Dashing into the White

This year, don’t let the economy stop you from heading up to the slopes this winter. Resorts are offering extraordinary deals to lure Bay Area families to Lake Tahoe, Yosemite and other ski areas.


Start by scouring local stores for coupons, signing up for resort Facebook and Twitter pages, and clicking on Internet specials. Shave off dollars by visiting snow discount Web sites, such as skicoupons.com or snowbomb.com, where you can purchase the Tahoe Card for $49.99 to receive two free lift tickets, two trail passes and other discounts that would save more than $300. At liftopia.com, you can purchase discount lift tickets and obtain ski deals in California and throughout the nation. And at discountlifttickets.com, you get an alphabetical listing of resorts and specific locations of where to purchase lift tickets on the cheap.


Another way to snag deals is to check out ski-and-stay packages offered by ski resorts and lodges that are wooing customers with online goodies, coupons and specials.  Here are some great bargains we have found to date. 


North Lake Tahoe


Alpine Meadows Ski Resort: With the Stay & Ski Package ($155 per adult, double occupancy), guests get breakfast, a lift ticket and shuttle service. Kids pay an extra fee per night and also get a lift ticket and breakfast. To reserve, visit skialpine.com/squawcreek and type in the promo code: ASPRSC. Blackout dates are noted.


Best Freebie: During weekends and holidays, the resort offers equipment check-in, so you can safely leave your gear overnight or for only an hour.


Boreal Mountain Resort: The hottest offer at this resort in Donner Summit is the iRide Card: Guests (ages 13 and older) who ski two full days get a third day free any time during the season with no blackout dates. You can purchase the iRide Card online at skiboreal.com or at the ticket window upon arrival.


Best Freebie: On the beginner slopes, “roaming” instructors give help upon request.  


Diamond Peak:  Billed as the best place to learn at Lake Tahoe, Diamond Peak is taking the sting out of high prices by offering a limited beginner’s season pass for $109. It is valid all season long and gives access to beginner lifts only. A $249 Holiday Pass is good for parents who can only ski when kids are out of school. This includes Dec. 19-Jan. 3, Jan.16-18, and Feb.13-21. Kids Holiday Passes are available for $196. See diamondpeak.com for more offers and details.


Best Freebie: Purchase three snowboard or ski lessons and get the fourth free.


Granlibakken Conference Center & Lodge: You can get away from the crowds at Granlibakken in Tahoe City and enjoy the ski and snowboard lift for only $21 for adults and $14 for kids. If you go Sunday through Thursday, a $109 ski package (per person, double occupancy) provides lodging, a hot breakfast and a midweek lift ticket good at resorts, such as nearby Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley. The weekend package is comparable but costs $132. See granlibakken.com.


Best Freebie: Free use of lift to anyone who wants to cross-country ski in Page Meadows, which is U.S. Forest Service land. 


Homewood Mountain Resort: This West Lake Tahoe resort boasts steep bargains that are easy to access. Go to skihomewood.com and pick up $39 lift tickets for select days, saving you 30 percent. And after Jan. 5, get your hands on a South Lake Tahoe newspaper and clip out the 2-for-1 coupon for Tuesdays, allowing two adults to ski for the price of one. Check out the Web site for its themed dress-up days when you can get $5 off your lift ticket if you arrive in costume.


Best Freebie: Starting Jan. 4, get a free lift ticket on your birthday when you show valid ID.


Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe: A family can enjoy a special discount any day of the week, but holiday blackout dates do apply. Go to skirose.com for details.


Best Freebie: Enjoy gorgeous views of the panoramic Washoe Valley at the new Slide Lodge, a modern 7,865-square-foot lodge.


Northstar-at-Tahoe: Little ones (ages 5-12) who purchase a regularly-priced lift ticket for $30 get an extra consecutive day of free skiing/boarding. Every Thursday night in December, the tradition known as Noel Night means music, sleigh rides and special pricing at gift shops. Guests who book a room by Dec. 15 can secure a getaway to Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort for $99.75 (per person, double occupancy) and receive two lift tickets per room, per night (excludes blackout dates). See northstarattahoe.com.


Best Freebie: Ice skate for free at the resort village. Bring your own skates or rent them for $5, and you can spend all day perfecting that triple axle. 


Squaw Valley: Squaw is rolling out deals to attract Bay Area parents. For instance, a $10 lift ticket for kids 12 and younger is available every day with no blackout dates. On Dec. 12 and 13, Squaw and other North Lake Tahoe resorts offer a $25 Learn to Ski & Ride beginner package all weekend, which includes lesson, skis and lift ticket. After that, on Sundays Jan. 10, Feb. 7 and March 7, Squaw will host similar Learn to Ski & Ride days for $35. See squaw.com for additional deals.


Best freebie: Families can meet and ski with Olympic gold medalist Jonny Moseley from Dec. 26 to Jan. 2 and on Jan. 8 they can tour the medalist’s favorite runs. Guests meet for the tour at 1 p.m.


