16 Top-Rated Cheap Ski Holidays in North America, 2019

Written by Barbara Radcliffe Rogers and Stillman Rogers
Jan 16, 2019

With lift prices at some high-profile ski resorts topping out at $175 a day for adults, families and skiers who are more interested in good snow than in being seen are looking for more budget-friendly mountains. If you live in a snow zone, there's a good chance that small local ski areas and cheap ski resorts are within reach and much less expensive, but many of these do not offer a wide choice of terrain or facilities for a family vacation, such as nearby lodging, dining, and off-slope activities.

The mountains below, for the most part, offer all these ingredients for an inexpensive ski vacation, plus professional grooming and snowmaking and/or abundant natural snow. Some of these, like Utah's Solitude and Brighton, you'll have heard of; others are well-kept local secrets. They represent the best-known ski regions, along with a few that you might not think of first as ski destinations.

All have tickets at under $100 for 2019, many much less. Remember that most ski resorts offer discounted tickets when you buy in advance online, some quite substantial. Buying three-day or weekly passes, multi-mountain passes such as Epic, and taking advantage of ski-and-stay packages can also reduce vacation costs dramatically. So can opting for off-mountain lodging at nearby budget inns. Plan your next winter vacation with our list of the best cheap ski holidays in North America.

1. Brighton, Utah

Mountain peaks on a bluebird day at Brighton, Utah

One of the several ski resorts near Salt Lake City and about 35 miles from Salt Lake City's airport, Brighton is known for its superb powder and for the high-speed quads that access all its terrain. But despite this and adult day tickets ranging with the season from as low as $55, Brighton remains under the radar for many skiers who frequent Utah.

It's especially attractive for families looking for a low-cost ski vacation, as up to two children 10 years and younger ski free with a paying adult. An expected 500 inches of annual snowfall covers the 66 runs; grooming is excellent, but powder-hounds will find plenty of fresh powder on its 1,000 acres of skiable terrain.

Utah Transit Authority ski buses travel up Big Cottonwood Canyon to the mountain several times daily. A Ski City Super Pass makes skiing here even less expensive and also gives access to skiing in Alta, Snowbird, and Solitude.

Official site: http://www.brightonresort.com

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Salt Lake City: Best Areas & Hotels

2. Whitefish Mountain, Montana

A skier carving up fresh powder on Whitefish Mountain.

Despite its location only 20 miles from Glacier Park International Airport, Whitefish — and Northwest Montana — are not on the radar of most skiers. That keeps its devotees happy, as well as keeping the crowds and the prices down. Daily lift tickets are $81, which buys access to 3,000 acres of powder-covered terrain, which rivals any in the west.

Half the 94 runs are graded for advanced skiers and boarders, one-third for intermediates, and the rest for beginners. On-mountain lodging is plentiful, and ski-and-stay packages offer some greater values. Arrive by train to add some romance to your ski holiday — Amtrak's Empire Builder route between Seattle and Chicago stops only minutes from the mountain's resort village.

Official site: https://skiwhitefish.com/

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Whitefish

3. Bear Mountain, California

Ski slopes above the town of Big Bear

California may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of a cheap ski holiday, but you can find reasonable rates at some of the lesser known resorts. Near San Bernardino and about 100 miles from Los Angeles, Bear Mountain is part of Big Bear Mountain Resort at Big Bear Lake. Ski terrain spreads across four mountains accessed by 12 lifts, so there's plenty of choice, especially for intermediate skiers (40 percent of the trails are rated for them) and freestylers, who revel in its terrain park. Trails are lighted for night skiing on weekends and holidays. Day lift tickets are under $80, and although there are no on-property inns, a number are nearby.

Official site: https://www.bigbearmountainresort.com/winter

4. Bridger Bowl, Montana

Fresh powder at Bridger Bowl

Montana offers some cheap skiing options, without sacrificing on powder and fun terrain. Known for the powder that often covers its 2,000 acres of skiable terrain, Bridger Bowl usually sees about 350 inches of snowfall a year. Despite its $63 daily lift tickets and its 20-minute distance from the college town of Bozeman, Bridger Bowl is rarely crowded, and long waits are rare at any of its eight chairlifts. For chutes, steeps, and open powder fields, not to mention spectacular views, climb to The Ridge.

