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Budget- and Family-Friendly Skiing in the Western United States

by Barbara Rogers

Mar 2, 2020

Photo: Stillman Rogers


Skiing doesn’t need to break the family budget. Annual sales, swaps of used and outgrown equipment and avoiding the big glitzy ski resorts can all cut costs dramatically. So can taking advantage of advance online ticketing and special money-saving ski-and-stay family packages. Many areas have free skiing for children, and the age limits can be as high as 12.


Here are some western ski mountains to check out:


Whitefish Mountain, Montana

Your whole family can find plenty of terrain on the 3,000 skiable acres at Whitefish Mountain, even though half of the 94 trails are rated expert. Rates for all ages are budget friendly: kids ski for about $30 a day, teens between $50–60 and adults between $60–70 — all a lot less than the $100-plus charged at most mountains. Despite being 20 miles from an airport, you can arrive at Whitefish Resort Village by train, as it is usually uncrowded.


Sipapu, New Mexico

Family-owned Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort, close to Taos, shows their love for families with free season passes for kids under 10, and an excellent learning program for all ages. Adult tickets are $55 a day, and abundant slope-side lodging makes getting everyone onto the snow easy. One fifth of the trails are for beginners, two-fifths for intermediates and the rest for advanced and experts. There are three terrain parks for freestylers and boarders.


Copper Mountain, Colorado

About an hour from Denver, Copper Mountain offers about 2,500 skiable acres with all the resort facilities right at the mountain. Advance ticketing varies and can be less than $100 a day, but what makes it even more appealing to families is the package gives children 12 and younger free skiing with the purchase of an adult two-day lift ticket. Kids age 4 and under ski free any time and beginners can use the magic carpet free.


Bear Mountain, California

About 100 miles from Los Angeles, Bear Mountain is especially good for intermediate skiers, with 40 percent of the trails graded for them. Freestylers and boarders love the terrain park and, on weekends and holidays trails, are lighted for night skiing. Buy tickets online more than 72 hours in advance for a 20 percent discount; full-price tickets are less than $80 for weekdays.

Skiing out West. Photo: Stillman Rogers


Magic Mountain, Idaho

With $33 adult all-day tickets and an annual snowfall of about 230 inches — and at base elevations around 6,500 feet to keep great powder — Magic Mountain may be the best deal in the west. It has only 11 trails, four for experts, but there’s plenty of snow for all skill levels, plus good learning programs and full resort facilities; for more snow fun, there’s a tubing hill.


Crystal Mountain, Washington

In Washington’s cascade range, about two hours from Seattle, Crystal Mountain has an enormous variety of terrain in its 2,600 acres of snow. From gentle terrain and smooth cruisers to bumps and glades, all skiing and boarding abilities have a lot to choose from. Reach the highest of them on a high-speed gondola lift. Midweek advance sale tickets are around $72.


Park City Resort, Utah. Photo: Stillman Rogers


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