4 of America’s Best Underrated—and Inexpensive—Ski Destinations

These affordable ski resorts in Vermont, Colorado, Oregon and Utah can make snowy winter getaways a reality.

by NEA Member Benefits

Jan 19, 2021


Skiing in Colorado, Utah, Vermont and Oregon—as with other world-class ski destinations in the United States—can be expensive. But it doesn’t have to be. We looked at some of the most underrated ski resorts located near well-known spots and found that you really can have an excellent, inexpensive ski vacation.

Check out these 4 ski mountain destinations perfect for cheap winter getaways, plus tips on how your NEA member benefits can help you save on travel expenses such as airfare, rental cars and more.

Arapahoe Basin in Colorado

Photo courtesy of Dave Camara/Arapahoe Basin Ski Area

Why ski here: The Arapahoe Basin (or A-Basin to the locals) ski resort in Colorado is a favorite of residents and visitors for its lack of glitz, glam and pretense. Located just 68 miles west of Denver, the mountain offers some of the highest skiable terrain in North America, peaking at 13,050 feet on its east wall and averaging about 350 inches of snow a year. Not an expert skier? No problem. You’ll find that 10% of the 140+ trails are beginner level and 30% are intermediate.

When to go: Arapahoe Basin, located in the Arapahoe National Forest, is known for having the longest ski season in all of Colorado (October to June, and sometimes even July).

What’s in the area: A-Basin does not have on-site lodging, but thanks to the free local bus system, called the Summit Stage, it’s easy to explore and stay in the nearby towns of Keystone, Dillon, Silverthorne, Frisco and Breckenridge that are filled with breweries, restaurants and shops.

Local discounts: For the 2020-21 ski season, tickets need to be purchased in advance online. Those purchases typically are 40% cheaper than buying tickets at the window anyway. You also can purchase a multiday pass, which is basically getting three days of skiing at A-Basin for what you would pay for just one day at other resorts in Summit County.

NEA member discounts on travel: Through the NEA Travel Program, you can search for deals on flights to Denver International Airport (86 miles away) or Eagle County Regional Airport (77 miles away); book a rental car for the drive to the A-Basin; and look for affordable lodging options such as Hyatt Place, Keystone Lodge & Spa, Best Western and many more.

Local resources: Arapahoe Basin ski resort; Summit Stage bus system; A-Basin’s ski pass deals

Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont

Photo courtesy of BoltonValley.com

Why ski here: Perfect for a family-friendly and affordable ski vacation, Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont is compact, and ski in/ski out lodging is close by. Bolton also has the most extensive backcountry skiing in the area, with more than 100 kilometers of Nordic trails for skiing and snowshoeing, and 15 kilometers groomed. Bolton is the only ski resort in Vermont with lift-served night skiing (all the others have rope tows), open as late as 10 p.m. Bolton Valley might not have all of the extras that the larger resorts do, but the terrain is varied, and the 71 Alpine trails offer a great mix of beginner to expert level.

When to go: Visitors can ski Bolton Valley from the end of December through mid-March (weather permitting).

What’s in the area: When covid-19 restrictions are lifted, your first stop should be in nearby Waterbury, Vermont, for a tour of Ben & Jerry’s Factory because it’s never too cold for ice cream! The small town is also the crossroads of Vermont’s hopping craft brewery scene where you’ll find breweries, shops and eateries along the quaint New England-style downtown area.

Just 30 minutes away, nestled along the shores of Lake Champlain, is the much larger city of Burlington. Head to Church Street Marketplace in the heart of downtown to find unique boutiques as well as live entertainment and great dining options.

Local discounts: Single-day lift tickets are between $50 and $100, and tickets are 60% if you buy them in advance online instead of at the ticket window. Keep an eye out for packages that can cover accommodations, lift tickets, breakfast and access to lots of other amenities. Active military and their dependents get 50% off specified tickets and passes (most resorts only give the discount to the person in the military).

