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YOUR GUIDE TO SKIING 2017

Think small to save big: The best deals of the season

Shutterstock/Pavel Vakhrushev

By Eric Wilbur Globe correspondent 

Tiny Whaleback Mountain may have the biggest deal running this ski season.

The 30-trail ski area in Enfield, N.H., might be better known to many a passerby as little more than a roadside marker point along Route 89, situated just before crossing past White River Junction into Vermont. But while it might not look like much to those en route to slay the bumps at Killington or get lost in the woods at Stowe, the attraction of its season pass will probably have more people stopping by this year.

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In joining the Freedom Pass network, Whaleback is part of a family of ski areas that gives pass holders the opportunity to secure three complimentary lift tickets at each partner resort. Those ski areas include Black Mountain, in Jackson, N.H., Magic Mountain in Londonderry, Vt., Granite Gorge in Keene, N.H., Vermont’s Bolton Valley, and Lost Valley in Auburn, Maine. In addition, Whaleback affords pass holders a number of other benefits at local ski areas, including 50 percent off midweek tickets at Killington and Ragged Mountain, and 50 percent off tickets at Magic (with no restrictions).

Whaleback’s unlimited season pass, affording all those benefits is only $399.

Reciprocal passes like Freedom may indeed offer smaller ski areas an attractive way of keeping up with the behemoth resort complexes throughout New England, selling variety and nostalgia as means on the winter market. But it’s not the only way to save a buck this season.

In addition to Mount Snow’s annual $12 Founders Day celebration on Dec. 12, the West Dover, Vt., resort will join fellow Peak Resorts properties Attitash (Bartlett, N.H.) and Wildcat (Pinkham Notch, N.H.) in offering two lift tickets for $59 on Valentine’s Day, and $17 lift tickets on St. Patrick’s Day. Skiers ages 17 and under pay only $17 at all three ski areas on Jan. 7 and March 26.

For $54, the Vermont Travel Club Card (www.vermonttravelclub.com) membership affords discounted lift tickets at nine resorts in the Green Mountain State, plus Sunday River in Maine, and Attitash and Wildcat. Membership also includes dozens of discounts for lodging and dining options throughout ski country. Similarly, the Ride and Ski Card (www.rideandskine.com) offers a number of discounts and 2-for-1 deals across New England, priced at three tiers dependent upon if you would like to receive no bonus lift ticket ($24.99), a lift ticket valued at more than $50 ($39.99), or one to a premium resort valued at over $69 ($49.99). A portion of the proceeds benefits Children’s Hospital of Dartmouth, N.H.

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There aren’t many participating locations in Massachusetts (four, in total), but dozens of gas stations in Vermont will be part of a program where you can earn 2-for-1 lift tickets for every three fill-ups of 8 gallons or more. Participating mountains include Nashoba Valley, Vermont’s Jay Peak, and Pat’s Peak in Henniker, N.H. Visit www.skiridefree.com/gas_ski_gas.html for more information.

Season pass holders at Pats Peak will also get significant discounts at other mountains this winter, including 50 percent off day lift tickets at Pico, Killington (25 percent off Saturdays and peak dates), Jay Peak, Burke, Mount Sunapee, and Ragged Mountain. Adult passes are $619. www.patspeak.com

Mad River Glen’s Mad Cards are available until Dec. 15 for $169, and include three transferable lift tickets for the 2017-18 season. The card also allows a $5 discount on any additional full-day lift tickets. A family Mad Card ($219) gives free season passes to all children ages 12 and under at the Waitsfield, Vt., ski area. www.madriverglen.com

The Powder Pass at Bolton Valley allows skiers and riders five days of lift tickets for a cost of less than three tickets at the ski area’s window rate. The $199 pass is on sale only through Dec. 10, and can be used on five different days (no blackouts), or as a one-day outing for a group of five. www.boltonvalley.com

Cranmore Mountain Resort, in North Conway, N.H., has a similar deal with its five-pack, available through Dec. 20 for $249. Cranmore will also offer a new night ticket this winter from 4-8 p.m. for only $29. On Jan. 28, the resort will celebrate New Hampshire heritage with $30 lift tickets and Granite State-themed events. www.cranmore.com

Magic Mountain will have “Throwback Thursdays” again this winter, with lift tickets only $29 (not applicable on powder days when the ski area receives at least 6 inches of snow). Family-friendly King Pine in Madison, N.H., had a “Moonlight 4-Pack,” where families of four can go night skiing for only $66 total. Tuesdays and Thursdays will once again be 2-for-1 days at Cannon Mountain in Franconia Notch, N.H. Tickets will be two-for-$75, or one for $49.

Liftopia (www.liftopia.com) has a savings model that many resorts have tried to copy on their own, with various levels of results. But the discount ski site, where you save more based on dates and availability, remains a must-visit for possible significant savings anytime you’re planning either a trip or just a day off from work.


Eric Wilbur can be reached at ewilbs@yahoo.com.