I grew up skiing and still enjoy the sport, but living in Southern California made hitting the slopes a logistical challenge - on a good day in L.A., it would take at least 4 hours to get to the ski hill, not including the cost of gas, food, and lift tickets. Consequently, skiing was not something that everyone took part in, and when they did, it was usually a special event that took some degree of planning and foresight, not to mention the expense.

If you a fortunate enough to live in an area where ski hills are more accessible, then getting there is one hurdle you've already overcome. But skiing itself is pricey, no question about it. Between the cost of lift tickets, equipment, and food, a day at the ski hill can set a family back a fair amount, discouraging many people from even trying it in the first place.

Since moving to New England, where skiing is a common part of life, I've learned that there are ways to make skiing affordable, and not only for kids, but the entire family. It just takes a certain level of conscious legwork to find good deals.

1. Buy Used Equipment

Find out if your kids even like skiing before buying expensive new equipment. There are numerous opportunities to find skis and boots, especially for growing kids, where the turnover is high. Yard sales and thrift shops are great places to find good deals, though getting skis in good shape or in the right sizes can be a roll of the dice. A better option (though a little more pricey) are ski shops who want to clear out last year's rental equipment to make way for the new stuff. The skis tend to be of higher quality and in better shape than what you'll find at a thrift store and they will usually tune them up for free.

2. Ski Half Days

Now that I'm older, I have a hard time skiing a full day, which works out well because lift tickets drop in price in the afternoon, sometimes substantially. This way you get to save money by eating lunch at home and then get about 4 hours of skiing in for lower price. Some ski hills, not all, even offer a "twilight deal" where you can get a ticket for $10-15 for the last two hours of day. Check with your local hill to learn more.

3. Ski Mid-Week

Skiing is for the most part a leisurely sport, so most people do it on weekends and during vacation. That means ski hills have 3-4 days of operating time where they'd like to sell tickets. This works out beautifully for people who are willing or able to make it on a weekday, where prices can be a fraction of what they cost on weekends and holidays.

4. Ski Locally

As in #3, ski hills want to drum up business during the week, so they'll sometimes give discounts to in-state residents who want to ski mid-week. Some states even have programs that offer free skiing to kids to encourage a love of the sport. Check with your ski hill to learn more.

5. Be Academic About It

Many schools have ski programs with local hills where they work out good deals on lift tickets and equipment rentals. Plus, the schools often will provide transportation. Ski hills themselves will also offer deals to students as well as rewards for getting good grades.

6. Go as a Group

You can get good deals when you ski as a group, and the bigger the better. This usually means skiing mid-week, but if you can get a regular group together, ski hills will sometimes give you substantial discounts that include deals on lessons and rentals. Many homeschool groups have worked out deals with local ski hills where it ends up being $10-15 for an entire day of skiing including lessons.

If you're willing to make due with good quality equipment that may not be the fanciest, and have some flexibility in your schedule, skiing can become a fun and rewarding winter activity for your family. The key is to be diligent and keep an eye out for bargains. And whenever possible, be frugal and practical.