EpicSki › General Articles › Is Skiing Really Too Expensive

Is Skiing Really Too Expensive?

Well, it certainly is expensive, no doubt about it.  Isn’t everything these days?  In an absolute sense, depending upon one’s particular financial situation, it may be just too much.  No argument there.  But if you’re reading this, you’re probably the type that isn’t going to give up an active lifestyle that you enjoy, no matter what. So, in a relative sense, how does skiing compare to some other forms of recreation?



As with most other sports, there is the initial outlay for equipment.  While the cost of a mountain bike or a set of golf clubs can be quite expensive, a good pair of running or hiking shoes cost much less.  So let’s agree that getting set up with a descent set of ski gear is probably on the more expensive side of the spectrum.  Of course lodging is also a big expense.  But this is a necessary requirement in any vacation scenario, and a hotel room or condo at a ski resort is probably no more expensive than one on the beach. So once you are beyond this initial outlay and you’ve made it to the base area of the resort, what you’re really paying for with skiing, as with many other sports, is daily use of the venue.


So let’s compare skiing with some other recreational pursuits that also require paying for a venue.  Skiing, golf, and fitness centers are all very different, but they are alike in that you are paying for the venue in order to experience the activity.


So let’s start with skiing.  There are many top notch resorts that still only charge about $75 for a walk-up daily lift ticket.  A few that come to mind would be Bachelor, Taos, Kirkwood, and A-Basin, and Alta  Since the lifts usually open at 9am and close at 4pm, that’s seven hours or about $10-11 per hour to shred to your heart’s delight.  Now, as with both golf and fitness centers, paying for a season pass or membership can significantly lower your cost per day.  But for comparison’s sake, let’s stick with the daily walk-up rate.


How about golf?  Well, the cost of a round at a nice venue ranges widely given the time of year and geographical location.  But for a course comparable to the resorts above, you’re probably going to drop something right around $75.  The average time to shoot 18 holes is usually about 4 hours, so you’re looking at somewhere between $15 and $20 per hour to swing away! But wait, the whole objective of golf is to get less swings…  Isn’t it?!


Finally, we have the ubiquitous neighborhood fitness center.  Granted, not many folks pay the walk-up fee, but if you’re out of town it’s fairly common.  At most of the nicer gyms this fee usually ranges from $15 to $20 and then you can stay as long as you like.  That being said, most folks probably don’t workout for more than an hour or two.  So now we’re looking at paying from a low of $7.50 to a high of $20 per hour to sweat away the pounds.


So maybe the cost of skiing is really not all that bad.  At least in line with many other forms of recreation, and probably better than some.


How about one last comparison?  Let’s look at dinner and a movie for Mom and Dad.  Just like a round of golf, you’re looking at right around 4 hours.  Dinner and drinks are $80 and the movie is $20, so you are looking at about $25 per hour to escape the little ones.  But wait, I forgot, what about the babysitter?  There’s another $10 per hour on top of it. 


So bottom line…  For about the same price as a babysitter, you can rack up as much vertical per hour as you can handle! 


John "fritzski" Fritz

EpicSki Special Correspondent


DesertSnowJunkies Meetup.com Group

DesertSnowJunkies facebook page



Comments (15)

