Skiing and snowboarding are far from accessible for everyone. Winter sports require expensive gear, day or season passes that cost a fortune, have absurdly priced food, and are far drives that cost you gas or a place to stay overnight.

I had always wanted to ski growing up but my family could not justify the cost. Unless you have a disposable income, skiing for a season is often far out of reach.

All of our situations vary, of course, and everyone’s budgets are vastly different. This is just my personal experience of how I started skiing in the cheapest way possible.

Learning How to Ski in Maine

For starters, you don’t want to just jump on the mountain unprepared without knowing how. I took lessons at Sunday River which are reasonably priced given what it costs elsewhere. You can get a full-day chairlift pass, full rental gear, and 2 hours of lessons for $90. The groups are small and personalized and you will be capable and confident in good hands.

Should You Rent or Buy Gear?

If you just want to ski a couple of times, then you probably don’t need to buy gear. Renting gear is expensive and stacking that on top of the price of a day pass adds up quickly. After immediately falling in love with the sport after my lesson, I knew it would be the more financially smart decision to get my own gear.

Buying Inexpensive Ski Gear in Maine

There’s no way in hell I was even considering buying new ski gear because that’s not even close to being within my budget. I started skiing last year and knew I wouldn’t make it to the mountains a lot, so I rented the gear each visit. This year, I was knowledgeable of and prepared for ski sale swaps.

Henry Perks via Unsplash

Your best bet for the cheapest gear in good condition is at a ski swap & sale. These often happen in November in different parts of the state at public schools or community buildings on the weekend.

Since it’s typically gear from people who are avid about the sport, they give away things in great condition and for fair prices, especially since the sale is only one day so they want to get rid of them. I got a 2-year-old pair of beginner skis at the Yarmouth ski sale for $30 and a pair of poles, snow pants, and goggles at the Portland one.

If you miss out on one of the early-season sales, you can check out second-hand stores like Play it Again Sports in Portland or hit up ski shops near the mountains for their end-of-season sales. Throughout the year and season, you should also keep your eye out on Facebook Marketplace for locals selling their gear for very inexpensive.

Buying Inexpensive Ski Passes in Maine

If you can get a good deal on gear then you’re in a good place but where it starts to get expensive is when it’s time to pay for a chairlift pass.

The cheapest possible way you could do it is to have a friend with a season pass who gets deals on guest passes but that’s obviously a very specific case. My suggestion is to check out coupon websites like Seize the Deal where you can sometimes find BOGO ticket deals. From that website, I got two full-day chairlift passes to Mt. Abram for the price of one.

Delphine Ducaruge via Unsplash

First off, always check the ticket prices on the calendars on the mountains’ websites because they vary by day. A day pass for one day could be $45 and during a busy time, they could be $100+. That is not budget-friendly.

Most mountains offer discount nights throughout the season, which will be your best bet for finding affordable times to ski. L.L. Bean sponsors discounted nights, like $20 tickets at Lost Valley on Tuesdays and $35 on the weekends at Mt. Abram throughout the season.

Eating on a Budget at the Ski Mountain

Another way skiing can get pricey is by eating on the mountain. I worked on an island once and our prices were ludicrous but that was because of the cost of shipping food to the island and also the fact that we knew guests couldn't get food anywhere else, so we could price it how we wanted. Kind of fair, kind of not.

Anyway, I always make sure to pack my own food and put snacks in my jacket pocket. You never know when you want to munch on the chairlift and packing your own lunch saves you from buying a $30 cheeseburger. Plus, it’s so cold out, you can just leave your bag outside and your food will be fine.

Skiing on a Budget

No matter what, skiing is going to cost you money. It’s not an affordable sport and those of us who are able to experience it are absolutely fortunate. But, that doesn’t mean you need to break the bank to make it happen and it can be more financially reasonable than you think. You just need to be smart about your money moves.

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