I just read this article posted on the Ski Area Management Web site. Holy smokes… I knew that US lift ticket prices were borderline outrageous, but 19 of the top 20 most expensive lift tickets are in the United States! Lets all reminisce on the $10-$15 lift tickets of our youth just a little… those were the days.

Well, they were the days of old, rickety double lifts, poor grooming and mediocre services, but it was still skiing and isn’t that the point? I realize (as the article points out) that most resorts do offer discounts above and beyond the listed price, but it’s that very listed price that turns so many people off in a hurry because not everyone knows the loopholes.

So, can families afford to ski anymore?  I’m wondering that very thing right now as I think about my kids and our ability to get them on the hill without breaking the bank.

One program that I absolutely applaud is the “Ski Free after 3” program that Alta Ski Resort offers.  This is a perfect way to get the kids and families turning for free and eventually they will be paying customers. Why don’t other resorts have similar programs?

Anyway, here’s the article:

Recession, what recession? U.S. ski areas are selling 19 of the 20 most expensive six-day lift tickets on the planet, according to the World Ski Lift Ticket Price Report (2009). This annual study compares six-day, peak-season prices from more than 600 ski areas in 40 countries worldwide.

The report cautions, however, that a simple price comparison is misleading, for several reasons. First, U.S. resorts offer countless discounts off the top rate, while resorts elsewhere offer fewer, if any, deals. Second, U.S. resorts generally offer higher levels of service. And third, the results reflect currency exchange rate fluctuations that have altered international cost comparisons; last year, only 12 of the top 20 resorts were American. The report converts ticket prices published in 20 different currencies in to U.S. dollars, euros and British pounds to allow for international comparison.

With those provisos, it is still worth noting that:

  • Eight of the world’s 10 most expensive six-day lift tickets are in Colorado.
  • Deer Valley, Utah, sold the world’s first $600+ six-day ticket ($602), for the Xmas/New Year’s week.
  • The lowest-priced six-day pass was $51, at Iran’s Tochal ski area near Tehran.
  • An average six-day U.S. resort peak-season lift ticket cost $408, exactly double the average in France, $204.
  • Smaller U.S. ski areas have six-day pricing more in line with ski areas in other parts of the world.
  • The only major ski nation to match the U.S. for currency strength over the past six months has been Switzerland.

There is an upside to the strong U.S. dollar and weak Australian and New Zealand dollars: skiing overseas this summer is a real bargain for Americans. Currency fluctuations mean Australia is 2 percent cheaper and New Zealand 40 percent cheaper than last year. New Zealand prices are down from an average of just over $302 (U.S.) for six days in 2008 to $190 today.

The World Ski Lift Ticket Price Report 2009 ($195) is compiled by Snow24 Ltd, an independent ski resort research company based in Scotland. It is available in digital format by email ([email protected]).

About Author

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Jason quickly developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 -- sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.


    • I heard about that… at least it’s something. The trouble with the high prices is that even though those coming in on ski vacations can get discounts, if locals can’t afford to ski then at some point there won’t be any locals from other areas to take those ski vacations.

  1. Have a look at http://www.seniorski.com with ski lift prices of all 370 resorts in the USA.
    With just a click prices are sorted according to the age chosen. If 370 are too many to choose from, the selection can be done in short tables for each state.

    On weekends a senior 65 years old can ski free in 4 resorts, at the age of 70 free passes are available in 51 resorts, 75 year old fellows will get the passes in 69 resorts and those 80 or better will ski free in 77 resorts. On weekdays the choice is even larger.

    Many resorts, that do not offer free skiing, offer substantial discounts and that information is available on the site.

    Each resort covered has its own page with extended information, additional ticket and pass information, weather reports, accurate maps and up-to-date snow and grooming conditions.
    In those pages businesses can post free advertisement provided that is a special offer for seniors. Last minute offers are broadcasted to members via Twitter.

    The site is focused on benefits for Senior Skiers and lists all the sites where seniors can ski free according to their age.

  2. Its called exponential growth. If you want to see a scary but informative video, do a GOOGLE search for “The Most IMPORTANT Video You’ll Ever see”. The cost of lift tickets at Vail is mentioned 3 mins into that show.

  3. Thanks for the video link, Bob. Very interesting stuff and kind of scary when you think about it. Sustainable? Nope, not at all. We just may have more important fish to fry than squabbling over a $100 lift ticket should things get all nutty as is suggested.

  4. Something’s got to give. Yeah, me! I stopped paying. I started cross country skiing years ago, and enjoy
    not waiting in lift lines, and no car wars with the folks from NY,CT, and NJ. Yeah, they can afford it……

  5. Those Squaw prices are very fair given the resort size and the length of the season.

    It’s all about keeping up with the Jones’ when it comes to resorts pricing. After spending 6 years working in sales/marketing at a resort this was pretty much the pricing meeting each year….

    “So, looks like Deer Valley is pushing up to $80 a day. Since that’s the case, and we’re just down the road, we’d better come in at $76. Any objections? Good, print the lift ticket rate.”

    Rarely ever was the pricing discussion around how to get more market share, how to encourage more locals to day ski or to maximize the amount of lifts with more skiers but it was all about what is Deer Valley doing and following in the shadow of the boldest pricing of any resort.

  6. I think the srvey left out Australia. Did they forget?

    Australia has been selling the most expensive global tickets already for years! Count yourselves lucky in USA…We pay over $120/day and are limited to that ticket for one resort only. Resorts are tiny compared to USA. So bang for buck…we get ripped off not you.

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