Official site: https://www.bridgerbowl.com/

5. Mount Bachelor, Oregon

Sunrise, Mount Bachelor

Beautiful powder covers the nearly 3,700 acres of lift-accessible terrain of this mountain, 30 minutes from the city of Bend, where the average annual snowfall is 387 inches. This also creates a solid base that usually lasts for skiing through May. The terrain of this extinct volcano (Mt. Bachelor is part of the Cascade Volcano chain) creates natural half-pipes from the summit down to the tree line, and trails follow these natural contours.

In addition, there is 360-degree skiing for experts at the 9,065-foot summit, and intermediates have wide, beautiful choices from the summit lift as well. Beginning skiers and boarders can ride free on the Carousel lift, and have lots of terrain choices on the east slopes of the mountain.

Official site: https://www.mtbachelor.com/

6. Sugar Mountain, North Carolina

Sugar Mountain

You can find incredible value at many of North Carolina's top ski resorts. The 125 skiable acres at Sugar Mountain, in the Blue Ridge Mountains, may not seem like much compared to the Rockies, but its location in the southeast makes it a popular destination for those who prefer not to travel to New England or the west for skiing. And its elevation — the base is at 4,100 feet and the summit elevation is 5,300 feet — combined with snowmaking on 100 percent of the terrain and state-of-the-art grooming promises plenty of snow.

Half of the terrain is intermediate, with the rest split evenly between beginner and advanced. Most of the mountain is lighted for night skiing, and the resort offers ice-skating, snowshoeing, and a tubing park.

You can base yourself in the town of Banner Elk, two hours from Charlotte Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, and just 10 minutes from the slopes of both Sugar Mountain and Beech Mountain.

Official site: www.skisugar.com

7. Cranmore Mountain, New Hampshire

Skiing the slopes of Cranmore Mountain | Photo copyright: Stillman Rogers

Cranmore Mountain is not only the birthplace of sport skiing in the east, but the town of North Conway, which its slopes overlook, has been named the nation's #1 ski town. The town and mountain share a laid-back vibe that appeals to families, and a holiday here needn't break the bank. Lift rates are $83, with deep discounts for advance online purchases, as well as for seniors and teens.

North Conway offers plenty of lodging at all price points, including several family-oriented resorts and inns. Although the mountain doesn't look formidable and has excellent beginner and intermediate terrain on its 57 trails, there are plenty of challenges here for experts. Non-skiers will find a tubing park and Mountain Coaster, along with North Conway's fabled discount shopping scene.

Official site: http://www.cranmore.com/

8. Red Lodge Mountain, Montana

Casual about everything but the skiing, Red Lodge Mountain is all about making the most of the experience, with uncrowded lifts and trails that cover the 1,635 acres of accessible terrain. The six chairlifts, which include a high-speed quad, access 70 runs, divided into 19 percent beginner runs, 25 percent intermediate, 36 percent advanced, and 20 percent expert. A daily lift ticket is $67 ($10 more on holiday periods), but you can cut as much as half off that price with online advance ticketing. Spend some time in the town of Red Lodge, a charming combination of Old West and 21st century.

Official site: https://www.redlodgemountain.com/

9. Schweitzer Mountain, Idaho

Schweitzer Mountain, Idaho | antone kom / photo modified

The largest ski resort in Idaho or Washington, Schweitzer Mountain has 2,900 acres of terrain, which includes two massive bowls and legendary tree skiing. Beyond the 95 marked trails and bowls are 200 miles of backcountry that stretches across the Idaho panhandle and into Washington. More than 300 inches of annual snowfall keep the terrain well covered for skiing, boarding, cross-country, and snowshoeing. Cat skiing is available to reach the remotest areas. The rustic Alpine-style village at the base has lodging, as does nearby Sandpoint.

Official site: https://www.schweitzer.com/

10. Bromont, Quebec

Bromont, Quebec

For an affordable family ski vacation, don't forget about Quebec, Canada. The largest of the Eastern Townships' ski resorts, covering seven sides of four mountains, Bromont offers an amazing variety of terrain in its 155 trails. One-fourth are rated for beginners, more than one-third for intermediate, and the remaining 39 percent are evenly split between single- and double-black diamonds.

A separate learning area for all ages is handy to the lodge and the green and blue trails of Mont Soleil, a nice arrangement for learners and anyone wanting to renew old skills. Lift tickets for the entire area are $72 Canadian (about $55 US), and those for Mont Soleil only are half price. Because its seven faces vary in direction, there is almost always good skiing somewhere on the mountain, regardless of the weather. Full resort facilities at the foot of the mountain include the luxury Chateau Hôtel Bromont.

