Snow fun on a budget

"Do you ski?" "Do you snow board?" If you live in Colorado, people assume the answer to these questions is a resounding, "Yes!" Not everyone who lives here has glided down snowy slopes with either one or two waxed boards attached to her feet, however. If you're one of the holdouts, perhaps this is the season to give it a go.

Show me the money

A lot of people don't ski or board because it can be expensive. Paul Karlsson, a high school teacher on a budget and father of two, says, "If you work at it, skiing can be affordable."

Tips for skiing on the cheap include:

  • Buy an annual ski pass, 4-PAK ticket packages or special packages for kids that include equipment and lunch (check ski area websites for deals)
  • If your child is in 5th or 6th grade, take advantage of the Colorado Ski Country USA Passport Program, which allows them to ski or board free or at a very reduced cost (http://coloradoski.com/passport)
  • Buy used equipment from places like the Gearage, Play It Again Sports, on Craigslist or at a gear swap events
  • Pack your own food and drinks.
  • Randy Morgan, owner Outpost Sunsport, dad and avid skier, adds that rather than investing in a lot of gear you may not use often, you can save money by renting equipment either by the day or the season for both adults and children.

Dress for success

Beyond skis, boards and boots, an enjoyable outing requires appropriate clothing. Karlsson says that keeping kids warm is really important to having fun. Morgan suggests wearing warm snow pants and a jacket, good base layers, and a helmet, goggles and gloves. Remember that cotton isn’t recommended for warmth, so make sure your clothing options include layers of moisture-wicking polypropylene, fleece and merino wool.

Show and tell

One of the best ways to learn how to ski and/or snow board is to take a lesson or two from a certified instructor who can show you proper techniques. You can do that at any of Colorado's ski areas, but smaller ones, like Eldora, just outside Boulder, or Snowy Range, west of Laramie, Wyoming, are perfect for beginners.

However, Karlsson, who was a ski instructor for 15 years, says his son learned basic skiing techniques from playing We Ski, a Nintendo Wii video game, "which was just crazy!"

Fun for all

As soon as children are steady walkers and potty trained, so by about the age of 3, most ski areas will allow them to enroll in lessons.

Karlsson and his wife help keep skiing fun by making it about the kids. “We let them have ownership of where they ski on the mountain. We take them out when it's not really cold. We let them choose what they pack to eat."

"Sometimes when kids are small, it may be better to just go to a park with a small hill and let the parent be the lift," adds Morgan. "That way when the child gets tired, it is easy to head in and not have driven to an area."

Remember, the goal should be to have fun!