When my wife and I discuss skiing, there’s one sticking point. It isn’t the danger inherent to the sport that I subject myself to, nor the early hour drives for first chair, or even the fact she loses me to the mountains for months a year. (No, on all of these topics she’s a saint.)

The thing that always comes up is the cost.

Skiing has been, is, and continues to become more expensive. A day ticket at Sugarloaf or Sunday River, Maine’s two largest resorts, tops $80. Saddleback, the next biggest, advertises as more affordable but still has tickets that are nearly $60, and closer to $70 on holidays. Other places are cheaper, but at many it’s by less than you’d think.

And that’s not to mention the cost of equipment, on-mountain amenities, travel and lodging. When we discuss adding tiny skiers or snowboarders to our family, I wince at the compounding cost of more tickets, outgrown equipment and lessons.

So, what’s a thrifty-minded Maine skier to do?

If you don’t mind being tied to a single resort, a season’s pass is the way to go. Though the upfront cost is significant ($800 to $1,300 at those big three resorts, and over $500 at midsize spots like the Snow Bowl and Shawnee), it’s cheaper than going day-by-day if you ski more than a couple weekends. When I was a college student, it was always fun to divide the cost by the number of days I spent on hill. On better years, I skied for $4 a day.

Passes are cheapest early in the summer. On the flip side, some resorts do offer cheap passes at the end of the season, so it’s worth keeping an eye open for promotions.

Speaking of promotions, on almost any day of the week, you’ll find some mountain offering discounts. Mt. Abram is $25 on Thursdays, and $79 for a carload of people on Fridays. At Shawnee Peak, there are discounts for men’s tickets on Thursdays and women’s on Fridays. Saddleback has discounted tickets for Mainers on a few Sundays every season, and Sugarloaf does the same every Wednesday. A quick look at a website or Facebook page can turn up even more specials.

Buying tickets online is a fairly recent development that benefits frugal skiers. Sugarloaf and Sunday River, for example, have online ticket stores that offer a discount off the on-mountain price – and save you the hassle of the line in the lodge. The king of the online purchase is Liftopia.com, where you can buy advance tickets for Sugarloaf, Shawnee Peak, Saddleback, Sunday River, Lost Valley, Mt. Abram, and the Camden Snow Bowl, with discounts up to 63 percent off.

(Liftopia also has some Maine bona fides – cofounder Evan Reece grew up skiing Sunday River, and skied Sugarloaf while attending Colby.)

Yet another option for discounts are nonprofits Ski Maine Association and WinterKids. The former sells discounts and vouchers on SkiMaine.com – the Ski Maine Mountain Pass and Maine Winter Activities Pass. The latter administers the WinterKids Passport, with free and discounted tickets, lessons and rentals at 50 areas throughout Maine for fifth-, sixth- and seventh-graders.

Outside of discounts, it’s a viable strategy to just stick with Maine’s smaller community hills, some of which sell tickets for less than the cost of lunch in the Old Port. Single-day tickets at Titcomb, Spruce, Mt. Jefferson and Lonesome Pine Trails are $20 or less. The cheapest of the cheap are Quoggy Jo in Presque Isle for $8 and Powderhouse Hill in South Berwick for $5 (cash only).

If you balk at even $5 for a lift ticket, there’s the old standard of leg-powered ascent. “Uphill access tickets” are usually less than $10.

Of course, backcountry skiing is free for as far as your legs can carry you. But first, pick up David Goodman’s “Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast.” Known as the bible of Eastern backcountry skiing, the book is both travel guide and primer on when, where and how to safely ski the backcountry.

Josh Christie is a freelance writer and lifetime outdoors enthusiast. He shares column space in Outdoors with his father, John Christie. Josh can be contacted at:

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