As summer creeps closer, it may seem incongruous to start planning this winter’s ski vacation. It’s not. In fact, we’re coming into the season of the lowest prices on season passes, lodging, and vacation packages.
In the spirit of keeping this sport we love affordable, we turned to last year’s Reader Resort Survey results to inform us about the resorts around the country that were voted the highest scores in the Value category in both the East and West. The ski areas below serve up good bang for your buck, but don’t delay when it comes to travel planning. As with all things, the early bird gets the worm.
Make yourself heard! Don’t forget to vote in the 2021-’22 SKI Magazine Reader Resort Survey—it’s closing soon! Your response enters you into a sweepstakes to win a brand-new pair of skis, too.
1. Loveland Ski Area, Colo.
Loveland’s no-restrictions, no-blackouts 4-Pak might be the best deal in Skidom—and it goes on sale on Memorial Day. Watch this space for next season’s pricing, but last year’s 4-Pak cost just $169, less than the cost of a single-day lift ticket at some of the megaresorts further down I-70. That’s just over $42/day, and you can use them any day of season, split them between family or friends through the winter, or use them all on one day. The flexibility of the 4-Pak is singular in an industry where blackouts and non-transferable passes are the norm.
What Readers Say: “A great no frills ski area. Good runs. Hardly ever lift lines. The lodge and food choices are good for the area. If you want parties, drunk people, and shops no one can afford, this is not your area. But, if you want great groomers and bowl areas full of powder and short lift lines, this is your area. The 4-pack lift pass is untouchable anywhere else.”
No. 30 in the West Overall: Loveland Ski Area, Colo.
2. Smugglers’ Notch, Vt.
For the breadth and variety of terrain you get (over 1,000 skiable acres), Smuggs’ $84/day lift ticket (2020-’21 rates) is a pretty good deal, plus additional days are around 20 percent less ($64 last season). What’s more, if you know you only want to ski Morse, the beginner slopes, you can just a lift pass that accesses those lifts. Another value perk that sets this family-friendly East Coast resort apart.
No. 1 in the East: Smugglers’ Notch, Vt.
What Readers Say: “A wonderful family resort. The staff treats you like family. Although the lifts are famously slow, the views from them are gorgeous, and the slopes are well maintained and uncrowded, with great variety for all abilities. The cozy, comfortable, well-equipped resort condos are well-situated, making it easy to walk to the slopes from most, or if not, to use the free and convenient on-demand shuttle bus. Plenty to do for those who don’t ski, or when you want to take a day off. A great value for skiing, especially in these days of skyrocketing lift tickets prices, and a wonderful, family, traditional, non-corporate atmosphere that sets it apart in a ski world of increasing consolidations and mergers.”
3. Whitefish Mountain Resort, Mont.
With daily lifts tickets coming in at $85 per day last season—with rates 25 percent off when you purchase online, in advance—Whitefish is hands-down one of the best deals in the West when it comes to bang for your buck. The resort also offers great deals for seniors 70-plus (last season was $26/day) as well as a generous complimentary ticket program for groms 6 and under—most resorts limit free passes to kids 4 and under.
No. 3 in the West: Whitefish Mountain Resort, Mont.
What Readers Say: “Whitefish is that rare ski area that could be a megaresort and charge outrageous prices but does not because they want everybody to be able to afford to ski. They know that making skiing affordable for families to keep their children skiing guarantees skiers in the future. And yes, this area has every bit as good skiing as Big Sky without the $168 a day lift tickets! Proving again and again that the cost of a lift ticket does not mean great skiing!”
4. Magic Mountain, Vt.
In a refreshing bit of industry news, this independently-owned mountain decided not to raise ticket prices for next season, keeping its daily lift ticket at an affordable $74. Magic is also one of the few ski areas with a daily sales cap to keep the experience authentic and enjoyable for day skiers and pass holders alike. It’s also worth noting that Magic is on the Indy Pass, which is one the best multi-resort pass deals around.
What Readers Say: “Magic continues to do right by locals and visitors by keeping skiing affordable, especially for families who want skiing to be something they can continue to do together. In addition to keeping tickets reasonable, the food prices in the base lodge are also not exorbitant, and they encourage people to bring their own lunch rather than making it hard for them to do so.”
5. Powder Mountain, Utah
Considering that Powder Mountain serves up the most skiable acres in North America—yes, more than Whistler Blackcomb—the fact that a day ticket is only $99 makes it one of the best values out there. We’re not great at math—that’s why we’re writers—but that seems like an awfully good deal for 8,464 powdery acres. We dare you to ski all of them in one day. This big guy is also on the Indy Pass, so there’s another way to squeeze value out of this gem.
What Readers Say: “The fact that Powder has a cap on ticket sales and that it’s an independent resort that really gets its clientele makes it one of the best ski experiences on the continent—not just because it’s a good value, which it certainly is, but because it’s run by people who value the experience over making money.”