Saving money on daily lift tickets in the Twin Cities

A season pass is the cheapest way to get a lift ticket, but what if you want to go snowboarding and don’t want to buy a pass? Take a look at the pricing policies of several ski areas, and take advantage of the one that makes the most sense for you. The ski areas in the Twin Cities of Minnesota price their tickets in a number of ways. Here are some guidelines, based on prices for a single adult ticket.

You can save by buying later in the day, though sometimes the difference is so little that it may not be worth the bother to wait. Afton Alps drops the price of a weekday ticket from $33 to $30, but only after 4:30 p.m.Hyland Hills gives a $2 discount if you start your weekday playtime at 3:00 p.m., rather than noon. (The prices drops from $31 to $29).

On the other hand, Wild Mountain offers a more substantial discount. The price goes from $43 to $31 when nighttime hours kick in at 3:00 p.m. on Sundays through Thursdays, and at 4:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Welch Village offers a similar price cut (from $49 to $37) at 4:00 p.m. Curiously, Buck Hill also has a discount that kicks in at 4:00 p.m., but only on weekends.

You won’t always pay more for buying a ticket on the weekends. Afton Alps and Buck Hill charge more for Saturday and Sunday tickets, but Hyland Hills, Welch Village, and Wild Mountain do not.

If you want to get out for just a few hours, consider a time-limited ticket. Buck Hill may offer the best deal. Its 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. ticket lets you ride for four hours on a weekday for $13, less than half the all-day price of $27. It has early-bird pricing on weekends, too. At Hyland Hills, $15 will buy you a ticket that’s good for riding from 9:30 a.m. until noon, though only on Tuesdays or Thursdays.

At Buck Hill or at Hyland Hills, you can also save by getting a late-night ticket that starts at 7:00 p.m., 7:30 p.m., or 8:00 p.m., depending on the day. You won’t get in much snowboarding time, but then again, you don’t need a lot of time to cover most of the ground at either area.

No matter where you go, however, expect to pay more on holidays.

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Working at a ski area: Earn money, get a season pass

Ski areas in the Twin Cities will soon be hiring for the upcoming season. The pay isn’t great, as many of the jobs are at or slightly above minimum wage. But you may get a lift ticket free of charge, or nearly so, and a chance to look at winter in a whole new way.

Some of the jobs are behind the scenes, while others require intense contact with the public. Some keep you inside during your shift, while others allow or require you to be outdoors.

The outside jobs include lift operators, instructors, patrollers, and ambassadors. Other jobs involve making and grooming snow, though these are relatively few.

Jobs that keep you inside include bartenders and food service workers, ticket agents, retail shop clerks, custodians, and repair shop technicians. Of course, you could always ride before or after your shift.

Buck Hill has yet to announce its plans for the season, but other resorts have already signaled their intentions.

Wild Mountain will be having informational sessions, Friday, October 5 through Sunday, October 7. The hours will be 11 a.m. through 4 p.m.

Afton Alps has announced a jobs fair for Monday, October 22 and Tuesday, October 23, with hours to be determined.

Welch Village will have a job fair on Wednesday, October 24, and Thursday, October 25, running from 4 p.m through 7 p.m. each day.

Since Hyland Hills is run by a government agency, its hiring process is a bit more formal. Check out their website for more.

More ski and snowboard swaps on the way in the Twin Cities

Twin Cities snowboarders have already had the chance to shop at some ski/snowboard swaps, but if you’ve missed them, don’t worry. There’s still time to visit a few more.

Afton Alps will have a swap that runs from Friday, October 5 through Sunday, October 7, and then again from Friday, October 12 through Sunday, October 14. It will have free hayrides, and if you want to see one of the hills from a different vantage point, take a free ride on a chair lift and scout out the variations in the terrain.

Wild Mountain will have its 38th annual equipment swap on Friday, October 5, and Saturday, October 6. The weekend will also feature a “log jam” if you’d like to warm up your freestyle skills. You can also drop onto an air bag similar to the ones that top competitors use for their training.

Trollhaugen, a few miles away from Wild Mountain, in Wisconsin, will have its swap Saturday, October 6, and Sunday, October 7. Troll’s layout is a bit different from that of the other ski areas near the Twin Cities, so if you haven’t been there, it may be worth making a trip there just to check it out.

There will be swap at Hyland Hills on the weekend of Friday, October 12 through Sunday, October 14. As is the case with many swaps, this one will benefit a youth league.

Welch Village will have a swap on Friday, October 26, and Saturday, October 27.

Being at a swap is no substitute for securing your bindings and pointing your snowboard down the hill. Even so, milling around equipment along with people who share an interest in the sport is a good way to start the coming season.

Buck Hill hosts ski/snowboard swap this weekend

Are you in the Twin Cities and looking for some new snowboarding gear? Head to Buck Hill this weekend for the ski area’s 34th annual ski and snowboard swap. You’ll find a lot of used gear, as well as some new stuff.

Buying used can be a good way to save money, though sometimes you get what you pay for. Before buying a used board, look for gouges on the base (underside), rips in the topsheet (plastic on top of the board), and chipped metal edges. Some damage can be repaired by a good repair shop, but there’s no fixing a board that has been ridden so hard and for so long that it is limp. So the watchword is, “buyer beware.” If you’re not too knowledgeable about what makes for a good snowboard, it might be worth the trouble to take a friend who is. In short, a swap may be a good place to pick up a spare board, but it’s not necessarily a good place for the person who doesn’t know much about boards.

Location: Buck Hill

44.72306060791 ; -93.28694152832

Even if you are not in the market for a new snowboard, going to a swap can still be worthwhile. Walking through the boards, boots, bindings, and related gear that is for sale may put you in the mood for a snow dance.

Sales hours are Friday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. If you have used gear to sell, you can bring it in on Friday morning, 8 a.m. to noon. You’ll have to pay a flat fee of $3 for each item, plus give up a commission of 20 percent, but at least you’ll get that unused board out of your garage or basement.

Save money on snowboarding by buying a season pass

No doubt about it, snowboarding can be expensive. You will need to buy (or rent) snowboards, bindings, and boots, not to mention weather-appropriate clothing and lift tickets. But there’s one sure way you can save money on lift tickets: Buy a season pass. While you may some initial sticker shock, you’ll find that the savings do kick in.

Here are some prices for ski areas within easy driving distance of the Twin Cities. Prices are for adults. Children and seniors may obtain discounts.

These numbers represent the highest rates that each area charges for a season pass. All offer discounts for buying early. Some offer family discounts, discounts for unrelated people who come together to buy several passes at one time, for college students, or passes that are good for only certain days of the week or times of day.

Whether a pass works out for you depends on how many times you visit the ski area, and when you go. If you plan to go only a few days during the season, during the week, a pass may not be for you. If you’d like to go every weekend, then a pass is probably your best bet.

For example, an all-day adult ticket at Wild Mountain costs $43. At that rate, you can “ride for free” after your ninth visit. On the other hand, the situation is a bit more complicated at Afton Alps, which has different rates for weekends ($43) and week days ($33), meaning that ride free after either 11 weekend days or 14 week days. Again, doing the math is a good idea.

The downside of a season pass, of course, is that you are locked into one area. If you have a pass at Wild Mountain but you would like to join up with some friends for an afternoon at Hyland Hills, you’ll have to buy a day pass at Hyland. But in exchange for that concession, you can spend just a few hours at your chosen resort, and not feel as if you’ve wasted your money. Sometimes, all you need is a few hours on the snow, making the $50 lift ticket that much more expensive.