Given that she and her family of three ski at least 20 times a year, C.J. Willingham is always looking for lift ticket deals.
"We like to ski all over the place and it does get a little pricey," said the New Hampton, N.H., skiing mom. "I don't blame the ski areas, because of the price of gas and operating costs, but that has had an impact on everything."
Don't worry. There are deals for those who read newspapers, scan the Internet, and don't mind skiing midweek or at night. Ski areas have frequent skier cards, e-coupons, two-for-one days, and special events that bring the cost down significantly.
Like free. Through Dec. 21, Mount Sunapee and Okemo will have complimentary group learn-to-ski and snowboard sessions, including rental gear and a lower mountain lift ticket. Western Maine's Shawnee Peak is offering learn-to-ski-free sessions Dec. 22 and 23. Preregistration is required at shawneepeak.com.
If you're a winter baby, head to Wildcat on your birthday and ski free. The Learning Center Quad lift at Bretton Woods is free.
Not quite free, Waterville Valley's April Fool's Dollar Day is no joke. Can't wait that long? Cranmore is celebrating its platinum anniversary with a 1930 priced ticket: $3.30 on Dec. 21.
Mad River Glen's got some cheapies: Roll Back the Clock Day Jan. 29, to the 1948 rate of $3.50; a $14 St. Valentine's Day Kissing special Feb. 14 where kissing is mandatory; and a wear green and ski for $17 on St. Patrick's Day March 17.
Mad River marketing man Eric Friedman said the specials are traditional offerings.
"Those are the best word-of-mouth things we can do. Skiers are blown away by the experiences and come back."
At Sugarloaf, Dec. 17 is Youth Pay Their Age Day. Moms who show a picture of their kids Feb. 8 at Bromley's Mom's Day Off ski for $15.
Night skiing and riding is a way to save cash. Shawnee Peak has a $12 non-holiday Monday Night Madness special, plus a $12 non-holiday three-hour Saturday Night Fever deal. Shawnee has a flurry of specials as does King Pine in East Madison, N.H., which invites a family of four to ski Saturday nights (or any holiday night) for $42. At Nashoba Valley, night skiing is $27.
"People schedule themselves around the deals that work for them," said Shawnee Peak marketing director Melissa Rock. "People depend on them."
Food drives cut costs and help local food pantries. Bring three cans of food to Attitash Dec. 16 and net a $35 ticket. Five cans of food yield a $25 ticket at Sunapee Dec. 9.
Hancock's Jiminy Peak has select $21 days that are available with its e-coupon accessed from jiminypeak.com.
Two-for-one deals drop the price midweek, non-holiday. At Cannon, they are Tuesday and Thursday. Wildcat, Bretton Woods, and Sunapee do it on Wednesday. King Pine has them Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Shawnee Peak, Crotched, Ascutney, and Suicide Six have designated Tuesdays. During Southern Vermont's Magic Mountain Car Pool Days, load up the gas guzzler and hit the slopes for $75 non-holiday Wednesdays.
Sunday afternoon rates are $20 at Wildcat and $30 for New Hampshire residents at Sunapee. Ascutney has Sunday and Friday afternoon tickets for Vermonters and Granite Staters at $27.
"Any midweek business is good business," said Ascutney's director of marketing, Bill Henne. "There aren't as many ski bums midweek as there used to be. We need to entice them."
Some areas just have inexpensive non-holiday midweek skiing. At Vermont's Bromley, it's $25; at Black Mountain in Jackson, N.H., it's $29. Maine's Saddleback has $25 tickets for women on Monday, men on Wednesday, and seniors 60-69 on Thursday. Haverhill's Ski Bradford charges $18 for a 3-7 p.m. midweek ticket. In the Berkshires, Great Barrington's Ski Butternut charges $20 Monday through Thursday. Bousquet in Pittsfield also has $20 Monday to Thursday rates with a $10 Thursday night owl ticket.
So use those vacation days and hit the slopes.