When I first started snowboarding, I would sink two cans of discounted energy drink, cram as many people into my shitty Subaru wagon to split fuel costs and hit the road from the city in the early hours of a Saturday morning. On the way, I’d buy twenty $1 cheeseburgers from Cooma Maccers that I’d then dish out at a friends’ share house in exchange for enough floor space to fit a blow-up single mattress, often under the table close to a bin. After a day’s riding, I would alternate between $3.25 homebrand Hawaiian frozen pizza and a can of Stag Chilli for dinner, drinking Fruity Lexia before smuggling a hip-flask of Jim Beam into the Banjo.
I’d save money wherever possible, but there was no way around it, snowboarding was, and still is, an expensive pastime – and it feels like it has only been becoming more and more costly in the last decade.
Even if you consumed homebrand frozen pizza and cask wine exclusively – the humble snowboard trip is seemingly becoming more and more out of reach for the average rider. Exorbitant lift ticket prices, mind blowingly over-priced accommodation, $17 beers and near record-level costs for a tank of fuel – let alone grown-up stuff like inflation, interest rate rises and the cost of living crisis – it becomes overwhelming, and the easy way out is to shelf the idea of going snowboarding and book a Jetstar flight to Bali instead.
So how do you navigate through the price hikes and $25 plates of nachos? Here are a few suggestions.
The Season Pass
Ikon, Epic or mountain specific – the season pass is one of the most passionately discussed topics in the comment sections of resort social media announcements, but in my opinion, regardless of the price hikes in recent years, the season pass still remains exceptional value on two conditions – that it’s purchased in advance, and that it’s used regularly.
Yep, living in the city I hear from a lot of people about how it’s so expensive to go riding, and I don’t disagree. If you choose to go snowboarding at a NSW resort for one long weekend after the best storm of the season, with day tickets, it will cost you a fuck-load no matter how you look at it. But even if you live in the city, as long as you commit to snowboarding as your main activity for the winter (and summer at some resorts), the season pass can pay itself off pretty quickly. If you’re a local, or you live within a few hours of the resorts, the cost becomes even easier to pay off.
The season pass, as expensive as it sounds upfront, can be your ticket to saving cash throughout the year and the more you use it, the cheaper it feels.
The Resorts that Everyone Forgets About
Do you really need to go to one of big four resorts? Depending on use case, resorts like Corrin Forest, Mt Baw Baw, Lake Mountain, Mt Selwyn or the club fields in New Zealand could be the answer to smaller crowds and lower prices. The smaller, forgotten about resorts are often gold mines if you’re looking to save some coin. Are you just teaching your kid to snowboard? Are you just starting out snowboarding, or just looking for a novelty down bar to session by yourself. Keep the resorts everyone forgets about in mind.
Earning your turns is becoming more and more popular as people ditch the lift lines and swap them for the skin trail, and some resorts will even offer a cheap one-way chair-lift bump/backcountry ticket to get you started.
A day of touring, particularly later in the season, is a great way to save some cash and still spend time in the mountains as you point at things with your poles. Yep, splitboard gear is expensive and the initial outlay of cash is pretty high – but if you buy the right stuff and look after it, a split-set up lasts a long time and can be a great long-term investment.
If you’re not down with the cost of a split, buy some snowshoes and ride your regular set up – but regardless of what you’re walking uphill on, anyone considering riding beyond the resort boundary in any country should invest in a backcountry kit (beacon, probe, shovel). Read splitboarding 101 for some tips, and don’t be an idiot out there, take an avi course and know how to use your stuff.
Scope Out the Deals
A lot of resorts will have deals going throughout the season, and sometimes they can be pretty good value. Bring-a-mate tickets at Perisher, Thredbo multi day deals or bring your 70 year old dad for $35, deals at Mt Buller and ticket deals in New Zealand. Most resorts will often incentivise visitation at off-peak times like mid-week, night time or late Spring where you can save a few bucks. Accommodation wise, it’s not rocket science that its cheaper to stay off the hill, and often the travel providers will have some decent packages on offer if that’s what you’re into. Everyone has a mate who loves a loophole and a bargain – put them to work and see what they can sniff out for you.
Gear – New or Used?
Invest in your gear. It might sound like a lecture from your parents, but if you buy the right stuff, it will save you money.
If you want to buy new stuff look for good quality gear and do your research on the warranty and repairs policy. Buy stuff that won’t go out of fashion for years (a timeless black shell or insulator comes to mind), look for lifetime warranties, good repair policies and hardgoods that are built well, not cheaply. A lot of stores in Australia and New Zealand have sales, pre and post season – or go and chat with the crew at your local store – a lot of them will offer some sort of locals or club discount, complementary waxes, gifts with purchase etc.
The other option? Buy used gear. In my opinion, Marketplace has become such a useful resource for the common tight-ass, and in our industry you can score some amazing gear at super reasonable prices. Join one of the many snowboard buy/swap/sell groups in your area and keep your eye out for a deal – but be warned, as soon as the algorithm sees you’ve searched ‘snowboard’ on marketplace you’re screwed for weeks.
The number of expensive camping rigs where I live is staggering, and despite many of them driving around the city with their recovery tracks mounted at all times as a flex – when they do decide to actually hit the mountains, a converted van or 4×4 can be a great accommodation option. Sleeping in your vehicle is a lot of fun if it’s legal (or if you can get away with it) just be mindful you can get stung if you get caught in the wrong spot. Hit one of the National Park campgrounds, check the local caravan parks, or ask a mate to crash in their driveway – sleeping in your vehicle is liberating, just don’t leave your fucking rubbish at your campsite!
The price of the shitty food on the mountain makes me ill. If you’re not down with $25 nachos or a soggy $19 hot dog, bring your own food to the hill. Hit the supermarket before a trip and stack your jacket pockets with something to get you through as the line at the bistro snakes it’s way out the door at lunchtime. Bring your own beers and cook your food at your accommodation – it will save you not getting into an overpriced restaurant in town – eat before you go to the pub, and make your own coffee! It sounds lame, but add up how much you spent on your last meal on the mountain and ask yourself what would that buy you at ALDI?
This is a bit of a minefield – but the biggest cost is actually getting overseas. If you’re organised, shop around and book early you can score some pretty reasonable flight + accommodation deals from most of the local snow travel providers for trips to Japan, North America or Europe. Google Flight Alerts are pretty handy and if you’re savvy, check Point Hacks and cash in some of those credit card points for a snowboard trip. Once you’re on the ground in your country of choice – follow some of those steps above! Buy your own rice triangles, check out the forgotten resorts, use the (way better than home) public transport systems, buy second hand gear, explore the backcountry or consider a campervan trip!
Got any more tips? Let us know in the comments.