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Where is it less expensive to ski? Europe, USA, Canada, Asia, Somewhere in between

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

This question was raised by epic-er KAsuncion: 


On costs, will address directly later, as I study them somewhat closely often, but here is a quick summary - MY EXPERIENCE and RESEARCH, OTHERS know much, much more here and elsewhere: In general and in most circumstances, the actual skiing costs: the price of lift tickets, the quality adjusted cost of food, the ski lessons - group or private, the lodging, are several orders of magnitude less expensive in Europe than in the US and Canada, and I am talking many incredible places in Europe, and the best places in the USA or Canada. Skiing in the North America is brutally expensive especially in the small local mountains in the North East, the pricing is what the market will bear. Travel costs both in $ terms and $ value of your time, well now that is a function of season, and US/Canada can be a lot less expensive but not always!  This is for family travel not bunking in a bag in someone's living room for young or older turks (female or male), coffee/ramen-ing/oatmealing-away and ripping it on mountain. Prevailing F/X rates matter considerably, last year at USD/EUR at $1.40/EUR 1 - Europe looked rough, and this year, with CHF richer than sh-te, Swissyland is rough, was not the case in 2013. So many factors to consider for travel and stay costs. Then there is Norway, Lillehammer; or Sweden, Are - skiing is not expensive, the cost of living and food, well only they can figure out how to pay the bills, North Sea Brent crude oil prices are your barometer:D


A sample without all the early-bird discount jazz SEASON PASS costs 2015-16:

  • New York-Massachusetts: Jiminy Peak = $965; Hunter Mtn = $959;
  • Vermont: Killington = $1,119; Stowe = $2,138;
  • Colorado: Aspen-Snowmass = $1,959 (for all 4 areas) http://www.coloradoski.com/season-passes
  • Colorado (best value): Vail =  $769 (the Epic Pass)
  • Utah: Deer Valley = $2,320;
  • BC, Canada: Whistler-Blackcomb = CAD 1,599;
  • France: L'Espace Killy = EUR 1,170;
  • Austria: Arlberg (Lech-Zurs-St Anton-St Christoph-Stuben etc) = EUR 775;
  • Switzerland: Zermatt-Cervinia = CHF 2,069


With the Epic Pass, Intrawest Pass, and Mountain Collective Pass, there is some movement towards making skiing less dear stateside, most certainly.

Edited by dustyfog - 4/16/15 at 9:31am
post #2 of 19
Thread Starter 

Found this old thread on relative pricing Europe vs US - and it is perfect..and I almost died laughing reading about someone mentioning the 'cost of a passport' as being a factor..this is the United States of America, the most powerful and economically advanced economy in the world, a passport is a necessity, like your Driver's License, it's not a cost to be factored in..well...it was funny..but information therein is very good



post #3 of 19
Originally Posted by dustyfog View Post

...a passport is a necessity, like your Driver's License...


Thanks for the link, but passports aren't actually that common in the US compared to much of the world. I think the percentage has gone up quite a lot since you need one for Canada and the Caribbean now, but it's still only about 1/3 of people in the US that have them.


The country is just so big and easy, people tend not to leave it.

post #4 of 19

From my experience, it is less expensive for Europeans to take a 1 week ski vacation to top resorts in the Alps than for Americans to visit the top resorts in the US.  Daily & weekly lift tickets and lessons are almost always lower at Euro resorts compared to comparable US resorts.  Food & lodging varies, but it is much more common to find well priced food/lodging deals by the week at Euro Chalets & Hotels.    


Where there is competition out West, the US offers some very competitive season pass prices (although some Euro resorts also offer heavily discounted or free passes to locals).

post #5 of 19

I wonder also if there is less staffing overhead in the Alps. We noticed in February that each lift in the Val Gardena area generally had but one attendant at the bottom. With RFD cards and turnstiles there is less need for troops on the ground. And the euros wouldn't obey corralling instructions anyway, so no need to try to instill any lift queue order.


No matter what, the lift tickets and equipment rental rates were very inexpensive....something on the order of 50 euros a day for the ticket. Food and lodging were less as well.

post #6 of 19
Thread Starter 

I have a feeling staff are paid a lot more in Europe than stateside but will leave ski professionals on this blog to answer that. One reads a lot about the poor wages for ski instructors etc and I can imagine Lifties, Cat operators, Piste-bashers (being Brit now, Groomers) operators compensation is even worse stateside. So that argument is false - would be my best guess. And the notion of tipping is non-existent, only Americans tip pretty much..

post #7 of 19
Originally Posted by dbostedo View Post


Thanks for the link, but passports aren't actually that common in the US compared to much of the world. I think the percentage has gone up quite a lot since you need one for Canada and the Caribbean now, but it's still only about 1/3 of people in the US that have them.


