HIgh Value: Skiing you can afford


Winter may not be here yet on the calendar, and although it hasn’t snowed here yet, it is cold enough. A few inches of snow clearly shows the difference between people who love the stuff and people who already long for summer.


Me? I think each season has its magic, and one magical thing about winter is snow. When I was growing up we used to grab our sleds and pack down the soft powder and then ride ride ride the big hills. I was introduced to skiing in my college days. My boyfriend tried to teach me to snowplow and then took me up to the top of the mountain. I won’t go into details about the experience except to say that my right knee, now 35 years later, has arthritis because of a spectacular fall.


Skiing. The word produces images of white powder, riding up the chair lift, and graceful runs down slopes. It also evokes the reality of a strained budget. If you want the deals….BOOK NOW!!!!!  Check out Liftopia and Liftickets where discounts can be found.


Years ago, mom and pop ski resorts abounded but got edged out by the flash and glamour of the large resorts that could afford to manufacture snow in seasons where nature did not provide. However, as the cost of a ski vacation has risen, smaller ski areas are once again becoming more popular.  Let’s check this out, but first compare to THE place to go.

In Colorado where AspenSnowmass has long held high popularity, by this time of the season it already has 18 inches of snow with 80 of the 193 trails open. Comments posted to OnTheSnow as early as mid November extol the variety of runs offered and complain about only about the price being high and the long walk in ski boots. One day adult lift tickets retail for $105, up $11 from last year and comparable to AspenSnowmass.  Lodging tends to be expensive, with  2 bedroom, 2 bath condos renting for between $300 and $1500 per night. Discounts can be found, but let’s face it: this is not an average vacation for most people. It is a place you might enjoy after several seasons of experience, but where can you go to get that experience without going into debt.

Want to ski in Colorado but need a better price tag? About 45 miles west of  Denver, Arapahoe Basin already has 9 of the 105 trails open this early in the season with a current base of 23 inches. Recent comments acknowledge short lines and no crowds and good intermediate runs, but complained about slow lifts and no slope side lodging. Adult lift tickets are $49.  The cost of lodging at nearby motels, inns and bed and breakfast range from $88 to $200 and more per night for 4 people. This could be a workable option; it can even be an easy day trip from Denver.  Additional discounts are available 


Canaan Valley, in West Virginia, expects to open December 22. Comments posted on OnTheSnow from last season report that it was not crowded with no lift lines but the complaints had to do with the lack of night life. Oh well…bring your own entertainment. The resort offers a number of specials such as BOGO ski lift tickets on Wednesdays as well as a deal when school is cancelled due to snow, the lift ticket and ski rental price drops to $18.  During the prime season adult weekend lift tickets cost $50. Weekday rates are $32. Ski rentals are $28 and lessons are $30. So, the total one day cost at Canaan Valley is $90. Two bedroom cabins rent for $114 on weekdays or $139 on weekends. 


Okay, this is becoming more manageable for the budget, but can we find less expensive yet? Just east of Pittsburgh in the suburb of Monroeville is Boyce Park. This ski area, run by a county park is small, but it is perfect for a great afternoon trip for people in the area who are learning, or relearning. Lift tickets are inexpensive ($10 weekdays and $14 weekends, with discounts for children, seniors and groups), making it easy to spend a few lazy Saturday hours when you don’t have time for the drive to a larger ski resort. The park offers nine runs including moguls, halfpipe, Nastar timing runs with gates, jumps and night skiing. It’s definitely a beginner ski area, however, so don’t expect anything more. Rentals are $10 and a lesson is $10. A day spent at Boyce Park can set you back a whopping $34.

So, basically ask yourself if you really need ski-in ski-out lodging, fancy restaurants, pricey on-mountain boutiques, high-speed gondolas and state of the art grooming. If you answered “no” to more than one of these questions, chances are you will enjoy yourself at a smaller ski area. In fact, the smaller, less commercial ski resorts often have a simple charm and authenticity that makes them appealing to anyone who bemoans the loss of “soul” at larger, more commercial resorts. Many of the smaller ski areas are geared toward families, and offer family friendly pricing. Some smaller areas include:

Smuggler’s Notch in Vermont

Bolton Valley in Vermont

Mad River Glen in Vermont 

• Black Mountain in New Hampshire 

Cannon Mountain in New Hampshire 

Echo Mountain Park in Colorado

Loveland in Colorado 

Brighton in Utah 

Bridger Bowl in Montana 

Bear Mountain in California



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