Can You Ski Without A Lift Ticket?

by Robert Stanley | Updated: February 8th, 2023 |  Skiing Articles

Every year lift tickets get more and more expensive, making it harder for people to ski. Especially if you are new to the sport and do not want to spend money on something you are not sure if you even like. So is it possible to ski without a ticket? 

If you are looking for a chairlift and a cozy village, unfortunately, you cannot ski without a ticket. All major ski mountains are going to require a ticket for your to ski, but if you are willing to get a bit of exercise, then there are ways to ski without a ticket.


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Be warned, though, always backcountry ski with people who know what they are doing and never alone. 

Skinning Up At A Resort

Skiing into the Sun
Photo by Edward Simpson licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

What a lot of people do not know is that you can actually skin up a ski resort's mountain as long as the property is public land. This is fairly popular in Colorado because almost all ski resorts in the state are public land because they are considered within national forests.

Since this is the case, you can simply walk up the mountain and ski down, as long as you do not do it during operating hours.

Although this usually means that you are probably only getting one run-in at the beginning or end of the day, it is a way to get in some skiing without having to pay for a lift ticket. You will also need special equipment to skin up, but more on that later.  


Now, if you want to do a lot of skiing without a ticket, then you will have to dive into the exciting world of backcountry skiing. Keep in mind this is not recommended for new skiers and should never be done alone. 

Here is what you should do before going out on your first backcountry excursion: 

Ski on a Budget

Learn About The Dangers 

There's no ski patrol when you are backcountry skiing, so safety is your number one priority. That said, it's a good idea to learn everything you can before you go out.

First, take an avalanche awareness course so that you will be able to find the proper avalanche weather reports and know the signs of an avalanche. 

Once you are familiar with avalanches, then you will want to study the dangers of tree wells. Tree wells are the pockets of snow that surround the base of a tree.

They are very soft, and if you fall into one, it is very hard to get out, making them very dangerous. 

Consider Your Fitness

You do not have to be training for the Olympics to backcountry ski, but it is not easy. You will have to be fit enough to skin up a hill at a high altitude, which is easier said than done. Also, keep in mind that the trails you will be skiing are not maintained.

No one makes sure the trail is free of rocks and is well-groomed. This means that you will have to be confident in your skiing ability before you go out. That said, start small, on runs that are well used by backcountry skiers and not too difficult to climb or ski down. 

You might also want to consider a backcountry touring course. These courses are often far cheaper than a ski pass and will teach you how to backcountry with your friends.

These courses will give you a good idea of the shape you want to be in so you can backcountry ski comfortably. Nothing is worse than calling a backcountry trip you've planned all week for because you cannot catch your breath on the way up. 

Gear up 

You are going to need some special gear before you can start backcountry skiing. First and foremost, you are going to need gear for avalanche safety. Including: 

  • Avalanche transceiver - Emits a signal that rescuers can use to find you if you do get stuck in an avalanche. 
  • Avalanche shovel - This is a small shove you can easily fit in your backpack and can be used to dig someone out of an avalanche. 
  • Avalanche probe - This is a collapsible pole used to pinpoint the exact location of someone stuck in the snow.  

You will also need some ski-specific gear as well: 

  • Bindings - you will need special backcountry bindings that release your heel while you skin up. These are often called "touring bindings" as well.  
  • Ski boots - Backcountry ski boots are made lighter and are equipped with a walking mode. Making your climb up much easier. 
  • Ski poles - While not always necessary when downhill skiing, poles are extremely important when climbing up a hill. 

Plan your trip and start small 

Once you have the knowledge and gear to start your adventure, put some thought into planning your trip. First, gather a group of friends that are just as prepared as you are. Then check the avalanche forecast to make sure it is going to be safe out there.

Finally, choose a location that is going to be good for your group. If it is your first time out, start small and work your way up. There is no reason to go in over your head on your first trip out. You can usually find spots to backcountry ski in guidebooks, websites, and from good old word of mouth.  


Photo by Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

It will take a little sweat and a can-do attitude, but if you are up for it, you can ski without a lift ticket. Definitely start at a proper resort mountain so that you can get a feel for what it takes to skin up a slope. Once you decide to give backcountry a try, be sure to learn everything you need to know to do it safely. After all your work is done and you are skiing down your first backcountry slope, smile at the fact that you do not need any fancy resorts to ski.