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Is Snowboarding An Expensive Sport? How To Board On A Budget

Is Snowboarding An Expensive Sport? How To Board On A Budget

Winter sports are traditionally known for being expensive and even elitist activities. While the high price of snowboarding can’t be denied, it is possible to enjoy snowboarding for less than expected.

The price of snowboarding depends on a bunch of variables, so before you purchase that $1000 season pass, you might be interested in the additional costs you could spend on a basic snowboarding trip.

Depending on whether you own or rent your gear, where and how often you snowboard, a long weekend in the mountains could cost you between $600 and $2000 including gear, lift passes, accommodation, transport and food. If you are looking to purchase your own equipment, you’re looking at spending about $1000 if you leverage past-season sales. 

People often forget to factor in all the costs of equipment, lift tickets, transport, accommodation etc before going ‘full send’ into a snowboarding trip. Read on for a breakdown of the costs of a snowboarding trip, and some simple ways to reduce these expenses.

Here’s a quick breakdown of your major expenses for a snowboarding trip:

  • A daily lift ticket may cost you between $60 and $200 depending on the resort and time of year.
  • Renting gear may set you back about $50 per day.
  • Add in lodging, food and travel of at the very least $150 per day.
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Cost of lift tickets

Snowboarding lift tickets are expensive
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Lift tickets are one of the most necessary yet expensive costs of snowboarding. Unless you are prepared to hike five hours for a single backcountry run, you will need to purchase either a daily lift ticket or a season ski pass to make use of any resorts ski lifts, gondolas, cable cars and groomed runs.

A day pass would cost you $76 at Wolf Creek and $209 at Vail in Colorado. Depending on where you live, the most expensive resorts are usually located in California and Colorado. You can find cheaper rates in Utah, Montana, Idaho and New Mexico.

An avid boarder who expects to ride more than 10 days in a season might benefit from purchasing a season pass. While season passes are a costly up-front purchase, they should be seen as an investment if you plan to ride enough days throughout the season. 

Seasonal passes offer additional convenience, allowing you to avoid standing in daily lift ticket lines and benefit from discounted deals at resort owned shops and restaurants.

An Epic Pass or an Ikon Pass will cost you about $1000 and give you season-long access to resorts across the Rocky Mountains in the US and Canada as well as to select resorts in Europe, Australia and Japan. Being a local will benefit you greatly as you can buy an Epic Local Pass for $750. 

If you plan on riding at one mountain more than once, you could invest in a season pass for that specific resort. A season pass at Squaw Valley in Lake Tahoe would set you back $1300, while $400 will get you up Copper Mountain in Colorado.

Some resorts in West Virginia offer passes for as low as $250 if you are willing to buy a year ahead of the season.

It’s not difficult to get these season passes on discount if you keep an eye on resort webpages and newsletters. If possible, purchase your season pass as early as possible as they usually increase in price as the winter season nears closer. 

Alternatively, those who work from home could skip out on the weekend crowds and purchase reduced price midweek only season passes.

Even better, if you have a friend who is employed by a resort that offers friend and family vouchers, you could score half-price or even a complimentary full-day ticket.

Depending on where you are based and how far you are willing to travel, there are endless deals to be found and mountains to be ridden.

Cost of snowboarding lessons

Snowboarding lessons
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A beginner snowboarder would need between 5 and 10 days of lessons to learn how to handle themselves and their equipment safely. 

A day in a group snowboarding lesson can cost you upwards of $100. A private lesson is radically more expensive and can reach over $500 per day.

If you are looking to touch up on your skills, a private hour session would average $70. On top of these steep prices, instructors often expect a healthy tip if you have been riding with them for a few days!

Cost of snowboard gear

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If you’re new to the sport and don’t intend on riding more than a couple of weekends a year, borrowing or renting gear would be your best option.

Depending on the resort and quality of the equipment, it could cost you between $40 and $70 per day for a rental package including snowboard, boots, bindings and a helmet.

The great thing about rentals is that you won’t have to travel with hoards of baggage and you will often be able to rent brand new equipment.

