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It’s Cheaper to Ski in Europe Than in the USA (2024 Prices)

I first published this story on how it’s much cheaper to ski in Europe than the USA back in 2018 and as I’m updating it for the 2024 season, the gap has gotten even wider. Head east, way east, for a better deal on the slopes.

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 like many I have skied in Idaho, and we’ll get to those later, 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 do so in America or Canada—even counting the flight price difference.

Why are lift tickets so expensive in the USA? Why does it cost you the equivalent of a car payment to go skiing for a weekend in Rockies or Northeast, not even counting lodging and lunches?

Well, you can blame a lot of things: company consolidation, labor costs, a lack of housing for workers, water shortages (for snowmaking), and corporate greed, for a start. But the bottom line is that in most of North America now, skiing has become a lot like golf: a sport for the rich. This wasn’t always the case and it’s still not the case in most of Europe. 

skiing in Europe is cheaper, even in Switzerland

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 weekend 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. On top of that, most people end up being on the slopes during a weekend, when you also deal with longer lift lines, so the price per run can get ridiculous. Granted these are some of the biggest resorts in North America, but here is a sampling from the large ski mountains in the east and west. These are 2024 weekend ticket window prices in February, non-holiday:

Alta UT – $160
Aspen / Snowmass CO – $234
Beaver Creek CO – $260
Big Sky – $224
Breckenridge CO – $220
Copper Mountain CO – $189
Deer Valley UT – $239
Killington, VT – $153
Mammoth Mountain CA – $199
Mt. Rose – Ski Tahoe CA – $169
Mt. Snow VT – $135
Palisades Tahoe – $237
Park City UT – $251 (hitting $299 on one holiday weekend)
Snowbasin UT – $189
Steamboat Springs CO – $240
Stowe VT – $187
Sugarbush VT – $189
Sugar Bowl CA – $194
Sun Valley ID – $185
Telluride CO – $215
Vail CO – $250
Winter Park CO – $219
Whistler – $234

Most of these prices are 10 to 40% higher than they were in 2020 when I last updated this post. Breckenridge went up 30% just from last year to this year.

If you take the top-1o ski resorts by size in the USA and average out their rates, they are costing an average of $239 per day.

To put that in perspective, a day at Disney World will cost an adult $174 on peak weekends for the very best premium ticket. Keep that $239 average number in mind when we look at the largest in Europe further down in this article. 

Ski prices in the USA

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 Stowe in Vermont may cost you $95 on a weekday one week or it may cost you $187 a week later on a peak 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. Some will give you a discount if you buy the tickets online at least a week in advance. Some will charge you a big premium if it’s a holiday weekend: a few big resorts are getting awfully close to $300 for President’s Day Weekend, for instance. 

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.

Ski in Europe for Less, Even at the Most Expensive Resorts

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./Canadian equivalents of Vail, Beaver Creek, and Whistler/Blackcomb. 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 and Switzerland, with interconnected mountains. Prices have been converted to dollars from euros or Swiss Francs at the official rate and were updated in 2024.

Arabba Marmolada, Italy – $72
Arosa Lenzerheide, Switzerland – $78
Bad Gastein various, Austria – $74
Chamonix Mont-Blanc, France – $73
Courchevel, France – $75
Davos Klosters – $95
Engelberg, Switzerland – $82
Gstaad, Switzerland – $90
Lech Zürs am Arlberg, Austria – $85
Les 3 Valles, France – $83
Plan de Corones / Kronplatz, Italy – $73
Saas Fee, Switzerland – $68
Silvretta Montafon, Austria – $67
St. Anton am Arlberg, Austria – $82
St. Moritz, Switzerland – $86
Tignes, France – $72
Val d’Isère, France – $59
Verbier, Switzerland – $87
Zermatt, Switzerland – $110

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 54 bucks.

Ski Switzerland less money than Vail

While some of these have gone up since my last update, the increases have been much more modest than on the other side of the Atlantic and I could only find one single resort charging more than $100 for a weekend lift ticket for this upcoming season. And that one lets you ski in Switzerland and Italy, with a view of the Matterhorn.

These days, weekend lift tickets priced at less than $100 are considered a bargain in the USA. In other words, the biggest and best ski resorts in Europe cost less than a small regional ski resort in America. 

skiing in Switzerland for less

These are some of the biggest resorts, keep in mind, not the ones that locals go to. I went to a couple of the latter last year in Switzerland and a whole season pass that covers this place and one other around Liddes (pictured above) costs 130 euros, or half that if you stay at the Swiss ski hostel where I was bunking down. So you could ski there for two weeks like I did or the entire season for less than it costs for one day in the Rocky Mountains!

Back to that average price I was talking about, which was $239 for one day at the 5 largest North American ski resort. At the 5 largest European ski resorts, the average lift ticket price on a weekend is $79.

