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5 North American Ski Towns for an Affordable Stay

Find lift tickets for under $100 a day at ski resorts near these charming mountain towns

spinner image a skier atop a mountain at dusk in Beaupre, Quebec
Mont-Sainte-Anne has more than 500 acres of skiable terrain.
© GouvQc / Francis Gagnon

If it’s been a while since you’ve taken a ski vacation in the United States, steady yourself for sticker shock — especially if you’re eyeing a trip to one of the big-name North American resorts. At popular spots in Utah and Colorado, including Park City Mountain Resort and Vail, walk-up, day-of lift tickets could run you $299 per day — and that’s before you tack on extras like gear rental, lessons and on-mountain snacks.

A 2023 story by Ski Magazine crunched the numbers regarding what a family of four could expect to spend for a single “unplanned day on the hill” (including lift tickets, gear rental, parking, lunch on the mountain and the cost of gas for driving in from the nearest airport). The total came to more than $1,000 per day at popular mountain resorts in California, Colorado and Vermont — and that’s without accommodation costs factored in.

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The good news is there are smaller mountain towns loaded with charm and close to lesser-known ski resorts where you can nab lift tickets for less than $100 a day, inexpensive hotel rooms can be found and an all-around more affordable ski vacation is still possible.

Follow our lead to five lesser-known mountain towns close to great skiing where you won’t have to sacrifice terrain, but you’ll find plenty of the white stuff to save on the green.

spinner image Two skiers at the top of Blacktail Mountain
Blacktail Mountain Ski Area is south of Kalispell, Montana.​
Journal of Lost Time / Francis Spontelli

Kalispell, Montana

Less than 35 miles south of Glacier National Park, the charming Old West mountain town of Kalispell in northwest Montana is ideally positioned for days spent skiing on two nearby mountains: Whitefish Mountain Resort to the north and Blacktail Mountain Ski Area to the south. Lift tickets cost around $97 per day ($83 for ages 65–69; $35 for 70-plus) at Whitefish and $80 at Blacktail ($45 for 70-plus).

Right along Main Street in the heart of Kalispell’s compact and walkable downtown, check into the 1912 Kalispell Grand. It offers free continental breakfast, free parking, and an afternoon cookie and popcorn break. Rooms start at $104 per night. The Best Western Plus Flathead Lake Inn and Suites has a free full breakfast, an indoor pool and rooms from around $130 per night.

spinner image snowcapped Casper Mountain
Casper, Wyoming, sits at the base of Casper Mountain.
Visit Casper

Casper, Wyoming

Jackson and Jackson Hole might be millionaire and billionaire territory these days, but you can still have an affordable ski vacation in the Cowboy State. Head to Wyoming’s second-largest city (after Cheyenne) and one very cool mountain town.

Casper sits at the base of Casper Mountain in central Wyoming and delights visitors with a pleasant downtown lined with restaurants (the Silver Fox steakhouse is known for its prime grade beef) and shops, and easy access to iconic western scenery.

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Make MainStay Suites Casper (rates start around $110 per night) your base and it’s a 15-mile drive south to Hogadon Basin Ski Area, where lift tickets are $60 per day ($50 for ages 65–69; ages 70-plus free). There are some 25 runs to ski, many with intermediate terrain.

spinner image Ogden's historic 25th street with mountains in the background
Historic 25th Street in downtown Ogden, Utah, features historic buildings.
Yvette Cardozo / Alamy Stock Photo

Ogden, Utah

After touching down in Salt Lake City, it’s about a 40-mile drive north to the authentic Utah mountain town of Ogden, in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains.

Park City this is not. A 19th-century junction point for the first transcontinental railroad that bustled back then with all the lawless characters its geographic position came with, Ogden holds on to a storied vibe and is unpolished but appealing. Lined with historic buildings, the walkable downtown brims with character along Historic 25th Street, which you may enjoy strolling all the way to the nearly century-old Union Station and Utah State Railroad Museum.

For skiers, three very different Utah mountains — family-friendly Snowbasin, sprawling Powder Mountain (North America’s largest ski area, at 8,484 acres) and small but mighty Nordic Valley — are all less than 25 miles from town. If you’re traveling with kids or grandkids, Nordic Valley offers free lift tickets for the 12 and under set.

For an affordable stay right in town and walking distance to cafes, Roosters Brewing Co. in a building that dates to 1890 and galleries, Tru by Hilton Ogden has free hot breakfast, an indoor pool and rates from around $122 per night.  

spinner image Three skiers in Beaupre, Quebec
The majority of the runs at Mont-Sainte-Anne are rated easy or intermediate.
© GouvQc / Charles Mercier

Beaupré, Quebec

Fly into Quebec City and drive about 25 miles northeast along the St. Lawrence River, past the grand Montmorency Falls, to reach the pretty little town of Beaupré.

An agricultural area in Quebec City’s eastern suburbs, it makes an ideal base for enjoying nearby Mont-Sainte-Anne’s more than 500 acres of skiable terrain and 71 trails, two-thirds of which are rated easy or intermediate. The mountain has slopes with beautiful views of the river. Lift tickets average around $92 per day (depending on exchange rates) or about $76 for those 65-plus. Also, children 6 and younger always ski free with a paying adult.

You can stay nearby at Marriott’s Delta Hotels or Mont Sainte-Anne, Resort & Convention Center, with rates from around $200 per night, and indoor and outdoor heated pools, to enjoy after a day in the snow.

spinner image a skier on the slopes in Truckee, California
Truckee, California, just north of Lake Tahoe, is a hub of winter sports when the snow starts falling.
VAWiley / Getty Images

Truckee, California

California’s most down home mountain town might be Truckee, an early 1900s railroad hub for the lumber industry just north of Lake Tahoe. It’s an outdoor-lover’s hotbed for river rafting in the summer and winter sports once the snow starts falling.

If you’re looking for some of the Lake Tahoe area’s most affordable slopes, you’ll find them at Donner Ski Ranch, just 10 miles west of town, with 500 acres of terrain and six chair lifts (and short lift lines) — and lift tickets that cost around $99 per day, compared to $269 per day at nearby Northstar.

Lodging options that won’t break the bank include the Best Western Plus Truckee-Tahoe Hotel, with a heated outdoor saltwater pool and hot tub, and a complimentary hot breakfast with burritos and frittatas.

spinner image a ski lift at Kalispell, Montana
Stay in Kalispell, Montana, for easy access to Whitefish Mountain Resort.
Marisa Mikonis

5 smart tips for planning an affordable ski vacation

  1. Try to travel midweek to score reduced hotel and airfare rates.
  2. The first couple of weeks in December and early to mid-January are low season in many ski towns and a good time to find deals.
  3. If you’re coming from somewhere warm and lack ski gear, winter clothing and boots, wait until you get to your destination to shop at secondhand stores for castoffs in good condition.
  4. Look for deals for purchasing lift tickets online before your stay. Web rates are almost always heavily discounted compared to ticket-window prices — especially if you’re buying more than one day or consecutive days of mountain access.
  5. Consider saving money by buying a half-day lift pass if you’re not the kind of skier who needs to be the first on and last off the mountain.

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