Obviously, if you’re looking to pursue the sport in the future, investing in your own gear will eventually pay itself off over what you would have otherwise spent on daily rentals.

If you’re on a tight budget, buying your gear on off-season sales or from thrift stores is a good idea. Snowboard shops often have special package deals if purchasing a board, boots and bindings together. 

An initial second-hand setup could cost as little as $300 for a board, boots and bindings. On the other hand, you could easily hit $1000 on a quality off-the-rack board setup.

Snowboard boots

When buying boots, you should generally try to purchase them new and try them on in person as they should fit you perfectly. If you are able to splash out on anything, comfortable boots should be your priority.

A good pair of boots will cost you between $350 and $400 – you generally shouldn’t pay more than $400 or less than $250.

Snowboard

Past-season boards from major manufacturers like Rome, Capita and Burton can be purchased new for under $200.

A newly released all mountain board averages around $500 while top of the range snowboards can reach between $700 and $1500.

Bindings

$150 could get you a basic pair of new bindings. If you are looking for the top of the range, you can expect to drop $500.

Helmet and protections

You should always buy a brand new helmet which has never been worn. This could cost you between $50 and $100. Crash pads and wrist guards could cost you an additional $150.

Outerwear

Many people forget about the cost of a jacket and pants. Buying these in advance on past-season online sales is certainly smarter than getting them from marked-up shops in ski resorts.

A cheap jacket and pants could cost as little as $100 each while Gore-Tex outerwear will be at least $250 per item. Add between $40 and $50 for a pair of basic gloves or mittens.

Snow goggles

Basic goggles can be sourced for as low as $40. A quality pair of Oakley anti-fog goggles with interchangeable lenses will set you back $200.

Off-season / second hand snowboard gear

As mentioned, a good way to save cash is to shop at discounted stores which stock past-season equipment and gear. Second hand outerwear is easy to find online or in thrift stores year round.

As long as it’s not delaminated, a second hand snowboard can be of good quality and save you a lot of money.

As for boots, if you’re lucky to find a perfect fit in the limited selections, you could potentially strike a good pair of new boots with retail price of $300 for as low as $80 to $150. 

By searching through deals on Craigslist, you might even find a second hand board, boots and bindings package for under $200 – though again, buying boots without trying them on is risky.

Consider visiting shops like Marshalls and T.J. Maxx for cheap $20 goggles and gloves.

Transport, lodging and food costs

cost of transport, lodging and food for snowboarding
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Accommodation at ski resorts can be pricey depending on the resort you choose and whether you stay in a hotel, hostel or self-catering lodge. Resorts often offer special discounts for mid-week and long term stays.

A cheap hostel could cost you $50 a night while a decent hotel could set you back between $120 and $250. Most hotel rates include a room for two people, so sharing could halve the cost.

Hidden costs often present themselves in the form of food and beverage and transportation. On a budget, you should keep aside at least $100 per day for food and accommodation.

It is possible to find cheap accommodation and save on food and transport costs by bringing your own food and carpooling from the city. 

A round trip bus journey from large cities such as Los Angeles, Sacramento and The Bay Area to the mountains can cost you between $50 and $70 depending on the time of year you travel.

Those who live further away and need to fly to the mountains must factor in the price of flights and may need to pay additional baggage costs if they are traveling with board bags. 

The cost of a snowboarding trip depends entirely on where you choose to go. For example, while Aspen is known for its extremely expensive accommodation and food, you could drive an hour out of town and pay $50 for a ski pass and $120 for a hotel room.

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Photo credits:
(1) Featured image: “Courmayeur – Mont Blanc” (CC BY 2.0) by *rboed*
(2) “Shymbulak Ski Resort” (CC BY 2.0) by torekhan
(3) “Arizona Snowbowl Grand Canyon Express Sk” (Public Domain) by Coconino NF Photography
(4) “New Snowboard Gear Thanks to Groupon” (CC BY 2.0) by Groupon
(5) “Lunchtime on Blackcomb Mountain” (CC BY 2.0) by Ruth and Dave