Skiing for $25 a Day is Still Possible

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I grew up a kid in a mountain loving family that happened to live in a very flat East Texas location.  This meant trips to the mountains out west a couple of times per year, often during ski season.  When I was a kid in the 1980’s lift ticket prices at some of the big Colorado resorts were about $25 a day for an adult lift ticket.  That ticket price has jumped significantly since then, and now a one-day walk-up ticket price to Beaver Creek is a staggering $159. I don’t know if that is the most expensive lift ticket out there, but it has to be close.  Of course, you hopefully know better than to ever pay that rate by buying in advance, getting multi-day tickets, and looking for discounts via local stores or collective passes. 

Still even with discounted lift tickets, skiing can be an insanely expensive family vacation!  Thank goodness miles and points can cover your hotel and airfare costs.  It really is to the point that many middle families are getting priced out of the major resorts, or at the very least, the prices are going to take a serious bite out of the annual vacation budget.

However, there is an alternative beyond just looking for the best deals to the big resorts.  If all you really care about is getting some snow under your skis, and you don’t need to be on the world’s best snow or most challenging mountains, there are a host of smaller resorts you can look to where lift ticket prices resemble those from the 1980’s and 1990’s much more than the big resort prices of today.

IMG_8026.JPGWhile they have skied at the best, biggest, (and now priciest) mountains in the country, my folks don’t care at all about where it is they strap on skis.  They just want some time on the mountain at a price they can afford on their pretty fixed semi-retired budget.  This means that they like to tack a day of skiing on to some of their vacations out West whenever they can.

Last year they did a day at the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort, and today they are having fun at Brian Head, a ski resort in Utah.  The resort may not be exactly the same as Vail, Breck, or Aspen, but I see white snow under their skis and smiles on their faces.

Brian Head was not a destination in and of itself for them, but it was a stop on a larger trip out west.  Perhaps most importantly, lift tickets were just $25 during the week for seniors ($35 during the week for adults).  $25-$35 is a price that is much more easily swallowed than $159 for budget conscious travelers!

Sure Brian Head isn’t exactly the same as the big Colorado ski resorts (that I love), but for kids just learning to ski and for adults who just want some time on the white stuff, it looks like it would totally do the trick.  I’m happy to know that $25 lift tickets are still a reality, even if you have to get a bit off the beaten path to find them.  I remember having lots of fun a decade ago night snowboarding at Kissing Bridge outside of Buffalo, NY, (now $40 for night skiing) and it didn’t matter that it wasn’t a flashy resort, it was still a good time.

Budget family travel is all about finding places to have a good time at a price you can afford, and I think my parents hit the jackpot on finding that balance with $25 lift tickets today!

Note also that he is skiing in jeans…no doubt in part thanks to packing in a back pack to avoid bag fees while flying on 2,500 mile Spirit Airlines award tickets!




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    • David, here I was thinking it was the “how to spot a Spirit Airlines flyer” stereotype. 😉 For the record, he does own ski pants, but I think it was in the 50’s today so he’s probably more comfortable in jeans (assuming he didn’t fall!)

  1. $159 for a single-day ticket is INSANE. $25 in the 1980s is equivalent to ~$60 in today’s $, depending on which year you’re talking about, so Vail’s prices are far higher than what can be explained by inflation. Your advice about the smaller areas is spot-on; Loveland and Arapahoe Basin are a lot cheaper, and both have pretty good terrain. It looks like folks planning on skiing in CO in 2015-16 would be well advised to start combing the single- and multi-resort season pass sites for deals starting in March.

    • Grover’s Bathtub, I agree. I hate to see it become a rich man’s sport. Thankfully miles and points still make it accessible to a degree, but those smaller resorts may be where it’s at for folks not rolling in serious cash!

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