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If you’re dreaming of a ski vacation in the United States this winter but don’t think you can afford it, you might want to consider one of these budget-friendly ski resorts. Many offer great runs, spectacular scenery and even fewer crowds – without the high cost.
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This no-frills mountain in the White Mountain Forest of New Hampshire is one of the steepest mountains in the region with a vertical drop of 2,112 feet. It’s also home to the longest summit-to-base novice trail, running for 2.75 miles and featuring spectacular views along the way. There are 225 acres of skiable terrain, offering something for everyone from beginners to the most advanced. In the town of North Conway, less than 20 miles away, visitors enjoy plenty of New England charm and a relaxed, charming, family-friendly atmosphere with Victorian-era homes, old-fashioned candy shops and pubs.
If you want to ski Tahoe, but don’t want to pay an arm and a leg, head to the local’s favorite, Alpine Meadows. Lake Tahoe has a multitude of ski resorts, but Alpine is considered one of its lesser-known gems. It also has the longest snow season of any other Tahoe ski resort. It gets 402 inches on average each year, and the powder stays for days. Alpine Meadows offers more than 100 trails, with a wide variety for all skill levels, and nearly 2,400 acres of skiable terrain. Plus, you can also base in your stay in the more affordable town of Truckee nearby.
Also in the Sangre de Cristos of Northern New Mexico, Taos Sky Valley is located about 15 miles from the town of Taos, offering rugged, natural and steep terrain for the more adventurous, with a vertical drop of 2,612 feet, though you’ll find plenty of trails for beginners over its nearly 1,300 acres of skiable terrain too. A top attraction in Taos, the big draw is for the experts, with the mountain’s incredible array of rocks, untouched bumps and drops on the unmatched hike-to terrain. All will enjoy the more than 300 days of sunshine on top of the 305 inches of snow it gets every year. Stay in Taos and you can also enjoy its great art galleries, museums, cafes and bars.
Mount Bachelor offers nearly 3,700 acres of lift-accessible terrain – and, from the top of this strato-volcano, you’ll enjoy breathtaking views of the Cascades. On a clear day, you’ll not only see the Three Sisters and views of Broken Top crater, but Mount Hood as well as Mount Adams and Mount Thielson in Washington State, and Mount Shasta toward to the south in California. Bachelor gets an average annual snowfall of more than 400 inches, has a vertical drop of 3,365 feet, is the largest ski area in the Pacific Northwest and the second largest single-mountain ski resort in America.
The resort is also known for its great ski and lodging deals along with an especially family-friendly ski experience. Plus, you can enjoy a multitude of breweries in the town of Bend, along with all sorts of shops and galleries in its historic Old Mill District.
Bridger Bowl, a condo-free, nonprofit ski area, is another great Montana option, located about 20 minutes from Bozeman, a charming college town with lots of art galleries, eateries, coffee shops, bookstores and even vegetarian cafes, something that’s not easy to find in most Montana towns. It gets an average snowfall of about 350 inches and has 2,000 acres of skiable terrain. The hardcore head here for the new Schlasman’s Lift, providing access to expert-only, backcountry-style terrain as well as The Ridge, in-bounds hiking terrain. With affordable lift tickets and fantastic terrain, this exceptional ski area is ideal. Plus, it’s just 80 miles north of Yellowstone National Park, which is especially breathtaking during the winter and offers amazing cross-country skiing as well as some of the best wildlife watching on the planet.
Snowbird has often been ranked as one of the very best ski resorts on the continent for families, with terrain for all skill levels. The snow is abundant, frequent and as light as it gets. On average, the resort receives nearly 40 feet of snow a year, twice as much as many Colorado resorts, and it’s a lot less expensive too. Snowbird’s Cirque offers some of the nation’s best expert terrain serviced by a tram, but families can enjoy skiing the tamer terrain around the base and take advantage of slopeside lodging at The Iron Blossom or the Cliff House. As it’s just a half hour’s drive from Salt Lake City, you can easily ski and fly the same day, no matter which area of the country you’re flying in from. Plus, getting a Snowbird lift ticket will get you access to Alta Resort as well.
Located in Fayston, Vermont, where the motto is “Ski It If You Can,” Mad River Glen is ideal for east coast skiers who’d like to avoid snowboarders while also enjoying reasonable lift ticket prices. The mountain offers challenging trails with a vertical drop of 2,000 feet, about 250 inches of snow each year, and, fewer crowds, as well as a more laid-back vibe, compared to glitzier Killington and Stratton. It’s doesn’t have a high-speed chair lift or make snow as a fairly old-school mountain, but there are lots of friendly locals willing to dole out advice when you need it.
