The Most Affordable Ski Resorts in the U.S.

Newsroom Travel The Most Affordable Ski Resorts in the U.S.

Ski vacations can be expensive. Nobody will argue that. However, despite the expense of skiing, budget-friendly ski resorts abound. You may not find a legendary vertical drop, and your ski trip may not have the glitz and glamour of iconic ski movies. Yet a budget ski vacation can be as fun, if not more fun, than the grandest ski resorts, and often without sticker shock, lift lines, and traffic. So, we’ve put together a list of a few of the most affordable ski resorts in America.

These affordable ski resort recommendations are generally small to mid-size ski resorts. Some of these ski resorts are tied into the Epic or Ikon pass programs, which certainly save a lot of money as long as you ski at least a few days every winter at participating resorts. Passes save money in the long run, especially if you buy them when they go on sale in the spring. If you’re looking to try a bunch of smaller ski areas, you won’t go wrong with the fast-growing Indy Pass, with its wide network of generally affordable ski resorts across the country. You can learn about more pass programs here.

Find our list of the most affordable ski resorts below, and leave a review for any ski resorts you’ve recently visited here.

The Most Affordable Ski Resorts in America


Wildcat Mountain, tucked away in Pinkham Notch, New Hampshire, remains a classic ski area today for East Coast skiers, and with a price that’s just right. Wildcat has 225 skiable acres, ranging from beginner to advanced, and is one of the steepest mountains in the East with a vertical drop of 2,112 feet. Ski or ride the longest summit-to-base novice trail here, running for 2.75 miles and featuring plenty of views along the way. Wildcat Mountain is now a Vail Resort mountain, which means that using the Epic Day Pass will get you on the hill for around $113.

» View Wildcat Mtn. Lodging Options

Wildcat Mountain bumps.
©Wildcat Mountain / Vail Resorts


Mad River Glen, in Fayston, Vermont, has a “ski it if you can” moniker, where ownership is via a co-op of skiers. The trails are challenging, with a vertical drop of 2,000 feet, while it receives about 250 inches of snow each year. The crowds are lighter at Mad River (Sugarbush is its neighbor), and the vibe is very laid back. Therefore, don’t expect a high-speed chair or machine-made snow. And don’t bring a snowboard since Mad River Glen is one of only a few remaining ski resorts that doesn’t allow snowboarding. Day tickets are $110, but check out the Stark Mountain Family Pass, for $349, where kids under 12 are free after Jan. 1.

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Mad River Glen, Vermont.
©Ember Photography / Mad River Glen

Magic Mountain, in Londonderry, Vermont, is one of a triangle of Vermont resorts consisting of upscale Stratton Mt. and venerable Bromley, located near the shopping mecca of Manchester. While it’s another one of those throwback New England ski areas, the relatively new owners have improved the ski area considerably. Magic Mountain is home to 1,500 feet of vertical, 39 trails and 11 glades, 5 lifts, and, for the tough-minded, 26 percent expert terrain. The window day ticket for adults is $99, and $89 if you purchase online ahead of time.

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You needn’t head very far for a good deal if you live in the Connecticut area, as Mohawk Mountain in Cornwall beckons as a comfortable ski area with a 650-foot vertical drop, 8 lifts, and 26 trails on 112 acres. Note that it’s 100 percent snowmaking. Mohawk is an Indy Pass member, but the window price during the week is just $42 and only hits $77 on weekends and holidays.

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Chicago residents can enjoy fun skiing at Chestnut Mountain in Galena, Illinois. Chestnut Mountain is small but still a good time with its 450 feet of vertical, 19 trails, 9 lifts, and night skiing. Monday through Thursday, it’s just $50 for an adult ticket and $80 on weekends. Bonus: Chestnut is also an Indy Pass resort.

