Snow Resorts With The Cheapest Ski Lift Tickets That Are Actually Good

Counting the pennies to get the powder.

A list of affordable ski resorts isn't a new concept. Each winter, listicles come out extolling the virtues of an unknown resort in Macedonia, an off-the-radar off-piste unicorn in Turkey, or a surprise find in the Arctic Circle. And yet, while they may be cheap, are they any good? Most often, the answer is no. Be it a lack of terrain, snow, charm, nightlife, history or infrastructure (or all of the above) there's often a reason why you can ride these resorts for a day for less than the cost of two Oslo pints. 
On the flipside, some of the world’s iconic resort prices are simply out of control. Whistler and Aspen are currently charging $200 a day, and Zermatt and Chamonix top out at €70 per visit. At these hills. you then need to sell your snowboard to buy a hot coffee. However, if you look hard enough, there are still hidden, underrated, and under-the-radar resorts that do provide real, lasting, value for money. We found these cut-priced gems, so you didn’t have to. 

Beaver Mountain, USA 
There are two tricks to getting value for money when hitting Northern American slopes. First is to stay away from the iconic, big corporate resorts. Day passes at Keystone and Vail for example start around the $150 mark, and so there's no way you can ride the other big, famous, resorts on the cheap. The second hack is to head west. The Californian, and Utah in particular, resorts offer incredible terrain and way better value.

Beaver Mountain is a prime example. Lift passes come in around 70 bucks a day, and the natural flow of the Wasatch Mountains offers a ton of east-facing downhill trails for every rider. Oh, the resort averages 400 inches of that fluffy, dry, powder trademarked as “the best snow on Earth.” It doesn't have the glamour of Aspen, or the backcountry of Jackson Hole, but with a day of excellent, uncrowded powder skiing costing a 1/3 of the price, who really cares? 

Bansko, Bulgaria 
In 2023 the market research company Ipsos Mori found that the Bulgarian resort Bansko was the cheapest European resort for families. The research stated that the average holiday costs came in less than half of that of top Swiss, French and Austrian resorts. 

Now with 46 miles of slopes, the resort can’t compete in pure size or vertical feet with Europe’s heavy hitters. However, if you score the serious backcountry freeriding on the north face of Mt. Todorka on a powder day, having paid €30 for the privilege, that won’t cross your mind. And with loads of perfect beginner and intermediate slopes and the resort and town recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Bulgarian Bansko bang for your buck remains one of the best in the business. 

Sestriere, Italy
The Italian ski resorts tend to offer better value for money than their bordering French and Swiss counterparts. And in Italy, the best value comes in the Piedmont area. The ski area of Via Lattea (Milky Way) comprises the four resorts of Claviere, Sansicario, Sauze d'Oulx, Pragelato and Sestriere, all within a 90-minute drive of Turin. 

Of these Sestriere, probably has the least amount of alpine charm. It was Europe’s first purpose-built resort in the 1930s and in terms of vibe is more shoe box than chocolate box. But the large apartment blocks and an array of budget hotels are all within a short walk from the lifts and make accommodation affordable. Ski passes come in at just €40 a day, pizzas at €8 and lessons are half that of the French ski schools. There’s a tonne of blue and red runs close to the village and steeper challenges off the Banchetta and Cit Roc chairlifts. Oh, and you have access to the Milky Way's 400km of runs. You might do the Alps prettier, but you won’t do it cheaper.

Furano, Japan
Japan loses points on our affordable index, by dint of the cost of the airfares needed to get there. However, even considering those front-loaded fees, there are still gains to be made by accessing the most bankable powder snow on Earth, for a fraction of the cost of equivalent European and North American resorts. 

Furano is one of the better, and more affordable, examples. Located in the heart of Hokkaido, the Siberian storms that pass over the Sea of Japan provide an average of 7 meters (20 feet plus) of light, dry powder each winter. After a big snowfall, there is often untracked powder for days, and usually all available to be rinsed inbounds. Lift passes come in less than  €40, and remarkably, kids ski free. Add delicious bowls of ramen for 10 bucks and cheap self-catering accommodation, and no powder comes cheaper.  


El Colorado, Chile

Skiing in South America isn’t as cheap as you might expect. A day pass at Chile’s best resort, Valle Nevado, comes in at around $US90. Closer to Santiago, La Parva has a ski-in, ski-out elegance, that comes with a hefty price tag. However, just 20 miles from the capital, El Colorado Ski Resort ticks all the boxes. Lift passes start around $65 per day, (half of the nearby Portillo) which if you get to score the steep eastern chutes of the cone-shaped peak on a powder day is ridiculous.  

Elsewhere the 25 miles of ski-able terrain, are spread out over 70 different runs, with the Condor, South America’s longest black run, the most famous. Inexpensive guest houses and holiday apartments are located near the lifts, or you can find cheaper offerings in Santiago itself. It has to be the most affordable, and memorable, Southern Hemisphere skiing there is.