Prices of lift passes in the US and the Alps compared

By Arjen on 23 February 2016 · 21

Riding deep powder is priceless, but it still costs you a whopping $ 175 a day in Vail
Riding deep powder is priceless, but it still costs you a whopping $ 175 a day in Vail

The prices of lift passes in a lot of resorts in North America are high. Like really high. Especially compared to the Alps. And the prices are rising every year. A day pass in Vail is more expensive than a lift pass for a week in some resorts in the Alps. Touring is gaining popularity in North America and we wonder what the reason might be... Since most people in North America have less holidays compared to Europeans, they don't go skiing for a week, but mostly for a couple of days. But then again: where does it stop? When will skiing (and snowboarding of course) become a sport for the absolute elite? Check out the prices of the most expensive resorts in the USA in the season 15/16:

Most expensive lift passes in the USA

  1. Vail/Beaver Creek (CO): $175 (€ 157,24)
  2. Breckenridge (CO): $164 (€ 147,38)
  3. Steamboat (CO): $159 (€ 142,89)
  4. Aspen (CO): $149 (€ 133,90)
  5. Winter Park/Copper Mountain (CO): $144 (€ 129,41)
  6. Northstar at Tahoe (CA): $140 (€ 125,81)
  7. Squaw/Alpine (CA): $139 (€ 124,92)
  8. Keystone/Heavenly (CO/CA): $135 (€ 121,32)
  9. Jackson Hole (WY): $130 (€ 116,83)
  10. Deer Valley (UT): $126 (€ 113,23)

The prices in the list above are the prices of DAY passes. Yes, you read that right. A whopping $ 175 for a day pass in Vail. And in case you were wondering what the lift pass price in Whistler/Blackcomb (BC, Canada), the biggest resort in North America is, that's 'only' 129 CAD (109 CAD if you buy it online) and that's with the current exchange rate of the Canadian dollar around 85 euro (72 euro if you buy it online). That's a lot cheaper than a day of skiing in one of the resorts that actually made the list, but still more expensive than the most expensive resort in the Alps.

Some not so expensive lift passes in North America

  1. Eaglecrest (AK): $ 46 US (€ 41,80)
  2. Mount Washington (BC): $ 85 CAD (€ 56,04)
  3. Hudson Bay Mountain (BC): $ 58 CAD (€ 38,24)
  4. Shames Mountain (BC): $ 47.62 CAD (€ 31,39)
  5. Loveland (CO): $ 65 US (€ 59,07)

It's definitely possible not to spent too much money on lift passes in North America, but it's still more expensive than the cheapest resorts in the Alps.

Most expensive lift passes in the Alps

  1. Zermatt (CH): € 84,00
  2. Verbier (Les Quatre Vallées): € 68,59
  3. St. Moritz/Engadin (CH): € 67,90
  4. Engelberg Titlis (CH): € 62,00
  5. Chamonix (FR): € 60,00
  6. Gstaad (CH): €56,13
  7. Les 3 Vallées (FR): € 59,00
  8. Val d'IsèreTignes (FR): € 54,00
  9. Andermatt (CH): € 53,44
  10. St. Anton/ Ischgl / Sölden (and other resorts in Tyrol): € 51,00

That's a bit of a difference right? A day of skiing in the Alps is definitely more affordable than a day of skiing in the US. Resorts in Switzerland top the charts and that probably isn't a surprise for anyone. The strong Swiss Franc and the fact that Switzerland has always been more expensive than neighbouring countries like France, Italy and Austria push the price of lift passes to the top of the list. The resorts are big, offer a lot of lifts and slopes, but they also come with crowds. So, what other options do you have when you want to ride lift-assisted powder for a day?

Some not so expensive resorts in the Alps

  1. Pelvoux (FR): € 16,55
  2. Prali (IT): € 25,00
  3. Champex (CH): € 25,60
  4. Bonneval sur Arc (FR): € 27,00
  5. Rofan (AT): € 29,00

Six days of skiing in Pelvoux costs € 71,00. That means skiing with two people for six days in Pelvoux is cheaper than skiing for one day (with just me, myself and I) in Vail. Of course there are some differences between the two ski areas (the only thing they have in common is that you slide down a mountain). Pelvoux isn't that big as Vail, with less restaurants, less slopes, less amenities etcetc, but also less lift lines, less crowds and less tracked terrain.

So where will you spent your next day of skiing? In a big resort? Or in a small resort where the snow is just as white and probably just as deep, but also not tracked out that fast?

Vail Skiticket 2011
Vail Skiticket 2011

Thanks to Ilona for the original article!