Shanty Creek Resort, home to Schuss Mountain in Bellaire, Michigan, is one of the most affordable skiing options in the state, with day rates of $70 for an adult on weekdays and Sundays, and $93 on Saturdays. It’s also part of the Indy Pass if you’re a fiend for skiing small mom-and-pop resorts around the United States. Schuss Mountain’s 8 lifts lead to 42 runs when the conditions are prime. This is a great deal for a Midwest ski area. Also in Michigan, Nub’s Nob, located north of Boyne in Northern Michigan, is tiny but packs a lot of skiing and riding. It has 53 trails served by 8 lifts and is also an Indy Pass member. Adult weekend tickets are $102 when you purchase them online.

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Boyne Mountain hotel Highlands.
©Boyne Mountain Resort


Devil’s Head, in Wisconsin, is a mid-sized Midwest ski area formed by a glacier in Baraboo Bluffs on 300 acres. The 8 lifts (including 6 quads) move fairly quickly, and your snow guarantee is 100 percent coverage. Day rates will vary, but early-season weekend days are just $92.

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Bridger Bowl in Bozeman, Montana, offers affordable skiing options without sacrificing powder and terrain variety. The vertical drop is 2,700 feet, and the skiable terrain is 2,000 acres. Hardcore skiers should make a beeline for the new Schlasman’s Lift, accessing expert-only, backcountry-style terrain, as well as The Ridge, in-bounds hiking terrain. Lift tickets for adults start at $77 when you buy online, and with a vast array of true big mountain terrain, Bridger Bowl is a must-ski resort whether you live in Montana or not. Ski more than a few times with the Bridger Bowl Reusable Cards.

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Whitefish Mountain is another beloved Montana ski with affordable day passes. For around $100, adults can get a day pass with access to 11 chairlifts, 111 named runs, and 3,000 acres of skiable terrain. Plus, Whitefish is historically known as a go-to resort to escape crowds and experience true, wide-open spaces. In addition to groomed runs, Whitefish has four terrain parks, a skier/boardercross course, bowls, glades, you name it. A summit elevation of 6,817 feet and an average of nearly 300 inches of snow per year makes Whitefish the perfect Western getaway.

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Whitefish Mountain, Montana, ski run.
Whitefish Mountain ©Shutterstock


Colorado may not bring to mind “affordable skiing,” but don’t sleep on Sunlight Mountain Resort, which isn’t far from Aspen (45 miles). This is a family-friendly Colorado mountain resort in Glenwood Springs, where you can ski all day and then soak your weary bones after a day of skiing. Kids 12 and under ski free with a paying adult on the Ski, Swim, and Stay program offered through hotel partners. Kids 5 and under and adults 80 and older ski free at Sunlight Mountain Resort. Lift tickets for adults start as low as $80. What’s more, the famous Glenwood Hot Springs Pool in town is the largest hot spring soaker in the world. Sunlight Mountain Resort has 2,010 vertical and spreads over 470 acres.

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Schweitzer Mountain Resort , in Sandpoint, Idaho, which gets about 300 inches of snow annually, is an uncrowded ski resort with 3,000 skiable acres, 95 trails, and open bowl terrain. In addition to skiing and snowboarding, it boasts cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and cat skiing. Plus, there is a rustic, European-style village. The online ticket price is $125 (window rate of $135), but you can reload and save. Additionally, the resort is part of the Ikon Pass. Bonus: Schweitzer Mountain Resort is a great summer resort, too, featuring mountain biking, hiking, and views of three states and Canada from the summit.

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Donner Ski Ranch, near Lake Tahoe, makes a ski vacation in the California High Sierra an affordable reality even by Lake Tahoe standards. An adult lift ticket costs around $109 per day (or $69 on “Old School Days”). Donner is near the California and Nevada border and is one of the oldest ski areas in the U.S. It offers beginner and intermediate skiers some excellent terrain, including 1,000 feet of vertical drop and 500 skiable acres. Donner Ski Ranch is less than three hours from San Francisco and under an hour from Reno.

