This post was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on 2016/02/03.
There’s no getting around it: skiing is an expensive sport. The equipment — skis, boots, poles, coats, goggles — can set you back hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Lift tickets typically cost well over $100 a piece. And unless you’re fortunate enough to live near a huge, snowy mountain, you need to pay for a place to stay (and maybe even a plane ticket to get there).
While many have decided it wasn’t worth the cost in recent years (as Mother Nature hasn’t been too kind to the sport, especially in California), luckily this year there has been plenty of snow. Considering the costs, we were curious to pinpoint which US states known for their skiing were splurges and which were (comparative) steals.
For this analysis, we first whittled down a list of America’s most popular ski resorts. Then, we examined Hipmunk data from 2015 to determine what the average hotel and flight costs were at each of these destinations during the Feb-March ski season. Finally, we looked up how much an adult lift ticket costs at each of these destinations (for consistency’s sake, we looked at the price of a lift ticket to ski on January 13, 2016, purchased online).
While this is by no means an exhaustive list of resorts, it will give you an accurate sense of how much a ski trip will cost in various parts of America this upcoming season.
For this analysis, we’ve selected 16 popular US ski resorts that experience a high volume of traffic each year, and consistently appear in top resort lists online. These resorts are spread throughout 5 states: Colorado (5), California (3), Utah (2), Montana (2), Vermont (2), and New Mexico (1).
First, we ranked these ski destinations by hotel price, from most to least expensive:
Topping the list at a whopping $546 per night during ski season, Vail, CO, is the most expensive destination to stay near. Distantly trailing (but still pricey) is Aspen, CO, at $482 per night. Averaging $357 per night, Colorado ski lodges are nearly double the nightly rate of California lodges ($197).
Of course, lodging is just one cost consideration. Next, we took a peek at the adult lift ticket prices at each of these destinations. For areas with multiple ski resorts, we noted which resort’s lift price is listed below.
It’s worth pointing out that these are Adult tickets (children can often ski at cheaper rates), and that these prices reflect the cost of purchasing tickets online ahead of time (sometimes they cost slightly more if you buy them at the resort):
Once more, Aspen and Vail come out on top at $149 and $142, respectively. Interestingly, the five most expensive places to get a lift ticket are all in Colorado. For the price of one Snowmass (Aspen, CO) lift ticket, you could buy two lift tickets at Killington, VT, and still have enough left over for a hot coffee and lunch.
The last piece of the puzzle in this analysis is to look at flight prices: how much does it cost to fly to each one of these resorts? We dug into our Hipmunk flight data and calculated the median flight cost from various US cities:
Yet again, Colorado cities (especially Vail and Aspen) dominate as the most expensive ski destinations — this time by more than $100 above the next closest resorts. During ski season, a flight to one of these places costs more than $700 round-trip.
Now, let’s put this all together. Considering the cost of lodging, a lift ticket, and a flight, what are America’s most expensive ski vacations? For the calculation below, we assume the following:
- The trip is for two adults, each of whom purchases a round-trip flight
- The hotel stay is four nights.
- The lift pass is for three days of skiing. (Note: If you want to bring kids, tack on slightly more to the sums below for their ski passes.)
Without further adieu, here are the final tallies:
If you’ve been following us so far, it should come as no surprise that Vail ($4,572) and Aspen ($4,226) are America’s most expensive ski vacation destinations. In general, the Colorado resorts are the priciest in the nation, averaging $3,466 per trip.
At the same time, Colorado’s Winter Park boasts the least expensive trip, thanks to its proximity to Denver’s airport and the comparatively cheap average hotel price of $139 in February and March.
California’s resorts, at average of $2,193, are $1,273 cheaper on average than Colorado ski splurges. And for those on a budget, world-renowned South Lake Tahoe offers hotels at an average of $147 — less than 50 percent of the average cost of Vail.
And so, there we have it: mathematical proof that skiing is not only expensive, but rather astronomically so in the great state of Colorado. On the bright side, Vail’s $4,600 price tag takes a little bit of the sting off paying $2,000 for a Tahoe or Vermont trip. But if these are all out of reach, we recommend hitting up your local ski hill until you save up enough for that once in a lifetime trip to one of the top ski resorts in America.