The joy of sliding on snow just keeps getting spendier. In the day and age of gargantuan package passes and lift tickets well over $100, it can feel like resort riding is only for the haves, and the dirtbag-era is but a fond memory. Not to mention families and even young folks being priced out. But even as inflation and corporate conglomerations make it tough on the everyman to ride lift-accessed terrain, there are still some quiet, inexpensive powder stashes out there.
“(Inexpensive resorts) get people into skiing,” says Sander Hadley, pro skier and resort shredding champion (also of Ruin and Rose and Drop Everything fame). “If you’re lucky enough to have one of these gems near you, it enables you to ski every day (for cheap).” Hadley grew up skiing Pebble Creek, outside Pocatello, Idaho, where snowfall of 100 inches “was a good year.” While he now calls the world-class resorts of Utah’s Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons home, he still loves going back to “The Rock.”
“Places like that remind you of the magic of skiing,” he says. Amen. Following are some of our favorite mountains that keep old-school cool. And steep skiing and riding cheap.
Bogus Basin, Idaho
2019 Lift Ticket: $62
Average Snowfall: 200-250 Inches
There’s cheap and really good skiing in Idaho only 15 miles from Boise. Bogus is awash in history. Alf Engen, considered the father of powder skiing and founder of the famous Alf Engen Ski School in Alta, picked the site himself in 1939 and it’s stayed true to its roots over time, with affordable season passes for locals ($299) and a hip mountain vibe (terrain park chief Corey McDonald runs both the Bogus’ park and the High Cascade Snowboard Camp near Mt. Hood in the spring). The snow isn’t the most consistent but with light crowds and diverse terrain, Bogus is anything but boring.
Bridger Bowl, Montana
2019 Lift Ticket: $63
Average Snowfall: 350 Inches
Powder is taken seriously in Bozeman: a blue light flashes on top of the Baxter Hotel for 24 hours every time there is more than two inches of snow at Bridger, letting the town know it’s time to ride cold smoke. With 2,600 feet of vertical and a myriad of hike-to terrain, namely, the ultra-iconic “Ridge,” which requires a beacon and shovel to access, Bridger is an inexpensive option for those that want to explore with a penchant for going big. The lifts are slow, but the powder’s fine.
The Summit at Snoqualmie, Washington
2019 Lift Ticket: $75
Average Snowfall: 435 Inches
The closest ski area to downtown Seattle, consisting of four distinct base areas and reasonable prices, there’s something for everyone at The Summit at Snoqualmie. First promoted with a film named Alpental by the man (RIP Warren Miller), the area has become a go-to for busy Emerald City locals. Shredders will want to head to Alpental for the best terrain, Summit West is great for beginners and the terrain park and half-pipe are always bustling. It’s a busy place for good reason, especially when the temperatures stay low and Cascade Cement becomes sweet Pac Northwest pow.
Ski Santa Fe, New Mexico
2019 Lift Ticket: $80
Average Snowfall: 225 Inches
Skiing above Santa Fe is a unique experience, the high desert sprawling out below you, dry and arid while you shred snow. Now, the snow quality might not be the most awesomest ever, but when the powder does fly in Santa Fe, it’s a beautiful thing, light, dry and un-crowded. The mountain is only 15 miles from downtown but holds a diverse array of terrain that, on powder days, stays untracked longer since most die-hards make the 1.5-hour drive north to Taos.
Monarch Mountain, Colorado
2019 Lift Ticket: $89
Average Snowfall: 400 Inches
Monarch Mountain is the perfect antidote to the monster resorts of Colorado: quiet, affordable and fun. Off the beaten path near Salida, Monarch boasts top-notch tree skiing, broad alpine bowls and short lift lines. And the snow quality certainly doesn’t suffer from the base elevation of 10,790 feet or the top at 11,960. While the area is served by 5 chairs isn’t huge (800 acres) and the terrain isn’t the most radical, Monarch more than makes up for it with charm.
Mad River Glen, Vermont
2019 Lift Ticket: $89
Average Snowfall: 250 Inches
Mad River Glen is as historic and important to the history of snowsports as any area in the great U.S. of A. Locals are notoriously faithful to this East Coast gem, and can count on some of the most challenging terrain on the Right Coast. With 2,000 feet of vertical and only four chairs, MRG keeps it super old school, including their cooperative management using town hall meetings and a continued ban on snowboarding (wait, what?). The ethic to create narrow snow trails instead of wide boulevards also makes for a singular experience as does the superb, wooded trails that are distinct to the Northeast and its pow-hoarding locals.
Editor’s Note: We obviously missed some. Send us a note or yell at us, below.