Skiing in Colorado doesn’t have to come with such sticker shock, even when purchasing your lift ticket at the window the same day. Of course sticker shock, or in this case window shock, is more likely to happen on those peak weekends, over holidays and when you’re skiing at one of the big Colorado ski resorts. However, by sticking to small and mid-size Colorado ski resorts, you can enjoy a day on the slopes without feeling the pain when your credit card bill arrives. Let’s show you how to ski in Colorado on a budget. For more options throughout the U.S., check out our round-up of some of the most affordable ski resorts.
Before we jump into actual pricing, let’s talk about the best ski value. First and foremost, you will most certainly save money if you purchase an IKON or Epic season pass (read our Epic vs. IKON comparison article for a complete breakdown). That is, as long as you plan to ski several days, and you buy your pass early. The Colorado ski prices we discuss in this article are single day, adult lift tickets purchased at the ticket window.
Nonetheless, there are other factors that come into play to save money. Buying multiple day tickets will also save you money, as will purchasing senior, military, junior, local or other discounted tickets when offered. Additionally, check out the Colorado Gems Pass, good at many of the smaller resorts in Colorado. Finally, some ski areas offer discounted individual lift tickets if you purchase them in advance online. Now, read on for the most affordable ski resorts in Colorado.
Note: Ticket prices change with the time of the season, snow conditions and during special promotions. Look for deals early in the ski season, late in the season and on weekdays.
10 Affordable Ski Resorts in Colorado
Ski Cooper. Cooper is in the same mountain neighborhood as Vail, Breckenridge, and Beaver Creek, so you can expect good snow conditions at a bargain. Lift ticket prices are significantly less than other ski resorts, around $80 oftentimes on weekdays and weekends. Cooper’s ski pass is a great option, too, as it offers free ski days at a number of partner ski resorts throughout North America. Cooper, in operation since 1942, is a friendly resort with good facilities and great snow, featuring 5 lifts serving 59 trails spread out across 470 acres. Leadville, population 2,700, has reasonably priced lodging and dining. Check out the Cloud Hostel & Inn close to downtown as an affordable lodging option with ski storage.
Sunlight Ski Area. Waiting for you between Vail and Aspen Snowmass is Sunlight Mountain Resort, where single adult lift tickets are just $65. Sunlight, a great family ski resort, receives more than 300 days of sunshine each year, along with 250 inches (nearly 21 feet) of snow per season. The deals here extend off the mountain to nearby Glenwood Springs, which offers a wide variety of budget-friendly lodging options along with those world-famous hot springs to soak away the ski leg blues.
Loveland Ski Area. Loveland is located in the Arapahoe National Forest, less than an hour west of Denver, making it a local favorite. Adult lift ticket prices are $119 any day of the week, while they go down early in the season and late in the season. There are two separate base areas: Loveland Valley, which is dedicated to beginners with its own lift, and Loveland Basin, which offers terrain for every level of skier and snowboarder including steeps, trees, cruisers, open bowls, and everything in between. Trapper’s Crossing, by Summit County Mountain Retreats, is five miles from the mountain and is one of the top choices for your stay.
Wolf Creek. Skiers in southeast Colorado, New Mexico, and even Texas are lucky to have one of Colorado’s snowiest ski resorts, Wolf Creek, in their backyard at good prices. Daily adult lift tickets are $85. Wolf Creek is a small Colorado ski resort with 1,600 skiable acres, but there’s a variety of terrain, and plenty of powder days for everyone to enjoy. Reasonably priced accommodations can be found to the west of the mountain in nearby Pagosa Springs and South Fork. Both towns also have good dining options and grocery stores. Pagosa Springs offers the bonus of its hot springs for soaking.
Monarch Mountain. Off most people’s radar is Monarch Mountain, an affordable Colorado destination that receives 350 inches of snow each year. Monarch offers three kinds of lift tickets to buy here depending on when you ski or ride. Weekday adult tickets are $104; weekend jumps to $119 and holiday periods are $139. Buy in advance online and save as much as 40 percent. The nearby town of Salida is a budget-friendly option for accommodations, from chain hotels to family-owned properties.
