Skiing’s notoriously expensive reputation is no secret: the cost of gear alone can run a casual skier upwards of $1,450, all while shelling out over $200 for a one-day lift pass. However, with multi-mountain resort passes and discount gear websites, there are ways to cut costs. We have broken down the true cost of skiing, from gear purchases and rentals to clothing and lift passes.
It is important to note here that there are different types of skiers. There are skiers that live near ski resorts that will spend all winter on the slopes, there are vacationers that will take two to three ski trips per year, and there are vacationers that will take a one-week or one-weekend trip. Each type of skier may choose to spend their money differently, whether its investing in a season pass versus a day pass or purchasing gear rather than renting it.
Regardless of the type of skier you are, you will need to purchase the proper clothing: base layers, ski socks, a ski jacket, and ski pants. Many will argue that a good base layer is vital to a great day on the mountain. On the cheaper end, a base layer like this merino wool set from a discount site costs around $130, while a set from Helly Hansen may cost around $220. Adequate ski socks may run from around $16 to $30. Ski jackets vary on a wide spectrum depending on technology, insulation and style. Pricier jackets, like the Arc’Teryx Tiya Jacket can cost around $800-900. Meanwhile, you may find a cheaper option on a discount site for around $90. The same goes for ski pants. On the more expensive end, a pair of ski pants may cost around $250, while a cheaper pair will sell for $90.
On the expensive end, purchasing clothes for skiing will cost around $1,300. For cheaper options, you can get by with ski clothing that will run you around $330.
For the more frequent skiers who plan on spending more than a couple of weeks on the mountain over the winter, it may be wise to invest up front in ski gear that will last several years. Thankfully, you can score some sweet deals if you know where to look. Websites like Backcountry.com, Steep & Cheap, Evo, and Moosejaw offer great brand-name gear for a hefty discount. It’s also important to keep in mind that there are many stores that will hold big-time sales on past-season gear, such as Christy Sports’ Powder Daze.
First and foremost, you’ll need skis (surprise!). Like jackets, the cost of skis varies a ton. Past-season and cheaper skis with bindings can cost around $300, while higher-cost skis can get up to $850+.
Next, you’ll need boots. Making sure you have the right size and fit is arguably the most important factor in having a good time on the mountain, so this is not where you’ll want to be cheap about your gear. When buying boots, it is recommended to visit a professional boot fitter and simply buy what feels the most comfortable. However, if you don’t have a choice, a cheap option for boots can run around $100-$140 if you are lucky. On the expensive end, you can expect to spend around $700 on boots like these K2 Mindbenders.
Finally, the accessories: poles, helmet, goggles, and gloves. For these items you can feel okay about not shelling out a ton of money. There are great cheap options for all of these. On the cheaper end, these accessories combined will run to about $250, and on the expensive end you’re looking at more like $600. That said, purchasing all your gear on the cheaper end can come to around $550, while the expensive end is looking at around $1,450.
For the not-so-frequent skiers, renting ski gear can be a more cost-efficient way to enjoy the mountains. Most ski resorts offer a gear rental package. For example, Arapahoe Basin in Colorado offers a Sports Ski Package at $40/day for multi-day use. The package includes skis, boots, poles, and a helmet.
More expensive resorts may charge upwards of $70/day for skis alone. It’s important to do your research ahead of time in order to save money.
DAY AND SEASONAL LIFT PASSES
Perhaps the largest purchase on your ski trip will be your lift pass. One day on the mountain could cost over $150 at most ski resorts. Three companies have used this to their advantage to create multi-resort season passes. Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass costs $989 for an unlimited season pass at any of their resorts and $739 for a base pass. Meanwhile, purchasing a 2-day lift pass at Vail could cost over $400. If you expect to ski more than four days in a season, it’s worth looking into a season pass. Similarly, Alterra Mountain Company’s Ikon Pass costs $1,049 for an unlimited season pass and $799 for a base pass.
A third option for a multi-resort pass is the Mountain Collective Pass for $579. This pass is more for the vacationers, offering two days at any of their 18 resorts, and a 50% discount on any day after that. There really is no right answer for which pass is the best; that depends on where you intend on skiing that year. If you’re trying to decide which pass is the best option for you, check out this article comparing the three multi-resort passes. Otherwise, you can expect to spend $150-$200 / day on a lift ticket.
It goes without saying. Skiing is expensive no matter what. Finding out what is important to your success on the mountain, i.e., a warm and toasty pair of gloves, is key to deciding what you are willing to shell out more money on. Keeping your eye out for gear sales, getting the early-bird discount on multi-resort ski passes, and capitalizing on past-season gear will certainly help. Until then, powder on!