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 🙂
- 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.
I previously wrote an article about Value Inflation. This is the concept that a manufacturer keeps the price of a product the same but reduces the amount of product offered thereby increasing the cost per unit. It is a stealth inflation if you are not paying attention. For those of you old enough to remember half gallon containers of ice cream, you know what I mean.
I was recently reminded of value inflation while clothes shopping recently. I was browsing EMS.com and REI.com and started noticing a pattern in the comment sections of some items I was interested in.
First at EMS.com the Men’s Thunderhead Rain Jacket looked nice and it was on sale. It carried a 4.5 star review and I jumped down to the comment section where I saw some surprising reviews such as this one:
“skimping a few square inches of material to save on the mfg cost in the name of athletic fit is a mistake. the quality is down as compared to the same jacket of the past. this also limits its use over much more then a base layer. my old version was a better product. i plan on returning this item in unused condition soon. i am pleased with the other ems products which i own; this one, not so much”
I then bounced over to REI.com to check out the REI co-op Tech Tshirt. I had visions of dressing in jeans and a t shirt to simplify my wardrobe some. However I found the 3.5 star rated shirt also had complaints about fit and a change in materials:
“I picked up 3 of these a few days ago to supplement my arsenal of “old” Tech Ts for the summer. In the store, I did see some cosmetic changes but figured they were pretty much the same as the ones I already have. I finally got around to looking at them this morning and compared the tags with the older ones. The new ones are 100% polyester with no spandex. I also saw that they were shorter in the tails (I’m a big/tall 56 year old guy so this isn’t a good thing). I decided to look online at the reviews before actually trying one on. Sure enough, the reviews validated what I had thought and once I tried one on, I knew they were going back. They are not as “stretchy” (obviously due to no spandex) and very snug in the shoulder area. Definitely not anywhere near comfortable. REI…why did you mess with a good thing??”
I write about these examples because people will pay for quality. When we trust brands like EMS and REI and they violate that trust in an effort to squeeze a little more money out of their consumers we all lose. I appreciate that companies need to be aware of cost containment, but when you change a product and give the customer less value for their hard earned dollar, you will lose that customer.