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

These resorts in Vermont, Colorado, Oregon and Utah can make budget ski trips a reality.

by NEA Member Benefits


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 and budget-friendly ski resorts located near the well-known spots and found that you can have an excellent ski vacation at a fraction of the price.

Arapahoe Basin in Colorado

Photo courtesy of Dave Camara/Arapahoe Basin Ski Area

Why Ski Here: Arapahoe Basin (or A-Basin to the locals) 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. Still, you’ll find that 10% of the trails are beginner level and 30% are intermediate.

When to Go: Arapahoe Basin has the longest ski season in all of Colorado (October to June, and sometimes even July).

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

How to Save: Single-day lift tickets purchased at the window will be in the range of $90, but purchasing in advance can save up to 40%. Or you can purchase a multiday Elevation Pass, which is basically getting 3 days of skiing at A-Basin for what you would pay for just 1 day at other resorts in Summit County.

Bolton Valley in Vermont

Photo courtesy of BoltonValley.com

Why Ski Here: Perfect for a family-friendly ski vacation, this destination in Bolton Valley, 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 with 15 kilometers groomed. When it comes to night skiing, Bolton is the only ski resort in Vermont with lift-served night skiing (all the others have rope tows), open until 8 p.m. during the week and 10 p.m. on the weekends. Bolton Valley might not have all of the extras that the larger resorts do, but the terrain is varied and the 71 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: Your first stop should be in Waterbury, Vermont, for a tour of Ben & Jerry’s Factory—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 Market in the heart of downtown where you’ll find unique boutiques as well as live entertainment and great dining options.

How to Save: Single-day lift tickets are $59 during the week and $69 on the weekends, but tickets are always cheaper if you buy them in advance online instead of at the ticket window. There’s also a Ski & Stay Package that covers accommodations, lift tickets, breakfast and access to the Sports Complex that has a hot tub, pool, basketball and tennis courts and an entire game room with activities for kids. Active military and their family members get 50% off their tickets (most resorts only give the discount to the person in the military).

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, it’s the fifth largest ski resort in the country, thanks to the addition of the Cloudchaser lift that opened in the 2016–2017 season.

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 Tetherow Resort.

How to Save: Children 12 and under ski free for the same number of days as their parents/grandparents with the purchase of a 3-or-more day adult lift ticket. If you need to rent gear, you’ll most likely find better rates in town than you would on the mountain.

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 nonstop things to do.

How to Save: Discounted lift tickets can be found online at Liftopia, but if you really want to save, consider staying in Salt Lake City and making the 30-minute commute everyday. If you buy a 3-4 day Ski City Super Pass, you’ll pay $82 per day. Even though a regular lift ticket is just a dollar more at $83, with the Super Pass your transportation will be included, you’ll get up to 40% off on ski rentals and you’ll have the option to ski at some of the other local resorts.

Save on your next winter getaway