6 Secret Ski Destinations You Can Afford

Embrace fresh powder, few crowds and low prices in these underrated mountain towns.

By Liz Weiss, Staff WriterNov. 23, 2015
By Liz Weiss, Staff WriterNov. 23, 2015, at 1:26 p.m.
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Skier going down a slope
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Plan an affordable snowy escape this winter.

Nowadays, discerning powder hounds who have already visited popular ski spots, like Vail, Colorado, and Lake Tahoe, California, for pristine peaks, alpine scenery and vibrant aprés-ski scenes, have new terrain to explore. Savvy skiers seeking an off-the-beaten-path getaway are escaping to emerging mountain towns that are low on opulence but high on authenticity and local charms. Best of all, these unexpected ski spots are less crowded and more affordable than the larger, well-known destinations that often overshadow them. Here are six underappreciated ski towns to hit this winter – before they're on every ski-lover's map.
Skier on Mount Bachelor, Oregon, USA
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(Getty Images)

Bend, Oregon

Long favored by ski enthusiasts in the Pacific Northwest, thanks to its convenient location just 175 miles southeast of Portland, Oregon, and 343 miles southeast of Seattle, Bend, Oregon, is authentic, says Jeanenne Tornatore, a senior editor at Orbitz.com. "The mountain itself is very local," she says, pointing out that the destination offers great restaurants and microbreweries. Here, you can also find plenty of budget-friendly accommodation choices. And with 3,700 acres to tackle at Mount Bachelor, ski bums aren't left wanting for more trails. Another bonus for cost-conscious visitors: Skiers ages 12 and under are granted free lift tickets when accompanied by parents who have purchased multi-day lift passes.
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Plan an affordable snowy escape this winter.

Nowadays, discerning powder hounds who have already visited popular ski spots, like Vail, Colorado, and Lake Tahoe, California, for pristine peaks, alpine scenery and vibrant aprés-ski scenes, have new terrain to explore. Savvy skiers seeking an off-the-beaten-path getaway are escaping to emerging mountain towns that are low on opulence but high on authenticity and local charms. Best of all, these unexpected ski spots are less crowded and more affordable than the larger, well-known destinations that often overshadow them. Here are six underappreciated ski towns to hit this winter – before they're on every ski-lover's map.

Bend, Oregon

Long favored by ski enthusiasts in the Pacific Northwest, thanks to its convenient location just 175 miles southeast of Portland, Oregon, and 343 miles southeast of Seattle, Bend, Oregon, is authentic, says Jeanenne Tornatore, a senior editor at Orbitz.com. "The mountain itself is very local," she says, pointing out that the destination offers great restaurants and microbreweries. Here, you can also find plenty of budget-friendly accommodation choices. And with 3,700 acres to tackle at Mount Bachelor, ski bums aren't left wanting for more trails. Another bonus for cost-conscious visitors: Skiers ages 12 and under are granted free lift tickets when accompanied by parents who have purchased multi-day lift passes.

Bridger Bowl, Bozeman, Montana

For a rustic and inexpensive ski getaway in the Northern Rockies, look no further than Bridger Bowl, only a 20-minute drive from Bozeman, Montana. While many skiers flock to Big Sky Resort, the sprawling Montana ski area with 5,800 acres of skiable terrain, crowd-averse shredders can find a wealth of cost-effective lodging choices in the Bridger Bowl area. Aaron Baker, the manager of public relations at Travelocity.com, points to Bridger Bowl as an ideal choice for a budget-friendly ski getaway, thanks to its bounty of affordable accommodations. Though you shouldn't expect to find the glitz of larger ski resorts, if your priority is fresh powder, it can be a worthwhile trade-off, he says. Currently, Travelocity lists properties in the area for less than $100 a night.

Taos, New Mexico

With its bohemian culture, thriving art scene and picturesque alpine scenery at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Taos, New Mexico, is a beautiful place to shred powder. Die-hard skiers can tackle steep chutes, glades and double black diamonds, while beginners learn from seasoned instructors in Taos Ski Valley. It's an especially alluring pick for skiers seeking a tucked-away gem, free from the crowds flocking to bigger resorts, Tornatore says. After gliding down scenic runs, you can stroll through hip galleries or unwind in budget-friendly digs. Currently, Orbitz lists nightly rates for properties in the area for under $100. For additional savings, the official Taos Ski Valley site offers a wide range of promotions, such as free stays for kids and 20 percent discounts for select ski packages.

Wolf Creek Ski Area, Colorado

As one of the snowiest places in North America, Wolf Creek is a hidden gem that may not come to mind as a must-visit ski destination, but it's a great lesser-known spot. Alex Pasquariello, a contributor for Jetsetter.com and author of their 2015-16 ski guide, highlights the area as an ideal place for budget-minded skiers. Here, you can embrace fresh powder along 10,000 meters of cross-skiing terrain, master your technique with a private instructor or hit challenging trails. Plus, it's an economical choice, thanks to its affordable accommodation options in nearby Pagosa Springs, Colorado, Tornatore says. In Pagosa Springs, you can find hotels and bed and breakfasts, with average nightly rates as low as $60.

Ogden, Utah

With few crowds, 450 inches of annual snowfall and close proximity to Salt Lake International Airport, Ogden, Utah, is a convenient, though often overlooked, snowy retreat for powder-seekers, Pasquariello says. The area offers access to Snowbasin and Powder Mountain, giving skiers and boarders plenty of tracks to choose from. Along Snowbasin's 2,800 acres, you'll find a tubing hill and three parks. Meanwhile, Powder Mountain sprawls across 7,000 acres and offers unique activities like snowkiting. Best of all, there are numerous affordable places to stay in town, such as the Hilton Garden Inn Ogden, which currently lists rooms for as low as $109 per night in December.

Telluride, Colorado

In-the-know skiers make the pilgrimage to Telluride to embrace striking alpine scenery, versatile terrain and a low-key atmosphere. With 2,000 skiable acres and abundant off-the-slope wintery recreational activities, like ice skating and sleigh rides, there's plenty to take advantage of whether you're an aspiring snow shredder or an expert. And thanks to it's prime location, only 70 miles south of Montrose Regional Airport, a hub for flights out of Atlanta, San Francisco and Chicago, among other destinations, Telluride is easily accessible to powder-seekers across the country. You'll also find inexpensive restaurants and cost-effective ski-in, ski-out accommodations in the area. For extra savings, check out Telluride's official tourism board website, which often lists resort promotions.
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Liz Weiss, Staff Writer

Liz Weiss is a senior editor at U.S. News & World Report. With more than six years of ...  Read more

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