Like any other "luxury" item, you can spend a lot or a little depending on how you approach it.
Move to Calumet, buy a $99 season pass at Mt Boho (or $149 for the Boho/Porkies combo) and ski for next to nothing.
At the other end, you can buy a membership in the Yellowstone club and drop seven figures. Or pay four figures a day to heli-ski in exotic locations.
Bottom line is that it's still possible to ski on the cheap. If you want Vail "quality" you're going to pay Vail prices, but if you're willing to give up amenities like high speed lifts, snowmaking, grooming, resort services, etc then you can definitely find a way to do it on the cheap.
Even in the crowded northeast there are affordable alternatives. But everybody wants to go to Killington or similar, and in some regards you get what you pay for.