When it comes to snow skiing, unless you are training for the Winter Olympics or some other competition, it is more of a luxury than anything to be able to participate. Knowing that those that choose to spend their time and money skiing typically are “better off” financially compared to those that do not, many resorts charge rates that are unrealistic to consider budgeting for to a large portion of the nation’s population. Though this is the case for many of the well-known resorts across the US, not all ski resorts share this business model. With the more well-known resorts, you may have an experience similar to the difference between a 5-star hotel and a 2 or 3-star hotel as far as amenities are concerned, but you can also experience something equal or greater at a less known resort, depending on your preferences. Though the well-known resorts are typically well-known for a good reason, those features are often remnants from the past and can often be over shadowed by the crowded lines and “cookie-cutter” styling that you find with many “chain” businesses. Visiting a less known resort can prove to be just the experience you were looking for at a price that better fits your budget. Allow yourself to enjoy spending time with loved ones or doing what you came to do by avoiding the commercialism of the “name brand resorts” and turning your vacation into an adventure.
With the explanation of the what and why out of the way, it is time for the where. We have put together a short list of locations to look into visiting for skiing at a lower cost, with less crowding and the potential for a truly unique experience to be had by all. What these places lack in notoriety, they make up for in character and cost. As mentioned earlier, this is a short list, if there are any spots that we have left off, feel free to leave a comment on this blog post or on one of our social media accounts that reference this post. Our top priority is to share information, so everyone has the opportunity to do what they enjoy.
Located in Bozeman, Montana, Bridger Bowl is a ski area with terrain for every level of skier. As you go higher in elevation, you enter an increased difficulty rating all the way to the top of the ridge which is geared towards those that consider themselves an “expert”. For the well-versed skier, the Upper and Lower Terrain Parks give access to a series of rails, boxes and jumps to let you truly test your prowess on the slopes. Bridger Bowl has around 2,000 acres of skiable terrain with a top elevation of 8,800 ft, average annual snowfall of 350 inches, a vertical rise of 2,700 ft, over 75 trails and a 3 mile longest run.
For a single day lift ticket for an adult, you can expect to pay $60 while a multi-day lift ticket (3 or more days) will cost $57 for an adult. If this is your first time or are with small children and plan on sticking to the beginner slopes, the ticket will be $10 per person no matter the age. For unlimited skiing all season the price tops out at $825 for adults. If you do not live in the area or plan on staying for the entire season there is no need to shell out the $825 per adult, but it is worth mentioning since some of the more popular resorts in the US charge equal rates for single or multi-day passes. To get a feel for lodging costs, “PowderHound Lodging” has rates as low as $299 per person for 4 days of skiing and 4 nights of lodging with no black-out dates.
Red Lodge Mountain
Red Lodge, Montana
With a summit elevation of 9,416 feet, Red Lodge Mountain is another crowd free, low-cost skiing area perfect for those looking to experience the fundamental beauty of skiing. The average snowfall of 250 inches covers a vast area of skiing terrain stretching over 65 trails and groomed slopes (6 more in the Palisades area (weather permitting)), 30 acres of advanced chute skiing, 60 acres of gladed tree skiing and 1600 acres on Custer National Forest. Red Lodge Mountain has trails for skiers at the beginner, intermediate and advanced level with the longest run, the Lazy M extending a total of 2.5 miles. For those looking to try out some “tricks” on the slopes, Red Lodge Mountain has “The Scrap Yard Terrain Park” for intermediate to advanced visitors and the “Miami Beach Terrain Park” for beginners. Between the two parks you can tackle a variety of obstacles from multiple jumps, flat, round and “street style” rails, a log tap pyramid and multiple box styles. At Red Lodge Mountain, local owned lodging and shopping outnumber the large chain stores giving visitors a truly unique experience. From the well-respected microbrewery to the eclectic mix of locals that own, operate and shop at the product/service based establishments, Red Lodge Mountain is a great place to spend your vacation.
For a full day adult lift ticket, you will spend $45 at the window during the “early season” with a lower rate of $34 if you plan to keep to the Miami Beach Terrain Park only. During the “regular season” the cost goes up slightly to $57 for a full day and $45 for half day. For college students and military, a discounted rate is offered, putting the cost at $41 during regular season and $46 during the holiday season for college students with a constant price of $36 all season for military. On average, lodging costs about $100 per person per night (give or take $10-$15 depending on the establishment) and include a one-day lift ticket per person per day.
Grand Targhee Resort
At 2.7 miles, the Teton Vista Traverse is the longest run at the Grand Targhee Resort in Alta, Wyoming. Boasting a summit elevation of 9,920 feet, Mary’s Nipple is the highest of the mountains at Grand Targhee Resort. Though it is the tallest, it is considered to be “hike-only terrain”, meaning that Fred’s and Peaked mountains that peak at 9,862 feet and 9,830 feet respectably, are your only options for skiing, snow boarding or fat biking. Grand Targhee Resort has a total acreage of 2,602 with an average annual snowfall of over 500 inches and a vertical drop of 2,270 feet. Not only does Grand Targhee Resort have skiing and snowboarding availability, fat biking through the snow has become a popular past time amongst visitors. As many have probably seen, bikes with larger and thicker than average tires have become popular in both natural and manmade environments. As it turns out, this particular style of bike does very well in mountainous snow-covered areas like Grand Targhee Resort, making it a great addition to any planned vacation activities.
For a night stay at Grand Targhee Resort, rooms run around $160 and come furnished with 2 queen beds, indoor and outdoor community hot tubs and are ski in/out among other amenities. Slopeside lodging is within reasonable distance of restaurants, shopping, mountain activity start points and more, so you will be a short distance from your next adventure. For an adult lift ticket during the 2017/18 winter season, you can expect to pay $85 a day during the regular season and $90 a day during the holidays, with have day passes dropping to $68/$72 respectively. For military, the price remains a constant $45 for full and half day tickets regardless of the proximity of the holidays.
Pinkham Notch, New Hampshire
The 225 skiable acres of Wildcat Mountain make this New Hampshire hidden gem able to accommodate a large number of visitors to engage in winter time activities. Though it has the space and terrain to be a skiing hotspot, Wildcat Mountain is relatively unknown and therefore a great place to get away and ski for the enjoyment that comes with it, rather than to be seen as a status symbol. With a summit elevation of 4,062 feet and a vertical drop of 2,112 feet, Wildcat Mountain is by no means a second-hand skiing destination. If you are a beginner looking to get some practice before taking on the more challenging areas, Wildcat Mountain has a beginner trail that stretches for 2.75 miles named Polecat. About 20 miles from North Conway, if you are looking to take a break from the slopes, the pubs and old fashioned candy shops of North Conway make for an excellent addition of character to your vacation itinerary.
One-day lift tickets for Wildcat Mountain tend to run between $35 and $57 for adults, depending on the special that day. For lodging at the Attitash Resort at Wildcat Mountain prices start at $105 per night and can go up based on dates or package add-ons.