Sugar Bowl Resort: The Donner Summit celebrates its 70th birthday by rolling back prices and offering $39 adult daily passes, good on Dec. 13, Jan. 29, Feb. 26, March 26 and April 9. For online-only specials, The Lodge offers midweek, non-holiday rates at 50 percent off standard room rates and $10 off lift tickets. You can get a room for $74.50 (per person, double occupancy). Kids 5 and younger cost an additional $20 per night; ages 6 to 12 cost $55. Check out sugarbowl.com for specials.


Best Freebie: Available Monday through Friday during non-holiday times, Sugar Bowl offers free basic rentals and two-hour group lessons for lift ticket holders (ages 13 to 69) under its “General Admission” program. Season pass holders can also take advantage of the rentals and lessons.


Tahoe Donner: These weekday specials are irresistible, but they come with holiday restrictions. Every Tuesday, any child age 12 and under paying the regular lift ticket rate gets a free lift ticket for one parent. On Wednesdays, guests can check the Web site skitahoedonner.com to see hot offers. And all students showing valid school ID can ski for a midweek discount of $11 from Tuesdays through Thursdays beginning in January. Accompanying adults pay the local rate of $20.


Best freebie: Kids 6 and younger ski free.


South Lake Tahoe


Heavenly Lake Tahoe: Get $15 off the regular lift ticket price by purchasing it at any SaveMart store. Ski to the slopes without waiting in a ticket line. Avid winter athletes may want to consider purchasing the $369 season snowboard/ski pass. And if you recommend a buddy to get a season pass, your friend pays $20 less and you get a $20 voucher for food on Heavenly’s mountain. Check out skiheavenly.com for this offer. Families can take advantage of a $9.95 value meal at any of the mountain eateries.


Best Freebie: On Thursdays, U.S. forest rangers take intermediate skiers and snowboarders on tours at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.


Sierra-at-Tahoe: The site has always billed itself as a family-friendly resort and now has the bargains to make it even friendlier. Go online to sierraattahoe.com and purchase a lift ticket and rental gear to instantly save $20. But the best deal here is the $35 Learn to Ski/Snowboard package for ages 13 and older. Available all season, the deal gives participants a limited access lift ticket, rental gear and a 2 ½ hour lesson. Valid Sunday through Friday and non-holiday periods, the package is only offered online.


Best Freebie: At the end of a long day, look for the attendants handing out free cookies and hot chocolate in the parking lot. 


Other Resorts


Mammoth Mountain Ski Area:  Tucked in Central California, the drive to Mammoth is at least five hours away by car. If you want to fly, Horizon Airlines is offering a new flight from San Jose to Mammoth for as low as $69 each way. 


Lodging specials abound throughout Mammoth. Snow Creek Resort touts a $119 per night for a one-bedroom lodge until Dec. 17. A mid-week deal running from Jan. 2-28 goes for $143 per night for a one-bedroom lodge and includes complimentary taxi service from the airport. snowcreekresort.com. See also mammothmountain.com.


Best Freebie: Come Dec. 4 for the town’s tree-lighting ceremony and enjoy the Mammoth village atmosphere filled with music and fireworks on Dec.18 and 19.


For a full calendar of events, see visit mammoth.com/calendar.


Sierra Summit: Located in Fresno, Sierra Summit is teaming up with hotel partners in Fresno and Clovis – the Radisson, Marriott, Springhill Suites and Hilton – to offer a bevy of ski-and-stay packages. Visit sierrasummit.com.


Best freebie: When you show valid ID, you ski free on your birthday.


Badger Pass: This favorite in Yosemite has downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, tubing, snowshoeing and more.  Purchase an adult or youth (ages 13 to17) season pass before Dec. 20 for $299, instead of $492 afterward. Passes for kids ages 7 to 12 cost $159 instead of $192. More good news: children younger than 7 get on lifts for free.


Best Freebie: National Park Service naturalists lead complimentary snowshoe walks daily from the Badger Pass ranger station. See yosemitepark.com/badgerpass.


Bear Valley: A popular resort for teaching people of all ages how to ski, Bear Valley is touting a $399 “Guarantee Learn to Ski” season pass. After three snowboard or ski lessons that include lift ticket and rental gear, an instructor approves your skill set and you receive a season pass.


Best Freebie: If you stay two nights at the Bear Valley Lodge, you get the third night free plus a lift ticket for two days of skiing. Rates start at $130 nightly (per person, double occupancy). See bearvalley.com for details. Restrictions on certain days do apply.


Dodge Ridge: This family-owned resort in Pinecrest distributes coupons at SaveMart and Lucky stores, so skiers can get a day pass for $49. First-time skiers and riders can get a season’s worth of lift passes, lessons and rentals for $219. See dodgeridge.com for details.


Best Freebie: Parking and cross-country trails around the property are complimentary.


Get ready for an extended season of that icy magic and take advantage of specials by planning in advance. Your kids and pocketbook will both thank you, and you may have enough leftover funds to take additional trips to the snow.


Kathy Chin Leong is a parent and editor of bayareafamilytravel.com, an online magazine for families who love adventure.

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