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It’s Cheaper to Ski in Europe Than in the USA

cheaper to ski in Europe

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s getting really expensive to ski in the USA. There are still bargain regional mountains out there, and we’ll get to those, but if you’re planning a big skiing vacation this season you may want to consider a longer flight. It’s cheaper to ski in Europe for a week than it is to stay in America–even counting the flight difference.

When I went skiing a lot in Vermont in the early 90s while working in New York City, I met a lot of visitors from the UK and Ireland who were on vacation in the USA. Back then it was cheaper for them to fly to the USA for a week of fun at Killington or Sugarbush than it was for them to do the same trip in the Alps.

Now the situation is reversed. It’s cheaper for us to go the other direction—and eat better food—than it is for us to fly to Colorado or Utah for a ski trip. That’s because lift ticket prices in the states have gone through the roof.

It’s hard to compare apples to apples just by ski lift tickets since there are a lot of variables even in that price. There’s the weekday price vs. the weekend price, the discount for multiple days, and the package deals. Then it can get complicated fast when you start comparing rentals, lodging, food, and airfare. So for the moment, let’s just look at weekday one-day lift ticket prices since that’s public information easily available online.

The Most Expensive Ski Resorts in the USA

Starting at the top, your eyes might bug out when you see the single day lift ticket prices in America this year. Keep in mind it’s even worse on the weekends, when you also deal with longer lift lines. Granted these are some of the biggest, but here are the ski mountains that will hurt your wallet the most in peak season (2020 weekend ticket window prices):

cheaper to ski in Europe than United States Alta UT – $119
Aspen / Snowmass CO – $179
Beaver Creek CO – $219
Breckenridge CO – $199
Copper Mountain CO – $188
Deer Valley UT – $199
Killington, VT – $130
Mammoth Mountain CA – $189
Mt. Rose – Ski Tahoe CA – $145
Mt. Snow VT – $118
Park City UT – $189
Snowbasin UT – $125
Steamboat Springs CO – $215
Squaw Valley CA – $169
Stowe VT – $139
Sugarbush VT – $129
Sugar Bowl CA – $125
Sun Valley ID – $145
Taos Ski Valley NM – $110
Telluride CO – $149
Vail CO – $219
Winter Park CO – $189

Use this as a guideline but note that the most corporate ski operations are taking lessons from the airlines and hotels by using dynamic pricing. Skiing at Stratton in Vermont may cost you $65 weekday one week or it may cost you $125 a week later on a Saturday. Pull up the resort site to check if they’re doing this. OnTheSnow has a lot of information, but it gets out of date fast and they often only show the weekday lift ticket rate if they show a rate at all. You’ll have to go to the official websites to check for your planned dates.

Naturally if you’re flying somewhere on vacation you’re going to hit the slopes for more than one day, so see what kinds of deals are out there on multi-day lift tickets, deals bundles with airfare, or deals bundled with lodging, lessons, or equipment. Using those single day prices as a starting point though, it’s clear that you’re going to have to lay out a lot of cash at any of these big elite resorts.

The Most Expensive Ski Resorts in Europe

Now before we move on to where the bargains are—and they exist on both continents—let’s compare how pricey the high-end places to go skiing are in Europe. Since Europeans get (and gladly take) much longer vacations, travelers there tend to stay somewhere for a week or more. As a result there are clear delineations in who the different operations serve.

Some ski towns are for families, some for partying crowds, some for wealthy upper-crust types who don’t want to mix with the riff-raff. (Just look at the Davos gathering each year.) Even the high-end places are a bargain though compared to the U.S. equivalents of Vail, Beaver Creek, and Jackson Hole. Austria’s largest connected ski area is a fraction of the cost of the ones in Colorado or Utah. So are the largest ski areas in the world in France. Prices have been converted to dollars from euros or Swiss Francs at the official rate and were updated in 2020.

Arabba Marmolada, Italy – $62
Arosa Lenzerheide, Switzerland – $88
Bad Gastein various, Austria – $61
Chamonix Mont-Blanc, France – $62
Courchevel, France – $64
Davos Klosters – $77
Engelberg, Switzerland – $69
Gstaad, Switzerland – $66
Lech Zürs am Arlberg, Austria – $64
Plan de Corones / Kronplatz, Italy – $65
Saas Fee, Switzerland – $80
Silvretta Montafon, Austria – $61
St. Anton am Arlberg, Austria – $63
St. Moritz, Switzerland – $80
Tignes, France – $68
Val d’Isère, France – $68
Verbier, Switzerland – $80
Zermatt, Switzerland – $83

It’s really staggering, isn’t it? Did you expect that skiing in the Alps of Europe, at the places with the best facilities, would cost half or less what it does in the USA? And it can be lower still. Stay at one of these participating hotels in St. Moritz, for example, and your lift ticket is just 48 bucks.

