Student riders budget big rewards

Rider anticipation comes to an end Nov. 5, with Lake Louise being the first ski hill to re-open and marking the first official day of the 2010/11 snow season. With all the expenses of student life and the lack of disposable income, the Weal’s Alex Glazerman found the cheapest way for snowboard enthusiasts to enjoy Alberta’s snowfall on a budget this year.

Gear up

Getting all the appropriate gear for the season can come at a hefty price. Check out sales, such as the Source’s end-of-season sale, which has prices at 40 per cent less than its regular stores. You could also hit up Chikko, Calgary’s latest discount snowboard store. The staff can help you pick out what’s best for you.

For those who are familiar with what you need, online sites such as Kijiji have person-to-person deals on (hopefully) gently-used snowboard hardware and apparel.

If you aren’t hardcore enough to invest in your own hardware, rentals are available at each hill. They  offer everything from boards and boots to jackets and pants. Prices vary per hill.

Arriving alive (with a few bucks in your pocket):

Sunshine offers daily bus service to its hill from three different locations in Calgary.  The bad news: pick up times begin at 7 a.m. The cost for a daily return ticket is $40.  If the rider doesn’t have a season’s pass, a lift ticket can be added on for the total cost of $90. Total savings: $20.

Carpooling is also a great way to save.  Half a tank of gas will get you to and from most ski hills within a few hours driving distance of the city.

On the hill and away:

Your student card has perks. By flashing your valid SAIT photo ID, you can partake in deals that weren’t up for grabs until you signed up at SAIT.

Prices for season’s passes range from the high at Lake Louise and Sunshine Village ($699 each) to the low at Canada Olympic Park ($299). Of course, you get what you pay for.

If variety is the spice of your life, there are multi-hill passes available ranging from $1,399 (Resorts of the Canadian Rockies) to $1,599 (Rocky Mountain Passport). In this case, more gets you more.

For beginners:

Never strapped into a board before but wondering what all the hype is all about? The Weal asked the pros where Alberta’s best spots to learn how to ride are.

Pro snowboarder Mike Sudermann recommends COP and Norquay for beginners.

“Both hills are on the shorter side, so it’s not as overwhelming as The Lake (Lake Louise),” says Sudermann. “Norquay can financially be the better choice for beginners, because you can pay by the hour.”

“Lessons are the best way to gain confidence when beginning any sport,” says Jenn Hutchinson ski co-ordinator at Nakiska. Lessons are available at each hill and differ in price. Packages may include a lift ticket or lunch.

Shayne Sirota, a Hotel Management and Tourism student at SAIT, learned to ride on the beginner runs at Lake Louise. “Louise has better green runs in comparison to Sunshine,” says Sirota. “You get stuck a lot less and in turn become less frustrated and have more fun learning.”

When buying all your snowboard gear for the first time, shopping around in stores like the Source can be beneficial. “Their staff mostly consist of professional riders and are more adept in helping find the right gear for each rider,” says Sudermann.

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