Getting to the top of the mountain costs a lot more these days

January 05, 1991|By Steve McKerrow

If memory serves, 20 years ago local skiers could purchase an all-day weekend/holiday lift ticket at such nearby resorts as Ski Roundtop or Ski Liberty (then called Charnita) for about $10.

Ah, nostalgia!

This season a weekend day ticket costs $30 at the jointly operated slopes. Maryland's Wisp ski area in Garrett County now charges $32 for a weekend lift pass, and at some resorts in the Poconos, such as Shawnee near Stroudsburg, a daily lift ticket is up to $33 on weekends.

"It costs us a lot of money to make snow," explains Wendy Rosenmiller, marketing manager at Ski Roundtop north of York, Pa., regarding the steady rise of lift prices over the years.

While national averages are hard to come by over the long term, a survey taken after the 1988-89 ski season helps illustrate the rising cost to downhill skiers of first getting up the hill.

The figures provided by the United Ski Industries Association show an average weekend ticket at $20.37 in the 1985-86, season; $21.51 in 1986-87; $23.36 in 1987-88 and $25.03 in 1988-89.

"It all depends on where the ski area is located," says USIA spokeswoman Mary Jo Tarallo, noting that in this region the costs of producing artificial snow are a major factor in rising lift tickets. In northern and western areas where natural snow is reliable, she explains, lift prices can still be found down around $20.

Tarallo also notes that "if people are creative, there are many good packages to be had" which can sharply reduce the cost from the single-day standard.

Most resorts offer two-day (or longer) rates, half-day and twilight rates, season passes, teen passes and senior citizen discounts. In addition, a variety of skiing/lodging deals are available through travel agencies and tourism associations.

Savvy local skiers, for example, try to avoid visiting the nearest areas on weekends. The weekday rate at Ski Roundtop and Liberty drops to $23, and a half-day skiing on weekdays is $19. Best of all, the crowds are down and you don't spend too much time in line waiting for chairlift rides.

Are some areas still cheaper than others? Yes, but only by a few dollars.

The cheapest weekend lift ticket we could find within driving distance of Baltimore is $28 at a new facility called Ski Snowpeak in Thompsontown, Pa., 30 minutes northwest of Harrisburg. And a sub-$30 ticket -- though just barely at $29 -- is still available at the state-operated Canaan Valley area in Davis, W. Va.

"It's like any business. Nobody wants to be out-priced by anybody else," says Tarallo.

Still frustrated by price? Try cross-country skiing. At areas where Nordic trails are available, the basic admission cost ranges from free (such as Canaan Valley) to $5 (such as Shawnee), with equipment rentals in the $10 to $15 range.

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