Ski Switzerland less money than Vail

I could not find a single day lift ticket priced higher than $88 to ski on a weekend in Europe, which wouldn’t get you anywhere close to the “most expensive” list in the USA. Check out these tips on affordable Switzerland—not an oxymoron after all—and you start seeing that the Swiss Alps are looking better all the time. Bring on the fondue!

Granted I left off the resorts of Sweden and Norway, but for a valid reason: most people that go skiing in Sweden or Norway are locals, not international visitors.

A Quick Ski Towns Lodging Comparison

Ski passes alone are only one slice of the vacation expense pie of course. I just focused on those since the differences are so dramatic. The next assumption is going to be that lodging is more expensive in Europe. It turns out that’s wrong too.

Again we’re dealing with a lot of variables here: condos, chalets, house shares, and dorms to name a few. I’m going to compare hotels though since they’re more standardized in what they offer. So here are a few comparisons for February high season from HotelsCombined to give a general idea.

5-star hotel in Vail: $729 – $1,129
5-star hotel in St. Moritz: $530

4-star hotel in Telluride: $288 – $732
4-star hotel in Zermatt: $230 – $632

3-star hotel in Park City: $213 – $448
3-star hotel in Arabba Marmolada: $93 – $179

Bed and breakfast in Killington: $100 – $185
Bed and breakfast in Courchevel: $64 – $104

So not as dramatic, but still an edge to the Europeans. The same held true for Airbnb prices: it was actually cheaper in Europe in all comparisons I did. Housing stock is at a premium in U.S. ski towns and some have passed laws restricting short-term rentals as a result. Try Vrbo too if you’re looking to rent from an owner.

Park City Washington School House hotel

Your $750 a night lodging in Park City, Utah

In practice, most vacationers are going to get some kind of package deal and this is especially true in Europe. It’s not that hard to find a deal with a week of skiing, rentals, lodging, and breakfast for under $1,000 per person double. For a few hundred more you can get full board. That’s getting increasingly tough to find in the USA.

Go to the cheapest places to ski in Europe and the rates are something even a working-class stiff can afford. For the Bulgarian resort of Bansko, a recent Post Office report from the UK estimated that a week’s ski pass, equipment rental, lessons and lunch would cost about £405 per person—less than $500. Winter flight prices to Europe are usually dramatically lower than summer. Check them at Skyscanner.

Cheap Ski Resort Comparisons USA and Europe

There are plenty of places to ski in the United States that won’t require a home equity loan to pay for it. I learned at a small place in Virginia called Massanutten, one we commonly called “Massanuthin’.” When we could snag a car and spend a little more we would go to Wintergreen (now $64 weekdays), but when we really wanted to step up we drove to Snowshoe or Canaan Valley in West Virginia. One-day lift tickets at Snowshoe are $59-$119 now.

I’m leaving out the little hills where you take a rope tow to the top, but here are some more down-to-Earth one-day ticket prices for the less sprawling options in America.

Alyeska, AK – $62-89
Bear Creek PA – $55
Bogus Basin ID – $67
Bridger Bowl MT – $64
Brundage Mountain, ID – $73
Camden Snow Bowl, ME – $33-$41
Camp Fortune, ONT – $36
Howelsen Hill Ski Area, CO – $30
Hunter Mountain NY – $79
Magic Mountain ID – $32
Maverick Mountain, MT – $39
Montana Snowbowl MT – $50
Shawnee Mountain PA – $55
Silverton Mountain CO – $79
Smuggler’s Notch, VT – $79
Suicide Six VT – $45-$65
Tamarack, ID – $75

When you average out the rates at these mid-tier ski mountains, you’ll see it’s pretty close to the very best ski mountains in the Alps of Europe. You can pay less than that in nearby mountain ranges, at resorts similar to the ones above for lifts and trails.

