Photo: CSNafzger/Shutterstock

Best Budget North American Ski Resorts

Alberta Alaska Colorado Idaho Maine Oregon Utah Washington Ski and Snow
by Chris Weiss Dec 21, 2009
When lift tickets come in under $60, there may even be a couple of bucks left over for après.

P-tex and wax the gear at home, throw some duct tape where it’s needed, bag a lunch, and save money by finding this year’s unforgettable lines at resorts that don’t fleece you for every nickel.

Mt. Bachelor, OR

New for this year, Bachelor has introduced sliding-scale ticket pricing. That means skiers pay for what they get instead of a flat ticket price.

Lift tickets go for $49, $59, or $69 depending on overall conditions: open terrain, lifts running, visibility, wind, and non-snow precipitation. Too many negative check marks and skiers pay just 49 bucks. (Slide-scale pricing not valid during holiday periods.)

Tack that onto the 3,683 acres of terrain and 3,365 feet of vert Bachelor always offers and a trip to Oregon is a no-brainer. Drop in this season before the pencil pushers think better and roll back the sliding scale.

Schweitzer, ID

Located in northwest Idaho on the southern end of the Selkirks, Schweitzer has some of the Northwest’s best powder. With 1,200 acres of glades, it also has a solid reputation for killer tree skiing.

Peeking through the trees, endless views of Lake Pend Oreille and three mountain ranges are another reason to love Schweitzer.

Tickets to the uncrowded, 2900-acre landscape of groomers, bowls, and trees cost just $59/day. For those late-rising types, Schweitzer keeps the Basin Express High Speed Quad cranking into the evening on holidays and weekends so everyone can get in on the action.

Wolf Creek, CO

Worlds away from mega-resorts like Aspen and Vail (in attitude, if not physical distance), Wolf Creek offers a different experience from your average Colorado ski resort.

While the big names are busy taking home titles like “Best Cuisine” or “Best Place to Schuss with a Celebrity,” low-key Wolf Creek goes home with the one that matters: Most Snow (in CO).

With over 450 inches annually, this mountain is feet ahead of every other Colorado resort. Access to that stash costs just $52/day.

Loveland, CO

At the other end of Colorado’s ski map from Wolf Creek, Loveland spends the winters buried under 400 inches. Lift ticket prices don’t dig deep at all, staying under $60.

Loveland’s season is one of the longest in Colorado, and it has an annual battle with nearby A-Basin over season opening (this year it had the first in the country: Oct. 7).

Loveland is one of the most accessible resorts to make this list, only 53 miles from Denver. That short drive brings skiers 1,570 acres of open bowls and groomers, and one of the highest peak elevations in North America at over 13,000 feet.

Saddleback, ME

Saddleback isn’t quite as well-known as the other big S’s of Maine (Sugarloaf and Sunday River), but it’s not for lack of great skiing.

A family-oriented mountain where lifts and runs are named after fly fishing rivers and equipment, it’s home to 2,000 feet of vertical, big, invigorating glade skiing, and some of the East’s only hike-to, above-treeline snowfields.

The entire side of the mountain serviced by the Kennebago Quad Chair is dedicated to advanced and expert skiers and riders.

This year saw a significant leap in lift ticket price, but when you start at $40 and jump to $49 for some of the best terrain in the region, it’s hard to complain — especially when other Maine resorts are priced well over $70.

Alyeska, AK

One of the few mountains in Alaska that trades helicopters and skins for lifts, Alyeska gets bombed like virtually no place in the lower 48.

By its own calculations, skiers can expect to enjoy 631 inches annually. And that’s mid-mountain — a trip to the top unlocks 742.

You’d expect that to come at a premium, but lift tickets cost just $60/day. And after the initial $5 for the rechargeable, plastic ticket, a daily recharge runs just $55. Multi-day tickets bring the price down to $50/day.

That’s a small price to pay for bottomless powder, huge Alaskan views, and plenty of challenging, steep terrain.

Castle Mountain, Alberta

Generally stuck in the shadows of Alberta staples like Lake Louise and Sunshine Village, Castle Mountain has similar huge, Canadian Rocky riding for a little less coin.

Day tickets go for $62, giving access to a playground filled with demanding bowls, steeps, and chutes funneling down Castle’s 2,833 feet of vertical, all blanketed in dry, Rocky Mountain pow.

Check out Castle’s website to scope some tight, gnarly backcountry lines and the names and dates of their first descents.

All that backcountry detail on a very basic site that looks like it hasn’t been updated in eight or nine years — gotta respect.

Snowbasin, UT

Sure, Snowbasin’s 400 annual inches may not sound like much compared to the 500 or so enjoyed by other Utah destination resorts. But not all powder is created equal.

Instead of the fevered, powder-morning rush to lay claim on first tracks — standard fare at Alta or Snowbird — expect a leisurely walk onto an empty Snowbasin lift and a choice of untracked lines once at the top.

A little extra mileage from the airport, lack of on-mountain lodging, and world-class lift infrastructure equal a sprawling yet uncrowded resort with great access to steep terrain, backcountry, and of course, featherlight powder.

At the window, tickets run $65, but plan ahead and you can find discounts at local outlets like Canyon Sports for $57/day.

Mt. Baker, WA

While the goal here was to create a list of serious but inexpensive destinations unique from last year, Mt. Baker makes a return for obvious reasons: snowiest resort in the world for $47.50 (after tax) a day.

Baker throws in plenty of steep pitch, expert terrain, and convenient backcountry access, making for some of the most thrilling riding in the country.

Community Connection

Discover Matador

Save Bookmark

We use cookies for analytics tracking and advertising from our partners.

For more information read our privacy policy.