NEA member discounts on travel: Through the NEA Travel Program, you can search for deals on flights to Burlington International Airport (30 minutes from the resort); book a rental car for the drive to Bolton Valley Resort; and if the on-site resort is too pricey for your budget, look for affordable lodging options nearby such as Best Western, Hampton Inn, Hilton Garden Inn and many more.

Local resources: Bolton Valley ski resort and ticket/pass information; Burlington visitor information; Ben & Jerry’s Factory tour information

Mt. Bachelor in Oregon

Why ski here: How often can you say you skied off a volcano? Mt. Bachelor in Oregon is a dormant volcano, allowing you to ski 360 degrees in any direction. Even though its highest skiable elevation tops out at 9,000 vertical feet, Mt. Bachelor is a fairly intermediate mountain, making it a great choice for families.

Located in the Deschutes National Forest, Mt. Bachelor is the one of the largest ski resorts in the U.S., thanks to the addition of the Cloudchaser lift.

When to go: The ski season at Mt. Bachelor generally runs from late November through May.

What’s in the area: The nearby village of Bend has transformed from a sleepy lumber town to a place filled with quirky shops, restaurants and the famous Deschutes Brewery. If you’d prefer to keep playing outdoors, consider taking a sled-dog ride through the snow-covered Cascades, go cross-country skiing on the Nordic trails of Mt. Bachelor, or snowshoe on freshly powered trails at nearby Tetherow Resort.

Local discounts: Children under 5 are admitted for free, and reduced pricing is available for children 6-12, teens 13-18, and seniors, as well as for online purchases vs. the walk-up window rate. If you need to rent gear, you’ll most likely find better rates in town than on the mountain itself.

NEA member discounts on travel: Through the NEA Travel Program, you can search for deals on flights to Redmond Municipal Airport (20 minutes from the resort) or Bend Municipal Airport (5 miles away); book a rental car for the drive to Mt. Bachelor ski resort (be sure to check which roads are open); and look for affordable lodging options nearby such as Quality Inn, Best Western Plus, Days Inn and many more.

Local resources: Mount Bachelor information; Deschutes National Forest information; Bend, Oregon, visitor information; Tetherow Resort.

Solitude Mountain Resort in Utah

Photo courtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort

Why ski here: The snow at Solitude Mountain Resort in Utah is the same light and fluffy stuff that falls at nearby Park City and Deer Valley but you’ll pay half the price for a lift ticket, and accommodations are also less expensive. Forget about long lift lines or battling for seats at lunch. The vibe at Solitude is relaxed and welcoming without all the crowds.

Solitude’s best-kept secret—and a rarity for resorts in Utah—is the Nordic Center. Easily accessible from the Village, the Nordic Center has nearly 20 kilometers of groomed trails connected to the resort.

When to go: Solitude’s ski season begins in mid-November and runs through mid-April (weather permitting).

What’s in the area: Solitude has an on-site spa as well as restaurants and pubs, but you’ll want to head to nearby Park City for shopping along its picturesque, historic Main Street. Salt Lake City is only 30 minutes away if you’re looking for a metropolitan area with lots to do.

Local discounts: Discounted lift tickets can be found online at Liftopia, but if you really want to save money on your trip, consider staying in Salt Lake City and making the 30-minute commute every day. If you buy a 3-4 day Ski City Super Pass, you’ll pay $118 per day for adults and $68 for kids. Transportation is included with the Super Pass, you’ll get 10% off on ski rentals at Solitude, and you’ll have the option to ski at some of the other local resorts.

NEA member discounts on travel: Through the NEA Travel Program, you can search for deals on flights to Salt Lake City International Airport (34 miles from the resort); book a rental car for the drive to the resort; and if the on-site resort is too pricey for your budget, look for affordable lodging options in Salt Lake City such as Hilton, Radisson Hotel, DoubleTree Suites and many more.

Local resources: Solitude Mountain Resort information; Park City information; Salt Lake City information; Liftopia tickets; Ski City Super Pass information

Save on your next winter getaway