Discount lift tickets offered through online market


Say hello to skis and snowboards and for now, goodbye to artificial snow. After last year's lackluster ski season this one's off to a much better start.

"It's amazing, and as a skier, it's so great to see the snow come back this year. There's just this great palpable buzz in the air that skiing's back in the Bay Area. It's really exciting," said Ron Schneidermann, a co-founder.

Schneidermann is a skier and one of the entrepreneurs behind Liftopia. He and his co-founder left their jobs at Hotwire to build what's basically the Hotwire of skiing -- a website where ski resorts can sell off their extra lift tickets at discount prices -- that change, just like airline tickets, based on supply and demand.

"There are so many variables out there: weather, snow, day of week, time of the season, price of gas, proximity to the holidays -- that determines the value of any given day and having one ticket price for every day of the season just never made much sense to us," said Schneidermann.

Enough people agreed with that idea that over the past few years, Liftopia's grown from two guys in an apartment to taking up an entire floor of a San Francisco office building, even though it still hasn't lost its startup feel.

With its growing team of young techies, Liftopia's struck deals with some 250 resorts -- though they still don't have one with Vail, which owns Heavenly and Northstar. For the others, though, the same logic that'll get you a cheap plane ticket could get you a cheap lift ticket.

"You can save up to 80 percent and there are some tricks to that. For example, if you're willing to not ski on a weekend, maybe shift your trip to a Friday or a Monday or midweek, you're going to see much more substantial savings," said Schneidermann.

The tickets are for specific dates and it often helps to buy well in advance. Holidays are usually more expensive and one of the cheapest times to ski is on Super Bowl Sunday.

"At the risk of jinxing anything, even if the 49ers make it to the Super Bowl, the great thing is that kickoff isn't until 3:30, so there's still tons of time to get some turns in on the slopes," said Schneidermann.

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