The country is just so big and easy, people tend not to leave it.

I suspect the percentage of passport holder maybe inversely proportional to the size of the country.


I lived in Hong Kong for a year, where just about everyone, child, retiree, school teachers, janitors... all have passports! The "country" was so tiny they need a passport in order to spend a weekend in the neighboring countries. 

post #8 of 19

My limited experience traveling to ski (6 North American resort areas and Chamonix/Courmayeur) is that in Chamonix lift tickets, lodging, and food are cheaper (and the food much better). Air travel is of course more expensive but depends on where in North America you travel to Europe from. I haven't looked at air/lodging packages. To fully enjoy off piste skiing in the Alps, especially Chamonix one should probably factor in the cost of a guide (85E to join a group of strangers in Chamonix when I was there 2 years ago). The cost of a season pass is of no relevance since you'll buy your pass near where you live unless you're doing an extended vacation/season away from home. All in all I'd say that for me. coming from California, the higher air fair and cheaper lodging and lifts plus the cost of a guide balance out. OTOH I just drove myself to SLC, stayed for free with a friend of my son, and got half price lift tickets on my Squaw pass--no doubt the cheapest out of state trip I've done, but I don't expect to be driving to SLC again in this lifetime I hope.

post #9 of 19

Just back from Europe and with this exchange rate it is cheaper to ski in Europe. Everything is better value - food, accommodation, lift tickets, service ...

post #10 of 19
Thread Starter 

GM - no question. Am a relative newcomer to skiing, and ski travel, it's my boy and me, since 2008.


But every time we have been to Europe (it's 3 times now), there is no question skiing is cheaper, 50% or less of the costs involved in a major North American ski area. I mean daily lift tickets on our local mountain, Catamount was $63/day - and it's a real 'treat' to see the place, the loos well are from the 18th century, don't look down is the motto! But beggars can't be choosers and my son learnt there (I learnt there two years after my boy started..), the folks at the kid's ski school and the lady who ran it were tremendous, so we are loyal, grateful and captive, and it's sentimental more than merit-based :dunno .


Fights can be expensive to Europe, but they are to SLC or CO too in the school holiday weeks etc., or if one has not booked well in advance which is not possible for us anyway. And this is not about finding the cheapest way to get there with 16 stops at 1-hangar airports or going to SLC via Dallas and LA from JFK or LGA ! Just normal folks planning to travel and make arrangements a month or max three before departure is I would think a reasonable criterion. Getting to Mammoth which is on our list of places to ski  is harder than getting to most majors in Europe for instance, and costs are as dear as any transatlantic or trans-pacific flight after all is said and done. 


The real cost which needs to be factored in  is that of time, if one's goal is to maximize ski time, then effectively one is losing 2+ or more days at a minimum of vacation time in transit to Europe, and that has real economic and of course emotional value and needs to be factored in. Then again, going to CO or CA or WY or WA states from the East Coast means 2 ski days are lost. Only places I can think of from NYC where one does NOT lose 2 days in transit are SLC (if you can grab that early morning Delta flight, and there maybe one run by JetBlue too), and to Whistler-Blackcomb (here sleeping on the aircraft, and catching a couple of hours in the hotel early morning are necessary) because of the Cathay direct flight to Vancouver, BC.


The food in Europe is light years better, only place where the food comes close in our view is Snowbasin, Utah, I mean Aspen Highlands and Snowmass was not bad I have to say, Deer Valley is on the scale of 1 to 10, a 4.5; Snowbasin was 6.5/10. Note am discussing  food on mountain generically available. Zermatt was actually the worst of the European lot, say a 6.5/10, but subtract -2.5 points for the fact that Water is not free ON A MOUNTAIN, I mean you have springs and everybody needs to hydrate and dehydration is #1 factor leading to the deleterious and debilitating effects of AMS, though they locations of some of those on-mountain restaurants are really funky, and cool; I know, they have a couple of these legendary Alain Ducasse level places on mountain Zermatt, but that is besides the point, regular eating joints and watering holes are not that hot , and you get rosti-ed out real quick ! But live music in a couple of spots at lunch is very cool! Cervinia food, now is a solid 8/10 , bellissimo ! Lech-Zurs, Austria is the gold standard in our opinion, the food everywhere was good, the variety and choices unbelievable and the prices cheaper than anyplace I can recall. L'Espace Killy, cannot comment about on mountain food as we were just skiing, and never stopped on-mountain anywhere, (even whizzes taken somewhere on the snow! Instructors, and skiers alike :D)and all lunch was at Tignes Val Claret and there the food at La Pignata as good as anything in Lech-Zurs, and cost very, very reasonable; otherwise overall food good, but not as unbelievably good at Lech-Zurs.


