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How to Ski for Cheap at these Affordable Ski Resorts

Becky Hart | Sep 29, 2022

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College friends skiing in the Colorado Rockies.

While some folks are hunkering indoors under blankets waiting for spring, skiers and snowboarders don’t think the weather outside is frightful. They’re thinking about how a ski getaway would be delightful!

What’s not delightful about such ski trips is the cost and the crowds. Lodging, gear rental, transportation, and lift passes all add up quickly, and you don’t want your budget to melt before the snow does. Here are tips for how to save money when skiing, plus the best ski resorts to visit on a budget.

Man with snowcapped mountain view.

How Can I Ski Cheaply?

Ski trips might have a lot of expenses, but that doesn’t mean you have to break the budget this winter.

1. Gear up responsibly.

Ski gear can get pretty expensive, especially if you don’t own your own skis and if your kids keep outgrowing their clothes. Some resorts offer cheaper rentals on skis, boots, and helmets if you reserve them in advance. (This, by the way, is a solid example of those “prepaid trip expenses” we’re always talking about in travel insurance. If you have to cancel your trip for a covered reason and the resort doesn’t offer refunds on reserved rental equipment or passes, your trip protection could reimburse you instead.)

When your kids are shooting up like weeds and outgrow their snowsuit after a single season, think about renting their gear, too. Look online to find an outfitter in your area that will rent or sell gently used ski clothing like snowsuits, goggles, ski socks, and more.

2. Ask about family rates.

When you’re researching deals, ask resorts if they have any price breaks for families. Some of the resorts we mention below, for example, let kids under six ski free. We also found some that offer senior rates, perfect for multigenerational vacations.

3. Do the math.

Many resorts have a daily ski pass and a six-day rate. If you plan to ski for three to five days, do a bit of math to choose the most cost-effective option. At some resorts, it might turn out to be cheaper to buy the weekly pass and only use it for a few days than it would be to buy multiple single-day passes.

4. Avoid peak season.

Like most tourist destinations, resorts increase their rates — for both the skiing and lodge room reservations — during peak ski season. If you can adjust your travel dates so that you’re hitting the slopes during shoulder season or just on cusp of prime time, you’re more likely to find price breaks. The cheapest month to ski safely will vary by destination.

If you don’t like the risk of going on the shoulder season and not having snow, try going during the peak months but in the middle of the week rather than the weekend.

5. Be flexible with your destination.

Popular ski resorts know they can charge a lot and people will pay for the name recognition. You can save a lot of money without sacrificing on location by finding a budget-friendly ski resort near the most well-known ones. Vail doesn’t have a monopoly on the Rockies, after all. Broaden your search to find a better deal. And remember that if part of the draw of the fancy resorts is their fine dining and gorgeous lodges, you can always just go there for a meal while skiing elsewhere.

Where to Go Skiing on a Budget

Affordable ski resorts are more plentiful than you think. And while getting to an international ski resort might cost you more than hitting the slopes in the U.S., lift passes and accommodations might actually be cheaper abroad.

1. Whiteface — New York

Originally a site for the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics, anybody can ski this mountain today. Whiteface features 90 trails, some of which are quite steep, across three peaks. If you’re still relatively new to the slopes, check out the terrain parks. But for those ready for something in the black Diamond family, the area known as The Slides is for you.

Among the money-saving options is the resort’s Frequent Skier Card, which offers discounted lift tickets during certain times. As for accommodations, you’ll find the high-end lodging you’d expect of a northeast ski resort. But there are plenty of budget-friendly options in and around town as well, including some B&Bs that look perfect for a relaxing with a post-ski hot chocolate.

2. Mammoth Mountain — California

Rather than a single resort, Mammoth Mountain is an entire ski area east of San Francisco, less than hour from Yosemite National Park. This means you have more options for everything, from slopes for skiing (or biking during the summer), to places to stay, to things to do. The highest lift-served summit in California, Mammoth Mountain is prime for downhill skiing, but don’t snooze on the cross-country skiing, tubing, and snowmobile tours, either.

The “lodging collection” offers something for a range of budgets, including campgrounds, luxury condos, and rental homes.

