Be honest. The first time you saw the above photo of the vandalized Epic Pass billboard in Park City, UT, at least some small part of you identified with the vandal’s pain. Whether that was because of the cringe-worthy graffitied typo, or because you, too, had felt the frustration stemming from rising resort costs is for you alone to know. But one thing is certain: as lift ticket and season pass prices continue to rise, finding ways to finagle a better deal for the days you plan to spend on the slopes each season becomes more and more a requisite skill. Still, there are deals out there to be found. And whether you are the type of rider who goes all in each year on a full season pass, or are just in the market for a day pass to a particular resort here and there, a little digging around for the deal that’s right for you can really pay off.
If you’ve taken the time to read this far, chances are, you’re not the type of rider buying day passes here and there. You’re on a mission. You saw the title of this article, and you’ve politely put up with the small talk thus far strictly to ensure that no details were missed on your way to the freaking point. And I’m getting there. You’ve most likely become accustomed to plunking down a considerable amount of your hard-earned money each year for your season pass but remain forever on the lookout for the holy grail of our beloved pastime – free access to unlimited stoke. So while I hate to dump on anyone’s parade, I must give the disclaimer right now that perhaps the majority of these methods are not going to be an option for most. Still, the fact remains that for some, they absolutely will be.
And so for that reason…without further ado – here are SIX ways to snag a FREE SEASON PASS:
Volunteer as a Bootpacker
For those fortunate enough to live in relatively close proximity to the Colorado Rockies, volunteering as a bootpacker may be the answer to your dreams. Bootpackers play an essential role in the management of early season snow in preparation for opening day, and there are actually a handful of resorts in Colorado that offer this type of volunteer opportunity. According to the Copper Mountain website:
“As a bootpacker, you will be volunteers in Copper Mountain’s closed terrain during the early season. You will be expected to put in (seven) 8 hour days volunteering at 9,000-12,000 feet hiking up and downhill. You need to have enough food and water for a full day and will have a 1-hour lunch break on the mountain. You need to have your own skis with releasable bindings, boots, poles, and backpack. Avalanche beacons, shovels and probes are required.”
Once you’ve completed seven days volunteering in this capacity, that season pass is yours!
Volunteer as an Adaptive Ski/Snowboard Instructor
Adaptive sports programs exist nationwide to serve individuals with physical and developmental disabilities. These organizations depend on caring, trustworthy volunteers who are willing to donate their time to provide instruction and support to individuals who might otherwise not be able to experience the thrill of mountain sports. Though commitments vary from program to program, most are able to offer free season passes to individuals willing to commit a relatively small amount of their time each month to serve as volunteers. For a thorough listing of adaptive sports programs across the country, and for more information on what volunteering in this capacity can be like, be sure to check out this article: Adaptive Skiing: 5 Things You May Not Know & How You Can Get Involved
Volunteer with Ski Patrol
For those willing to pursue the additional coursework and training required to serve as a member of ski patrol, a volunteer position offers a path to a free season pass. At a minimum, you can expect to be required to be CPR certified, complete an Outdoor Emergency Care course, and register to become a member with the National Ski Patrol (NPS). For a more detailed idea of what may be required, check out this summary of candidate training requirements from the Squaw Ski Patrol site. Those interested in pursuing this option further can start by contacting your local patrol through the NSP website.
Work for a Resort
Of course, this one’s a no-brainer. And, much like joining ski patrol, it’s probably not an option for most. But for anyone without a good reason not to, there are much worse ways to spend a winter. To get an idea of what it’s like to work a full season on the hill, take a look at what snowseasoncentral.com has to say about it. If interested, you can browse opportunities at 100’s of resorts at coolworks.com to get an idea of what positions are out there.
“First Timer” Packages
So it may seem a bit of a stretch to call these passes “free” when you’ve got to pay for lessons in order to obtain them, but hear me out. Many resorts across the country are offering what amount to “first-timer” packages. Typically, they involve the purchase and completion of 3 skiing or snowboarding lessons for those new to snowsports. Upon completion of all 3 lessons, the rider will then receive a free season pass for the remainder of the season. For an idea of what these look like, check out SnowBrains’ coverage of Grand Targhee’s program last year, or Boreal’s program. So while there is an initial investment in the lessons to (hopefully!) get you into game shape for the season, the pass itself is free. All in all a nice way to support the progression of those new to the sport. If that’s you…what are you waiting for?
Buy a New Car
Okay, I know. The whole point of this list is to help identify ways to save money by not paying for a season pass. And I suppose I would have to agree that in the strictest sense of adherence to that spirit, I am failing miserably right about now. But no doubt someone out there reading this article at this very moment is trying to decide which they’re going to have to do without this year – their season pass or that new car. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t point out that they may in fact NOT have to choose! Subaru dealerships across Northern California are offering not one, but TWO free season passes to Sierra-At-Tahoe with the purchase or lease of a new Subaru between October 22, 2019, and January 2, 2020. A quick internet search will confirm that there are other dealerships across the country offering similar sales incentives.
I mean, if you’re already in the market for a new ride, why not make it count?
Got anything to add to this list? Feel free to comment!