The Golden Ticket

With lift ticket prices more 'fluid' than they once were, getting the best deal can be a battle. Patrick Thorne takes aim...

a collection of perhaps a hundred lift passes scattered and photographed

We’ve just heard news of the world’s most expensive ski lift ticket and we’re talking $300 for the day in US ski resort Snowbowl in Arizona…

Add to the mix the ‘cost-of-living crisis’ and the scare stories circulating pre-season about resorts putting up ticket prices to cope with surging energy costs (most denied the would do this), we look at how to shop around for the best deals.

Dynamic Pricing 

Finding out exactly what a list pass should cost has become more and more difficult in the same way as knowing what a flight or a hotel room should cost, with the growth of ‘dynamic pricing’. In theory, this means if you buy your pass early (meaning, the previous summer or autumn ideally) and aim for the low season, your lift pass should cost less. But it’s hard to know if you’re getting a better deal than you would have done with a fixed price or not.  

Season-Long Multi-Resort Passes 

Ski resorts in North America in particular, and now, inevitably, increasingly in Europe, are aligning with one season-pass group or another. With names like ‘Epic’, ‘Ikon’ and ‘Magic’, the idea was, initially, that you pay little more than the cost of a six-day ticket but have season-long access to dozens of ski areas around the world.  

Now though they can cost a lot less than even a three- or four-day lift pass at a leading US resort, as the big groups encourage skiers to get hooked on annual renewals by making regular lift pass prices incredibly expensive. These passes are cheaper if you buy them at the end of the previous ski season and they’ve been so successful in North America that they now make up 52% of all lift ticket sales.  

For groups like Alterra and Vail, it means they have hundreds of millions of dollars in ticket sales banked before the season begins, whatever the conditions turn out to be like. If you do plan to ski for more than one week and at several resorts that are both on one of the passes, they can offer a saving. 

How To Ski For Less 

Although we’re focussed on the most expensive passes here, most of us are aiming to pay less to hit the slopes so we can afford to do it more. So we’ll be aiming to get the best-quality ski experience we can for the least investment. It’s not rocket science, of course – ski resorts aim to harvest the most cash at times of high demand: Christmas, New Year, February and Easter in most cases. Avoid these periods, if you’re able to, and you’re likely to find lower prices.  

In the quietest periods of the season – pre-Christmas, late season outside the Easter holidays, and early January after New Year – the prices are typically lowest and you may see deals like €199 for a week’s apartment and lift pass in some French resorts, for example. You’ll also have the slopes largely to yourself. The only worry will be how much snow there is in the early season and how skiable it is late season. There may also be savings any time of the season when you buy as a family or group of friends, and keep an eye on social media channels for flash sales. 

Six-Day High-Season Prices 

Ski Area Local Currency GBP * 
Deer Valley, Utah, USA $1,420 USD £1,172 
Aspen, Colorado, USA $1,190 USD £983 
Perisher, Australia $1,022 AUD £570 
Vail, Colorado, USA €639 USD £528 
Zermatt – Cervinia, Switzerland – Italy CHF 478 £418 
4 Valleys (Verbier) Switzerland CHF 389 £340 
Dolomiti Superski, Italy €373 £321 
Grandvalira, Andorra €360 £310 
3 Valleys, France €360 £310 
Mont Blanc Unlimited (Chamonix Valley), France €355 £305 

* Prices were collected and converted to British pounds on 25 November 2022 for a six-day pass over New Year week ’22-23, some were with dynamic pricing, so may have changed already, as the exchange rate probably will have. 

The table contains resorts that usually have the most expensive lift tickets in the world but most North American or Australian ski resorts will cost more than most European resorts.