Ultra-Affordable Ski Resorts for 2020 Vacations

Skiing, even internationally, doesn't have to break the bank. Ski incredible terrain for less than $100 a day at these resorts.

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February 03, 2020
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Photo By: www.slovenia.info

Photo By: Quebec City Tourism / Camirand Photo

Photo By: © Simon Beizaee | SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser Brixental

Photo By: Mt. Ruapehu

Photo By: © ATTA / Rupert Shanks

Photo By: Valle Nevado

Photo By: www.bandion.it

Photo By: © Austrian National Tourist Office / Daniel Zangerl

Photo By: Courtesy of Howelsen Hill

Photo By: Ski Cooper

Photo By: Jason Lombard, Wolf Creek Ski Area

Kope, Slovenia

Lift tickets at many of the most popular ski resorts throughout the U.S. cost more than $100 per day. That can be the most expensive part of any ski vacation if you’re traveling with family or friends who can spread out the cost of lodging among the group. But if you can seek out the “locals” mountains, the smaller ski areas that aren’t attached to fancy resorts and which are often further away from areas tourists can reach easily, you can find relative steals. And if you’re willing to travel elsewhere in the world, you can get a lot more for your money. Slovenia, for example, has many affordable ski resorts you’ve almost definitely never heard of, including Kope in the northern town of Razborca. Lift tickets here start around $32. Slovenia is far more affordable than Western Europe, so you can plan a ski trip here on a budget. Just watch for flight deals to Ljubljana — Skyscanner says they start around $440 roundtrip from U.S. cities.

Book Flights to Slovenia: Skyscanner, Starting at $442

Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec, Canada

Now’s an excellent time to plan a trip to Quebec, especially if you live in the northeast and can easily road trip. The U.S. dollar is strong right now and offers quite a favorable exchange rate against the Canadian dollar, so your money will go a lot further than usual. Full day lift tickets at Quebec’s Mont-Sainte-Anne resort cost $65 for adults, and kids 6 and under ski for free. To save more, consider skiing in the afternoon or evening, when lift tickets start around $27, or book a ski-and-stay package. Through mid-February, your third day of skiing and lodging is free, and packages for two adults start around $420. The resort also has cross-country ski tracks, fat biking, snowshoeing and alpine touring, so there are activities available for every level.

SkiWelt Ski Resort, Austria

The Austrian Alps offer some of the most picturesque skiing in Europe, if not the world. Even still, tickets are remarkably affordable for such excellence. There are scores of Austrian ski resorts that cost well under $65 per day, not to mention wide expanses of backcountry skiing. SkiWelt, a massive area with 90 lifts and nearly 175 miles of trails, costs just $54 for an adult day pass; it’s $280 for a 7-day pass. SkiWelt offers other discounts, too, so pay attention to the calendar when you’re booking. The resort also offers other family-friendly activities like tobogganing.

Book Flights to Innsbruck: Skyscanner, Starting at $420 Roundtrip

Mt. Ruapehu, New Zealand

These dramatic peaks might look terrifying, but the vast majority of Whakapapa’s terrain is intermediate. This New Zealand resort town at Mt. Ruapehu offers slopes up to 7,500 feet high and a dedicated beginner area ideal for teaching kids and newbie skiers. Lift tickets start around $100 for a single day or $53 each for two or more days. Passes are also good at Turoa Ski Area. Keep your costs low by staying in a hostel. The YHA National Park hostel, for example, is just a 12-minute drive from Whakapapa and bunks start at $18 per night. Ski season runs from about mid June through early November.

Book Flights to Auckland: Skyscanner, Starting around $940

Skiing at Niseko United in Hokkaido, Japan

Japan is often considered to have some of the greatest snow in the world. Chase the “japow” on the island of Hokkaido at Niseko United, outside Sapporo. This set of four resorts averages 50 feet of snow each year and offers a wide variety of beginner to expert terrain, including opportunities to ski in the backcountry. Late-season lift tickets start at $39 a piece; regular season tickets cost $72. Niseko is also on the IKON Pass, which covers 41 destinations around the world. If you’re already skiing with that in the U.S., you get seven free days for you plus a discount of 25 percent off for up to 10 day passes for family and friends. Niseko also offers quite a few other activities for non-skiers in your group, like an on-site onsen (luxurious hot spring soaking pools) and the Chillout Lounge & Bar, a restaurant made out of ice.

