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Are Season Ski Passes Worth The Money?

Skiing may not be a cheap pastime, but if you are the kind of family that likes to take a winter holiday then skiing can be value for money when compared with, say, a winter escape to the islands.

This time last year we bit the bullet and invested in annual ski passes. We did the math and figured that so long as we had at least four days on the slopes we were getting value for money. But of course there’s more to skiing than lift passes. There’s the gear, the accommodation and the cost of simply getting there and back.

Winter 2016 passes have just gone on sale, so it’s time for us to crunch the numbers and decide whether we got value for money.

The cost of annual ski passes

Last year our passes cost $1,100 for our family of five – a pretty good deal given the ‘rack rate’ for all mountain passes for a family of five is around $360 per day. After just three days on the slopes, we’d have almost broken even.

Money saving tip: the cost of annual passes skyrockets once kids turn 10. Their age is determined at the time you buy the pass – so if you have a child turning 10 between now and the start of next season – seriously consider buying them an annual ski pass now.

The cost of ski gear

Buying second hand or ex-rental is a great way to stock up on ski gear.

Buying second hand or ex-rental is a great way to stock up on ski gear.

Next there’s all the gear – you’ll all need skis, boots, poles, ski pants, ski jackets, helmets, goggles and gloves, as well as several layers of thermals top and bottom. Hiring gear is a good option if you are planning to ski for a few days, but if you’re committed to ski the whole season it can be more cost effective to buy your own.

We kept an eye out for the sales and picked up second-hand, ex-rental or heavily discounted new gear during the summer and got the whole family kitted out for around $1,800. A fair bit of cash to spend, but a lot of what we bought this year can be used again, or sold to subsidise replacements.

So before the season even started we’d spent around $3,000 on our winter holiday. A tidy sum – but not a lot more than the deposit you’d need to pay on a winter escape somewhere warm and sunny.

The cost of being there

Once the passes and ski gear are sorted, you still need to get to and from the mountain and have somewhere to stay while you are there.

Renting a house or chalet is a good option. Not only will you have more room to spread out, you’ll also have everything you need to self-cater. (Here are more tips on how to survive a family ski holiday with your sanity and bank account intact.)

This year we managed a total of four separate trips to the mountain – a total of 18 nights away at an average cost of $200 per night which is pretty reasonable for a family of five. This meant making the 10 hour return trip four separate times – thankfully our car drinks diesel which kept travel costs down a bit.

Adding it all up

Of course there were other incidental costs such as food and – most importantly – hot chocolates to warm cold fingers. Eating is something we’d have to do no matter where we were, and the majority of our meals – breakfasts, lunch and dinners – were self-catered.


All-in-all a pretty reasonable cost for what is effectively an 18 night holiday for a family of five. And while our ski pass costs will increase this year, our gear costs will be much lower which will make our 2016 winter holiday even more cost effective.

The verdict

We will definitely be buying ski passes for Winter 2016. For just $7,100 we had managed four ski trips – a total of 18 nights away and 15 days on the slopes. But there are other reasons too.

Each trip away included the chance to spend time with friends and extended family so even on the days when we couldn’t ski there was fun to be had and memories to be made.

We watched our kids learn new skills and grow in confidence as they progressed from the learners slope through to skiing black runs with their Dad in just one season.

And we created memories that will stay with each of us forever.

Thanks for a great season Mt Ruapehu. We’ll definitely be back.



  1. Thanks for the cost breakdown. It would be out of our budget to go right now but it’s nice to know what we would have to save to go! A family ski trip is definitely on my wish list for the future.


  2. There are much less expensive ways to take a holiday that’s for sure! But I am quite surprised with how the costs have stacked up against some of the other ‘winter holiday’ options such as a week in Fiji. I’d definitely save the skiing until the kids are a bit older – we went a few years ago with younger kids and it was really hard work.


    • That’s a really good idea Nicci. I’d always considered ski clubs too expensive, but looking at the costs of our accommodation for this season it’s definitely something I’d look into.


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