Spread out across four mountain peaks, Big Bear Mountain Resort in the San Bernardino Mountains is a popular destination for Southern California residents with 749 skiable acres, terrain for all skill levels and night skiing available on weekends and holidays. Its Skill Builders Parks are geared for freestyle skiers with beginner skills, though most slopes are rated intermediate. It’s best known for its world-class terrain parks, with 130 rails, boxes and walls as well as some 150 snow features of all types, and the only four pipes, including the only Superpipe in Southern California. A wide range of accommodation options also awaits every taste and budget, including charming B&Bs, vacation rentals and affordable hotels.
While the Lake Tahoe area draws thousands upon thousands of skiers and snowboarders to its slopes, those in the know head to Bear Valley, located between Tahoe and Yosemite, to enjoy some of the best powder in Northern California at a lower price – and for a more tranquil experience. It doesn’t get the crowds but it definitely gets the snow. While it caters to beginners and intermediates, hotshot skiers will find plenty to keep them busy. Plus, it’s actually four areas in one, with Upper Mountain, Snow Valley, Grizzly Bowl and Backside each with its own distinct look and feel.
Montana is one of the best destinations for affordable skiing on uncrowded slopes with gorgeous mountain backdrops. At Whitefish Mountain Resort, just west of Glacier National Park, you can enjoy family-friendly skiing with great beginner terrain as well as lots of long, wide-open roller coaster-type groomers for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities among the 3,000 acres of skiable terrain and 94 trails. Experts also will appreciate the multitude of steep and deep terrain, including plenty of backwoods tree skiing on the less-visited north side, though crowds are rare anywhere on the mountain unless it’s a holiday. While dining at the Summit House cafeteria, the views into Glacier are especially spectacular. You’ll find plenty of great “Ski & Stay” packages on the resort website at skiwhitefish.com.
Ski Cooper is one of Colorado’s most affordable ski resorts. It’s also just a few miles from the town of Leadville, which may not sound as exciting as Aspen, but lodging is far less expensive and it’s not near as pretentious either. This is the highest incorporated city in the U.S., at 10,152 feet in elevation, and it’s filled with charming Victorian inns as well as budget-friendly hotels and the famed Silver Dollar Saloon, an authentic Irish pub that dates back to 1877. There’s also a wide array of historical attractions to explore, as the entire town is part of a designated National Historic District.
Eldora is often forgotten, but that’s great for those who know it’s the place to go for good, cheap skiing. Plus it’s easily accessible, in the mountains just a 40-minute drive from Boulder near the town of Nederland. Even if you’re coming from downtown Denver, it’s only a 75-minute jaunt. Eldora has 680 acres of skiable terrain, with the majority of terrain for the intermediate and advanced, though there are still several green runs. It also has a Nordic center for cross-country skiers. While there is no lodging onsite, you’ll find plenty of options in Boulder as well as a few in Nederland, which is just 10 minutes away from the resort.
Sipapu, located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains 20 miles southeast of Taos, is a family-owned operation, around since 1952. Perfectly designed for families, it’s budget-friendly, fun, and you’ll find plenty of diversity in the terrain. There are 51 runs and the area gets an average snowfall of 190 inches. It also has a snowmaking system that can cover 70 percent of its 200 acres. The resort is renowned for offering some of the best tree skiing in New Mexico and it also offers two terrain parks, long cruising trails and a multitude of novice and beginner terrain.
This burgeoning ski resort destination in Northern Idaho is attempting to become the next Sun Valley, but fortunately for those who are looking for a quiet, intimate and inexpensive ski experience, it still has a long way to go. Voted as the “best-kept secret in North America” by Ski Magazine, this uncrowded gem has nearly 3,000 skiable acres and 95 trails, as well as open bowl skiing. It gets about 300 inches of snow a year, and in addition to downhill skiing, it offers Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and cat skiing. Plus there is a rustic, European-style village in which to base your stay, while nearby Sandpoint is also quite a charming place to spend a little time. In Sandpoint, you’ll find numerous shopping and dining venues, including dozens of eclectic shops downtown.
Grand Targhee is located about 48 miles from the glamour and glitz of Jackson Hole in the tiny town of Alta on the west side of the Tetons and offers an entirely different experience as a much more low-key ski resort. It draws skiers with its exceptional powder and outstanding skiing, rather than being a place to see and be seen. The 2,000 inbound skiable acres and 600 acres of cat-serviced terrain, along with limitless accessible backcountry, are covered with gorgeous powder every year with an average snowfall of over 500 inches. The vertical drop is nearly 3,000 feet and some trails run for nearly three miles.