  • Phlo
    Phlo op 24 February 2016 · 08:39
    ridiculous.....from $108 to $175 in 5 years
  • Chester_Tartsnatcher
    Chester_Tartsnatcher op 25 February 2016 · 06:08
    Silverton, Colorado was left out @ $129-$149 . It is, admittedly, very different from Vail.
  • olegace
    olegace op 26 February 2016 · 15:35
    Having skied in 7 out of 10 resorts on the USA list, I think it's worth mentioning that you get something else for that price - a very large, avalanche controlled, and patrolled powder area to ski in. Pistes are indeed the same everywhere, but you can ride the enormous back bowls of Vail without worrying about the avalanche danger that day or the state of batteries in your beacon. There's nothing like in the Alps, where you're on your own as soon as you're off the marked piste.
  • Caliga
    Caliga op 2 March 2016 · 09:27
    Having skied in 7 out of 10 resorts on the USA list, I think it's worth mentioning that you get something else for that price - a very large, avalanche controlled, and patrolled powder area to ski in. Pistes are indeed the same everywhere, but you can ride the enormous back bowls of Vail without worrying about the avalanche danger that day or the state of batteries in your beacon. There's nothing like in the Alps, where you're on your own as soon as you're off the marked piste. olegace op 26 Feb 2016 15:35

    Double bullshit! Avalanches, even deadly ones, can happen at Vail just like at any ski resort that has off piste options worth skiing, see . You can never stop thinking about avalanches when you leavethe pistes, what a stupid remark!
    Second, most resorts on the list have a lift served backcountry area (with avalanche control! But still take your beaker ....) that makes Vail's look like a small, local resort. Just check out google maps of St. Anton, Zermatt, 3 vallées or Verbier.
  • olegace
    olegace op 2 March 2016 · 22:16
    You have no idea what you're talking about, please don't confuse the readers of this website. The article you linked to talks about East Vail Chutes, which is not part of the Vail ski resort, just happens to have a related name.

    Take a look at, which is a map of Vail's back bowls. Everything inside the yellow line (not just the marked pistes, everything) is part of the Vail ski resort, and is avalanche controlled by Vail staff. It's an enormous area, bigger than the entirety of most Swiss resorts, and it's only about 1/3rd of Vail. There's nothing like it at any of the resorts you listed.

    I'm aware of itinerary runs at Verbier, but it's far from the same thing - it's a specific run, rather than an open area where you can go anywhere.
  • Caliga
    Caliga op 2 March 2016 · 22:39
    Seriously use Google maps to check the difference in size, Zermatt/Cervina for instance has a vertical drop of 2200m, a north south expansion of 20km. It could swallow Whistler and Vail together ... Multiple times!
    The philosophy here is different, there's no "out of bounds" or gates to pass through, and usually no dedicated freeride area at all, because you can go where you want to, just at your own responsibility. There will also be avalanche control, but it doesn't make it impossible to trigger one though.
  • Caliga
    Caliga op 2 March 2016 · 22:49
    But yeah, those back bowls do look great ...
  • olegace
    olegace op 2 March 2016 · 23:05
    Right, I completely agree that the philosophy here is different. Also agreed about vertical drop, the Alps definitely provide much bigger vertical. The horizontal expanse I think is less relevant - in those 20 km not that much is actually skiable, Zermatt is quite spread out with lots of unskiable terrain the middle (think of connecting from Klein Matterhorn area to Rothorn - you pretty much have to go down to the town and take the bus, impractical in most cases).

    I'm personally rather unclear on the extent of avalanche control outside of marked pistes. You say there will be avalanche control, but how do you know where (once you're off piste)? (and yes I do ski with beacon/probe/shovel/airbag, but knowledge is the most important safety tool of all).
  • mattcox
    mattcox op 2 November 2016 · 09:08
    Skiing the back bowls of Vail and off piste (even within a resort) in Europe are two totally different things. The risks at Vail are mitigated by avalanche control and selective opening to a level that I suspect is slightly higher than that of the (in bounds) off piste in Europe but those risks are always there. Skiing off piste without a beacon and and giving full consideration to a situation is pretty stupid.

    Become educated, always carry the kit and know how to use it. Give the mountain the consideration it deserves, pick your routes depending on the conditions and enjoy the "at your own risk" attitude that we have in Europe.

    That said, the article is about the cost of a day ticket. I seasoned in Summit Country over ten years years ago and rode Vail fairly regularly but at $175 for a day I think that I for one would pass regardless of however appealing the back bowels are.
  • Chester_Tartsnatcher
    Chester_Tartsnatcher op 2 November 2016 · 13:32
    rode Vail fairly regularly but at $175 for a day I think that I for one would pass regardless of however appealing the back bowels are. mattcox op 2 Nov 2016 09:08

    Hmmm. Freudian slip?
  • Chester_Tartsnatcher
    Chester_Tartsnatcher op 2 November 2016 · 16:26
    Generally, the cost of lift tickets in North America is much higher than Europe for a variety of reasons. One is the base cost of installing lifts and infrastructure which often is Europe is significantly funded by the government. For example, in France (from
    Union Nationale des Centres de Mon­tagne, which maintains 17 ski centers in the French Alps. About 20,000 skiers take advan­tage of Union Nationale vaca­tions every winter, a figure that leads the organization to claim that it operates the largest ski school in France.

