The mountains below, for the most part, offer all these ingredients for an inexpensive ski vacation, plus professional grooming and snowmaking and/or abundant natural snow. Some of these, like Utah’s Solitude and Brighton, you’ll have heard of; others are well-kept local secrets. They represent the best-known ski regions, along with a few that you might not think of first as ski destinations.
12. Silverton Mountain, Colorado
Admittedly, Silverton Mountain isn’t for everyone – not even for all skiers. But experts looking for perfect powder (they get about 400 inches of snow in an average year) and unique off-piste ski adventures won’t find a better ski resort. A vintage double chairlift carries skiers and boarders up the mountain, where they then hike to reach pristine back-country terrain. At the bottom of the runs, an old school bus shuttles them back to the base “lodge” – a tent-like hut warmed by a wood fire.
11. Solitude, Utah
Solitude is well named, near the end of the long Big Cottonwood Canyon and loved by local skiers bent on avoiding the more crowded mountains in Park City. Its 77 runs and three bowls cover 1,200 acres and are served by eight chairlifts. The 500 inches of annual snow guarantee the legendary feather-light powder Utah is known for. The resort is well set up for families, with all trails converging at two base areas. One of these has on-site lodging, and the other has facilities for day skiers and boarders.
The terrain is especially heavy with intermediate and beginner runs, but experts can get plenty of challenge in the Honeycomb Canyon powder. The Ski City Super Pass is a good deal for those who plan to spend a vacation in the area, as it is good at Solitude, Alta, Brighton, and Snowbird.
10. Sipapu, New Mexico
Only 20 miles from Taos, Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort is all about families: it’s been family-owned since the 1950s and has now catered to generations of kids and their parents. Plenty of slope-side lodging, a good learning program, and free season passes for those under 10 years explain the appeal, plus the adult ticket price is only $47 a day – they rightly claim to be the best deal in the Rockies.
The natural mountain terrain has something for every skill level, with one-fifth of its 41 trails for beginners, 40 percent for Intermediates, one-fourth for advanced skiers and boarders and 15 percent for experts. Three terrain parks keep freestylers and boarders happy.
9. Kimberley, British Columbia
Known for its family-friendly atmosphere and the Bavarian-like style of the town, Kimberly is blessed with the combination of perfect powder and abundant sunny days to enjoy it. Five lifts serve its 68 runs and 12 glades; one-fifth of the trails are for beginners, 42 percent for intermediates, and 38 percent for experts. The longest trail, Ridgeway, is just under four miles.
8. Ski Cooper, Colorado
One of the oldest ski mountains in the United States, Cooper’s first trails were cut by members of the 10th Mountain Division during World War II. An annual snowfall of 260 inches and a base elevation of 10,500 feet assure soft all-natural snow across its 400 lift-served acres, and snowcats carry adventurous skiers to Chicago Ridge, where they find 2,600 more acres of wide-open powder bowls and glades. This is skiing the way it used to be, without the crowds or the lift prices of the larger, better-known areas. All this fresh powder costs only $56 for a day’s skiing.
7. Bromont, Quebec
For an affordable family ski vacation, don’t forget about Quebec, Canada. The largest of the Eastern Townships’ ski resorts, covering seven sides of four mountains, Bromont offers an amazing variety of terrain in its 155 trails. One-fourth are rated for beginners, more than one-third for intermediate, and the remaining 39 percent are evenly split between single- and double-black diamonds.
A separate learning area for all ages is handy to the lodge and the green and blue trails of Mont Soleil, a nice arrangement for learners and anyone wanting to renew old skills. Lift tickets for the entire area are $72 Canadian (about $55 US), and those for Mont Soleil only are half price. Because its seven faces vary in direction, there is almost always good skiing somewhere on the mountain, regardless of the weather.