3. Bridger Bowl — Montana

Bridger Bowl in Bozeman, Montana, features 2,000 acres of skiable terrain from December until early April. It has 75 trails and even more unmarked runs for expert-level skiers and snowboarders. Of all the U.S. ski resorts on this list, this one might be the most off the beaten path. While that be a little tougher logistically for travel, it also means more unspoiled views and less crowds.

One of the nice things about Bridger Bowl if you’re comparing prices is the many discounts they offer. Buying your tickets online rather than at the window will save you money. “Kids” six and under as well as 80 and over ski free. There’s even a $20 ticket if you’re just testing the (frozen) waters and want to stick to the beginner lifts only.

4. Solitude Mountain Resort — Utah

Utah is another state that was picked to host the Olympics in the winter back in 2002, so you know the powder is going to be good. Solitude Mountain Resort is one of the few that hasn’t hiked up its prices since then. Of course it varies based on the time of year, but it’s not difficult to find a lift pass for less than $100 per day. If you do find yourself there when the snow isn’t at its finest, check out the new Solitude Adventure Park with rock climbing walls and bungees or take a mountain bike lesson.

Getting to the resort won’t cost you a ton of money or time as it’s tucked between Salt Lake City and Provo. You’re an hour or less from both cities. When you’re looking for ways to save money, having more options works to your advantage.

5. Monterreal — Mexico

We wouldn’t blame you for questioning our sanity. Skiing in Mexico? The very fact that no one thinks you can ski in Mexico is what makes it such a budget-friendly vacation spot. Because the skiing season is short, even at higher altitudes, some resorts supplement with artificial snow.

Former Seven Corners blogger Luke Armstrong lists Mexico’s Monterreal resort as one of his favorites. For the price of a lift ticket at most U.S. ski resorts, Monterreal, located 90 minutes from Monterrey, will provide you with a cabin, amenities like pools and play areas for the kids, a lift ticket, and postcard views of the Sierra Madre range. It’s also a short flight away from places like Puerto Escondido and Cancún. Imagine your friends’ jealousy when you combine a ski and beach trip in the same vacation.

6. Vogel Ski Center – Slovenia

Vogel Ski Resort gets our vote as one of the most picturesque sites on this list. It's located in the Triglav National Park in the northwest corner of the country, putting it near the Austrian and Italian borders. Once you’ve explored the nearly 14 miles of ski runs, you might try your hand at winter paragliding.

The budget-conscious will be glad to know that a week-long ski pass at Vogel is less expensive than a single-day pass at many of the most popular American resorts, making this both a novel and a cost-effective destination.

7. SkiWelt Söll – Austria

It’s no secret that the Alps have breathtaking skiing, but you might not be as familiar with SkiWelt Söll. This resort has more than 70 peaks of slopes designed for skiers of all ability levels. It’s especially great for kids with activities beyond just skiing. You’ll find witch-themed events year-round, such as the Raven’s Rallye, a free treasure hunt where kids can help the resident witches find their escaped ravens for a prize.

Getting to Söll isn’t complicated as it can be reached in less than two hours from Innsbruck, Munich, or Salzburg airports — there's an airport shuttle to take you to the resort — or by train from various cities.

8. Gulmarg Ski Resort – India

If you’re willing to splurge a bit on transportation to get to your resort, you’ll make up the difference with the low cost of passes at Gulmarg Ski Resort. A day pass for non-Indian residents (as of August 2022) was less than $25. Lest you think the inexpensive ticket means you won’t get great skiing, this lesser-known gem in the Himalayan Mountains was ranked No. 7 by CNN International for best ski areas in Asia.

Gulmarg is located in the northern province of Kashmir in India. Not only does the resort have the highest ski lift in the world at 3,980 meters (13,000 feet), but Gulmarg also claims to have the world’s highest golf course. If crowds aren’t to your liking, you’ll love Gulmarg with its population of less than 800.

Protect Your Investment with Travel Insurance for Ski Trips

With so much invested in a trip that depends on something as unreliable as the weather, trip protection is a smart call. Plus, there’s always the question of how to ski safely. Seven Corners offers a range of travel insurance options to fit your needs, from trip protection in the event you have to cancel or interrupt your trip for a covered reason, to group insurance for when you’re taking the entire squad to the slopes, to travel medical insurance that covers accidents and illnesses that occur during your trip.

Find the best travel insurance for you and your special ski trip by getting a quick quote at SevenCorners.com or talking to one of our licensed agents.

Email sales@sevencorners.com

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