Table of Contents
Skiing and snowboarding have never been budget-friendly sports. But in recent years, the prices of single-day lift tickets have skyrocketed to, in some cases, more than $200 per person, per day at several North American ski resorts.
A single-day ticket for one person at Arizona’s Snowbowl — a ski resort in North America you generally wouldn’t think of as pricey when compared to other spots like Vail, Colorado, and Utah’s Deer Valley — surpassed the $300 mark for the 2022-23 ski season. This surely paved the way for others to follow suit in the near future.
When considering different destinations for a ski vacation, it’s important to consider all your options — even if it means hopping on a plane to travel halfway around the world. Sometimes, cheap lift tickets, rentals, lodging and food can offset the cost of airfare, making an international trip more affordable.
As one creator on TikTok pointed out, her ski vacation to Italy cost almost $2,000 less than a trip to Breckenridge, Colorado. With prices in North American destinations continuing to climb, there’s even greater potential to save money by planning your next ski trip abroad.
We broke down the associated costs for a few popular ski destinations to help you decide whether a ski vacation is possible with your budget. This way, you can decide if it makes more sense to grab your passport and head overseas instead of sticking closer to home.
Breckenridge Ski Resort
At Vail-owned Breckenridge Ski Resort, one of the most popular ski areas in the U.S., purchasing a one-day lift ticket at the mountain costs $255. For a seven-day ski trip, it’s more cost-effective to purchase all seven lift tickets online in advance for $1,428 instead of buying each ticket individually at the mountain; the advance booking option will save you $357. Ski and snowboard rentals will add $60 per day on average.
You’ll need to budget for other expenses, too. Lodging can cost anywhere from $300 to $5,000 per night, depending on how high-end you decide to go. Round-trip flights in economy from East Coast airports like John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York to Denver International Airport (DEN) will typically set you back about $400.
Assuming you’ll spend around $800 per night on accommodations, a seven-day trip to Breckenridge will cost about $7,850 per person, excluding food and local transportation to and from the resort.
Snowbasin, located in neighboring Utah, is a slightly more budget-friendly option than other resorts like Breckenridge, Park City and Whistler. By basing yourself in the nearby town of Ogden, Utah, you’ll find it easy to rest up on a budget after a busy day on the slopes. Few hotel rooms here exceed $150 per night, so you can stay for a week for about $1,050. As a bonus, there are plenty of cafes, restaurants, breweries and shops to check out.
Sign up for our daily newsletter
Of course, you’ll have to factor in the cost of a rental car to get to and from the mountain, which is about 40 minutes from downtown. There are some closer places to stay, such as the Compass Rose Lodge, which costs about $300 per night and is about 20 minutes from the resort, but they’re not as affordable as those a little farther out in Ogden.
As far as on-mountain expenses go, expect to spend approximately $330 for seven days of equipment rentals. Meanwhile, lift tickets at the window will set you back $195 on weekends and $155 on weekdays, though savings are available for buying one or more days in advance.
Flying from JFK to Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC), which sits less than an hour south of the resort, will cost about $600. Even with this higher flight cost, though, you’ll save thousands of dollars by choosing Snowbasin over Breckenridge, as a seven-day ski trip to the former will cost you around $3,150 per person without food and local transportation factored in.
With 11 separate ski areas that are not interconnected, planning a ski vacation to Chamonix Mont-Blanc can be rather complex. However, those who do decide to take on the logistics of planning a trip there will be rewarded with runs for all levels of skiers. Not to mention, there is a seemingly endless supply of great food and wine to sample after (or between) runs.
The Mont Blanc Unlimited pass, which costs 396 euros ($418) for seven days, includes access to 10 ski areas in the Chamonix region as well as four excursion sites (like the Mont-Blanc Tramway), shuttles and a number of other benefits. Prices for ski and board rentals vary, but you can expect to pay about $130 for seven days of rentals.
Rooms around Chamonix typically cost between $150 and $500 per night, with the average price coming in at around $250 a night. As for flights, the easiest option is to fly to Geneva Airport (GVA), which is a little more than an hour northwest of the resort. You can expect round-trip flights between JFK and GVA to cost about $1,000 per person.
Though you’ll spend more on flights, the reduced prices for lift tickets and equipment rentals combined with the affordable lodging rates mean you can enjoy a seven-day ski vacation here for only $3,300 per person, excluding food and local transportation. This makes it a cheaper option than some of the pricier destinations in North America.
Flims Laax Falera
Featuring nearly 140 miles of on-piste slopes situated between 6,500 and 10,000 feet above sea level, Flims Laax Falera is one of Switzerland’s most prized ski areas. The region is actually composed of three separate lift-linked villages: Flims, Laax and Falera.
Despite sitting in a European country commonly associated with high prices, Flims Laax Falera is a fairly affordable option for skiing. Daily lift tickets start at about 59.50 Swiss francs ($63) per person, per day when purchased online. (That price does vary slightly depending on the length of your visit and which days you choose.) Meanwhile, ski and snowboard equipment will cost you about $300 per person for seven days.