My two cents. Played tennis to get rid of the blues of being back at sea level. Adrenaline keeps pumping, but can feel it receding along with the endorphin high, so typing is the literary equivalent of 'methadone' to help with the withdrawal symptoms.

Edited by dustyfog - 4/19/15 at 4:30pm
post #11 of 19

... all depends on the 'crash couch' situation.

post #12 of 19

Taos has good food if you appreciate New Mexican cooking. Not for the timid though. 

post #13 of 19

Europe skiing cheaper, Taos has Austrian/Bavarian lodge too, spicy on-mountain food in cold weather has to be cool

post #14 of 19

I view this slightly differently than most North Americans. I lived in the UK and travelled from where I lived in the southern half of England.


We in the UK benefit from a very competitive PACKAGE TOUR business. The price will include travel + any transfers and accommodation. In many cases the accommodation would include breakfast and evening meal. Chalet accommodation would throw in snacks and coffee when you come in from skiing.


Some beginners packages would include equipment and tuition. I have taken a college group skiing for 10 days for £89 a head for travel, self catering accommodation and equipment..Sure it was low season and the travel was by coach.


I was in education and had two weeks off at Christmas and Easter, sometimes a week in Feb too. I was flexible in where I went and how I got there, basically I did not care as long as the snow was good. I would watch the special deals that would start popping up about 2 weeks before the travel date. To begin with this involved visiting the travel agents and phoning the bucket shop operators..


Sometimes I booked a "square deal" I would not be told which resort I was going to or where I was staying until the day I travelled. I would know the general area though. A couple of times we finished up in very posh hotels as that was what was left unsold. The best was the Monte Rosa in Zermatt and the friend I was skiing with was seriously impressed.


This got much easier when the companies developed web sites. Towards the end I would often be booking Thursday or Friday and travelling on Saturday. Often paying about £200 or even less for package deals that cost at least double in the brochures. The bucket shop operators got their acts together on the WWW too. [I even wrote the code for most of one.]


If you are in the UK and want a last minute deal. check


Skiline http://www.skiline.co.uk/ who was by far the best consolidator/bucket shop operator and likely still is.


SkiWorld http://www.skiworld.co.uk/ chalet holidays and do not use consolidators so look at the last minute deals. They were one of the first companies to still be selling holidays at 8pm on Friday flying out at 6 am Sat. TOD.


I tend to think of my lift ticket cost around the 6 day pass because I nearly always was there 6 days. The current cost of the SuperSki Dolimiti 6 day pass is 270 Euros High Season and 237 Euros regular. Espace Killy [ Val d'Isere and Tighnes]  and the three valleys are much the same. . Compare this to a 7 day Epic pass at $579.


So living in the UK and skiing in Europe is much cheaper for me than it would have been a teacher in the US living some distance from the resorts., [ I am not tough enough to ski in Scotland and it would have cost me more than a top French resort.]


However there is one area where it is cheaper to be in the USA. A season pass for most major European resorts is around 1200 Euros Sometimes but not always there will be the option of one or two days at other resorts.  There is nothing in Europe that is as good a deal as the Epic Pass currently $769 ?

Edited by TQA - 5/10/15 at 1:40pm
post #15 of 19

sterling 89!! ten days 

post #16 of 19
Originally Posted by rainmaker View Post

sterling 89!! ten days


The company was Neilsen, the resort was Avoriaz and it dumped just before we arrived. We had a whale of a time, some even learned to ski and I still have the free hat.


Us Scots are a canny lot.

post #17 of 19

A few years ago you could do a 2 week guided expedition to climb Mt Belukha in the Altai Mtns of Kazakhstan--the highest peak in Siberia--almost everything included, for $250. What was not included--kidnap insurance. It's more expensive now--E950--ransom is still not included.

post #18 of 19

While I can't speak to the differences between North America and Europe, I took three ski vacations this year out West and noticed significant cost differences between Utah, Colorado and Jackson Hole.  Utah, in general, is much less expensive than Jackson Hole, which is slightly less expensive than Colorado.  Strictly in terms of quality of ski terrain/dollar, Utah and Grand Targhee are at the top of the list here in the U.S.

post #19 of 19
Originally Posted by TQA View Post

The company was Neilsen, the resort was Avoriaz and it dumped just before we arrived. We had a whale of a time, some even learned to ski and I still have the free hat.

Us Scots are a canny lot.
think my best ever ski deal was also a UK package. 7 nights in Lake Louise Inn for about £300 each for me and my bro including MCR-YYC flights and transfers. But we'd had an equally memorable week while still at school by train to Loch Morlich Youth Hostel which really honed our combat skiing skills.
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