Jasna ski resort in Slovakia

So what does it cost at the cheaper ski resorts of Europe, the ones located in Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, and the Czech Republic? Much, much less, plus you can be sure your lodging will be cheaper too. These are not tiny hills with three runs though, as you can see from that Jasna trail map above. If you just look at stats for lifts, terrain, pistes or trails, these have some of the cheapest lift tickets in the world. Here’s where you can ski in Europe for a fraction of what it costs in the USA at a comparable sized resort. (Weekend rates, updated in 2020.)

Bansko, Bulgaria – $40
Benecko, Czech Republic – $22
Borovets, Bulgaria – $39
Harrachov, Czech Republic – $30
Jasna Low Tatras, Slovakia – $47
Park Snow Donovaly, Slovakia – $35
Poiana Brasov, Romania – $34
Tatranska Lomnika, Slovakia – $46
Vogel Bohinj Center, Slovenia – $37

Those are some of the cheapest places to ski in Europe. Note that you can also find smaller resorts though in Germany, France, and Italy that are under $45 per day. Here’s the trail map for Tarvisio in Italy, which is 31.5 euros, or $42 currently.

ski in Europe for less in Italy

No matter how you look at it, a ski holiday trip in Europe is going to cost you a lot less on the ground than it will in the USA. Plus you can eat French food in France, Italian food in Italy, or drink Czech beer for cheap in the land of pilsner. Wouldn’t that make for a lot more interesting ski vacation?


Thursday 26th of August 2021

This is a great article. I was a casual skier at best. I stopped skiing a few years ago because I would only do a few ski runs a day and paying ridiculous USA prices made no sense. Especially on school holidays where the prices go even higher. Now I chauffer the kids to the slopes and then find something else to do while they ski all day. I think it would make sense to go to Europe and spend less and get more.


Sunday 26th of July 2020

We find it cheaper to go to Europe ( we live in Boston). Even if it were to even out $ wise we feel there is no comparison to being in Europe. (It doesn’t even out, it’s cheaper, food, ski, hotels or flats). With that said there expensive places and cheap place within Europe. We find Chamonix France to be one of the cheapest with best skiing. We are holders of the a Rapid Card. It’s a pay as you ski pass. 25 euros per year just for the pass invoices each Nov/Dec. Just walk thru any lift gate and go skiing at a discount. (Add the additional insurance offered for a couple dollars per ski day). No consecutive day ski required. Just pay as you go. Once per week on a Wednesday your account gets billed (credit card or debit card) for whatever days you skied. Usually comes to about 50 bucks US per ski day. Ski 6 days and your 7th day is free. So that brings the $50 price down on average. This ski 6 get 7th free rolls over to the next year too. ?. This card also offers flash alerts. You may wake up any morning and find a flash alert that says something like ski Les Houches (or a different area today for $38 euros today). We find it the. BEST and have been holders of this pass since 2013 so many areas to ski within the Chamonix valley with this pass. Now they even include Megeve which is just on the edge of the Chamonix valley. Bus or train is 20 to 30 minutes. Free.

Tim Leffel

Sunday 26th of July 2020

Thanks for the details on this Vincent! I've heard that this area has the most skiable terrain of any place in the world. Sounds like a terrific deal.


Thursday 16th of January 2020

My question is why? It's not like greed just appeared yesterday. Why American reports used to be cheaper and now they're unreasonably high? The article compared just the prices and mostly left out what you get for your money in Europe vs US. In Alps you don't ski mountains, you ski ranges and valleys, eat delicious inexpensive food and apres-ski as much as you want. In US, you have one-two peaks (especially in the north east) covered in ice or fake snow, terrible food and fun is non-existent. If you add that into the equation, the choice is even more evident. My question remains, why Americans continue paying these prices for crappy experiences?

Tim Leffel

Tuesday 21st of January 2020

Because 1) They don't know any better, 2) Many can drive there instead of fly (with their equipment), and 3) Many are rich enough that the price doesn't really matter much. Plus if you buy a season ticket, it's obviously much cheaper if you use it a lot.


Wednesday 18th of December 2019

Thank you for this post. I just moved to the US after living in the EU and was planning my winter vacation in Utah or Colorado, but now I see that it makes more sense to go back to the Alps.


Wednesday 8th of January 2020

If you do make it to Utah try hitting Powder Mountain, it's much smaller than Park city and in my opinion much nicer.


Thursday 18th of April 2019

Just came back from Ischgl Austria. Warning!!!!! 8 day lift ticket $305 Single room next to everything with : infrared sauna, dry sauna, wet sauna and pool. Breakfast is absolutely unbelievable All that is for $110/night Americans wake up We loosing and very quickly to greedy corporations