North American skiing can feel a bit like going to Disney World these days: crowded, expensive, and eerily fake. Thankfully, there are a few areas that have retained the sport’s unfussy soul. Even better? They’re offering up the authentic experience for a fraction of the cost you’ll find at most mega resorts.
So skip the Bogner-clad crowds and save $ this season by checking out our nine favorite and most affordable ski destinations this year.
Taos, New Mexico
As steep as it is off-the-radar, New Mexico’s Taos Ski Valley remains a favorite among hardcore skiers and boarders.
Hidden in a box canyon at the southern end of the Rocky Mountains, the former mining community is blessed with abundant snowfall and sunshine, and an equally disparate mix of cultures–at the the iconic Bavarian Restaurant you can indulge in German beers, brats and schnitzel as if you were après-ing in the Alps.
Taos serves up big mountain skiing (51% of the area is devoted to expert trails, while the summit tops out at over 12,000 feet), but the vibe is always intimate, and the lift ticket — at $90 a day — is cheap considering all the steep and deep terrain that comes with it.
Utah is home to some of the world’s best skiing. But for all the praise heaped on resorts like Snowbird and Park City, it’s Brighton that remains the diamond in the rough.
Located at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon, Brighton’s elevation is a boon for snowfall, with 500 annual inches blanketing its 1,000+ acres of trails, bowls, chutes, and glades. A network of high speed lifts abound (ferrying skiers to the top of a mountain that offers everything from beginner trails to heart-in-your-throat extreme terrain), there’s night-skiing, and the day pass is just $85.
Crested Butte, Colorado
Like Telluride — Colorado’s other haven for the free-spirited — Crested Butte is a mountain town that proudly flies its freak flag. Except here, you won’t find any sprawling homes belonging to Oprah, Tom Cruise or Ralph Lauren. Nope, it just has a good old fashioned Victorian-style downtown, friendly locals, killer coffee and burritos, and one of America’s biggest, baddest, and most affordable ski areas.
Fork over $78 for a ticket, and you get full reign over the resort’s remarkable terrain — everything from lift-access chutes, backcountry-style bowls, and plenty of gentle, family-friendly trails. Surrounded by the striking Elk Mountains and often buried in snow, it’s a cozy winter destination even off the slopes.
Red Mountain, British Columbia
Though technically a Canadian ski resort, Red Mountain is right in America’s backyard. Located just a little over two hours from Spokane, Washington, it’s easily accessible from the lower 48 but feels so far away from the formulaic base facilities, big crowds, and overpriced cafeteria food plaguing modern skiing. That’s because Red prides itself on remaining untouched and undiscovered.
What you’ll find is a playground for powderhounds and backcountry enthusiasts, one that mixes steep, untamed runs with easy groomers for the family, all to the tune of $96 a day (receive a 15% discount by booking 14-days in advance).
The powder here in British Colombia’s Monashee Mountains is light and dry (unlike the wet stuff that can fall in Whistler-Blackcomb), and nearby Rossland is a a real deal town (think brick storefronts lining Main Street with the snowcapped mountains rising in the near distance) rather than some purpose built resort.
Mt. Norquay, Alberta
With its mix of serrated mountain peaks, glacial lakes, and Wes Anderson-esque grand hotels, Banff gets our nod for North America’s most gorgeous winter destination. Famous ski resorts like Lake Louise and Sunshine Village have big vertical and acreage, but it’s nearby Mount Norquay which is the region’s underrated gem.
Perched just above town, you’ll find 60 classic, fall line trails — some of which are over 90-years old, all of which offer stunning views of surrounding Banff National Park — which you can explore for just $89 Canadian. There’s night skiing and tubing, too, plus a large, rustic day lodge that’s a perfect meeting point for groups with varied skiing abilities.
This is a day-tripper’s mountain (no slope-side lodging here), though with Banff just four-miles away you’ll find plenty of affordable hotel and dining options.
Crystal Mountain, Washington
A favorite among Seattle daytrippers — who make the under two hour trek up into the Cascades to feast on powder — Crystal Mountain is a ski area that reveals new details with each turn. Draped over 2,600 acres, you’ll find deep bowls, tight tree runs, and moguls upon moguls.
There’s plenty of gentle trails, too, perfect for families, many of whom arrive in their RVs and camp out in the parking lot (where they grill up dinner). A network of nine lifts — including the only high-speed gondola in the state — make all this sprawling terrain easily accessible. And at a criminally cheap $47, so does the ticket price.
Smuggler’s Notch, Vermont
While Stowe might get all the attention, it’s neighboring Smuggler’s Notch that remains a perennial favorite among Vermonters and visiting families, who flock here for the steep bumps, rolling intermediate trails, and the welcoming vibe.
Spread out over three distinct peaks, Smuggs — as the locals endearingly refer to it — has impeccable grooming and one of America’s best children’s ski schools. A lift ticket goes for as low as $79, while additional days can be had for just $60.
Wildcat Mountain, New Hampshire
Nestled across Pinkham Notch from mighty Mount Washington, New Hampshire’s Wildcat offers the best winter scenery on the East Coast. Luckily, the skiing is just as epic.
Serving up over 2,000 feet of vertical and 500 acres of varied terrain — from narrow black diamonds to meandering cruisers to powdery glades — the mountain is popular among local die hards who don’t mind risking a little frostbite to lay down first tracks. The throwback resort’s day lodge and lifts are a bit dated (there’s only one high speed chair), but with tickets as low as $79 who cares?
This article was published through a partnership with Jetsetter magazine. Read the original story: The Most Affordable Ski Destinations to Check Out This Year by James Jung, a regular contributor to Jetsetter.
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