Spring can offer ski travel bargains — if you avoid spring break

  • Spring can yield great deals for lift tickets, but watch out for spring break demand.
  • Avid skiers should assess snow conditions before booking.
Tetra Images/Noah Clayton | Getty Images

The first day of spring is just a few weeks away. But if the Winter Olympics have inspired you to squeeze in a skiing or snowboarding trip, you still have plenty of time to score a bargain.

"It depends on how you define 'spring,'" said Dan Sherman, chief marketing officer for Ski.com, which customizes snowsports travel packages.

Spring skiers have already dodged two of the priciest periods of the season — the December holidays, and Presidents Day weekend in February, Sherman said. They've also missed what the site says was the best week for costs, crowds and powder, from late January into early February.

Vacationers on "spring break" in March represent a third ski-season peak in prices and traffic. (Amid a slew of warm-weather destinations, Denver ranks eighth on airfare-tracking tool Hopper's list of most-monitored spring break spots.)

"Generally people are booking early, because they know they have a set window to travel," Sherman said.

After that early March lift, it's all downhill (so to speak) on pricing and traffic if you have some flexibility in your travel dates.

Colorado's Steamboat offers early April deals including three-day passes starting at $159 — roughly a third of advance-purchase rates for a three-day adult ticket in late February through early March. For as little as $199, Killington in Vermont offers unlimited-access spring passes that can be used from March 16 through season's close, which it says "with any luck could be into June." (For perspective, the full-fare rate for a single-day adult lift ticket is $115.)

Resort lift ticket pricing often reflects variations in demand. The Saturday of Presidents Day weekend and say, a Thursday in March represent opposite ends of the spectrum, said Evan Reece, chief executive officer of lift ticket site Liftopia.

"The most important thing is to buy in advance if you're interested in spending less," Reece said.

Looking just a week out into early March, he said, discounts on the site for single-day lift tickets can top 50 percent for resorts in Vermont.

Even the promise of spring weather isn't necessarily a problem — although it's key to assess potential conditions at booking. March tends to be a snowy month in many ski areas, benefiting avid athletes looking for powder, Sherman said, while novices will find resort snow-making operations allow for friendly slope conditions even late into the spring.

Slightly warmer temps and longer daylight hours make spring an especially good time for travelers looking for activities off the slope, said Reece. They also benefit those Olympic viewers inspired to try skiing or snowboarding for the first time.

"It's very comfortable [weather], and the snow is soft, so it makes it easier to learn," he said.

Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal owns NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. NBC Olympics is the U.S. broadcast rights holder to all Summer and Winter Games through the year 2032.

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