Not a typo: $79 for a one-day weekend lift ticket. Naturally it goes down if you purchase 3, 5, or 7 days, so 3 days on the slopes in Switzerland or France could cost you less than a single day in Colorado, with change left over for a (more reasonably priced) glass of wine or some fondue for lunch. 

ski tour with Tim Leffel

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 hostel dorms to name a few options. 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: $749 – $1,629
5-star hotel in St. Moritz: $630 – $1,850

4-star hotel in Telluride: $488 – $832
4-star hotel in Zermatt: $230 – $932

3-star hotel in Park City: $263 – $512
3-star hotel in Arabba Marmolada: $158 – $369

Bed and breakfast in Killington: $120 – $399
Bed and breakfast in Courchevel: $84 – $194

So not as dramatic, but still an edge to the Europeans. The difference is clearer for Airbnb prices: it was actually cheaper in Europe in all Airbnb comparisons I did for towns with similar-sized ski hills. 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, but there’s usually a major supply and demand problem in the states.

Park City Washington School House hotel

Your $1,200 a night lodging in Park City, Utah

There are also more hostels and chalets with bunk beds in Europe, so it’s easier to go as a group or even as a solo traveler. I stayed at a ski hostel in Switzerland where they sell a whole week’s package for a shade more than €1,000, ski passes, transfers, and half board included. 

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 Post Office report from the UK estimated that a week’s ski pass, equipment rental, lessons and lunch would cost about £425 per person—around $535.

We rented an entire ski chalet for my group that slept 19 of us and it was around $500 per night for four nights before meals, so under $2,000 for four, including rides to and from the lifts and a pickup at the bus station in Bansko.

You can spend that for a routine hotel room in some pricey U.S. ski towns, one that fits two people. When we got hotel rooms in Borovets, it was even less per night for all of us added together, including breakfast and dinner. 

Winter flight prices to Europe are usually dramatically lower than summer. Check them at Skyscanner.

Cheap Ski Resort Comparisons USA and Europe

where to ski for cheap

Me on the slopes in Idaho

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 spend a little more we would go to Wintergreen (now $99 weekends), 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 $68-$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, weekend rates.

Bear Creek PA – $59
Bogus Basin ID – $84
Bridger Bowl MT – $92
Brundage Mountain, ID – $112
Camden Snow Bowl, ME – $48
Camp Fortune, ONT – $68
Howelsen Hill Ski Area, CO – $47
Lookout Pass, ID – $68
Maverick Mountain, MT – $45
Montana Snowbowl MT – $75
Pomerelle, ID – $65
Shawnee Mountain, PA – $80
Smuggler’s Notch, VT – $95
Saskadena Six VT – $99 (formerly Suicide Six)

All these prices have gone up since the last update, some by more than a third. I took a few of the former listings off this time, like Hunter Mountain in NY and Tamarack, ID as both are closer to $130 now.

When you average out the rates at these mid-tier ski mountains, you’ll see it’s still more than the very best ski mountains in the Alps of Europe. You can go almost anywhere in Europe and pay less for mountains with a similar number of 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.

I took a whole group to ski Bulgaria last year and even the hardcore skiers in our group were having a blast in Bansko and Borovets. We were paying €15 per day to rent premium skis in Borovets and considering we were paying €40 or less for lift passes, the skiing was downright amazing, with views like these: 

Skiing in Europe at Bansko Bulgaria

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 for 2024 season, subject to change with exchange rate fluctuations.)

Bansko, Bulgaria – $50
Benecko, Czech Republic – $29
Borovets, Bulgaria – $44
Harrachov, Czech Republic – $33
Jasna Low Tatras, Slovakia – $64
Park Snow Donovaly, Slovakia – $42
Poiana Brasov, Romania – $37
Tatranska Lomnika, Slovakia – $53
Vogel Bohinj Center, Slovenia – $45

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 $50 per day too. Here’s the trail map for Tarvisio in Italy, which is 44 euros, or $48 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 it be a lot more interesting on your vacation if you could ski in Europe instead?

This post was updated in February of 2024. Want to join me on a future bargain ski trip in Europe? Get on the notification list here


Thursday 28th of March 2024

Great article! Very thorough. Thanks for the great information!


Monday 11th of March 2024

Check out Japan too. I used to ski at Happo One, which had the Olympic downhill in 1998. JPY 7200 peak price 2023-24, which is less than USD 50. 12 years ago I remember paying JPY 5000, but the JPY was much stronger back then, so the price was slightly higher in USD terms in 2012, for example.

Tim Leffel

Monday 11th of March 2024

Thanks, that is indeed a good deal, thanks to the yen dropping to 150 to the dollar. This is a good time to experience Japan!

James T

Thursday 7th of December 2023

What an eye-opening study. I can only imagine how much better the lodge food is in Italy or France too. At most US ski hills the meals are way overpriced and disappointing to eat. They are just expensive fuel.


Thursday 7th of December 2023

These prospects are very exciting! Makes me look forward to skiing again. Thanks for doing all the research behind a post like this.


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.