Healthy Travel Tips »
Healthy Travel Tips » Stay safe on vacation
6 Bargain-Friendly Ski Towns You've Never Heard Of
Breathtaking backdrops and affordable prices abound in these underrated
Mount Bachelor offers 3,700 skiable acres, plus you'll find lots of cost-effective accommodation options in Bend, Oregon.(Getty Images)
Storybook settings like Lake Tahoe, California, and Vail, Colorado, have long attracted powder-seekers with must-visit trails, inspiring backdrops and lively après-ski spots. But if you're longing to tackle lesser-known terrain, where you can embrace snowboarding, skiing and other cold-weather pursuits without leaving a dent in your wallet, vacationing in a small, less-visited mountain town is an enticing option. Fortunately, there are plenty of under-the-radar snowy escapes that are sure to appeal to you – and your wallet. For insider tips and top off-the-beaten track picks, we caught up with travel experts to bring you six budget-friendly ski towns to visit this winter.
In this laid-back ski town, you'll find plenty of powder to shred at nearby Mount Bachelor, a soaring stratovolcano that rises 9,000 feet and features nearly 3,700 skiable acres and a wide range of runs well-suited for novices and intermediate skiers alike. Apart from Mount Bachelor's 71 versatile runs, which contain everything from easy trails for beginners to challenging double black diamonds for experienced skiers, there are also snowboard parks, dog sled tours and a tubing park. And while the area is steadily gaining momentum as a premier ski retreat with a rapidly expanding population of more than 80,000 residents, it still boasts an abundance of cost-effective accommodation options. Take the Rainbow Motel, which currently lists nightly rates in January at $75 for a room that can accommodate up to four guests (excluding tax). Plus, Bend offers trendy restaurants and excellent microbreweries, says Jeanenne Tornatore, senior editor at Orbitz.com. What's more, Bend is easily accessible and well-situated for travelers based in the Pacific Northwest, making traveling by car a cinch. From Portland, Bend is a 175-mile drive southeast; from Seattle, Bend is a 343-mile drive southeast.
Bridger Bowl, Bozeman, Montana
Situated about 15 miles outside of Bozeman, Montana, this lesser-known ski area offers easy, moderate and challenging slopes and chutes. While experienced skiers glide down the powder from the highest lift elevation (at a staggering 8,700 feet), cross-country skiers can check out the adjacent nordic ski trail system or snowboard along the more strenuous ridge terrain of Bridger Bowl. And if you're traveling with kids in tow, tickets only cost $19 per day for visitors ages 7 to 12 and $54 for adults 13 and up. Best of all, there are plenty of discounts and promotions available to powder enthusiasts.
Aaron Baker, the public relations manager for Travelocity.com, highlights the destination as a top spot for those on a tight budget thanks to the abundant affordable lodging options nearby. Travelocity currently lists plenty of three-star hotels in the area for less than $100 per night in December. And when it comes to organizing your trip, "look for alternate days," Baker advises, also noting that planning a midweek getaway, from Tuesday to Friday, for example, is a simple way to maximize savings on your flights. He suggests seeing whether you can buy lift skis, rentals and other supplies before you go to mitigate extra add-on expenses, which can tally up quickly.
Taos, New Mexico
Tornatore highlights Taos, New Mexico, as a compelling choice "for folks who may have tried those other ones and are looking for something that is a little different." She notes that Taos has a unique bohemian feel that sets it apart from bigger resorts in the Southwest. Perched at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Taos Ski Valley boasts 110 pristine trails and skiable areas well-suited for beginners and experienced powder hounds in search of steep runs. And in addition to supreme skiing and boarding opportunities, Taos also offers flourishing dining, art and nightlife scenes. Breaks from hitting the slopes can include popping into eclectic galleries or savoring an après-ski cocktail at a traditional adobe inn. Plus, you'll find plenty of affordable lodging options here that don't sacrifice on quality. Orbitz currently lists nightly room rates at three-star hotels in the area for under $100 in December.
Wolf Creek Ski Area, Colorado
While Colorado is popular among ski enthusiasts across the country, according to Tornatore, the southern part of the state is where you can avoid the crowds. She points to Wolf Creek as an area where you can expect more local and regional traffic and fewer tourists than the congested Summit County area, which sits west of the Continental Divide in the Colorado Rockies and boasts popular ski retreats like Keystone, Breckenridge and Copper Mountain. And though you shouldn't expect the bells and whistles of the swankier ski towns in other parts of the state, here you can count on unspoiled terrain, less expensive rentals and more availability than more popular resorts. On-site, you can take advantage of morning and afternoon lessons and enjoy cross-country skiing, snowboarding and other pursuits.
Alex Pasquariello, a contributor for Jetsetter.com and author of their 2015-16 ski guide, points out that Wolf Creek is one of the snowiest places in North America and holds the title of "the most snow in Colorado" with 430 inches annually. And in nearby Pagosa Springs, you can find plenty of cost-effective lodging options, including hotels, motels, cabins and bed and breakfasts.
This hidden gem sits just 40 miles north of Salt Lake International Airport, making it easily accessible for powder hounds across the country, Pasquariello explains. Here, skiers can take their pick between Snowbasin and Powder Mountain, without heavy crowds at their side. Plus, savvy powder-seekers can take advantage of special 2015-16 promotions, including a pass that grants visitors access to Snowbasin Resort, Powder Mountain Resort and Nordic Valley resorts. And if you would rather stay in town, about 20 minutes removed from the ski resorts, you'll find everything from bed and breakfasts to historic inns to high-end hotels. Rates at the Best Western Plus High Country Inn are as low as $95.99 per night in December.
Telluride, with its unspoiled trails, consistent sunshine and diverse winter sports, is an ideal ski spot for thrill-seekers. It's also a great choice for budget-minded visitors, thanks to its inexpensive ski-in, ski-out accommodations. Telluride's slopes are just 70 miles south of Montrose Regional Airport, which offers flights from popular destinations such as San Francisco, Chicago, Houston and Atlanta. You can also snag special discounts and promotions on Telluride's tourism board website. For example, the Fairmont Heritage Place, Franz Klammer Lodge is currently offering a package for two- and three-room residences, free transportation and complimentary lift tickets at $475 nightly for two adults for stays of four nights or longer. Another easy way to save, no matter where you choose to take your ski getaway, is to look at packages that include ski rentals and lift passes as well as rental cars, Baker says. "It's a little bit easier to control the expenses if you book in advance."
When you're not hitting the slopes in Telluride, you can enjoy scenic sleigh rides, snowshoeing, ice skating, art lessons and other wintery pastimes. And if your sights are set on soaking up Telluride's powder, you'll have 2,000 skiable acres at your service.
If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.