Skiing is one of the most fun ways to spend a day outside during the winter, but unfortunately, the price of skiing has exploded in recent years. Prices for one-day lift tickets have jumped by nearly 300% at major resorts compared to 40 years ago even after adjusting for inflation.
That’s left many beginner skiers and families wondering: how much does it cost to go skiing in 2023, and is there a way to make it more affordable?
In this guide, I’ll take a look at how much skiing costs this winter and break down prices from the least to the most expensive options. I’ll also offer tips for how you can reduce the price of lift tickets, equipment, lessons, and lodging to make a ski vacation as affordable as possible.
How Much Does Skiing Cost?
There’s a ton of variation when it comes to ski expenses depending on where you go, whether you’re skiing on a holiday, and whether you need to rent equipment or take a lesson. Still, I can offer a quick estimate of costs for a single day on the slopes for skiers and riders in a hurry.
- Lift ticket at a small, local ski hill: $60-$90
- Lift ticket at a major ski resort: $150-$250
- Ski equipment rental: $25-$50
- Group ski lesson: $125-$200
- Lunch at the lodge: $10-$20
As you can see, skiing will cost anywhere from $60-$250 per day if you bring all your own equipment and already know how to ski. If you’re a beginner who needs a lift ticket, ski rentals, and a group lesson, you’re looking at spending upwards of $400 for a day at the mountain.
Of course, if you’re planning to travel to a ski resort or want to spend multiple days skiing and riding, you can expect to spend a lot more.
With these estimates in mind, let’s take a closer look at the costs for different types of ski trips.
The Cheapest Option: A Day At The Local Slopes
If you live in an area with a local ski hill, you might be able to go skiing on a budget. Many locally-owned ski resorts offer lift passes starting at just $60 per day on weekdays or around $75 per day on weekends and holidays.
That’s not nothing, but it’s a fraction of the price of lift tickets at major resorts.
Local ski hills also tend to have cheaper equipment rentals and lessons. You can expect to pay around $30 per day for a full ski or snowboard setup if you rent from the resort, or potentially a little less if you rent from a ski shop in town.
A full-day group lesson will set you back around $125-$150. This can be really worthwhile, especially if you’re a beginner who’s just learning to ski different types of snow. Many local resorts require you to simply show up the morning you want to ski and book a lesson on the spot. You don’t necessarily need to reserve a spot ahead of time.
All in, including a lift ticket, rentals, and a lesson, you can expect to spend around $200-$250 for a day at a local ski hill.
The Middle Ground: A Weekend At An Average Resort
A slightly spendier option than going to your local ski hill is to visit a mid-tier ski resort with more terrain. These aren’t the big, well-known resorts that everyone knows the name of (like Vail or Aspen), but they’re still sizable enough to keep you exploring new runs throughout the day.
For most people, these resorts are at least a few hours away. It often makes sense to stay the night and ski both days of a weekend. So, I’ll cover the cost of a whole weekend including lodging.
First, you have to buy lift tickets. Many larger resorts offer the best prices if you buy passes online ahead of time. Two-day tickets are slightly discounted compared to two one-day tickets, but you’ll still pay around $250-$300 for lift access.
If you need to rent equipment, add around $50-$75. Some shops offer much better weekend rental deals than others, so it helps to do your research ahead of time.
Plan on a one-day group lesson, since you can practice what you learned on your own on the second day. A full-day lesson will cost around $150. Make sure to reserve your lesson ahead of time since bigger resorts don’t always have walk-up availability.
Lodging costs can be extremely variable depending on how big the town around the resort is, the dates you’re staying, and what level of accommodations you prefer. At the low end, expect to spend around $60 per night. On the upper end, a ski-in ski-out townhouse can cost $500 per night or more.
All in all, the total cost for your weekend of skiing comes to around $500-$750.
The Expensive Option: 3 Days At A Well-Known Resort
Let’s say you want to take a three-day trip to a major resort like Vail, Park City, Breckenridge, Aspen, Jackson Hole, or Heavenly. This is your big ski vacation for the winter.
I’ll cover the minimum reasonable price you could expect to pay for a three-day ski trip like this. But for those who are looking to splurge, there’s virtually no upper limit to how much you can spend. These major resorts offer everything from one-on-one ski lessons to apres ski experiences to fine dining on the mountain. They’re also home to five-star hotels where you can spend your long weekend.