OK but you're leaving out the cost for a family, lets say a family of 4. Gas, equipment, food, drink, lift tickets. No wonder young families cannot afford to ski anymore. Even here in No. Idaho where lift tickets are cheap compared to say Tahoe it is still a real expense for a family.
The cost alone to drive to VT and back for me is pretty steep given that I have to drive 2 hours 45 min to any decent mountain. However the 1 time 300$ season pass to Stratton does change the equation quite a bit.
3.5 hour drive each way, wear and tear on the car, about $75 for gas.
Cost can be somewhat adjusted by bringing your own lunch (almost a season pass if one goes 20+ days). Also, deals, coupons, carpool, ski bus...
you should be comparing to amusement parks, such as disneyland.
1 day ticket to disneyland $86-$92.
Similarly, disneyland season pass is "only" $670.
Then again there are other amusement parks like six flags, where a walk-up day pass is $66 and a season pass is $77...
Try $20 a night beds in ski clubs or 2 weeks in a Reno Casino for under $600. Or look at the Atlantis Casino's deal for Squaw passholders in the new TSP Club. There's a sale of blemished Nordicas from $300 at Starthaus.Grab There's $59 sale airfares from, eg, San Diego to Mammoth for the 2013/14 season. There are $120 airfare sales from coast to coast. Get sale lodging at $699/week for a 2 bedroom apartment or wait for 40% discounts on lodging on facebook and similar places. There's $199-$500 season passes. There's VRBO and similar rental sites. Shop smart!
Get on the internet and shop wisely. .
You can make it as expensive as you want. We buy used demo gear from rental shops. High end skis with binders that have been used a few days for 300 dollars sometimes. Last years boots or used. Volunteer at a resort for a free pass for the family or look for 2 for 1 deals.
"Shop smart!
Get on the internet and shop wisely. ."
I hear a rustle coming from the bootfitters :P
Ya, I know, but you can get by with boots until you get better. Then you need good ones. I do not reccomend getting a porsche for your first car.... Make sure it is a sport for you and progress into it. Boot progression from rental, used, new low-end, to NEW BOOTS! The ones you research and test out for hours.
It's possible to keep it relatively low cost if you like said shop smart, but it's really hard for families that do not leave close to a ski area like day trip drives. I'm lucky that I have a small ski area in town and another 2 within 2 hrs drive where I can stay for the weekend on friend's house. But it's not an inexpensive sport by any means. Like mountain bike would probably have a big investment upfront, but again you can shop smart, but from there you can ride for free, lots of free trails to hit, but again skiing you could eventually hit backcountry and avoid paying for lift tickets! :-)
Skiing is very much generally still a sport for rich, especially in Europe. I usually take a trip to the Alps every year and for four people, a weeks skiing is about £4000. So yes. Skiing is definitely an expensive sport.
I always thought my ski racing habit was extraordinarilly expensive (even more costs than recreational skiing).
Then I met a guy whose hobby is automobile drag racing. It could be worse. :)
Like anything else, you can spend as much as you want on skiing, but as far as the basics (decent set of gear, season pass, transport) if you shop smart, I'd call it a bargain.
Skiing has always been relatively expensive. As a pro skier (teacher) starting out in 1977 I paid about $200.00 bucks total for my equipment at pro prices. Yep, $200.00 bucks give or take; skis and bindings $120.00 dollars, boots about sixty and poles $20.00. Ah, those were the days. Lift tickets free. One reason I taught though was to make it cheap to slide. The area I worked only charged six bucks for an adult lift ticket. Major areas in my neck of the woods were about sixteen bucks.
It is still possible to ski cheap these days even without being a ski teacher. For some anyway. If you live near a local area many offer low price season tickets before an certain cut off date and used but still good equipment is still to be had.
Adjusting for inflation you can still get those kind of prices if you shop end of season sales + used gear. I picked up a pair of Blizzard Bushwackers for 167 in GREAT condition last month. Using an inflation calculator that would be like buying them for 43$ back in 1977
I actually find skiing to be a good value compared to a lot of other things - for example, my daughters always want to go to "concerts" (Bruno Mars, Selena Gomez...etc...) I would have to pay about 100$ a ticket for them. Snow boarding at the local mountains or even Whistler? Much less for a whole day of fun, fresh air and exercise. Same with going to the movies. It isn't much cheaper to take the family to the movies than it would be to go night skiing at a local Vancouver mountain - in some cases, it would be cheaper because they often give deals for the kids. I am lucky though that I don't have to pay for accommodation as we can drive there and home after we're done. Even Whistler is doable for he day - just drive home after you're done skiing, it's about a 2 hour drive. Also, with skiing/snowboarding, you can pack your own lunch and snacks and find fun places to have a "winter picnic" on the mountain, or take your lunch to the lodge. When I hear how much it costs to play golf, go to a hockey game, go to a water slide park... and such, skiing/snowboarding lift tickets are a good deal, in my opinion.
What I find living in Ca. is that everything is over priced. The last 2 years I have gone to Park City and Colorado and was able to ski, fly and lodge for 2 people cheaper than all of that in Ca plus a couple extra days for the same price if not a few hundred cheaper. I did a quick trip to mammoth in early spring for 3 days by myself, flew, skiid 3 days and motel 6 2 nights and it was still $800 including eating as cheap as I could. I was there to ski my tail off. The flights were less than 200 bucks and I lift ticketed through liftopia deals. Now with that being said what I find crazy is if you go to lets say Keystone resort in Co, everything is not bad but the rental cars are way over priced, why is that? @ years ago my wife and I changed last min from Tahoe to Park city and I was given 56 dollars back from southwest air and payed less to stay plus shuttle. This allowed us to both ski 1 extra day. If you want to ski Ca you better bring your wallet ready much like the upper class resorts of Co like Vail.
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