Official site: https://www.skibromont.com/

11. Kimberley, British Columbia

Cloud-cloaked peaks at Kimberley

Known for its family-friendly atmosphere and the Bavarian-like style of the town, Kimberly is blessed with the combination of perfect powder and abundant sunny days to enjoy it. Five lifts serve its 68 runs and 12 glades; one-fifth of the trails are for beginners, 42 percent for intermediates, and 38 percent for experts. The longest trail, Ridgeway, is just under four miles.

Families especially like the kids' après activities and the family skating rink, as well as the wide variety of ski in/ski out accommodations. For an even greater saving on lift tickets, Kimberly is part of the Epic Pass, with unlimited access to 65 ski resorts in the US, Canada, and Europe for the cost of just five days' tickets.

Official Site: https://skikimberley.com/

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Kimberley

12. Ski Cooper, Colorado

One of the oldest ski mountains in the United States, Cooper's first trails were cut by members of the 10th Mountain Division during World War II. An annual snowfall of 260 inches and a base elevation of 10,500 feet assure soft all-natural snow across its 400 lift-served acres, and snowcats carry adventurous skiers to Chicago Ridge, where they find 2,600 more acres of wide-open powder bowls and glades. This is skiing the way it used to be, without the crowds or the lift prices of the larger, better-known areas. All this fresh powder costs only $56 for a day's skiing.

Official site: https://www.skicooper.com

13. Solitude, Utah

Solitude ski lift

Solitude is well named, near the end of the long Big Cottonwood Canyon and loved by local skiers bent on avoiding the more crowded mountains in Park City. Its 77 runs and three bowls cover 1,200 acres and are served by eight chairlifts. The 500 inches of annual snow guarantee the legendary feather-light powder Utah is known for. The resort is well set up for families, with all trails converging at two base areas. One of these has on-site lodging, and the other has facilities for day skiers and boarders.

The terrain is especially heavy with intermediate and beginner runs, but experts can get plenty of challenge in the Honeycomb Canyon powder. The Ski City Super Pass is a good deal for those who plan to spend a vacation in the area, as it is good at Solitude, Alta, Brighton, and Snowbird.

Official site: https://skisolitude.com

14. Bolton Valley, Vermont

Bolton Valley trail

Its location near Burlington's airport and I-89 make this secluded Vermont valley easy to reach, and its 71 well-groomed trails and under-$70 daily lift tickets make it worth the trip. Around the mountain and its compact Alpine-style village are more than 5,000 acres of undeveloped forest, and Bolton's award-winning environmental initiatives aim to keep it pristine.

In addition to its trails, which are evenly split among skill levels, Bolton Valley offers more than a dozen glades, three terrain parks, and 62 miles of Nordic and backcountry trails. The Inn Bolton Valley offers ski-in/ski-out lodging right at the base of the lifts, and a Sports Center with a heated pool, Jacuzzi, and sauna.

Official site: https://www.boltonvalley.com/

15. Silverton Mountain, Colorado

Expert skiing at Silverton Mountain | Zach Dischner / photo modified

Admittedly, Silverton Mountain isn't for everyone — not even for all skiers. But experts looking for perfect powder (they get about 400 inches of snow in an average year) and unique off-piste ski adventures won't find a better ski resort. A vintage double chairlift carries skiers and boarders up the mountain, where they then hike to reach pristine back-country terrain. At the bottom of the runs, an old school bus shuttles them back to the base "lodge" — a tent-like hut warmed by a wood fire. Your ticket ($79) includes full avalanche gear — we never said this place was for the faint of heart.

Official Site: http://silvertonmountain.com

16. Sipapu, New Mexico

Sipapu skiing

Only 20 miles from Taos, Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort is all about families: it's been family-owned since the 1950s and has now catered to generations of kids and their parents. Plenty of slope-side lodging, a good learning program, and free season passes for those under 10 years explain the appeal, plus the adult ticket price is only $47 a day — they rightly claim to be the best deal in the Rockies.

The natural mountain terrain has something for every skill level, with one-fifth of its 41 trails for beginners, 40 percent for Intermediates, one-fourth for advanced skiers and boarders and 15 percent for experts. Three terrain parks keep freestylers and boarders happy.

Official site: https://www.sipapu.ski

Discover destinations, find outdoor adventures, follow the journeys of our travel writers around the world, and be inspired.

More on North Carolina