Saving money all starts with choosing the right time to travel. This is similar to any vacation. There are times when tourists flock to ski resorts, causing prices to skyrocket. Specifically, Christmas to New Year's and President's Day week are notorious for expensive prices. March means spring breakers, and Martin Luther King week is another popular skiing time. Avoiding these holidays will allow you to find better prices and fewer crowds--a true win-win.
Early or Late Season
The best deals can usually be found early (November/early December) and late (April to closing) in the season. Of course, conditions during these times are highly variable, but traveling at these odd times can definitely save money.
A good way to cut money is to shop for package deals. Don't shop exclusively online, but also call the resort and lodging around the resort to discuss other deals that might not be listed. By purchasing lodging, lift tickets, rentals and transportation together, you should be able to save significantly. In some cases, package deals can make your vacation even cheaper than one component alone.
One of the most expensive items on your ski vacation will be one that you likely won't even think about ahead of time: food. You have to eat, and when you're away from home chances are you're going to eat out. Depending upon where you're traveling, the only restaurants around may be expensive resort tourist traps. Instead of relying solely on eating at restaurants, consider purchasing groceries and cooking your meals. Also pack a lunch rather than eating at the resort. Rent out a condominium instead of a hotel room so that you have a full kitchen. While condominiums are more expensive to rent, they can save money in the long run.
Discount Lift Tickets
Make a rule: never pay full price for your lift tickets. In addition to package deals that can bring down the price of tickets significantly, you can find discount tickets at a variety of outlets such as ski shops and sports stores. Some resorts offer discounted e-tickets when you purchase online. Research possible outlets for discount tickets ahead of time as their availability will vary by resort. Sites like Liftopia offer discount tickets to a variety of resorts around the country. Discount tickets are so widely available that if you can't find one for the resort you go to, you might want to choose another resort.
Rent vs. Bring
Traditionally, it was cheaper to bring your own equipment and avoid paying rental fees. With the shifting structure of airline baggage fees, this may not be the case for shorter trips. Research the cost of transporting your own equipment as opposed to renting, and choose the one that offers savings.
Don't utter the words "I'll just buy that when I get there." Depending upon your specific trip, the only options may be base-area shops where prices tend to be expensive and rigid. Some resorts don't have an adjacent town where you might find cheaper deals, so it's always best to bring everything you need. Make a full list, divided into the different categories of gear and clothing you need, and make sure that you have everything. Don't forget items like sun block, accessories (hat, gloves, face mask, goggles) and enough clothing.