    The Union Nationale was cre­ated with the idea of helping young people—men and women from 16 to 30—enjoy Alpine sports, from skiing to mountain climbing. It is subsidized by the Secretary of State for Youth and Sports.
    This is not done in North America where virtually all ski areas are soley supported by private means, even if they pay leases to government agencies like the National Forest Service.

    Another major factor is the different notions of liability and lawsuits between Europe and the United States. It is much easier in the US to file a lawsuit against a ski area than it is in Europe and the retribution for losing such a lawsuit is negligible. This leads to much higher insurance costs that must be paid by the ski areas. I can't find any current references, but I recall reading that insurance costs can mount up to over 30% of overall operational costs for ski areas in N.A.
  • Chester_Tartsnatcher
    Chester_Tartsnatcher op 2 November 2016 · 16:26
    I've skied around North America a bit and in the 80s and 90s it was much more common to have closed boundaries. That has changed somewhat, but I do think that it's fair to say, given my experiences of skiing around Europe, that in North America, it's much more common to have avalanche controlled but unpacked (unpisted) areas open for skiing where the area has liability. For example, Vails Back Bowls, Whistler's Harmony Ridge, Kirkwoods sidecountry, Catherines area at Alta and so on. This does not seem to occur as often in Europe where one can leave the pistes, but one is considered to be much more responsible for ones self than in North America.
  • Muehlbach
    Muehlbach op 3 November 2016 · 11:40
    On another note, why would you pay that much and STILL not get a decent lift pass? I skied a few resorts in the US and Canada and all use these Aldi type paper tickets... Anyone know why? We've had keycards and keywatches in Europe since the early nineties if I remember well. Only replies from mildly serious people please 😉 IT'S SNOWING GUYS!!!
    "Skiing is a dance, and the mountain always leads." - - - "There is no skiing without apres-ski. Fairly futile exercise if not followed by getting hammered in a bar."
  • Chester_Tartsnatcher
    Chester_Tartsnatcher op 3 November 2016 · 22:22
    Crystal Mountain, Washington just got rid of their RFID system because it was failing so often and the repair involved a significant investment when the problem was in the providers equipment. If CM could have relied on subsidies, it may have been different.

    I don't mean to disrespect subsidies, but this is part of the different mindsets in the U.S. versus Yurp.

    Also, Silverton Mountain Colorado just recently changed from using plastic slip-ties to paper tickets where a single day is $159.
  • paulwatson
    paulwatson op 8 February 2020 · 12:42
    It looks like in the USA most of the extra you pay is going to Lawyers and the associated insurance machinery, not on the quality of the skiing. Europe has a more sensible attitude, responsibility for your own actions. In any case glad I read this, we were planning to add skiing to a USA Christmas trip, but now a separate ski trip to Italy is a better option.
  • meteomorris
    meteomorris op 9 February 2020 · 11:18
    @paulwatson, prices are even way higher today. In my opinion there is nothing that can beat the Alps, although everybody is full of North America and Japan nowadays.
    *message edited by meteomorris op 9 Feb 2020 12:06 (1% bewerkt)
    May the powder be with you.
  • elecas
    elecas op 10 February 2020 · 13:54
    I pay 209 dollars (price of today in Vail) and I have to wait in this queue, and I don´t ski again in resort in my life... The snowcard tirol that includes 3000km is 830 euros a year!! If you live in Tirol even less!!
  • Slim
    Slim op 25 March 2020 · 21:40
    Just to provide some more info, liability is not a big part of that. Certainly in Colorado, there are very strong laws protecting ski resorts from liability. In fact, in my view, a fair bit too strong in some cases.

    How that relates to insure costs is not clear, since insurance rates don’t just reflect the actual cost of the risk.

    And then, the other thing to consider here is ticket types and purchase styles. Day passes are the most comparable way, but not really the way most skiers put he’s their tickets.
    Of course it becomes hard to compare week long passes, season passes, 4 packs, multi resort passes, passes included or discounted with lodging etc, etc.

    The one thing that is true regardless is that North American resorts are more expensive.
  • lukaŠkvarč
    lukaŠkvarč op 3 September 2020 · 10:37
    Just to put things in perspective, last year I've paid 550€ for family seasonal pass (2 adults and 2 kids) for Promotour (valid for 6 resorts in Italy and Slovenia - Kanin/Sella Nevea, Tarvisio, Zoncolan, Piancavallo, Forni di Sopra, Sappada). One day in Veil would cost roughly the same 😃
  • llugsouthmoravia
    llugsouthmoravia op 3 September 2020 · 15:21
    But all resort have 30km skipiste max(togheter 100km) and 2200 m.a.s. But it is still a good buy
  • Pjr
    Pjr op 4 September 2020 · 22:38
    Glad to see Prali on the list. A small resort, but a lovely mountain and genuine vibe.


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