Which Ski Resorts Give You the Most for Your Money?

What a standard day will run you at 20 different hills

You will probably have to shell out no matter which resort you go to, but you don't necessarily have to ball out. (Aspen Snowmass)
Apres

Skiing isn’t cheap, whether you’re skiing a small-town rope tow or a multi-peak mega-resort. But your dollars get you farther at some mountains than they do at others.

To find the best values, we chose 20 resorts of all sizes across the country and rang up a standard day at each. That includes a single-day busy-season lift ticket (we listed how much skiing you get for that price in terms of runs and acreage), gear rental (skis, boots, helmet, poles), a standard cafeteria or popular local lunch, and après. (A note on the latter: We tried to keep the playing field even by choosing the best deal as opposed to pricey cocktails. This is probably lowballing it if you’re not into PBR.) Then we got tips from locals on how to save, no matter where you go.

No shocker that big-name California and Colorado resorts skew pricier and that you’ll get the best deals at small East Coast hills, but there are some high-value surprises in our lineup. Our list, ordered from least to most bang for your buck, is by no means exhaustive, but it’ll give you an idea of where you’ll pay more for your lift ticket and everything else.

Aspen Snowmass, Colorado (Total: $217.25)

Lift ticket: $145
Number of runs: 329
Skiable terrain: 5,547 acres
Gear rental: $52 at Four Mountain Sports
On-mountain lunch: $14.75 for a bacon cheeseburger from Crystal River Meats.
Best cheap beer option: $5.40 for a Conundrum Red Ale from Aspen Brewing Company at Elk Camp.
Local’s tip: If you have four people in your car, you can park for free at Highlands and Snowmass. There’s free coffee in the base area.

Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, California ($207)

Lift ticket: $135
Number of runs: 270
Skiable terrain: 6,000 acres
Gear rental: $56
On-mountain lunch: $13 for a Pub Burger at Auld Dubliner.
Best cheap beer option: $3 for a PBR, or take all your friends and get a buddy pass at Le Chamois, which gets you 20 Budweisers for $40.
Local’s tip: U.S. Ski Teamer Marco Sullivan, who grew up in Tahoe, grabs cheap sandwiches at Sugar Pine Cakery in Lake Forest before he heads to the mountain.

Telluride Ski Resort, Colorado ($206.45)

telluride-ski-resort.jpg
(gmiphone/Flickr)

Lift ticket: $119
Number of runs: 147
Skiable terrain: 2,000 acres
Gear rental: $70 at Telluride Mountain Sports
On-mountain lunch: $12 to $15 for a burger.
Best cheap beer option: $5.45
Local’s tip: Carson Taylor, who works at Telluride Ski and Golf, says to get late breakfast or early lunch at the Friends with Benny’s cart in Mountain Village Plaza. “The loaded breakfast sandwich is the best in town,” he says.

Vail Mountain Resort, Colorado ($206)

Action
In Vail, CO (Jack Affleck/Vail Resorts)

Lift ticket: $135
Number of runs: 195
Skiable terrain: 5,289 acres
Gear rental: $52 at Vail Sports
On-mountain lunch: $16 for a Two Elk burger.
Best cheap beer option: $3 for happy hour domestics at the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola.
Local’s tip: Preschool teacher Claudia Pafumi, who lives in West Vail, gets coffee and donuts at the Northside Grab and Go before boarding the free in-town bus to the mountain.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Wyoming ($191.50)

Lift ticket: $128
Number of runs: 133
Skiable terrain: 2,500 acres
Gear rental: $44.50
On-mountain lunch: $15
Best cheap beer option: $4 for a draft Budweiser at Nick Wilson’s
Local’s tip: $10 gets you a massive sandwich at the Fried Chicken Shack food truck outside Bodega, in Teton Village. Inside, you can grab a Wyoming highlight: boozed-up slushies, also known as sloshies.

Big Sky Resort, Montana ($190)

Big Sky 2011
(Lonnie Ball)

Lift ticket: $129
Number of runs: 306
Skiable terrain: 5,800 acres
Gear rental: $46
On-mountain lunch: $9 for a burger made with beef from Montana Wagyu Cattle Co. out of Ennis, Montana.
Best cheap beer option: $6 for local microbrews.
Local’s tip: All bottles of wine are 40 percent off on Tuesdays at the Carabiner Restaurant in the Summit Hotel.

Alta/Snowbird Ski Area, Utah ($176.50)

Lift ticket: $116
Number of runs: 116
Skiable terrain: 2,200 acres
Gear rental: $40
On-mountain lunch: $12.50 burgers.
Best cheap beer option: $8 for a PBR tall boy.
Local’s tip: General Gritts, in the basement of the tram building, is your best bet for breakfast sandwiches. It’s also a state liquor store, which is important to note, because Utah.

Stowe Mountain Resort, Vermont ($170)

Lift tickets: $92
Number of runs: 115
Skiable terrain: 485 acres
Gear rental: $54
On-mountain lunch: $20 for a burger.
Best cheap beer option: $4 PBR tall cans.
Local’s tip: The $8 breakfast sandwich at the Octagon Café comes with maple bacon and local cheddar. Because when in Vermont…

Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia ($169.75)

Andy Congleton
(Bruce Goodlad/Whistler)

Lift tickets: $107
Number of runs: 200
Skiable terrain: 8,171 acres
Gear rental: $42
On-mountain lunch: $14 for a bacon cheeseburger.
Best cheap beer option: $6.75 for a Kokanee.
Local’s tip: Big-mountain skier James Heim, who mainly skis Blackcomb, says it’s hard to beat Merlins for après. “You shred pretty much right into the bar and can have a beer in your hand only a couple minutes after your last pow run of the day.”

Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico ($147)

Lift ticket: $98
Number of runs: 110
Skiable terrain: 1,294 acres
Gear rental: $35
On-mountain lunch: A hamburger and fries are $10.
Best cheap beer option: $4 PBRs or $6 microbrews from Taos Mesa Brewing Co.
Local’s tip: If you don’t mind close quarters, the cheapest, closest place to stay is the SnowMansion hostel. “Order the spaetzle and a giant beer at the Bavarian,” says Bryan Rogala, Outside’s Santa Fe–based video editor. “Then skip all your other meals.”

Crystal Mountain Resort, Washington ($134)

Lift ticket: $74
Number of runs: 57
Skiable terrain: 2,600 acres
Gear rental: $45
On-mountain lunch: $11
Best cheap beer option: $4.50 for a Rainier.
Local’s tip: Greenwater local Stacie Steele says to stop and fill your water bottles at Good Water Spring at MP 34 on Highway 410. “Longtime Greenwater resident Al Parker built a platform and some other infrastructure to make it easy to fill water containers with fresh springwater.”

Alyeska Resort, Alaska ($131)

air
(swnsn/iStock)

Lift tickets: $80
Number of runs: 76
Skiable terrain: 1,610 acres
Gear rental: $35
On-mountain lunch: $13 for a burger at the Sitzmark Bar and Grill.
Best cheap beer option: $3 PBRs.
Local’s tip: For après, Ben Napolitano says to swing into Seven Glaciers for an off-menu Fizz. The drink has a local cult following and will give you the best bang for your buck. Bartenders won’t give out the recipe, but it’s strong enough that you’re limited to two per day.

Monarch Mountain, Colorado ($130)

Lift tickets: $84
Number of runs: 62
Skiable terrain: 800 acres
Gear rental: $31
On-mountain lunch: $11 for a burger.
Best cheap beer option: $4 PBR and Coors Light at the Sidewinder Saloon.
Local’s tip: Jeff Martin says to hit Elevation Brewing at the base of Monarch Pass after your ski day. You can also get dinner at the Eddy Out food truck in the parking lot.

Powder Mountain Resort, Utah ($126)

Lift tickets: $79
Number of runs: 144
Skiable terrain: 7,000 acres
Gear rental: $26
On-mountain lunch: $15 burger with a side and drink.
Best cheap beer option: $6 Pow Mow Amber Ale.
Local’s tip: Huge wedges of pizza from Lucky Slice in the Timberline Lodge are the best deal. Based on all the local awards the pizza’s won, it also tastes the best.

Mount Bohemia, Michigan ($118)

Lift tickets: $62
Number of runs: 102
Skiable terrain: 585 acres
Gear rental: $45
On-mountain lunch: $6 for Elaine’s Mac & Cheese.
Best cheap beer option: $5 for Keweenaw Brewing Company’s Pick Axe Blonde or Widow Maker Black.
Local’s tip: Double up and get your libations and entertainment at the Log Cabin Bar, the only bar in the Midwest that has an indoor sauna and outdoor hot tub.

Sun Valley, Idaho ($117.75)

SUn Valley Roundhouse winter ni
(Sun Valley)

Lift tickets: $79
Number of runs: 80
Skiable terrain: 2,054 acres
Gear rental: $26
On-mountain lunch: $8.75 for tacos with rice and beans.
Best cheap beer option: $4 PBRs.
Local’s tip: Lizzie’s in Ketchum is the spot for coffee on the way to the hill, according to Cassie Able, who runs a communications firm in town.

Mad River Glen, Vermont ($117)

mad river glen bridger bowl skiing mount abram
(Flo21/Flickr)

Lift ticket: $79
Number of runs: 45
Skiable terrain: 115 acres
Gear rental: $30
On-mountain lunch: $5 for a burger, or you can upgrade to grass-fed local beef for $9.
Best cheap beer option: $3 PBRs.
Local’s tip: Ry Young, head freeskiing coach at Mad River Glen, says it’s worth your money to skip the cheap beer and head straight for culty small-batch local brews like Lawson’s Finest Liquids. “We live on the IPA highway up here, and not too many folks drink that schwill when they visit,” he says.

Mount Baker Ski Area, Washington ($109.75)

Lift tickets: $59
Number of runs: 38
Skiable terrain: 1,000 acres
Gear rental: $36
On-mountain lunch: $10.75 for a cheeseburger and hand-cut fries.
Best cheap beer option: $4 for a Rainier.
Local’s tip: On the way up the hill, Amy Howat, whose family runs the mountain, stops at the Wake n’ Bakery in Glacier for coffee and pastries.

Whaleback Mountain, New Hampshire ($94.50)

Lift tickets: $45
Number of runs: 30
Skiable terrain: 85 acres
Gear rental: $40
On-mountain lunch: $6
Best cheap beer option: $3.50
Local’s tip: New Hampshire has a sneaky (and cheap!) local food scene. Nora Barré, who works at Whaleback, says to go to the Farmer’s Table Café in Grantham for the best burgers around.

Discovery Ski Area, Montana ($78)

Lift tickets: $46
Number of runs: 67
Skiable terrain: 2,000 acres
Gear rental: $26
On-mountain lunch: $4 for a burger.
Best cheap beer option: $2 PBRs and $4 local pints.
Local’s tip: Ciche Pitcher, who owns the mountain, says to stop at the Phillipsburg Brewery for the scene and the beer.

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