Why Is Skiing Such An Expensive Sport? (Luxury vs Budget)

by Alaina Johnson | Updated On: July 4th, 2022
Winter Ski

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If you’ve ever been to a ski resort, you know how expensive lift passes can be these days — not to mention the cost of a plane ticket in order to reach your snowy destination if you live in a warmer climate.

Skiing ends up being on the higher end of the cost spectrum due to the fact that many people have to travel in order to participate in the sport. Also, the upfront cost of the gear can get pricey and should be considered a long-term investment.

How Expensive Is It To Ski?

ski and snowboard clothes

When you’re looking to plan a ski holiday, you may be trying to determine how to factor it into the budget. How much can you expect to spend per day or for a full week of skiing this winter?

If you’re going to need to rent equipment, you’ll want to closely consider this cost and perhaps look at the ski resort’s website to determine their rates.

On average, expect to be charged between $25-45 in the USA (or €25-40 in Europe) a day for rentals or ask for a weekly rate which tends to be slightly discounted.

To purchase your own skis, boots, and bindings, you’ll want to budget around $600-800 on the lower end. While the upfront cost is significantly higher than a rental, if you ski every year (for more than 10+ days) it definitely ends up being a smart financial decision in the end.

On average, a day spent skiing can run you around $100-200 per person per day but this number can be much higher at some of the popular ski resorts. If you take your family of four on a week-long ski trip, the price can become overwhelming if you haven’t planned ahead for it. Think thousands of dollars or euros.

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Adding a percentage of your income into a specified ski trip savings account can help you set aside the funds for a yearly winter trip. After all, it’s hard to stop coming back once you’ve gotten a taste of that crisp mountain air.

Compared to the prices back in the 60s, lift tickets have skyrocketed over the last decades. For instance, in 1962 a lift pass at Vail was a measly $5, and these days you can expect it to run well over $200.

Why Is Skiing So Expensive To Get Into?

skiing downhill red jacket
Photo by Bad Kleinkirchheim licensed under CC BY 2.0

When examining the determining factors for why skiing is so expensive, it’s clear that a large portion of the expense comes down to equipment costs. If you’re brand new to the sport, you likely don’t have skis, poles, boots, or any of the other necessary gear to start skiing.

For beginners, the cost can be overwhelming upfront and they don’t even know if they like the sport yet! Unlike other sports such as running or basketball, where the cost to begin is either free or relatively cheap. With a pair of sneakers, anyone can go for a run or grab a basketball and hit their local court.

Some of the common expenses that are related to just starting out in the sport of skiing include:

The other largest expense when it comes to skiing is the accommodations, as not everyone lives within driving distance of a ski resort or a smaller family-run ski hill. If somebody from Texas wants to get into skiing, they may need to drive or purchase a plane ticket to Taos, which is the closest resort in New Mexico.

This could easily add anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars to the cost of skiing, especially when you factor in hotel costs, food purchases, and other travel-related expenses. If you’re lucky enough to live in the Denver area, then you can likely save on these expenses and ski closer to home.

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Does Skiing Become Cheaper Over Time?

mountain ski

After you’ve gotten over the initial investment into the sport and you have your heavy outer coat and your warm base layers, along with your skis, poles, goggles, and helmet, then the costs will naturally go down year after year. That is until you need to replace anything — which likely won’t occur all at once.

During your second year of skiing, you likely won’t need to shell out money for lessons and you’ll be ready to strap on your skis and hit the slopes. With the largest costs out of the way, you’ll simply be able to enjoy the ski trip and hone your skills.

If you live far away, the cost of getting to the resort will stay even, as well as any lodging stays. Some resorts offer loyalty programs for recurring guests and you may find that you’re able to score a free night every once in a while to keep some extra money in the bank.

Is Skiing a More Expensive Sport Than Snowboarding?

snowboard-and-ski
Photo by Christine Rondeau licensed under CC BY 2.0

Once the equipment has been purchased, the costs of skiing and snowboarding are nearly identical. The clothing stays the same (except for optional minor differences in fit), as does the cost of the lift passes and potential travel expenses to get to a snowy resort.

However, when it comes to the price of skis versus the price of snowboards — skis can be nearly double the total cost. With a snowboard, you don’t even require any poles which saves $50-100 for an average beginner set.

On the other side of the coin, snowboarding can be more difficult to learn upfront. This means that you may require extra lessons to get the basics down. With skiing, it’s generally easier to learn at the beginning but more difficult to master as you need to get technical with the additional skills.

Can You Ski On A Budget?

Vail Skiing
Photo by jrm353 licensed under CC BY 2.0

When you’re looking to save a bit of money on such an expensive sport, there are a few handy tips to get the most value for your dollar. If you don’t have your own personal equipment yet, you can always look into season-long rentals.

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Depending on which venue you rent them from, you could very well save hundreds of dollars. Of course, this doesn’t hold value in the long run as it’ll be a worthwhile investment if you plan to ski every season to have your own gear. If you’re just learning though, it’s not a bad plan for your first ski trip.

When it comes time to buy your own equipment, shop around for used items. As long as they’re free from damage — there’s nothing wrong with putting a little TLC into a used pair of skis that may just need a layer of wax to be good as new.

Many ski resorts offer beginner lessons and you can look for deals that include equipment rentals and a lift pass with the price of the lesson. Speaking of resorts, you can look for more budget-friendly ski areas, which usually have far fewer crowds than the big-name resorts.

If you do want to ski at one of the big resorts, consider staying in the next town over. You’ll likely save a significant chunk of change on your hotel room and the area restaurants will likely not be as overpriced as the ones in the ski village. Just take into account the cost of transiting to the ski lifts with all your ski gear.

Is The Ski Industry Pricing Out The Middle Class?

couple skiing

A major concern over the years is that eventually, skiing will only be accessible to the top income percentage of the population. After all, each year the percentage of households making under $100,000 a year and who are also able to take a ski trip is dropping.

Ski resorts often chase after these high-income earners and lure them back with even more expensive amenities, which further drives the overall price of the ski trip up. This eventually leads to recreational skiers being unable to afford a yearly trip.

The more exclusive the sport of skiing portrays itself as being, the fewer people will even have an interest in trying to get involved. As a whole, it’s beneficial for younger generations to feel that the sport can be an accessible and affordable outlet for them as well.

Conclusion

While skiing is certainly not cheap by any means — that doesn’t mean that it can’t be inclusive for everyone who wants to give it a shot. You may need to do a bit of research to find the best deals and shop around for a steal on some lightly-used gear but it can be done.

The vast majority of avid skiers around the world don’t live in close proximity to a snow-covered mountain and therefore, they travel in flocks every winter to reach the resorts. This hefty cost factors into the overall expense of a ski trip, making it an expensive sport to participate in.

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