saving lunch money on the slopes

I just got back from a ski weekend in Colorado.    The whole family enjoys skiing and it is a great activity that we hope to share together for quite some time.  Colorado is such a beautiful place and I envision myself living there some day.

But man is skiing expensive.

One area that can really sink a ski budget is lunchtime dining.  There are two schools of thought on lunch.  Some folks will pack in a lunch but it appears that the majority take advantage of the on mountain dining for its quality and convenience.  There is no right or wrong answer and I realized everyone has different views on eating out.  For instance, I eat to survive but my wife sees dining as entertainment.  This means that if I were alone, I would pack in a sandwich and eat on the chairlift but she prefers a nice sit down lunch looking out a panoramic window and enjoying the view.

If you choose to use the on mountain facilities at lunchtime, you can easily spend $100 per day for a family of four.  Here is how I try to control costs.  This photo is not my family 🙂family-eating-lunch-on-the-mountain

  • Drink water.  Not only is drinking water healthier for you in general but it is critical when skiing at altitude.  The drier air causes dehydration which can lead to altitude sickness, headache, and fatigue.  Almost every high alpine restaurant I have been to provided free glasses and water for guests.  When bottled drinks cost at least $5 each, this is an easy $20 savings.
  • If you do buy a bottled drink like Gatorade, grab some of the free glasses at the water station and split the bottle.  I believe the last bottle that I needed to buy cost $6.50, which was made a little more palatable by splitting it in glasses for my kids.  Using glasses is more sanitary that drinking from the same bottle and reduces arguments too!
  • Plan your lunch.  Seriously…If one kid wants chicken tenders and one kid wants pizza, they are going to have to compromise.  Each lunch entree on the mountain costs about $20 each.  But in fairness, they are typically gigantic and more than enough to split 2 ways.  The last chicken basket I bought had 6 large tenders and a large order of fries.  This was plenty of food to tide my two boys over until dinner. The same goes for pizza.  A plain pizza approaches $20 each but can easily feed 2 children.
  • Snacks.  Grab a couple of candy bars at the supermarket to take on the mountain.  A Snicker bar was $5 in the restaurant but $1 at the grocery store.  Give the kids a treat without breaking the bank by stuffing a couple in your jacket pocket in the morning.
  • Be a garbage disposal.  Even with all of the food sharing we do as a family, there is left over food.  My kids share a meal and my wife has a small appetite so I will typically eat whatever they don’t.   I think they all used to be embarrassed by it when we started, but now it is part of our routine.  I’ll supplement with a granola bar from my pocket if necessary.
  • Stick it out until apres.  If you can make it until 3PM without lunch, almost all bars have happy hour specials on food and drinks.  You can use apres as a very late lunch or early dinner for about 50% off normal prices.  You may be eating beef nachos for $8, instead of beef tacos on the mountain for $20.  If you find 3PM too much of a stretch just take some granola bars or hard snacks to eat mid day for an energy boost.

Our ski mountain lunch time routines have the potential to save us about 50% compared to a family of 4 who don’t plan their lunch purchase at mountain restaurants.

Like any cost saving exercise it will be more successful if not authoritarian.  In my perfect world I would pack PBnJ sandwiches for everyone and drink free water.  This would not go over well with may family so I figure out ways to meet their goals as well as mine through the system discussed above.

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