ski lift queue

Getting the Best Piste for Your Money

We’re halfway through the 2017-18 ski season in the Northern Hemisphere and the mountains are calling (in part to help shed some of the extra Christmas kilograms I might have gained).

One thing that’s clear for those looking at taking some time off on the slopes; skiing is a costly sport. However, with lift tickets nearing the €200 mark for a day on the slopes, some resorts (predominately those in the United States) are taking that expense to an entirely new level.

How do you measure value for money at a ski resort?

Snow quality is definitely important. So is nightlife (for us Brits, anyway). Though I decided to take a fully quantitate approach measuring three different metrics; value of lift pass based on skiable area, value of lift pass based on vertical elevation, and finally the piste to lift ratio.

Methodology

Skiresort.info has compiled a regularly updated list of almost 5500 ski resorts around the world. They details key information about each resort, from piste lengths by difficulty to the price of a lift pass.

Using this dataset I extracted data from the top 50 largest resorts by piste length (between 600 and 136 kilometres) for the analysis below.

Results

Lift pass prices

Rank lift pass cost Resort Region Lift day ticket (EUR)
1 Beaver Creek North America €157.00
2 Snowmass North America €141.00
2 Vail North America €141.00
4 Steamboat North America €137.00
5 Breckenridge North America €136.00
6 Park City North America €121.00
7 Winter Park Resort North America €116.00
8 Big Sky Resort North America €112.00
9 Whistler Blackcomb North America €92.00
10 Zermatt/Breuil-Cervinia/Valtournenche – Matterhorn Europe €78.00

Full table.

The Beaver Creek lift pass is the most expensive by price in our list at €157. The cheapest day lift pass can be found in Espace Lumière – Pra Loup/Val d’Allos, France for only €39 with 180km of skiable pistes.

9 of the top 10 resorts by lift pass are located in the United States. At the other end of the scale, 8 of the top 10 cheapest resorts for daily lift passes can be found in France.

Lift pass value per piste kilometre

Les 3 Vallées has the largest skiable area in my top 50, 600km for a daily lift price of €52 though you’d be hard pressed to cover a tenth of that in a day.

Cost per skiable km by resort (Jan 2018)

Download chart.

A lift pass, on average, costs €0.37 per skiable kilometre for the 50 resorts covered (€0.65 in US, €0.25 in Europe)

Cost per km rank Resort Region Lift day ticket (EUR) Total piste Length (km) Cost per km
1 Les Portes du Soleil – Morzine/Avoriaz/Les Gets/Châtel/Morgins/Champéry Europe €52.00 580 €0.09
2 Les 3 Vallées – Val Thorens/Les Menuires/Méribel/Courchevel Europe €61.00 600 €0.10
3 Via Lattea – Sestriere/Sauze d’Oulx/San Sicario/Claviere/Montgenèvre Europe €48.00 400 €0.12
48 Steamboat North America €137.00 165 €0.83
49 Breckenridge North America €136.00 153 €0.89
50 Beaver Creek North America €157.00 150 €1.05

View full table.

The best value lift pass by available skiable area is Les Portes du Soleil, France where a day pass costs €52 and covers 580km (€0.09 per kilometre). In contrast, in Beaver Creek, North America a day pass will cost €157.00 covering only 150km of pistes (€1.05 per kilometre). Of course I’m sure there will be many off-piste hikers willing to put in some legwork to make up for this.

Lift pass value per vertical metre

The resorts in the Europe, on average, have more vertical descent than those in the US; 1553 metres versus 1144 metres (though the US resorts are located at a higher altitude; 3186 metres versus 2751 metres).Lift cost per vertical meter (Jan 2018)

Download chart.

To go from top to bottom of all 50 resorts on the list you’ll pay and average cost €0.05 per metre (lift pass / elevation change).

Rank elevation change cost per m Resort Region Lift day ticket (EUR) Elevation change (m) Lift cost per vertical m
1 Vail North America €141.00 976 €0.14
1 Breckenridge North America €136.00 988 €0.14
50 Alpe d’Huez Europe €52.50 2205 €0.02
50 Les 2 Alpes Europe €50.00 2243 €0.02

Full table.

Using this metric, the cheapest resorts per vertical metre are Les 2 Alpes and Alpe d’Huez in France at €0.02 per metre.

The most expensive? All in North America. Breckenridge and Vail in the US have the highest cost per metre at €0.14

Ski area covered by each lift

Waiting for a lift is a real pain. In some resorts I’ve heard people standing in line for over an hour (I’m looking at you Chamonix). This led me to wonder; which resorts the best lift to piste ratio?

In Les Portes du Soleil, France, there are a whopping 170 lifts to cover the skiable area of 580km (each lift covers 3.41km). Lake Louise has just 7 lifts covering 139km of pistes (each lift covers 19.86km).

Ski area km per lift by resort (Jan 2018)

Download chart.

On average, one lift exists for every 5.8 km in the 50 resorts covered, though there are outliers.

Rank ski area km per lift Resort Region Total piste Length (km) Ski lifts Ski area km per lift
1 Gröden (Val Gardena) Europe 175 79 2.22
2 Espace Diamant – Les Saisies/Notre-Dame-de-Bellecombe/Praz sur Arly/Flumet/Crest-Voland Europe 192 79 2.43
3 La Plagne (Paradiski) Europe 225 91 2.47
48 Snowmass North America 237 17 13.94
49 Fernie North America 142 9 15.78
50 Lake Louise North America 139 7 19.86

View full table.

Gröden (Val Gardena), Italy, has almost 1 lift for every 2km of pistes. Lake Louise, ranked in last place for lift coverage, has just 1 lift for every 20km of pistes. Like value, North American resorts are, mostly, the worst for lift coverage.

tl;dr

Based on marked pistes, European resorts offer significantly better value for money (€0.25 p/km) than their counterparts in the United States (€0.65 p/km).

Get the Data

Get all the data used in this blog post on Google Sheets.

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