There is something magical about a mountain covered in a thick blanket of snow. The crisp air, the quiet atmosphere, the breathtaking scenery — they all add up to create an unforgettable experience. Mountains even look good naked; spring and summer are great times to visit areas that are famous for their winter sports. Whether you like to sit inside with a cup of hot chocolate and take in the view, shred up the slopes, or enjoy warmer mountain air, a visit to one of the country’s best ski spots is always worth it.
I’m not a big skier myself, but I adore the idea of taking in all that the nation’s towering peaks have to offer. Hence, I put together a list of some of the country’s best ski spots along with ideas on how to enjoy them on the cheap.
|Image via Flickr by lauraelizabeth|
For more than 50 years, Vail has welcomed snow junkies to its slopes. Vail’s skiing area is a sprawling place complete with runs that cater to beginners, experts, and everyone in between. There are more than 5,000 acres of skiable terrain, shopping and dining areas, and a gorgeous covered bridge that is perfect for photo opportunities.
Accommodations that offer step-out-the-door access to skiing can come with a hefty price tag — sometimes hundreds of dollars a night. Fear not, however. You can manage an affordable escape to this mountain paradise by searching for bargains on hotels in Vail that come without a boatload of fancy resort extras. Make sure to book well in advance so you have plenty of options open. If nothing in the Vail Ski kingdom fits your budget, try looking for a place to stay in a nearby town like Edwards or Breckenridge.
Sure, skiing isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind when you think of New Mexico. It is the desert, after all. However, New Mexico does have some awesome places to ski. Albuquerque has a high elevation; you can go skiing in the city at Ski New Mexico. Within a few hours you can reach other desirable ski spots, such as Ski Santa Fe, Angel Fire Resort, and Sipapu Ski Resort
Arguably New Mexico’s best place to go skiing is Taos Ski Valley, which is about an hour and a half away from Santa Fe. The valley is smaller than what Vail offers, but the powder is unbeatable, the ski school is one of the best, and the cost is reasonable. Stay in an affordable Albuquerque hotel to save big on the cost of your accommodations. Of course, Santa Fe is closer to Taos than Albuquerque, so you may want to stay in that city at a cheap place like The Lodge at Santa Fe.
Big Sky, Montana
Yes, the sky is big in Montana, but so are the skiing and snowboarding possibilities. Big Sky Resort boasts one of the largest skiing areas in North America; it has 5,750 acres of skiable terrain, much of which is perfect for advanced and expert skiers. There are even daily shuttles from Big Sky to Yellowstone’s west entrance.
You’ll be able to find some surprisingly affordable places to stay around Big Sky. The Yellowstone Lodge and Buck’s T-4 Lodge are both easy on the wallet. If you really want to find a steal on a place to stay, look at Bozeman, which is about 50 miles away from Big Sky. There, you may be able to book a room for as little as $50 or so a night
The Pacific Northwest
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For deals on lodging, look for places to stay in Whistler village. Try Bellingham if you want to visit Mt. Baker. If you are flying into Seattle before you visit one or both of these places, consider staying in Seatac or Bellevue for a night before you make the drive north. Seatac is the area around the airport. However, if you want a little more classiness in your stay, rest in a Bellevue hotel. I like Bellevue for its cool vibe, pristine neighborhoods, and overall ambiance.
Waterville Valley, New Hampshire
I admit that I’m partial to the western United States, but no list of ski deals is complete without a nod or two to the east. Waterville Valley in New Hampshire is a few hours north of Boston. This snowbird’s paradise boasts modern facilities and some intermediate runs with a few for beginners sprinkled in. The area is pretty tiny; there are only just over 200 acres of skiable terrain.
Hotel rates in the area start out at less than $100 a night, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a place to rest your head. The Black Bear Lodge is a touch more expensive, but it features attractive mountain decor and is great for families.
Lake Placid, New York
|Image via Flickr by Carly & Art|
There are a few affordable places to stay in Wilmington; you could get a hotel for around $100 a night. However, you should also look for lodging in other towns. For example, Burlington is about a two-hour drive away, but it may be the way to go if you want to save money and don’t mind taking a daily road trip. Plus, Burlington is close to Stowe, another east coast ski spot.
Taking your family to the slopes is usually a pricey proposition. You have to think about renting equipment, buying your meals, purchasing lift tickets, and securing lodging. By booking a place well in advance and being willing to stay outside of the prime snow zone, you can come out the winner.
See my disclaimer.