Colorado is home to some of the most well-known ski resorts in the United States, which makes it a popular choice for planning a ski trip. However, this popularity comes with a cost. The most popular ski resorts are expensive, overcrowded, and the ski lift lines usually become insanely long by midday.
Who wants to pay super high lift ticket prices just to stand in line and ski down crowded hills? Not me. This is why when I decided to head out west to ski the mountains of Colorado, I wanted to look for the most affordable ski resorts instead. Skiing in Colorado is a life-long dream for many, but we want to do it smartly and with cost efficiency in mind.
How to Get Affordable Lift Tickets at Any Ski Resort
What if you have your heart set on a particular ski resort like Breckenridge, Vail, or Keystone? These resorts are expensive and always busy. If you are looking for ways to save on lift tickets at these particular resorts, then I have a few tips for you:
- Buy Tickets in Advance: Many resorts offer discounts for lift tickets purchased in advance, either online or through a ticket window. Epic and Ikon are the two most popular lift tickets that can work at multiple ski resorts. The key here is to buy them early. The Epic pass goes on sale in the March prior to the next ski season. Buying that early can save you up to 50% on lift ticket prices.
- Ski on Weekdays: Resorts often offer lower ticket prices on the days that don’t have as much demand. Weekdays (Monday-Thursday) usually have ticket prices that are 15-25% cheaper than weekends.
- Avoid Holidays: Lift tickets on the weekends are more expensive than weekdays, and holidays are even pricier than on the weekends. Avoid holiday skiing at all costs.
- Age Discounts: Most ski resorts offer cheaper prices for children, teens, and seniors. Take advantage of these discounts whenever possible.
- Military or Emergency Responder Discounts: If you happen to be a member of the military, many ski resorts offer discounted or even free lift tickets. Take a look at the resort’s website or call their customer service desk to see what options are available.
- Buy a Multi-day Pass: If you plan on skiing multiple days, consider purchasing a multi-day pass, which can often offer a discount compared to buying single-day tickets. Epic and Ikon offer these as well, but they only work at certain resorts.
- Look for Group Discounts: Many resorts offer discounts for groups of 20 or more. If you’re planning a ski trip with a large group, you may be able to get a discount on lift tickets. If you think you may have enough people to qualify for group discounts, it would be best to call the ski resort’s customer service department to see what they can do for you.
- Check out Season Passes: If you intend to ski multiple times throughout the season, a season pass may be a more cost-effective option. Many resorts offer discounts on season passes if you purchase them early in the season. This option obviously only works if you live near the ski resort in question.
- Ski the Shoulder Season: Ski resorts in Colorado typically open in November or early December and remain open until April or May, depending on the weather and snow conditions. Lift tickets in November or May may be cheaper than peak season because the snow isn’t at its best, and certain trails and lifts may be closed.
Why are Colorado Ski Resort Lift Tickets so Expensive?
Colorado is home to some of the most well-known ski resorts in the United States, and these resorts are often in high demand, especially during peak ski season. This high demand can drive up prices for lift tickets, rentals, and other ski-related expenses.
The demand is primarily due to the elevation of the Colorado ski resorts. The higher than normal elevation provides skiers with unparalleled views, steep runs, and amazing snow. The powdery natural snowfall in Colorado provides excellent skiing conditions, which skiers are always chasing.
In addition, many of the ski resorts in Colorado have made significant investments in their infrastructure, including chairlifts, gondolas, and other amenities. These investments are why these resorts have such high demand, but they also contribute to higher prices for lift tickets and other ski-related expenses.
The 10 Best Colorado Ski Resorts with the Cheapest Lift Tickets
While most well known resorts like Breckenridge, Vail and Keystone are costly to ski at, there are some lesser known affordable ski resorts around as well. You just have to know where to look!
Here are the most affordable ski resorts in Colorado that also provide that astonishing Colorado skiing experience.
1. Sunlight Mountain Resort
Location: Glenwood Springs, CO (about 3.5 hours west of Denver, or 1 hour north of Aspen)
The price for an Adult Full Day, Full Price Ski Lift Ticket: $59-$85
Sunlight Mountain Resort boasts that it has some of the cheapest lift tickets in Colorado, and our research confirms that. Sunlight allows kids 12 and under to ski free when you stay a night at the resort, and they also have discounts for children, teens, and seniors and military members. They also have a lot of other appreciation days for teachers and 2-for-1 military days.
