While the winter season may seem dreary for some, it heralds the return of skiing (and snowboarding if that’s your thing)! With many resorts reopening for the first time in two years, now is the perfect time to rack your skis and head down a slope or 10.
But like many other winter sports, skiing can be pricey. With the cost of gear, clothing and lift tickets, that one winter getaway can set you back more than 500 euros (and that’s not including lodging).
We’ve combed Europe and the United States to find the best budget ski resorts. From the Carpathian mountains of Romania to the microstate of Andorra to the hills of upstate New York, here are our picks for affordable ski resorts for your next ski trip.
With a terrain that’s nearly 100% mountainous, the microstate of Andorra is the perfect ski destination. And since many people blink and miss it when travelling to the more chi-chi resorts of Italy and France, it’s affordable in comparison, too.
Created in 2003, Grandvalira, on the eastern edge of the country, encompasses five resorts in one—Pas de la Casa, Grau Roig, Soldeu, El Tarter, Canillo & Encamp—and is the largest resort complex in the towering Pyrenees. With 130 miles of slopes and 67 lifts, guests have a selection of pistes to choose from, all with one easy daily lift pass of fewer than 60 euros. Expert skiers have their choice of 22 black diamonds and more novice skiers and snowboarders can head down 15 green slopes. Freestylers can turn tricks at Sunset Park Peretol, a floodlit after-hours area that lets you soar to the heavens and come back to earth.
Open: early-December to mid-April
Val Thorens, France
One of the most popular ski resorts in the world and also the highest in Europe—99% of the area is more than 6,500 feet—Val Thorens near Courchevel is an affordable marvel in the glacier-ridged French Alps.
Created more than 40 years ago by Pierre Schnebelen, a former engineer and founder of Tignes, another ski resort, Val Thorens boast more than 370 miles of runs and 160 lifts across eight ski resorts and three valleys. The black diamonds are particularly challenging, affording skiers perfect views of Glacier de Péclet, while blue and green runs—which the resort is famous for, making it ideal for beginners—take you down the picturesque Méribel Valley. Bronze-Star level Boardercross lovers will enjoy the Skicross Jean-Frédéric Chapuis with its rollings bumps and steeper hills.
Open: late-November to early-May
Via Lattea, Italy
While a land of sea and sun, Italy can be a winter wonderland, too. Italians forgo the more expensive Mont Blanc and the Dolomites for Via Lattea in the Susa Valley. This winter sports mecca boasts nearly 250 miles of terrain across seven resorts—Sestriere, Sauze d’Oulx, Sansicario, Cesana Torinese, Pragelato, Claviere, and Montgenèvre. Day passes are only 40 euros and allow you access to all six Italian ski resorts sans Montgenèvre, which is technically in France.
While most of the 249 runs cater to intermediate skiers, experts seeking a challenge can head to Sestiere where hairpin turns—it’s often the site of the Alpine Ski World Cup—and world-class pistes await. Don’t forget to enjoy an apres-ski in the charming town of Sestiere when you finish for the day.
Open: late-November to late-April
Known more for Dracula’s castle than anything else, Transylvania, Romania, is an often overlooked natural wonder, with the majestic Carpathian Mountains as the dramatic backdrop. Amongst this stunning scenery lies the ski resort of Păltiniş near the town of Sibiu.
While not as grandiose as the other resorts mentioned above, family-friendly Păltiniş encompasses two smaller ski resorts that are great for beginner or intermediate skiers, all with a daily lift ticket price of just 14 euros! Founded in 1894, Partia Oncesti is the elder of the two with only a mile of runs while Arena Platos affords guests seven shorter slopes to improve their skills.
Open: late-November to late-April
Hunter Mountain, United States
Tucked away just two hours by train from New York City—making it a favourite among young urbanites—lies the popular East Coast ski resort of Hunter Mountain. While you can’t expect Alpine valleys and majestic peaks, Hunter boasts a plethora of runs suited for the beginning or intermediate skier. And with myriad bus companies offering bus-lift ticket combos for less than $150, it is more affordable than glitzier resorts in Vermont and Colorado.
With 13 lifts and 320 acres of terrain, what Hunter lacks in powdery snow and iconic views it makes up for its inaccessibility (it’s one of a number of American resorts that seeks to make skiing and snowboarding more attainable for low-income youth) and 1,600-foot drop. One word of caution: Unlike Alpine resorts, things can get super icy in this part of the United States so beware of hazardous conditions come peak season.
Open: late-November to mid-April