How to Plan a Canadian Ski Holiday on a Budget

Whether you are a seasoned pow chaser or beginner shredder, everyone knows Canadian snow is the absolute stuff of legend. For 5-6 months a year, soft, fluffy snow falls all across the province, and visitors from every corner of the globe flock for a piece of the action. 

For folks on the other side of the globe who start to add up the costs of flights/passes/accommodation, it can seem like a pipe dream to ever be able to afford a true Canadian ski holiday. However, with some planning and crafty tools to navigate the usual tourist money traps, there are tangible ways you can cut costs and save yourself hundreds, if not thousands, without compromising the fun of the holiday.

Take advantage of early-bird season passes.

If you are planning on a ski holiday of more than a week, it works out cheaper to buy a season pass rather than fork out $100+ for x7 day tickets. If you plan your ski holiday a year out, you can take advantage of the early bird pass specials advertised by every resort.

Resorts advertise early bird passes between April-June/July to October. Yes, this means you would have to buy in advance, however you can generally save $200-300 a pop off passes that would otherwise cost you over $1000.

Join the community Facebook groups and rent accommodation from the locals.

Holiday condos and apartments are by far the biggest expense when it comes to your on-mountain experience. Most holiday apartments are run by the resorts, and due to intense demand the price can become unmanageable, especially if you are booking last minute.

Get around this by joining community groups belonging to the ski resorts, who are primarily made up of the local year-round occupants and workers. 

Do this by searching through Facebook ´<insert resort> community page ́ and start trawling through the results. Post up what you are looking for, when and for how many people, and you might be surprised what you can get for a cheaper rate by going direct through the owners. If you have your own place, you can also propose a swap – your place for theirs, for the designated time period – its quite commonplace amongst locals looking for a summer vacation to trade. 

Or, plan a group vacation – the more people, the cheaper the price.

Ski vacations are best done in large, merry groups. Not only does this mean there’s always someone to ski with, but it brings the cost of accommodation right down. Renting an entire chalet divided by 7 or 8 people is often cheaper than a private studio, which can easily be 300+ per night for a basic room. 

Shop in the local town before you head to the resort.

Yes, going out for a warm and hearty pub meal after you peel off your frozen ski gear is one of the best feelings in the entire world for a snow lover. However, it is definitely wise to stock up on food in the city closest to the resort so you aren’t 100% reliant on mountain shops and restaurants. On-mountain pricing is notoriously high, especially for groceries, as there is usually only one shop to buy from where the prices are extremely inflated for basics.

If you are flying in to BC for your next ski holiday, you will most likely be landing in Vancouver and/or Kelowna. Both of these major cities have grocers like the Canadian Superstore that are far, far cheaper than any on-mountain convenience stores. Before you catch your shuttle or ride up to the resort, stock up on your groceries and liquor here. You will save hundreds of dollars, which gives you more wiggle room to afford that cheeky pub beer and meal every now and again. 

Visit these other fantastic ski resorts to avoid the tourists.

When most people think of Canadian ski resorts, Whistler is the one that springs to mind. It is certainly the most famous, and well deserved – the powder quality is incredible and the terrain is diverse and plentiful.

With the popularity, of course comes the price – an unlimited season pass to Whistler is $1200+. But the fantastic thing about BC is that it snows all over the province, so trying some smaller but equally fantastic resorts for your next trip can really cut your costs. Some great resorts to consider for your next trip are:

  • Red Mountain – A great resort with varied terrain, comprised of 3 peaks. Early-bird season passes are $889, cheaper for seniors/youth/juniors. Stay in the nearby town of Rossland for cheaper accommodation rates.
  • Apex Resort – Smaller resort with terrain suited to intermediate-advanced riders. Early bird season passes are $789, and also admits you two free day tickets into nearby resorts Mt Baldy, Mt Washington, Mt Seymour (Vancouver) and Manning Park. It is an absolute steal. Accomodation options are on-mountain or the city of Penticton which is a 40min drive.
  • Whitewater Ski Resort – A real hidden gem amongst the ski resorts. Whitewater has excellent and consistent snowfall and because of its location, isn’t overrun with tourists. It is worth it to drive a little further to experience this great resort just outside of the town of Nelson, which is a beautiful, cultural city nestled amongst mountains and lakes. Early bird passes are $850, accommodation options are on-mountain and in Nelson.

So gather your mates, keep an eye on the flight deals (they are rare, but can pop up if you are vigilant). With some planning and careful cost-cutting, you can afford to have a brilliant ski holiday that doesn’t cost the earth, and still enjoy the luxuries that make a snow holiday the best kind. 

Prices for passes are without GST and taxes. Most resorts run from the end of November-end of April, see individual resorts websites for more details.

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