2. Echo Mountain
Location: Idaho Springs, CO (only 36 miles west of Denver)
The price for an Adult Full Day, Full Price Ski Lift Ticket: $69-$79, buying online in advance will save you around $10 a ticket. Tickets are limited, so buying on site may result in no tickets left.
Echo Mountain is the closest ski resort to downtown Denver. Children under 6 are free with the purchase of an adult ticket. Echo also has night skiing passes available for a steep discount, which allows for skiing under the lights from 4:30-9pm, Wednesday through Saturday.
3. Ski Cooper
Location: Leadville, CO (about 2.5 hours west of Denver)
The price for an Adult Full Day, Full Price Ski Lift Ticket: $60-$95, buy at least 48 hours in advance to get the steepest discounts.
Ski Cooper (Chicago Ridge) has discounts for teens. Holidays have the most expensive tickets. Season ticket are free for children under 5 and seniors over 75.
4. Powderhorn Mountain Resort
Location: Mesa, CO (about 4.5 hours west of Denver, or 5 hours east of Salt Lake City)
The price for an Adult Full Day, Full Price Ski Lift Ticket: $79-$99
Powderhorn Mountain Resort has half day tickets, and discounts for young children, teens, and seniors. They also have “easy rider” tickets that only work on the lifts that service the beginner terrain.
5. Wolf Creek Ski Area
Location: Pagosa Springs, CO (about 5 hours south of Denver, or 3 hours north of Santa Fe, NM)
The price for an Adult Full Day, Full Price Ski Lift Ticket: $85
Wolf Creek Ski Area tickets are discounted for seniors and children 6-12. All online tickets need to be purchased the night before the day you plan on skiing.
6. Purgatory Ski Resort
Location: Durango, CO (about 6 hours from Denver, or 3.5 hours from Santa Fe, NM)
The price for an Adult Full Day, Full Price Ski Lift Ticket: $83-$109. Tickets get cheaper, the further in advance you buy them. Weekdays are much cheaper than weekends.
Purgatory Ski Resort does not have half-day skiing, but if you are willing to ski during the late shoulder season (March into April), ticket prices plunge down to around $50 a day.
7. Granby Ranch
Location: Granby, CO (about 3 hours northwest of Denver in the foothills of the Rocky Mountain National Park)
The price for an Adult Full Day, Full Price Ski Lift Ticket: $99-$124. Most tickets are $99 apart from holidays or late into the ski season.
Granby Ranch has discounts for young children, teens, and seniors. 2 and 3-day lift ticket discounts are available as well. Children under 5 are free.
Purchase at least 48 hours ahead of when you plan on skiing for the largest discounts. If you are a part of the INDY pass, you can also take advantage of their discount program.
8. Arapahoe Basin (A Basin)
Location: Dillon, CO (about 50 miles west of Denver)
The price for an Adult Full Day, Full Price Ski Lift Ticket: $99-$129. Tickets get cheaper, the further in advance you buy them.
Arapahoe Basin, also known as A Basin, is an affordable ski resort that is large enough to have something for everyone in the family. It also has discounts for young children, teens, and seniors. Lift tickets are also free to kids under 5 years old.
9. Monarch Mountain
Location: Salida, CO (about 2.5 hours southwest of Denver)
The price for an Adult Full Day, Full Price Ski Lift Ticket: $104 (weekdays), $119 (weekends)
Monarch Mountain has discounts for young children, teens, and seniors. Lift tickets are free for children under 6 or seniors over 69.
10. Loveland Ski Area
Location: Dillon, CO (about 50 miles west of Denver)
The price for an Adult Full Day, Full Price Average Ski Lift Ticket: $119
Loveland Ski Area has discounts for young children, teens, and seniors. Discounted lift tickets are also available for half day skiing (starting at 11:30), advanced sales, and for skiing during the shoulder seasons.
11. Honorable Mentions
Winter Park Resort (1.5 hours west of Denver) has more expensive lift tickets than the places we list above, but they do have a few $89 mid-week days if you purchase them about 3 weeks in advance.
Copper Mountain Resort (1.5 hours west of Denver, right next to Breckenridge) has lift tickets very cheap on Thursdays throughout most of the year. Regular prices are double that on weekends.