To start, you should expect to pay upwards of $200 per day for a lift ticket at these resorts. That could go up $250-$300 on a holiday weekend. So right off the bat, you’re paying $600-$750 for lift tickets.
Equipment rentals are more expensive, too. Even at shops in town, expect to pay around $40 per day for a basic rental package.
A full-day ski lesson will cost around $150-$200 per day.
If you book accommodations early and it’s not a holiday weekend, you might be able to find a hotel for around $100 per night. However, it’s better to budget for around $150-$200 per night even for a relatively affordable place to stay.
Keep in mind that if you’re spending three days at the resort, you’ll also need food. Major resorts often have outstanding on-mountain dining but expect to spend $20 per day for a filling lunch. Dinner in town can also be expensive since many ski towns have very high costs of living. I’d budget at least $25 per night.
The total bill for your three-day vacation? Around $1,200, and potentially much more if you opt for spendier accommodations or eat out. If you’re bringing the whole family or flying into a ski destination, expect this price tag to rise significantly.
4 Tips To Make Skiing More Affordable
I can’t promise that skiing will ever be cheap, but there are ways you can make it much more affordable. With a little planning and thriftiness, you can cut the total costs of skiing for the trips I listed above in half.
Here are my top four tips for how to make skiing more affordable.
1. Buy A Season Pass
The number one way to bring down the price of skiing is to reduce the cost of lift tickets. The best way to do that is to buy a season pass.
Ski resorts use a pricing model that rewards skiers who buy season passes before the season starts. A season pass to Breckenridge, for instance, costs $639. A one-day pass costs $186. You could buy a season pass and have it pay for itself in just four days of skiing.
Even better, there are now several season passes that give you access to networks of resorts. The Epic Pass—which is the season pass that includes Breckenridge—also gives you access to Vail, Park City, Whistler Blackcomb, and more than 75 additional resorts. The Ikon Pass costs $919 for the 2022-23 season and offers access to more than 50 resorts.
If you do want to buy a season pass, keep in mind that you have to buy it before the season starts. That means you have until October or November each year to purchase one. In addition, some season passes have blackout dates. Keep this in mind if you’re planning a trip around a holiday. The OntheSnow ski app has all the information you need about season passes.
2. Buy Used Gear
If you’re going skiing more than a few times this winter or plan to go skiing at least once a year for the foreseeable future, it’s worth investing in your own ski gear. In the long run, this will save you a lot of money compared to renting.
Used ski gear can be surprisingly affordable and is often higher quality than the equipment you’d be able to rent. Look for deals at local ski swaps and on online marketplaces. You can also find used ski clothing and base layers at your local thrift store or outdoor gear exchange.
The one piece of gear I’d recommend buying new are ski boots. Having the best ski boots as a beginner will make your days on the slope a lot more comfortable.
Another option is to rent gear for an entire season rather than one day at a time. Many ski shops offer seasonal rentals for the price of two or three single-day rentals. Seasonal rentals can be an especially good option if you need gear for kids who are still growing and can’t use the same skis or boots from one season to the next.
3. Bring Your Own Lunch
This is a simple tip, but one that can save you a surprising amount of money. Instead of buying food from the ski resort, bring your own. You could easily save $20 per person per day.
If you do bring food, you don’t have to carry it around all day. The base lodges at most resorts have free cubbies or lockers that you can rent for around a dollar. When you’re ready to break for lunch, just head down to the lodge and retrieve your food.
4. Cut Lodging Costs
If you’re traveling to ski, overnight accommodations are likely your biggest cost. While there’s no (comfortable) way to eliminate this cost entirely, you can be thrifty in deciding where to stay.
The cheapest option in many ski towns is to stay at a hostel. They typically offer dorm rooms with beds from $25 per night, plus you can save money on food by cooking your own meals in the kitchen.
Another option is to stay further away from the mountain or in a different town altogether. If you don’t have a vehicle, you may be able to take advantage of ski buses or other forms of public transportation to get to the resort.
Skiing is an expensive sport. Even a day at your local ski hill will cost you around $200, and a long weekend at a major resort can run upwards of $1,200.
However, there are ways to bring down the cost of skiing. Buying a season pass before the season starts, buying your own gear, and spending less on lodging can save you a lot of money. Bringing your own lunch is another easy way to cut costs.
With these tips, the more times you go skiing, the cheaper each day becomes. Even if it’s still a bit pricey, that’s a good incentive to hit the slopes this winter.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.