European Ski Trips Can Be Cheaper Than Skiing in the U.S.

A huge contributing factor comes down to lift tickets, which are far cheaper in Europe than in the U.S.
Sally French
By Sally French 
Edited by Meghan Coyle

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Forget Aspen and consider the Alps. Depending on how close you live to the mountains, it may actually be cheaper to ski in Europe, including flight costs, than to ski in the U.S.

Skier Sam Weintraub can attest to the price difference — after all, he’s skied at about 135 resorts worldwide. This past January, Weintraub hit the slopes at six European ski resorts across 20 days. He spent $3,800 in total, including $800 on a round-trip flight to Geneva, Switzerland, from Newark Liberty International Airport.

Weintraub, who founded ski resort review website PeakRankings, paid about $670 out of pocket for eight days of lift tickets. As for the other 12 days, he flashed his Ikon and Epic ski passes, which are season passes to select ski resorts worldwide. (Those pass prices weren’t included in the $3,800 total price estimate since he had already been using them in the U.S. earlier this ski season).

But he said even travelers who pay for lift tickets individually could see significant savings. The average daily U.S. ski lift ticket costs $198 this ski season, according to vacation rental booking site HomeToGo, which analyzed 48 major U.S. ski areas. Meanwhile, Weintraub paid on average just $83.75 per day for lift access at resorts not covered by his passes.

With a combination of getting a good deal on flights and lift tickets, a European ski trip could be less expensive than you think. Here’s how:

Deals abound on European lift tickets

The Sphinx Observatory is one of the highest observatories in the world. It's located at the Jungfrau railway station in Switzerland. (Photo by Getty Images)

The lower cost of skiing in Europe is largely due to cheaper lift tickets. A single lift ticket in the U.S. can sometimes cost more than $300 per day. At Deer Valley, which is one of Utah’s priciest resorts, you’ll owe $315 for a one-day adult lift ticket on most weekends after taxes and fees. Tickets for children can cost more than $195.

Contrast that with deals found in Europe, such as Switzerland’s Jungfrau region. Located at the foot of the Alps, it’s traditionally thought of as an expensive bucket list destination. A one-day ski pass costs 75 Swiss francs (about $85 at the time of writing).

But the deal gets even sweeter for families. On Saturdays, each adult who buys a one-day ticket can bring up to three children for free. That’s just over $20 per lift ticket for an adult with three kids who takes full advantage of the deal.

Some people chalk up the lower cost of European lift tickets to increased competition. In the U.S., there are more than 500 ski resorts. In Europe, which is similar in land area, there are almost 4,000 ski resorts, according to ski data provider Skiresort Service International.

Ski passes for international ski resorts

Weintraub’s Ikon and Epic Passes accounted for a big chunk of his low trip costs. These season passes grant access to various resorts worldwide, including three of the six resorts visited on his trip. Depending on how much you ski in the U.S. and abroad, such passes might help you save as well.

If you’re skiing for about a week or more in Europe specifically, multi-resort passes might also be cheaper than one-day lift tickets. For example, Italy's Dolomiti Superski offers a 500 euro pass (about $540) that lets adults ski eight days across any of its 12 interconnected resorts. That’s less than $70 per day.

Flights to Europe can be affordable

Airfare may be a huge chunk of the budget of skiing in Europe, but it’s getting cheaper. According to the American Express Global Business Travel (AmEx GBT) Air Monitor 2024 report, average economy airfares from North America to Europe are expected to drop by 3.5% this year.

Falling airfares correlate with an increase in routes. For example, Air France’s North America capacity increased by 20% in winter 2023 versus 2019, and includes a new seasonal route to Innsbruck, Austria. The city is famous for snow sports and has played host to two Winter Olympics.

Book flights early

Weintraub booked his flight less than a month before departure. That’s outside the two-to-eight-month window that travel experts recommend for booking international flights. According to Google Flights, flights between Newark and Geneva usually cost between $485 and $770 — lower than the $800 Weintraub paid.

“I would have saved hundreds more if I had been more proactive,” he said in an email.

Other ways to save on European ski trips

Just like the U.S., Europe has ultra-expensive mountain regions. To save money, skip iconic resorts like France’s Courchevel in favor of lesser-known gems like La Clusaz.

Eastern Europe can be especially affordable. At Bulgaria’s Bansko Ski Resort, one-day adult tickets cost about $53. Not only will you typically find lower prices, but also perhaps shorter lift lines.

No matter where you choose to ski across the pond, take into account the costs of lift tickets and airfare, but also other transportation, food, lodging, lessons and rentals to see if a European ski trip might help you save on the slopes.

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