6. Schweitzer Mountain, Idaho
The largest ski resort in Idaho or Washington, Schweitzer Mountain has 2,900 acres of terrain, which includes two massive bowls and legendary tree skiing. Beyond the 95 marked trails and bowls are 200 miles of backcountry that stretches across the Idaho panhandle and into Washington. More than 300 inches of annual snowfall keep the terrain well covered for skiing, boarding, cross-country, and snowshoeing. Cat skiing is available to reach the remotest areas. The rustic Alpine-style village at the base has lodging, as does nearby Sandpoint.
5. Cranmore Mountain, New Hampshire
North Conway offers plenty of lodging at all price points, including several family-oriented resorts and inns. Although the mountain doesn’t look formidable and has excellent beginner and intermediate terrain on its 57 trails, there are plenty of challenges here for experts. Non-skiers will find a tubing park and Mountain Coaster, along with North Conway’s fabled discount shopping scene.
Cranmore Mountain is not only the birthplace of sport skiing in the east, but the town of North Conway, which its slopes overlook, has been named the nation’s #1 ski town. The town and mountain share a laid-back vibe that appeals to families, and a holiday here needn’t break the bank. Lift rates are $83, with deep discounts for advance online purchases, as well as for seniors and teens.
4. Mount Bachelor, Oregon
Beautiful powder covers the nearly 3,700 acres of lift-accessible terrain of this mountain, 30 minutes from the city of Bend, where the average annual snowfall is 387 inches. This also creates a solid base that usually lasts for skiing through May. The terrain of this extinct volcano (Mt. Bachelor is part of the Cascade Volcano chain) creates natural half-pipes from the summit down to the tree line, and trails follow these natural contours.
In addition, there is 360-degree skiing for experts at the 9,065-foot summit, and intermediates have wide, beautiful choices from the summit lift as well. Beginning skiers and boarders can ride free on the Carousel lift, and have lots of terrain choices on the east slopes of the mountain.
3. Sugar Mountain, North Carolina
You can find incredible value at many of North Carolina’s top ski resorts. The 125 skiable acres at Sugar Mountain, in the Blue Ridge Mountains, may not seem like much compared to the Rockies, but its location in the southeast makes it a popular destination for those who prefer not to travel to New England or the west for skiing. And its elevation — the base is at 4,100 feet and the summit elevation is 5,300 feet — combined with snowmaking on 100 percent of the terrain and state-of-the-art grooming promises plenty of snow.
Half of the terrain is intermediate, with the rest split evenly between beginner and advanced. Most of the mountain is lighted for night skiing, and the resort offers ice-skating, snowshoeing, and a tubing park.
2. Brighton, Utah
It’s especially attractive for families looking for a low-cost ski vacation, as up to two children 10 years and younger ski free with a paying adult. An expected 500 inches of annual snowfall covers the 66 runs; grooming is excellent, but powder-hounds will find plenty of fresh powder on its 1,000 acres of skiable terrain.
One of the several ski resorts near Salt Lake City and about 35 miles from Salt Lake City’s airport, Brighton is known for its superb powder and for the high-speed quads that access all its terrain. But despite this and adult day tickets ranging with the season from as low as $55, Brighton remains under the radar for many skiers who frequent Utah.
Utah Transit Authority ski buses travel up Big Cottonwood Canyon to the mountain several times daily. A Ski City Super Pass makes skiing here even less expensive and also gives access to skiing in Alta, Snowbird, and Solitude.
1. Whitefish Mountain, Montana
Half the 94 runs are graded for advanced skiers and boarders, one-third for intermediates, and the rest for beginners. On-mountain lodging is plentiful, and ski-and-stay packages offer some greater values. Arrive by train to add some romance to your ski holiday — Amtrak’s Empire Builder route between Seattle and Chicago stops only minutes from the mountain’s resort village.
Despite its location only 20 miles from Glacier Park International Airport, Whitefish — and Northwest Montana — are not on the radar of most skiers. That keeps its devotees happy, as well as keeping the crowds and the prices down. Daily lift tickets are $81, which buys access to 3,000 acres of powder-covered terrain, which rivals any in the west.