9 Best Cheap Ski Destinations in 2015
High-end ski resorts claim all the glamour but they're pretentious and expensive, not to mention flooded with crowds. Finding the elusive cheap ski destination is a challenge. Ski resorts often charge $100 for an adult lift ticket, and that's just for the daytime activity. Then there's the cost of transportation, lodging, local travel, dining, and equipment rental.
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We identified several budget-friendly locations where the skiing is good, sometimes surprisingly so. Most cheap ski areas are found in the western and northeastern regions of the country. The west is known for high-quality slopes and snow while the northeast offers smaller mountains and less reliable snow conditions. Most of our top picks are near major airports and highways and therefore less costly to get to. And we've suggested tips that will help skiers keep overall costs under control.
A few minutes of online research can uncover leads to other cheap ski destinations. Liftopia is a clearinghouse for deals on lift tickets, for example. Sites such as Ski.com showcase package deals, and The Ski Lift is dedicated to ride-sharing arrangements and social networking for skiers and snowboarders.
Northeast.New England provides an abundance of inexpensive ski resorts and mountains, although not particularly close to major cities. Boston is a hub for Delta Air Lines and also a focus city for JetBlue Airways, which means good deals pop up periodically.
Jay Peak Resort in Jay, Vt., recently invested $200 million in its snow-making and amenities infrastructure. An annual average snowfall of 355 inches earns Jay Peak the title of snowiest skiing and snowboarding venue in eastern North America. Lift tickets for adults start at $35 per day and comfortable lodgings via Airbnb land at around $70 per night.
Are you a beginner? Saddleback Mountain in western Maine offers some of the best slopes in New England for novices. Saddleback is among the highest ski mountains in the area but prices are low. An adult lift ticket costs $49 Sunday through Friday and $59 on Saturday. The Ski & Stay package includes lodging and lift tickets, with daily mid-week rates of $69 per person; a minimum two-night stay is required. Cranmore Mountain in North Conway, N.H., is particularly family-friendly owing to the Alberg Children's Learning Center, adventure park, and "mountain coaster."
If you find snowboarders annoying, check out Mad River Glen in Waitsfield, Vt., where they are not welcome. This semi-secluded ski area is dirt cheap, with a one-day lift ticket plus $10 lunch voucher starting at $31.
Utah.Utah provides ample opportunity to ski cheaply. Each of the choices below is not far from Salt Lake City's major airport.
Sundance Mountain Resort, an hour-plus drive from Salt Lake City, offers one-day adult lift tickets at $26 per day and one-day lift-plus-rental tickets starting at $47 per day. There's also night skiing, if you're into that. Accommodation is equally low cost in neighboring Provo, where motels start at $39 per night, but far steeper at the resort itself ($169 per night).
Ogden boasts three ski areas, Snowbasin, Wolf Creek, and Powder Mountain, all within a 20-minute drive of each other. Snowbasin has two-day adult lift tickets at $84 and Wolf Creek offers one-day lift tickets at $37 per day. Deep powder aficionados will take to the 700 acres of pristine white at Powder Mountain, where one-day lift tickets go for $69 per adult and $24 for the night pass. Hotels within Ogden and the surrounding area are mostly reasonable, with rates ranging from $48 to $80 per night.
Brighton is located 35 miles southeast of Salt Lake City and encompasses four "terrain parks" that cater to every level, from beginner to expert. Ski the slopes at this cheap resort for $68 per day; adult beginners, children, and seniors qualify for discounts. For a splurge, on-mountain lodging starts at $129 per night and includes continental breakfast. Budget-priced lodging options are widely available in the area.
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West Coast.With 1,260 acres, 64 runs, and claims to environmentally-friendly practices, Homewood Mountain Ski Resort nestles on the California shore of Lake Tahoe. Adult lift tickets go for a daily rate of $48 and up; active-duty military qualify for free non-holiday lift tickets and pay half price for holiday skiing. Military family members receive a 50 percent discount when tagging along with their service member.
Blacktail Mountain in Lakeside, Mont., is nicknamed the "upside down hill" because skiers go from top to bottom before settling onto a lift. The terrain makes this cheap ski destination most appropriate for skiers with some experience; 70 percent of the slopes are rated intermediate and 15 percent as expert. Adults pay just $38 for a day of skiing while children up to age 7 can ski for free. A freebie is also offered on birthdays and "Fifth For Free" entitles all fifth graders a free day pass or, for a $10 processing fee, a free season pass. Another inexpensive ski resort, Turner Mountain, is not too far away.
The Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Santa Fe, N.M., with a base elevation of 10,350 feet, are among the highest ski destinations in the continental United States. The Ski Santa Fe area offers 77 trails running over 660 acres and options for skiers at different levels. Adults pay $69 for a daily lift ticket or $36 for the beginner lift (available to young and old alike). Active and retired service members merit a $15 discount. Multi-day passes trim the daily rate. Nightly rates for lodging at nearby partner facilities start at $35; package deals are also offered.