV: 7.3%

Photo Courtesty of Hopworks

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Widmer Brrr

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Photo Couresty of Widmer Brewery 


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