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How to ski in Maine on a budget

Skiing can be an expensive sport and teaching your children how to ski can be tough on parents' wallets.

AUBURN, Maine — Heather Young is teaching her daughter, Elise, to ski at Lost Valley in Auburn, which is the same place where she learned to ski, making it a fourth-generation tradition.

But the costs associated with the beloved winter sport can add up quickly, from gear and maintenance to rising lift ticket prices.

Local ski areas and organizations across Maine understand the struggle many families face to take their families skiing, and many are helping to find ways to make it cheaper.

"Skiing is expensive to get into, [so it's important to take] advantage of some of the deals and offers that are out there," John Herrick, the general manager at Lost Valley, said. "If you can plan ahead, a lot of ski areas including ourselves do dynamic pricing on our website, so the earlier you purchase your ticket, you can get it at a discounted price. Or [consider] buying a season pass at the end of the season [which] is the cheapest way to get a season pass."

Herrick has been skiing at Lost Valley since he was 3 years old and still hits the slopes every week.

"It's awesome," Herrick said. "Skiing is a lifelong sport, so when you're young if you learn it, it's something you'll be able to do for the rest of your life."

Josh Harrington, the manager for the family and outdoor winter kids programming for WinterKids, said their mobile app highlights winter sports opportunities in Maine for anyone between the ages of 6 and 17.

"[The program makes it possible for kids] to be able to go out to try alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, ice skating, snowshoeing for free when they go with a paying adult," Harrington said. "To hear of a family being able to go out there either for the first time or more frequently than they would be able to really makes me feel like all the work is worth it."

Lost Valley and many other ski areas in Maine offer a wide variety of discounts for kids and families to ski for cheap. On Tuesday nights, they offer $20 lift tickets, made possible by L.L. Bean

Mt. Abram in Greenwood offers $19.60 Thursday ski lift tickets based on the year they were founded. They also offer "Carload Fridays" for $99. 

"It could be a bus of 20 people, and it will still be $99 for the whole carload to get out and get tickets for the day," Zachary McCarthy, marketing director of Mt. Abram, said. 

Black Mountain of Maine in Rumford offers discounted tickets on Thursdays and Fridays.

Renting equipment or buying used is one way to save money and time.

Young said her family found ways to make skiing cheaper, by leasing her daughter's equipment for the season. 

"It's about $100 for the season, and if she grows out of her boots, we can go change them out anytime, and then we [return] our skis back in May," she said. 

"When you make day trips, you're losing a bunch of time trying to get into the rental line and if you rent twice then you have already paid more than you would if you purchased once," Scott Russeau, owner of Play It Again Sports in Portland, said. 

Ski equipment for children is one of their biggest markets for buying and selling, he said. 

"Especially with children, a lot of their stuff hasn't been used up," Russeau said. "It's just been used a little bit, been loved a little bit." 

Transportation is another big expense for many families or individuals who want to ski. 

WinterKids is a nonprofit organization based in Maine that is dedicated exclusively to helping kids get outdoors during winter by offering fully-funded and discounted rates to different winter sports activities all across the state, and they work to help assist families by supporting local after-school or parks and rec programs to help find transportation to and from a ski area.

Herrick mentioned the importance of feeding the industry, from small slopes to big resorts. 

"For our industry, we're building skiers to go to these bigger mountains," he said.

Ski areas are working toward building a lifelong connection to skiing.

"Knowing that we are improving not just the parent's lives but the kid's lives and putting them on a path to find their passion for their lifetime," Harrington said. 

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