Book Flights to Sapporo: Skyscanner, Starting at $415 Roundtrip

Valle Nevado, Chile

Central Chile’s Valle Nevado is high above treeline in the Andes, and an easy 90 minutes from Santiago. Single-day lift ticket prices haven’t yet been posted for 2020 — the season runs from about June to October — but in 2019, tickets cost about $63 for an adult day pass. A 7-day pass for 2020 will cost about $360 if you buy now, which is roughly a quarter of what it costs to buy a prime season 7-day pass for Colorado’s Vail Resorts. IKON Pass holders are also in luck. As with Niseko, IKON Pass holders get 7 free days at Valle Nevado and 25 percent off lift tickets for up to 10 passes for family and friends. The resort also offers backcountry access and heli-skiing for expert skiers.

Book Flights to Sapporo: Skyscanner, Starting at $415 Roundtrip

Cortina D'Ampezzo, Italy

The Dolomites of northern Italy offer stunning views and steep slopes at a large number of resorts. Access 12 different Italian ski areas with the Dolomiti Superski pass, which starts at $63 for a one-day pass. Ski the same tracks as Olympians at Cortina D’Ampezzo, which will host the Winter Games in 2026. Innsbruck, Austria, is the best place to fly into. Skiing in Italy also has other perks. Train travel and domestic flights are budget-priced, so you can travel south inexpensively to visit the country’s warmer regions, like Tuscany, where you can find incredible food and wine and more temperate outdoor adventures.

Buy It: Skyscanner, Starting at $420 Roundtrip

Kühtai, Austria

Just 30 minutes from Innsbruck, the smaller Kühtai resort offers 12 lifts with more than 50 miles of trails starting from $47 for an adult day pass. Tickets get cheaper by the half hour, so if you’re not the kind of skier who needs to hop on the first chair, you can save a few extra dollars. A wide variety of hotels and huts let you to ski for free if you stay with them, including options under $100 a night, so book directly with the resort for the best deals.

Book Flights to Innsbruck: Skyscanner, Starting at $420 Roundtrip

Howelsen Hill, Colorado

This city-run ski area in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, is small but mighty. It only has four lifts, but dozens of Olympians have trained here over the years. It opened in 1915 and is North America's oldest ski area still in operation. Lift tickets cost $30 for adults, but go on a weekend for a real steal. On Sundays, the lifts are free for everyone. Howelsen Hill also offers Nordic skiing trails for $15.

Ski Cooper, Colorado

Cooper is a super family-friendly mountain near Leadville, Colorado, which at 10,152 feet is the highest-altitude incorporated city in North America. It offers terrain for all levels, including backcountry access via snow cat. Cooper tickets purchased online in advance start at $30 a day for adults, and cross country ski passes cost $18 a day. The Tennessee Pass Nordic Center next door offers cross country trails for those who prefer their skiing to be horizontal, and a cozy place to curl up with a book and a cup of tea for those who prefer to hang out indoors. They also rent out fat bikes, snowshoes and children’s sleds so cross country-skiing parents can pull their tots along the trail.

Wolf Creek Ski Area, Colorado

Wolf Creek, right in the middle of Colorado, is serious powder town. This small but steep local’s mountain gets nearly 500 inches of snow most years and you can hike past the lift to less crowded terrain, making it a favorite with expert skiers. Tickets regularly cost $76 for adults, but on some discount days you can get them as low as $54 a piece, so be sure to check their calendar. The Pass Creek Yurt, a 30-minute drive from the ski area, offers a cozy place to camp out amid the powder with a group of up to five friends and family. Experienced backcountry skiers will particularly love the location. Rates start at $119 per night.

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