High-end ski resorts claim all the glamour, but a destination such as Aspen or Vail is not the place for cheap skiing. These resorts typically charge well north of $100 for an adult lift ticket, not to mention the cost of lodging, dining, and equipment rental. Instead, head for a destination where the prices are lower, the resort is appealing and unpretentious, and the skiing is still worth the trip. Budget-friendly spots are especially prevalent in the West and Northeast.
Jay Peak is known as the skiing and snowboarding site with the most snow in eastern North America, thanks to average annual snowfall of 377 inches. There are 78 trails running over 50 miles (the longest stretching 3 miles), more than 100 acres of gladed terrain, freestyle terrain parks, and the state's only aerial tram. One-day lift tickets for adults cost $84 but are discounted to $69 for Vermont residents. Online purchases generate substantial discounts -- more than 50 percent for some dates.
Skiers who would rather not share the slopes with snowboarders can head to Mad River Glen in Waitsfield, where snowboarders are not welcome. There are 45 trails, with options aplenty for novice, intermediate, and expert skiers. One-day weekend lift tickets are $89 for adults and $72 for children ages 6 through high school (kids under 5 ski for free), but tickets bought online in advance are considerably cheaper.
Located in North Conway, this resort is ideal for frugal families or large groups. If some in the party don't want to ski, they can head out to the adventure park and mountain roller coaster ($13 a ride). Adult lift tickets bought onsite cost $75; teens pay $60, and children cost $46. Plan ahead and pay a lot less by buying tickets online in advance.
This scenic region is popular in fall and summer months thanks to top-notch hiking and foliage viewing; it's also an affordable ski destination in winter. Ski Butternut in Great Barrington offers reasonable prices for a quick ski getaway. One-day adult lift tickets go for $60 on a non-holiday weekend, but the real deal is weekday skiing, when the cost is only $25. Children 7 to 13 pay $50 for a one-day ticket on weekends and $20 for weekdays. Fees for the 6-and-under crowd are $25 for weekends and $15 for weekdays. Four-hour flex tickets, which shave $5 off the regular prices, are available during weekends and holidays.
Blacktail Mountain in Lakeside is nicknamed the "upside-down hill," because skiers go from top to bottom before catching a lift. Beginners might want to ski elsewhere -- 70 percent of the slopes are rated intermediate and 15 percent as expert. Adults pay $42 for a day of skiing, teens pay $30, tweens pay $20, and children up to age 7 ski free. Freebies are also offered on birthdays, and all fifth-graders are entitled to a free day pass or, for a $10 processing fee, a free season pass.
Gorgeous scenery goes hand in hand with bargain prices at Turner Mountain. The 22 runs at this rustic ski area in Libby are best for experienced skiers; 60 percent are black diamonds and 30 percent are rated "more difficult." Adult lift tickets are only $38 for the day; kids under 6 ski free; ages 7 to 12 pay $21; and teens cost $26.
At Ski Santa Fe, visitors to New Mexico's capital city can slide down 79 trails running over 660 acres with options for skiers at different levels. A day at this mountain costs $78 for adults, $67 for active-duty and retired military, $60 for teens, and $52 for children taller than 46 inches and up to age 12. The beginner lift, available to young and old alike, costs $38. At time of writing, only some runs were open and lift tickets were going for less.
Located near Park City, about 35 miles southeast of Salt Lake City, Brighton Resort boasts average annual snowfall of 500 inches and 66 ski runs. A full-day adult lift ticket is $85, youth tickets (for ages 11 to 13) are $53, and kids under 10 ski free with a paying adult. A reloadable Go Card lets skiers purchase passes online at discount online. Lower rates also are available for beginners and night skiing.
North of Salt Lake City, Ogden is home to several ski areas within about a 30-minute drive. Powder Mountain charges $85 for all-day adult lift tickets -- with slightly discounted passes available online -- and $29 for night skiing (only 2,000 lift tickets are sold each day). The 8,500 skiable acres include 167 runs and two terrain parks. Nordic Valley in Eden, part of the greater Ogden area, offers excellent powder conditions without large crowds. This mountain offers 22 runs but boasts the lowest prices in the area, with full-day weekend tickets costing $50 for adults and $35 for children.
In addition to big names such as Heavenly and Squaw Valley, this area is home to more affordable ski resorts. At scenic Homewood Mountain on the western shore of Lake Tahoe, the lake is visible from the runs. Adult lift tickets start at $49 online ($37 for teens and $22 for kids) for mid-week skiing. Another Tahoe resort, Diamond Peak in Incline Village, Nevada, charges a family rate of $226 for two adults and two children (6 and under are free).