There are many hotels across the three villages as well. While they range in price from $100 to $400 per night, you’ll find several options for about $270 a night. Flights to Zurich Airport (ZRH), which is an easy 90-minute drive from the resort (there are also trains, shuttles and buses to the slopes), will typically set you back about $1,100 per person when flying from JFK.
With flights, accommodations, lift tickets and rentals factored in, you can expect to spend about $3,485 per person (sans food and local transportation) for a seven-night stay. Despite costing more than some North American destinations, the total for a weeklong ski vacation at Flims Laax Falera is still considerably less than popular spots in the U.S.; it’s a viable option for budget-conscious skiers.
With some of the deepest and fluffiest snow in the world, Rusutsu Resort on the Japanese island of Hokkaido attracts skiers and snowboarders in droves. While getting to the resort can be quite expensive and time-consuming, the powder skiing here — which isn’t too pricey to enjoy — is unlike anything you’ll find anywhere else.
A day ticket at the Vail Resorts-affiliated Rusutsu costs about 8,800 yen ($64) per person, though you can save some money if you purchase a couple of ticket bundles for a weeklong visit. A five-day ticket will cost you 41,500 yen ($303) per person, while a two-day ticket will add 16,600 yen ($121) per person. This brings your seven-day total to about $424 per person. Expect to pay between $280 and $415 for seven days of rentals, depending on whether you choose ski equipment or snowboard gear.
Lodging around Rusutsu is on the expensive side by Japanese standards. The Westin Rusutsu Resort charges about $685 per night. For a more affordable option, consider the Rusutsu Resort Hotel & Convention, a ski-in/ski-out property with nightly rates at around $195. Flights to New Chitose Airport (CTS) in Sapporo — the main hub in Hokkaido — are the most significant expense. Flights average about $2,200 per person for round-trip tickets from JFK. However, you may be able to use points and miles to cover your flights.
Skiers can expect to spend around $4,270 per person for the entire trip, without food and local transportation included. It may not be the most budget-friendly option in Japan, but with rates below popular U.S. spots like Breckenridge, it’s still a solid option that won’t put too much of a dent in your wallet.
At Geto Kogen, which sits in Japan’s Iwate prefecture in the southern part of Tohoku, you won’t find the same expansive and rugged terrain as places like Chamonix and Breckenridge. However, you’ll enjoy the much-appreciated benefit of minimal lines (if any), especially when visiting on weekdays.
A seven-day lift ticket at Geto Kogen is only 32,200 yen ($235) per person, meaning you can ski for just $34 per day. Loaner gear will add $40 per day, though you can score a slight discount when opting for multi-day rentals.
Lodging options aren’t as plentiful as more popular ski resorts. Still, you can stay on-site at the Premium Stay ‘Gou’ property, which offers standard rooms accommodating up to four people for about $47 per night.
Like Hokkaido, the biggest expense is airfare, with round-trip flights from JFK to Tokyo averaging around $2,000. From Tokyo, you’ll also have to catch a bullet train to the Kitakami Station, which costs around $110, but is an experience in itself.
To visit Geto Kogen for seven days, expect to spend approximately $4,930 per person, excluding food and some local transportation. While the nearly $5,000 price tag may sound steep, remember that it’s still below what you’ll spend at some resorts within the U.S.
Tips for saving money when skiing
Ski vacations can vary greatly in price, depending on your priorities. However, there are ways to cut costs, whether you’re hoping to stay closer to home or travel halfway around the world.
With the cost of one-day tickets climbing to exorbitant levels and multi-mountain passes becoming more popular (and cheaper), buying daily lift tickets at the window is a thing of the past. Nowadays, the most cost-effective option is often a pass like the ones from Epic, Ikon and Indy, which give you more bang for your buck when you ski more than a few days per season.
The Epic and Ikon passes offer many opportunities for those who want to ski at Vail- and Alterra-owned resorts. (Depending on which pass you choose, you can ski for unlimited days at any of their resorts worldwide.) Meanwhile, the Indy Pass provides pass holders with two days at each of its independently owned ski area partners.
Even if you weigh your options and decide a multi-mountain pass isn’t for you, purchasing daily lift tickets online in advance will almost always result in some cost savings.
And, of course, buying things at the mountain will always be more expensive. Consider staying at a nearby hotel that isn’t on-site for extra savings, and pack a sandwich or a few granola bars to eat for lunch instead of grabbing a meal on the mountain. Finding rentals at a local gear shop not associated with the mountain is also a budget-friendly way to get your gear.
Like anything, convenience comes at a cost, but with a sport as pricey as skiing, sometimes getting creative is the way to stick to a tight vacation budget.
Lesser-known resorts in North America, like Snowbasin, can be more feasible for a skier with limited funds. However, if you’re after the famous runs of a place like Breckenridge, chances are you’ll need to drop some serious cash to schuss the slopes … unless you hop on a plane and venture overseas.
So, don’t immediately rule out far-flung ski resorts in places like France, Switzerland and Japan. With some advance planning, these ski destinations may be the more affordable places to visit.