Get to know any of us at Corona and you’ll learn that we all seem to have our own little “research” projects going on at any given time – from Beth’s research on allergens, to fantasy football spreadsheet models, and everything in between.
My own “research” has often entailed ski season statistics. In years past, ski buddies and I have had spreadsheets to track carpooling (it tracked all riders and created a net gas money calculation for who owed who for gas at the end of the year). Last year I tracked lift tickets prices by vertical skied at nine different resorts to see where I got my biggest bang-for-the-buck (216 vertical feet per dollar on average for all ski resorts, if you’re wondering).
So in preparation of next season (never too early to start, right?), I wanted to further explore where I could get the best bang for my buck. But how should I go about measuring value? Obviously ticket prices are only part of the equation, but what do you get for your money? Do you compare size of the ski area, number of trails, or amount of snow? Why yes.
Click the below map to see the top five in each category for North America. You may have to drag the map around to view all pins.
- Want to get the most vertical for your dollar (or Canadian dollar as the case may be)? Head north. Three of the top 5 are located in Canada (and one is close in Maine). Only Telluride in the western US comes close.
- Want the most terrain for your dollar? Go on a grand tour of three states (Heavenly, Vail, Mt Bachelor) and two provinces (Whistler and Lake Louise).
- How about trails per dollar? Killington in Vermont takes top honors with Whistler and Vail showing up again. (These results are nearly identical for lifts per dollar too).
- Interestingly, when you look at amount of snowfall (average, annually) per dollar none of the aforementioned ski areas make the cut. Here we see Soda Springs in California, Alyeska in Alaska, and Tahoe Donner, also in California, take top spots, both due to high snowfall and low ticket prices. Whistler scores half as high as these resorts.
So, where should you go? Whistler looks like quite the bargain despite having one of the highest day lift ticket prices and lower snowfall per dollar. For those of us in Colorado, Vail provides good value, proving you can’t look at lift ticket prices alone (they’re also one of the highest).
There are many more factors you can use and I’d love to include to build on this analysis. Cost of lodging? Travel times? Type of ski terrain? Other amenities? As with any analysis, the goal is to know what it is most important to you. For me, I love powder and won’t be travelling too far next year so Wolf Creek in Colorado is in my near future.
For a wildcard, I looked at some heli ski operations too. Those will run you about $11+ per vertical foot skied, but that is all inclusive of lodging and food too.
More analysis can always be conducted, but I think I need some field research first.
How do you decide where to ski or ride?
I did ignore season passes/multiple ticket packs in this round. Obviously, those provide a lot more value, but only for resorts you’re frequently visiting. Since I wanted to compare all ski resorts to start I figured I’d start with daily lift ticket prices. (Even more obvious, I ignored backcountry options which are essentially free.). And of course, with the right snow, a great day can be had at just about any hill.