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If you’re looking to ski a heavy hitter for a steal, booking Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico is the way to go. Adults can snag day tickets starting at $95 a day when purchasing at least 72 hours ahead of their trip. Taos is also a part of the Ikon Pass and Mountain Collective family, so friends and family discounts are available for additional discounts if you have access. Arapahoe Basin season ticket holders can purchase a day pass for $85 with lift ticket reciprocity. With 12 lifts and 122 trails (50% of which are black diamonds or double blacks), booking Taos early is a no-brainer for intermediate to expert-level skiers who want to experience one of America’s greats.

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Skiing down a steep run at Taos Ski Valley
©TAOS Ski Valley

Farther south, Ski Apache in Mescalero, New Mexico, high above the Texas-loved resort town of Ruidoso, is a too-well-kept secret. The vertical drop here is 1,800 feet, and the top elevation is 12,000 feet. Nine lifts move you around, including a gondola. Ski Apache is 33 percent snowmaking, but it’s not always needed in the Sacramento Mountains. The day pass is $110.

If you’re looking to dive into some of Utah’s infamous powder, Brian Head Resort in Southern Utah is your best bet for light, fluffy snow, and affordable lift prices. You won’t get the same views as you would in Northern Utah. Instead, you’ll be surrounded by red rock. But at Brian Head, the earlier you buy, the more you save. Tickets start as low as $29, but a few weeks ahead of time, you’ll be able to find weekday tickets for anywhere from $50 to $70. Weekend day passes never surpass $100. Plus, kids 12 & under always ski for free.

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The hills above the Los Angeles basin have a number of right-priced ski areas but don’t overlook historic Snow Valley, near Big Bear Mountain Resort, about 11 miles from Big Bear Lake. What was first known as Fish Camp is today a fun, easily accessed Southern California ski resort. Look for long cruisers, excellent beginner terrain, and some expert runs. Consider the Family Fun Pack for two adults and two kids at $189 on weekends (cheaper midweek). The Buy Anytime Pass is a good deal online.

Big Bear Mountain Resort, CA.
©Big Bear Mountain Resort/Snow Summit

Last, but not least, Mt. Hood Ski Bowl, near Portland, is a sure bet with its long ski season. The nickname by locals here is “Cheap and Steep.” There’s 1,500 feet of vertical, and sliding is spread over 960 acres of skiable terrain with 10 chairs and surface lifts. Mt. Hood Skibowl also boasts the largest night skiing terrain in the country. The window price for a lift ticket is approximately $78. Note the pass doesn’t guarantee you parking.


Where is the most affordable ski resort?

The most affordable ski resort depends on the day, time of ski season, and other factors. But you can often count on many of the Indy Pass resorts and smaller, independent ski resorts.

Our pick for the most affordable ski resort is Buck Hill, which sits just south of Minneapolis next to Interstate 35. Yes, it’s small, but its racing program has brought us more big-time skiers than you can count, including Lindsey Vonn. The vertical is just 282 feet, and the 16 trails cover 45 acres. Weekend price is $59. And it’s so convenient.

Where is the cheapest place to ski in the US?

Many of the most popular ski regions, such as Colorado, California, and Utah, are not your best bet for affordable skiing. However, you can find more affordable ski resorts in New England. One of the best values is at Wildcat Mountain in New Hampshire, where you can ski for $41 a day with the Epic 7-day pass. Otherwise, we recommend the Midwest, where you can find lift tickets at some resorts for close to $50. Chestnut Mountain, for example, has $50 lift tickets during the week.

What is the cheapest month to go skiing?

Let’s start with when isn’t the most affordable skiing month. And that’s around the holidays, as lift tickets and accommodations can be most expensive. Early January, with the exception of New Year’s Eve weekend and MLK weekend, is typically the best value during the heart of the ski season. This time, right after the holidays, is often the best flight and hotel prices of the year, too. Otherwise, your best bet is at the end of the season for spring skiing. Finally, if you plan on skiing a lot, getting a major pass can save a lot of money on lift ticket prices and pay for itself after just a few days on the mountain. Don’t miss our guides on the Ikon, Epic, Mountain Collective, and Indy passes.

Header image: ©Jay Dash Photography/Brian Head Resort

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