If it feels like you have to own a multi-resort season pass to call yourself a skier—even a casual one—you wouldn’t be in the minority. It seems like the days of one-off day trips or weekends spent exploring a new-to-you nearby hill are now filed deep in skiing’s history books.
But it’s actually not so. There are plenty of community-minded, often independently owned, ski areas that make maintaining reasonable daily ticket prices a priority so people who want to sample the sport without the season pass commitment can do just that.
These are places that welcome families and learners, and where crockpots, sack lunches, and stashing your boot bag in the lodge rafters are welcome and expected. In the day and age of $200-plus-per-day lift tickets—10 resorts crested the two Benjamins last season, with one Utah ski area topping out at $249—these spots are bright lights in an unwelcome storm.
If your winter forecast only allows for a few one-off ski days, or you’re introducing new friends to the ski lifestyle, consider these ski areas, which have the enviable combination of affordable prices and terrain and a vibe truly worth checking out.
9 Ski Areas With Day Tickets Under $85
Bridger Bowl, Mont.
Bridger Bowl is one of the west’s lesser-known gems, but it has all the things adventurous skiers look for in a mountain: 2,000 acres of terrain, including some of the most exciting lines in the region; 300 inches of snow on average; and a friendly and welcoming vibe where locals share their secret stashes. There’s also enough mellow terrain to keep learners busy for days..
- Single day lift ticket price: $70 online
Magic Mountain, Vt.
Magic is one of the true independent gems of the Green Mountain state, a place known for its inclusivity, community, and seriously rad terrain. Its glades are legendary and wild, its many fans dedicated to retaining the ski area’s vibrant personality. It’s a decidedly no-frill ski area, but what it lacks in amenities it more than makes for in ambience, terrain, and overall experience.
- Single day lift ticket price: $84 online
Eagle Point, Utah
Way down in southern Utah, little Eagle Point is a unique spot surrounded by the unique topography of the Tushar Mountains. The terrain is interesting, packing a lot into its modest 650 acres and 1,500 vertical feet. There’s ample beginner and intermediate terrain on one half of the resort, while the other side is almost entirely black diamond trails and glades.
- Single day lift ticket price: $50-$60 weekday, $75 weekends
Wolf Creek, Colo.
If Colorado’s getting snow, chances are Wolf Creek is getting the lion’s share of it. This resort outside of Pagosa Springs tends to get around 430 inches of the fluffy stuff each year. Skiers will find an equal mix of beginner, intermediate, and expert terrain spread across 1,600 skiable acres, and a culture ingrained with deep community roots.
- Single day lift ticket price: $82*
Boyne Mountain, Mich.
Boyne Mountain always seems to be perched at the top of any Midwest resort ranking. And while you won’t find the steeps of the west, Boyne has 60 runs that are predominantly geared toward intermediates (and another 30 percent of terrain that’s rated expert). Plus, 90 percent of the resort boasts snowmaking, so early season turns are the best you’ll find in the region.
- Single day lift ticket price: $59 online
Silver Mountain, Idaho
Silver Mountain isn’t huge, but it isn’t small either. Skiers have access to over 1,600 acres with a 2,200 foot vertical drop at this northern Idaho resort, covered in an average of 340 inches of snow a year. The glades alone are worth the trip, but there’s also ample intermediate and beginner terrain, plus an indoor waterpark at the base. What’s more, night skiing is included in the cost of your lift ticket.
- Single day lift ticket price: $61 weekdays, $66 weekends*
Camelback Resort, Penn.
When winter comes to the Poconos, Camelback is the place to be. It’s the largest resort in the region, with 39 trails that wind down 166 acres of terrain, plus your lift ticket includes night skiing. The terrain is mostly mellow, with otherwordly views from the 2,100-foot summit. A family gem, Camelback also has a 42(!!)-lane snow tubing park that’s too amazing to skip.
- Single day lift ticket price: $62
49 Degrees North, Wash.
Up in the northeastern corner of Washington is a little resort with a fiercely loyal following. The ski area comprises two peaks and three basins, offering plenty of fun, playful terrain. 49 Degrees North has a true northwestern feel, a cozy lodge, a great ski school, and free parking. Most of the terrain is rated intermediate, but there’s enough expert terrain to keep those looking for an adrenaline rush thoroughly entertained.
- Single day lift ticket price: $49 on weekdays, $71 on weekends*
Mt. Ashland, Ore.
While the resort caters to its loyal, local fanbase, it gets plenty of out-of-towners who come to enjoy the mountain’s high base elevation of 6,344 feet, average annual snowfall of 265 inches, and 44 runs serviced by five lifts. A section of the mountain is separated for beginners, making it great for families and newbies, and there’s night skiing on select Thursdays and Fridays throughout the winter.
Single day lift ticket price: $57 on weekdays, $64 on weekends*
*2021-’22 pricing; rates have not been released for this coming winter