How to Ski for Cheap? (9 Budget Tips)

by Simon Knott | Updated: October 27th, 2022 |  Skiing Articles

Aside from accommodation, your ski pass is going to be the most expensive item on any ski trip. Prices rise annually so that now for a daily pass in the US $100 is not unusual, while Solden in the Tyrol in Austria comes in at the most expensive daily pass in Europe at €64 (£54). There's no getting around it, skiing can be an expensive pastime. But does it have to be that way? Are there ways to reduce the costs?

Skiing involves specialized clothing and equipment and you need to pay someone to get you up the mountain. However, with a little planning and thinking outside the box, you can make significant savings without affecting the quality of your holiday. By thoroughly checking transport options, accommodation, and what you're going to eat you may lose a little convenience but the savings will more than makeup. There are so many ways to save cash if you change your mindset, give up on convenience and apply a bit of thought.

Ski on a Budget

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Luckily, there are ways to keep costs down wherever you live.

1. Travelling Expenses

If you are lucky enough to live near a ski resort, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to save money. Your only travel expense will be fuel and possibly parking charges at the resort. With no accommodation and eating out costs, you’ll be saving straight away.

Being so close to the resort you may well be a regular visitor and able to buy clothing and ski gear second-hand. Lots of people give up skiing each year, so there is always a good online market or else check out the local ski shops at the end of the season.

2. Ski Equipment

ski equipment

You can pick up skiing equipment and boots at well-reduced prices, and you get a chance to try them as well. Find out the different methods of transport to your chosen ski resort.

UK to Europe

Driving is cheap, but in the UK, you will also have to pay for a return ferry crossing. If you’re on a real budget, there are regular coach trips to many of the popular resorts. The tickets are certainly cheaper, but it’s often a grueling overnight journey.

3. Book Ahead

Always book as far ahead as possible. Ski passes and insurance prices generally don’t change, but most of the other costs associated with skiing do. Flights, airport parking, car hire, accommodation, and even ski hire all tend to get more expensive the closer to departure you buy them.

Pro Tip: To find cheap flights to ski resorts, we use Skyscanner, which searches all airlines in one go.

Always use travel search engines when searching for flights, airport parking, car hire, and accommodation rather than booking directly. The competition between travel search engines is fierce, so they will be able to offer much better reductions.

skier in powder

4. Accommodation

When booking accommodation see if they offer half-board (UK) or a modified American plan (MAP-US), which usually includes accommodation, breakfast, and an evening meal for a good price. The food can often be good quality and a whole lot more convenient and cheaper than having to search for seats in a busy resort restaurant.

Additionally, look into self-catering accommodation, which usually consists of bedrooms for the family and a living area that doubles as a kitchen and dining room.

If self-catering looks like the best option, make sure you arrive at the resort having bought as much non-perishable food as possible. Supermarkets in ski resorts generally have exorbitant prices mainly because there are no alternatives.

5. Buy Online

Buy online and shop around. Use coupons and cashback websites for the best price reductions. Two of the top cashback sites in the US are Swagbucks and TopCashback, while in the UK Quidco and TopCashback are favorites.

If you’re a group of friends, think of sharing a hostel room with bunk beds and check out if you can get discounted ski passes for the group.

6. Accommodation Location

Photo by Mt. Hood Territory licensed under CC BY 2.0

The most expensive accommodation is usually in the center of town close to all the action or directly on the runs with ski-in ski-out access. You will pay a considerable premium for both of these locations, so think outside the box and choose somewhere a little further away.

Ski buses will often offer free transport around most resorts, which are often a lot simpler than loading a car with several people’s ski gear each day.

7. Connected Resorts

Check out different ski resorts for the skiing and accommodation facilities they offer and compare. Often different parts of ski resorts are interconnected where considerable savings can be made.

For example, Brides Les Bains in the Three Valleys, in France is connected by cable car to the more exclusive resort of Meribel higher up. Admittedly Brides Les Bains may not have the same nightlife, but you will save a bundle on the average accommodation prices in Meribel.

Similarly, if you have a car make good use of it and book accommodation away from the expensive hotspots. Ski buses often operate during the evening so you can get access to nightlife without having to drive.

8. Get a Job as a Rep

Get a job as a rep with a ski company. Ski holiday companies regularly recruit usually younger men and women to cook and clean for guests staying in chalet accommodation and to help with the guest changeover day.

You’ll be asked to commit to a ski season, living with colleagues in shared accommodation. Normally meals and drinks are included. Perks usually include a free ski pass for the season and one day off per week to ski. It’s hard work but a good chance to improve your skiing, languages, cooking and management skills.

9. Avoid Holidays

If possible, book your trips away outside of school holidays. Skiing at resorts during the school holidays is often hectic, crowded, and definitely more expensive.

Travel companies realize that many people can only take their holidays when school term time is finished. Travel companies take advantage of this captive market by raising prices.

Cheap Ski Resorts in Europe

1. Andorra

Soldeu in Andorra - Photo by Jorge Franganillo licensed under CC BY 2.0

Soldeu in Andorra in The Pyrénees between France and Spain is a principality with low value-added tax and no sales tax, which means savings of 30% compared to its neighboring countries. Consequently, Andorra is a good ski destination for those on a budget. Andorra has a reputation for excellent skiing lessons, making it an ideal country to visit for beginners. The only downside is the dependability of the snow cover, although this has been addressed over the last few years with considerable investment in snow cannons, which now provide 65% coverage.

2. Bulgaria

Bankso Ski Resort in Bulgaria - Photo by licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Bankso Ski Resort in Bulgaria had a somewhat wayward image a few years back. However, considerable investment and improvements meant that the resort is now a popular choice for many with its mix of a UNESCO World Heritage historic old town and frenetic nightlife.

Prices are one of the main reasons people come to Bulgaria and you can see why when a six-day lift pass in Bankso costs €139.00 (£116.00).

Cheap Ski Resorts in the US

1. Bear Mountain, California

Bear Mountain, California
Bear Mountain, California - Photo by John Murphy licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

With its proximity to San Bernardino and only about 100 miles from Los Angeles, Bear Mountain may not first come to mind for being cheap and cheerful. However, weekday lift tickets are below $80.00, with a further discount if you buy them 72 hours in advance. The resort extends across four mountains, with 12 lifts to transport skiers. Runs are mostly for intermediates and freestyles.

2. Brighton, Utah

Brighton, Utah
View from the top of Brighton, Utah - Photo by Matt licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Only 35 miles from Salt Lake City’s Airport, Brighton, Utah, is a hidden gem. With 66 groomed runs and a huge area of mostly untouched powder, it seems only a few have discovered the attraction. For families, the savings mount up, as up to two children, who are 10 years or younger will ski free with a paying adult. Regular ski buses make communication straightforward.

3. Sugar Mountain, North Carolina

Sugar Mountain
Sugar Mountain, North Carolina - Photo by Mark Clifton licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Located in the southeast Blue Ridge Mountains, Sugar Mountain offers 125 acres of skiing terrain. Maybe small beer in comparison to the West Coast but a whole lot more convenient for skiers on the East of the country. Half of the terrain is classed intermediate, with the remainder split between beginners and advanced. Many trails are lit for night skiing. Weekday passes are $49.00 and $80.00 on weekends.