Thursday, June 16, 2011

Season pass math

It may seem like ski season is a long way off, but early purchase discount deadlines are approaching and it’s time to do the math. For many, buying a season’s pass is a no-brainer, but for others the calculation may be a bit more involved. For our family, the decision is driven by 3 factors:

Number of ski days – Obviously this is the factor that drives most season pass decisions. Our family will likely ski 20 +/- days at Gore next winter, well above the break-even point of 10-12 days.

Flexibility - We will ski just about every weekend the mountain's open, and also want the availability of skiing during the school vacation weeks, so a non-holiday pass is out. Similarly, the Price Chopper coupons are not a viable option for us because they can only be used Sunday through Friday.

Childcare / Kids’ Programs – The majority of our ski days are family days, which means Beth, Daniel and I are all skiing. Sylvie, 3 years old, needs daycare and a season pass to Gore’s excellent Bear Cub Den provides the solution we need. This factor alone is the primary determinant of where we ski: daycare either isn’t available at other ski areas, or if it is available it is prohibitively costly on a per-day basis.

For most families, including ours, ski passes for the whole family is a big financial and time committment, and before you plunk your money down you might want to consider this. But for our family, season passes work out be a great value, and we will take advantage of Gore's early purchase discounts. Hats off to ski areas like Willard, Hickory and West Mountain that offer affordable, local options for families that don't want or don't need a big mountain. Willard's family pass for 3 is less than a pass for one adult at Gore, and I can personally vouch for their learning programs: Daniel learned to ski in a program there the winter of 08-09, when he was 4.

One more option may warrant consideration for some skiers: the Ski Areas of New York Gold Pass. The pass has no blackout dates and can be redeemed at the ticket window for one lift ticket per day at any SANY ski area (virtually all ski areas in New York belong, including Gore, WF, Hickory, West and Willard). For our family, the extra cost isn't worth it because (a) there isn't a child's version of the pass and (b) daycare options restrict our visits to other ski areas, but at $879.50 this could be an excellent choice for skiers who want to ski at multiple areas.

Ski season is now less than six months away!


  1. The SANY Pass is a great deal for someone with the flexibility to make the most of it. A friend of mine is getting one next year. He's single die-hard skier, lives in Brooklyn and he loves to ski New York. In many cases it's his best option for the weekend, or a day trip to the Catskills.

  2. Since the SANY Gold Pass is just a little more money than a full Gore / WF pass, it could make sense for a passholder who also skis a few times at other mountains. I view it as a Gore / West combo pass (where I do most of my skiing), with Hickory, Whiteface, Willard and all of the Catskills thrown in as a bonus.