Discoveries

5 Most Affordable Ski Resorts in the U.S.

Sliding silently off the lift onto an untracked trail of white powder, basking in rays as gravity lets you glide effortlessly, ever-faster down the slope, carving crescent turns to the base of the mountain. It’s a skier’s or boarder’s dream, but those epic runs can get expensive. Besides, glitzy resorts often make the ski experience feel like a theme park, complete with crowds and costs, which provides even more incentive to search out down-to-earth, downhill fun on a reasonable budget — without going totally spartan. So here are our picks for the best and cheapest ski resorts in the United States.  

Crystal Mountain Resort, Washington

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Less than two hours from Seatac International Airport, Crystal Mountain Resort offers accessible affordability, with daily lift tickets as low as $47. Moguls are a mainstay of advanced runs here on the flanks of Mt. Rainier, but the resort’s 2,600 acres offer options from groomed, open runs and bowls full of powder to tight trails ducking into conifer forest. Nine lifts service the mountain, including the only high-speed gondola in Washington. Lodging options at the base range from lux to limited. One popular choice at Crystal is to simply bring your own digs and roll into the resort’s RV parking area. The 60 dedicated spaces fill fast, especially on holiday weekends, so booking in advance is a must. At $165 for a three-night reservation, it’s certainly worth the forethought.

Schweitzer Mountain Resort, Idaho

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When most of us think skiing in Idaho, the hugely popular Sun Valley east of Boise probably first comes to mind. But the real value resort destination for snow in the spud state lies in the North Idaho panhandle. Access to Schweitzer Mountain Resort is from the Spokane International Airport in Spokane, Washington, with a remaining drive of about an hour and a half to the resort. Although somewhat remote, Schweitzer is the largest ski resort in Idaho, and average rates start at just $94 per night. Located in North Idaho’s rugged Selkirk Mountains, Schweitzer covers 2,900 acres offering two huge bowls and is known especially for tight, tree-lined runs. It’s worth the trip for sheer value when combined with adult, full-day lift tickets for just $81. Amenities abound, including the stellar summit lodge at 9,000 feet, along with spectacular views of shimmering Lake Pend Oreille below and into Canada to the north.

Heavenly Mountain Resort, California

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The nicely-named Heavenly Mountain Resort lets you ski two states for the price of one. Located in South Lake Tahoe near the California-Nevada border, with four base facilities, Heavenly provides a whopping 97 runs served by 30 lifts spread over property in both states. Lift tickets vary greatly in price based on how and when you buy them, but with discounts you can enjoy a blissful day on Heavenly’s slopes for around $120, including access to nearby Kirkwood Mountain Resort. Runs are situated high above deep-blue Lake Tahoe amidst the towering evergreens of the El Dorado-Toiyabe National Forests, so epic scenery comes with every carved turn of your skis. Given the area, nearby casino hotels provide some of the best lodging values, many with rooms at under $100 per night. Depending on when you book, though, you could stay at the resort itself for around that price, based on recent specials posted on its site.

Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico

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Secluded in a canyon near the southern tip of the Rocky Mountains, Taos Ski Valley’s slopes and resorts arose from the remnants of a long-gone New Mexico mining town. Today, its perfect mix of dry winter snow and sun draws powder hounds in search of epic terrain with a relaxed vibe. Boarders and skiers alike take advantage of expert trails in high terrain — with the summit at more than 12,000 feet — while stealing a deal, as well, on $90 daily lift tickets. Lodging runs the gamut, and Taos Ski Valley Chamber of Commerce is a great resource for deals. For a little off-mountain relaxation while staying competitive, roll a few at Gutters Bowling Alley.

Jay Peak Resort, Vermont

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Nestled in the Green Mountains of Vermont, Jay Peak Resort offers all the tear-it-up terrain of nearby notables like Stowe, but without breaking the bank. Jay Peak offers a single-day adult lift pass for $89 at the ticket window, but there are even better values available by buying in advance and tying a multi-day ski pass to your lodging package. At Jay Peak that means gaining access to the resort’s Pump House indoor water park, where you can keep shredding in the Flowrider wave pool, get vertical on water slides, or take it down a notch with a relaxing float on the Big River or a steamy soak in a hot tub.

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