Just because the economy is in the tank doesn’t mean you have to hang up your skis, park your snowboard, and abandon your dream of whooshing down a powdery paradise followed by après time in front of a cozy fire. Quite the opposite. While there are many small ski resorts across the country that continually remain affordable to anyone who wants to take to the slopes without the spotlight and celebrity cache, there are also some amazing ski-and-stay deals to be had at those better known ski resorts, too—for those who want the scene without the high price. With a little research, you can have your memorable ski holiday this winter without breaking the bank.
Most Affordable Lift Tickets
Everyone knows Colorado has world-class terrain for winter activities. But, Colorado also has some of the best rates for a day lift ticket, too. As a resident of the Centennial State, I’ve personally visited these places and stamp them with an honest-to-goodness affordable ski adventure seal of approval. Each of these places has plenty of snow for whooshing, fireplaces for cozying, and hot toddies for sipping.
SolVista, located in Granby, Colorado, has a full-day, adult lift ticket for $49 in the low season and $54 in the high season. This family-friendly resort is only fifteen miles from Winter Park Ski Resort and Frasier, both lively towns to stay, have dinner, and enjoy après activities. And both have a vast array of lodging accommodations to suit any budget. This area is a quick hour-and-a-half drive from Denver International Airport, making it an attractive, easy destination.
Ski Cooper in Colorado gets an average of 300 inches of snow each year and is located in some of the Rocky Mountain’s best terrain. Better still, single-day adult lift tickets are just $42 all year long. That’s a crazy bargain! And for no extra fees, you’ll enjoy some of the most amazing views of the Rockies, the Continental Divide, and Colorado’s two highest mountains—Mount Elbert and Mount Massive. Ski Cooper is just ten miles from the funky mountain town of Leadville, the highest incorporated town in the United States at 10,200 feet. Leadville offers plenty of bars, restaurants, lodging options, and an extra helping of personality. If you’re looking for the most authentic Colorado ski experience, this is it.
Monarch Ski Resort is also reasonably priced at $54 a day for an adult lift ticket. It gets over 350 inches of snow a year and is conveniently located near three towns—Salida, Buena Vista, and Poncha Springs. Each town has its own unique experience, but all offer a warm atmosphere that’s more about having fun than being fancy. Though Monarch is a bit of a hassle to get to unless you live in Colorado or adjacent states, it’s worth it once you arrive. Located in the midst of three breathtaking mountain ranges, every run on the mountain provides dramatic vistas fit for a postcard.
Loveland Ski Area is at the front door of Summit County, Colorado’s playground. At just $56 a day for an adult lift ticket, you can afford to have all the après-mountain fun you want in four adjacent mountain towns without their hefty lift tickets. Located off Interstate 70, just before the Eisenhower Tunnel ushers you into Colorado’s more well-known winter recreational area, Loveland has over 1300 skiable acres, gets plenty of snow at its elevation of 10,600 feet, and also has a quaint on-mountain restaurant for a midday meal or après-ski drink. After you’re done killing it on the mountain, it’s just a short drive to Silverthorne, Keystone, Frisco, Dillon, or even Breckenridge. All are quintessential Colorado mountain towns that you can actually afford to stay in when you’ve saved a bundle on your lift ticket.
Though the elevation is dramatically less and the scene is a little slower, you can still worship the snow gods in other states.
Windham Mountain is your best bet in New York, nestled in the scenic Catskill Mountains and a convenient two hours from Manhattan and most of the Tri-State area. Their adult lift tickets range from $39 for four hours to $65 during peak weekends. There are on-mountain restaurants to please every palette, from barbecue to sushi. When you’re too tired for any more turns, you can choose from a lodge, private homes, and condominiums to rent for the evening. And, never fear you party animals, there are several small towns surrounding Windham that provide many outlets for dining and entertainment.
Michigan has by far the most affordable adult lift tickets in the country. However, you might not get the best scenery or the best après scene. But, if you’re just looking to lay down some tracks in the snow, these two options can’t be beat.
Caberfae Peaks offers a $42 adult, one-day lift ticket, and often promotes insanely cheap lift tickets for the last four hours of the day. There are two lodges with cozy fireplaces and lots of tables for taking a load off and filling up on chili and hot cocoa. When the slopes close, grab a pint at R Dubs Pub at the base of the mountain and brag to everyone about your insane skills. When it’s time to hit the pillow, MacKenzie Lodge offers decent, easy, slope-side lodging and extremely affordable rates. It’s your standard no fuss lodge with mountain décor and an outdoor hot tub, and for $59 a night during the week, you can’t really ask for much more.
Boyne Mountain & Boyne Highlands are both included in the $49 one-day adult lift ticket. That, my friends, is called a deal. Skiing, snowboarding, alpine skiing, snowshoeing, two super pipes—this place is legit. Start the morning at Boyne Mountain and finish off the day at Boyne Highlands. You have to drive between the two, but it’s just a short twenty-seven mile drive. The quaint town of Bay Harbor is located almost exactly in the middle of the two resorts. Along with lovely bayside walks, there are plenty of cottages, hotels, resorts, and inns available in town. And where there are cottages and inns, there are sure to be opportunities for donning a comfy ski sweater and tucking in by the fire.
Best Ski-and-Stay Deals
While most of the marquis resorts in Colorado boast one-day adult lift tickets for $92 and above, they also boast some unbelievable packages to get you to their slopes. If you can take a few days off midweek, you’ll get a deal to brag about for the rest of the winter. And, it’s worth it, too. There’s really nothing like a Rocky Mountain skiing and snowboarding experience with its sheer volume of trails, quality grooming, and fresh powder. Snow.com, the main site for Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone, and Breckenridge, is offering a stay-and-ski (or ride) for $85 a night per person when you book three days (limited dates in January and February), or get 25 percent off lodging and 33 percent off lift tickets. More deals are added weekly.
Most Expensive Lift Tickets
If there’s money burning a hole in your pocket, then take it to Aspen, Colorado, where a lift ticket is $182 for two days. (They don’t currently sell one-day lift tickets.) The star-studded, celebrity winter hot spot has gorgeous scenery (people and mountains), but truly isn’t worth the price, in my opinion. As the most expensive lift ticket in the country, Aspen offers very few incentives for the value shopper. My recommendation is to take a drive there when you’re in the area. Views, gawking, ooohing, and aaahing were still free the last time I checked.
The same goes for these other runner-up resorts for most expensive lift ticket:
But don’t put that ski sweater away quite yet. There are plenty of deals to be had, even for the most economical traveler. With the dollar sinking like me in a hot tub after a hard day on the mountain, it’s a travelers’ market in the ski industry this winter. So, pack up your furry boots, get the camera, and hit the slopes, snow bunnies.