What You’ll Need to Budget for Your Ski Sabbatical

Man hiking down a snowy mountain as the sun comes up

It’s crossed every ski-lover’s mind at least once, possibly in the middle of an incredible powder run–what if you could be on the slopes every day?

Imagine swapping your work attire for a snowsuit, getting a daily dose of fresh mountain air, and becoming a bonafide ski bum.

It’s easier than you might think to put your life on pause to enjoy a season on the slopes. All you need is a little courage (especially to ask your boss for the next couple months off) and the savings to fund your adventures. Here’s how to budget your money so that you’re not broke in the mountains by Christmas.

The cost of being a ski bum varies greatly from mountain to mountain. Before you budget, get some more details on your location of choice and adjust your numbers as necessary.

Pro tip: Become a good barterer. Mountain town locals like to scratch each other’s backs. Whether you bake the best cupcakes in town or can fix a broken toilet, figure out what you have to give and offer to swap your services for a free ski tuning or sweet discount on a new pair of gloves.

Ski pass

It’s hard to avoid this mandatory expense – unless you happen to score a job on the mountain – so start saving like your life depends on it.

Check out what options are available to you. Some resorts offer cheaper mid-week passes, allowing you to skip the tourist-packed weekends. Others offer passes that let you ski at additional nearby mountains. Do your research.

Season pass


If you’re going to ski 100+ days this season, you’re going to need some quality gear to do it. Take inventory of what you’ve already got, what needs to be repaired, and what you’ll want to buy.

If the cost of buying all new gear seems daunting, don’t worry. There are less expensive ways to go about acquiring it. Look for sales on last season’s wares, and check out local classifieds for used ski equipment. Mountain towns tend to be full of quality used gear being sold on the cheap.

Get an in with the staff at local ski shops. If you play your cards right, they might extend their employee discount to you, saving you big money.

Update your gear


Taking an affordable ski sabbatical can mean adjusting to new living accommodations. It’s not uncommon to share a tiny room with another ski bum (or two).

Rent may end up being your biggest expense of all. Make sure you have enough money saved to cover your first month’s rent plus any necessary deposits, and line up a side gig that will ensure you don’t get kicked out for skipping out on a payment.

First month's rent plus deposits


It’s not unusual for new ski bums to experience serious sticker shock at the local, mountain town grocery store. The same stuff you buy at home is often a few bucks more than you’re used to paying at the store nearest to the slopes. Those extra dollars can add up quickly.

But don’t rely on ramen to keep you fueled. You’ll need plenty of nutrients to be able to hit the hill day after day. Check local papers for coupons, lay off the expensive luxury ingredients, and join up with friends for regular trips to a nearby city to stock up on non-perishable necessities when you get the chance.

A month of real food


Après-ski–or just après, as most ski bums know it–is that magical time after the last chair lift stops running. It’s when skiers and snowboarders reward themselves with a cold beer (or several) at a local watering hole. The dress code is basic: ski boots and a soggy snow suit.

Après are fun occasionally, but if indulged too frequently, they can guzzle up your savings. Ski towns are notorious for having wild party scenes, but approach with caution or risk running out of cash.

Your best bet is to après at a buddy’s house to avoid paying tourist-inflated prices. When you do go out, try to become a regular at one nice spot and treat the staff nicely. Tipping extra may cost you more, but it’ll save you in the long run when you get free drinks.

One month of après

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