Competitive skiers that travel the country have the added challenge of trying to manage travel costs. With ever increasing gas prices and a sport whose destinations often feature lodging options with premium cost, traveling to compete can be a daunting and expensive task.
While a recreational skier often takes one major ski trip per year, competitive skiers travel throughout the season to a variety of destinations and need to plan and budget for numerous ski competitions. Competitors must conserve and stretch every penny available to allow for as many chances to compete throughout the season as possible. This is especially true for those of us, myself included, who are traveling to larger competitions in order to take their skiing to the next level.
Getting There – How To Affordably Travel to Ski Competitions
As a general rule, I try to drive to events that are within 10 to 12 hours from my home in Salt Lake City. The amount of drive time can vary depending on the ease of drive (think back roads versus highways) and how many people will be driving with you. The last thing you want is to arrive the night before a big competition, stressed out and exhausted, because you drove for 12 straight hours by yourself on sketchy two lane roads.
Having a travel partner, or two or three, is a big advantage. They can help with driving, navigating, entertainment, keeping you awake, and especially with gas costs. If the choice was between driving solo for 12 hours or flying, I would start looking for cheap plane tickets as they will likely cost just about as much as gas. While on road trips, make sure to change up who fills the tank at each stop. That way everyone pays their fair share.
While driving often takes longer, there are a number of advantages over flying. Cost is the obvious one, but predictability and ease of travel are also high on the list. As long as you have a reliable vehicle (and AAA), driving can be a more predictable method of transportation than nearly any airline. When driving there are no oversized baggage fees, no flight delays or overbooked planes, no rental car expense, and no lugging of heavy ski bags through endless concourses. If you have good travel partners, a loaded iPod, some decent snacks and sources of caffeine, driving is the route to go.
Staying There – Tips for Inexpensive Lodging at Ski Competitions
The drive was smooth and you have arrived at your competition destination. Now the question is, where will you stay? Ski towns are notorious for overpriced lodging and as a competitive skier with nary a dollar to spare, “overpriced” is not in your vocabulary.
Planning ahead is never a bad thing and this applies when finding a place to stay for a ski competition. Last minute hotel rooms usually cost more than those booked well in advance, so as soon as you know the dates of your event, start looking for rooms. While price is paramount, you also don’t want to spend your time in a dumpy room worrying about bed bugs. Cheap is a good thing, but value is even better. Do your best to find a place to stay that is affordable while still providing a clean, comfortable room with the necessary essentials.
Finding an affordable room with decent living conditions is made much easier by utilizing travel websites. It never hurts to check a few different sites to figure out the best rates. I have found rooms for half of their normal rate using these resources, and they provide valuable ratings along with guest feedback. Many hotels also offer a free breakfast that will make your mornings more affordable and hassle-free. Budget travel sites are your friend, use them.
Of course, it’s even better if you can avoid the hotel expense altogether. When looking for a place to stay, make sure to talk to everyone you know who will be in town attending the competition. If there is anyone who currently lives in the area, ask them if you can crash on their couch for a few nights. Generally, skiing has a pretty helpful community. With the purchase of some food for the house or a nominal lodging fee, you can find a place to stay for cheaper than any hotel room. Make sure you come prepared – bring a sleeping bag, camping mat and pillow. These supplies can prove very valuable and are essential on any road trip.
If you can share driving and lodging costs, traveling to a ski competition can be a more affordable prospect. I try to follow these tips myself and they have served me well. On my most recent trip to Big Bear, California for War of Rails, I was lucky enough to have a sponsor, Bern Unlimited, pick up the tab for my hotel room for two of the three nights.
Since I have traveled on a shoe string budget for as long as I have been competing, having a sponsor pitch in to help me afford the cost of lodging was huge. If you stick to the principles of traveling on the cheap and ski hard, you may soon find yourself rewarded with a place to stay that you don’t need to pay for at all.
Brendan Trieb, Jans Athlete Team Member