Winter Park. Just 67 miles from Denver, Winter Park is the big city’s winter playground. Wind down in Winter Park’s energetic downtown area or in the modern ski village at the base of the slopes. Adult lift ticket prices are generally in the $179 range, but you can save up to 40 percent by purchasing in advance. Consider riding the Winter Park Express Train to the mountain leaving from Denver’s historic Union Station. There are two distinct ski terrain options to ski or ride: Milder Winter Park and more advanced Mary Jane.
Echo Mountain. Denver’s closest and most affordable ski area (35 miles from Denver), Echo Mountain, is an ideal day trip destination and a good option for saving on gas and lodging. Adult lift tickets at the window are $79. However, you can score them from $57-$69 in advance online. Snow is plentiful, and the ski area also has extensive snowmaking capabilities. A bonus at Echo is night skiing. Finish up your workday and a short while later, you’ll be on the snow. Echo also has a tubing park to keep the kids busy.
Purgatory. Located in the San Juan Mountain range near Durango, Purgatory offers adult lift tickets around $89 on weekdays and weekends. An easy drive down the road from Purgatory is the lively Western town of Durango with a wide variety of hotels and inns. The town is home to Fort Lewis College, so there are plenty of excellent budget eateries and accommodations catering to students and their families. Not to mention that Durango is considered one of the top small towns in America.
Hesperus Ski Area. Hesperus Ski Area is located 11 miles west of Durango and offers 26 trails on 60 skiable acres, with 150 inches of annual snowfall. Everything is reasonably priced at Ski Hesperus with adult lift tickets going for only $48 during the day and $36 for night skiing. Nearby Durango offers everything else.
Eldora Resort. While there is no town of Eldora, located 21 miles from Boulder, the resort has all the necessities: rental equipment, ski school, food, and drink. Adult lift tickets are $99, and look what you save in aggravation and dollars from driving up I-70 in the usual ski resort traffic. There’s a large, affordable food court and upstairs bar and retail shop, while parking is free and close to the mountain. Nearby Nederland has some fun shops and restaurants, and it’s where you’ll find the closest lodging to the mountain. Note: Eldora is an IKON Pass resort.
Where is the most affordable ski resort?
Ski Cooper is one of Colorado’s most affordable ski areas, and arguably the best value. It’s also just a few miles from the historic Western town of Leadville. Leadville is both fun and affordable in all ways. Hesperus Ski Area is one of the cheapest ski resorts in Colorado, but you won’t find the snow and terrain that you’ll find at most other Colorado ski resorts.
How do you ski in Colorado on a budget?
Buy discounted lift tickets online. This is typically the best way to save if you don’t have a ski pass. Save on lodging by staying at a bed and breakfast or vacation rental, many of which are typically only a few minutes from ski resorts. Pack a lunch for the day, as ski resort food and drinks can add up. Finally, shop local or rent gear. If you’re without gear and on a budget, you’ll want to avoid the shops at base areas and look for bargains nearby.
Colorado Ski Country USA offers any fifth grader the chance to ski or ride 3 days at 22 participating member resorts across the state. That’s up to 66 free days on the slopes. Try Howelsen Hill in Steamboat, which is Colorado’s oldest continually operated ski hill, offering free skiing on Sundays throughout the ski season just by showing up at the ticket office. This program is meant to “celebrate the community’s Olympian spirit and honor the tradition of this historic ski area.” Nearly 100 Olympians have been produced at Howelsen Hill.
How can I stay at cheap ski resorts?
Check online websites of hotels and lodges with ski vacation packages. Sign up for ski resorts’ newsletters and follow them on social media, as that’s where they’ll often post special offers. Head to OnTheSnow’s Colorado lodging page to see the latest lodging deals.
So, there you have a few suggestions for the most affordable ski resorts in Colorado. Pack your bags and equipment and find out for yourself that it won’t cost a fortune to experience some of the best snow conditions in the world. After your Colorado ski trip, leave a resort review and help other travelers plan their Colorado ski vacation.