Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.
Let’s be honest: It’s getting harder and harder to book a thrifty ski vacation due to soaring day lift ticket prices and expensive gear, but if you remove high airfare from the equation and follow a few simple steps, ski or snowboard trips can be within reach for most travelers.
Despite some mountain towns being in far-flung, relatively remote locations, you’d be surprised how frequent and reliable cheap fares can be to some of those destinations. People want to visit these towns in the winter, and the airlines know that. Sometimes, the airlines pack too many flights into these areas, too. When the number of seats climbs higher and higher, the prices fall downhill like an avalanche.
Whether you’re aiming for a cheap flight to Colorado, up to Canada, or across an ocean to the Alps or Japan, it’s likely that you can find a flight to your snowy, wintry paradise for less than you’d expect for this upcoming ski season. And the best time to book might be right now.
A ski or snowboard trip is a little bit trickier than throwing a pair of swim trunks in your carry-on and flying away, but if you follow our tips and tricks on how to save money on your next ski trip and take advantage of one of these flight deals, you’ll be making your way down a snowy slope without breaking the bank this winter.
Where to Find Cheap Flights to the Mountains this Season
There are hundreds of ski areas across the globe – and just as many airports that serve them. Here are a few options to consider, both near and far, to start a search for your next ski trip.
And as luck would have it, our Thrifty Traveler Premium flight deal alert service is constantly looking for the best deals to get to all of them.
Cheap Flights to Colorado and Utah
For American travelers, Colorado and Utah are convenient places to book your mountain getaway. The reason? So many airlines offer nonstop service to Denver International Airport (DEN) and (to a lesser extent) Salt Lake City (SLC), and that competition helps drive down prices.
Denver is close to ski destinations like Arapahoe Basin, Keystone, Copper, Breckenridge, and Vail. Plus, Denver is a good jumping-off point for farther road trips (or short flights) to places like Steamboat Springs, Aspen/Snowmass, Telluride, and more.
Peak ski season flights to Denver (DEN) are still cheap for a trip in 2023 or 2024, as evidenced by this latest deal we sent to subscribers earlier this month.
Get flight deals like this one to your inbox with Thrifty Traveler Premium!
Nonstop flights to Denver are everywhere! Whether you live in Lincoln, Nebraska (LNK) or Dallas, Texas (DFW), there’s a plane heading for the Rockies with your name on it.
And then there’s Utah, with its famous ultra-light powder snow that is forgivingly soft and fluffy. With a dozen or so resorts within an hour of Salt Lake City (SLC), it’s a dream destination for most skiers and riders.
Luckily, as a Delta hub, Salt Lake City has a ton of cheap flight options for skiers and riders this winter.
Cheap Flights to Jackson Hole
The steep slopes of Jackson Hole are world famous. It’s a legendary ski destination that should be on your radar.
But even if you’re not a thrill-seeker, this mountain town nestled in the Tetons offers a little something for everyone. The resort has invested in beginner and intermediate terrain, offering a brand new gondola connecting people at the base area to the less steep yet still world-class terrain the region is known for.
The problem is that Jackson Hole is tucked away in western Wyoming. The good news? Flights straight into Jackson (JAC) are getting cheaper if you know where to look.
Exhibit A: This flight deal we sent to our subscribers.
Jackson Hole used to be too expensive and hard to reach. These flights have changed that!
Cheap Flights to Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe and its long list of ski areas is an amazing destination for those looking for some world-class slopes and that sweet, sweet California sunshine to boot.
From the legendary expert slopes of Palisades Tahoe to the sweeping lake views of Heavenly, there is a resort for you in the Tahoe region. Getting there doesn’t have to break the bank, either.
Reno-Tahoe (RNO) is less than an hour from Lake Tahoe and is the easiest way to get to the area. Skip the Bay Area airports that can be as far as four-plus hours away with traffic and fly to the east side of Tahoe instead.
Thrifty Tip: Avoid the biggest crowds at the likes of Heavenly, Kirkwood, Northstar, and Palisades Tahoe and visit the smaller, independent mountains of Mt. Rose (Nevada side) and Sugar Bowl. Sugar Bowl just joined the affordable Mountain Collective pass, too!
And if you’re up for a little more of an adventure, drive all the way down to Mammoth Mountain near Yosemite. The snowy paradise is home to enormous annual snowfall (500 plus inches in a normal year) in a spectacular setting. Plus, the drive along Highway 395 between Reno and Mammoth is littered with hot springs. Stop and soak those feet after a long day in ski boots!
Cheap Flights to the Pacific Northwest
The Cascade Mountains in the Pacific Northwest offer high annual snow totals but without the bone-chilling cold of the Rockies. The coastal ranges are home to some of my favorite skiing on earth.
Some of my favorites, like Stevens Pass and Crystal, are close to Seattle and its Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA). Seattle has a ton of nonstop flights, making your ski trip that much easier, too. And one of these cheap flights will put you within a few hours’ drive of tons of ski areas in the Cascades around Seattle.
Thrifty Tip: If you’re flying to Seattle, consider tacking on a weekend at Whistler-Blackcomb, which is only about a four-hour drive from Seattle. You can also fly into Vancouver (YVR) to start that trip. More on that later…
Cheap Flights to Alaska
Alaska is known for its winter adventures. It’s a phenomenal ski destination, too.
Alyeska Resort is a very popular, traditional, lift-accessed ski area located just 40 minutes or so outside Anchorage (ANC). Even if you never buckle your boots, you can ride Alyeska’s aerial tram and see the wonders of the Chugach Mountains.
Anchorage (ANC) has been a hotbed of cheap flights over the last couple of years too, as airlines increased their frequencies to the outdoorsy destination during the pandemic.
Alaska is also famous for its heli-skiing. While it can be an expensive endeavor, it’s a bucket list item for most skiers and riders. There are too many heli-skiing outfitters to count up in Alaska. Be warned: You’ll have to book these excursions about a year ahead of time in most cases. Heli-skiing spots fill up fast!
The Chugach Mountains outside Anchorage is a world-famous heli-ski spot. Conditions (and sunlight) are best in Alaska in March, April, and even May.
Thrifty Tip: Alaskan winters are dark, which means two things: The resorts open the ski lifts at a relaxed 10 a.m. (you can sleep in!) and it’s perfect for seeing the Northern Lights!
Cheap Flights to Canada
Across the border to our north is arguably some of the best skiing on the planet. The province of British Columbia is home to the famed Powder Highway in the interior and the more coastal Whistler-Blackcomb.
This month, Thrifty Traveler Premium subscribers were alerted to fares under $392 roundtrip to Vancouver (YVR), a quick 90-minute drive away from Whistler. The road to Whistler, renovated for the 2010 Olympics, is a beautiful drive.
Whistler-Blackcomb is a pair of mountains connected by a massive gondola (pictured below) that you could explore for weeks and never see it all. The best part might be trying to decide if Whistler Mountain or Blackcomb Mountain is better. Pro tip: Don’t bring this argument up at the bar…the locals have strong opinions.
Between Delta and its Canadian partner WestJet, Vancouver (YVR) has a decent network of flights into the United States. And sometimes, like last week, those fares go on sale big time.
If the interior of British Columbia and its famously snowy Powder Highway resorts are more your speed, grab one of these cheap flights to Calgary (YYC) for the trip of a lifetime!
Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise, Revelstoke, and Kicking Horse are some of the snowiest resorts in the world. They’re also much quieter than the likes of Whistler or the most popular resorts in the United States. Take a good look here if you’re looking for a real mountain getaway this winter.
Cheap Flights to Europe
Is Canada not exotic enough for you? Thrifty Traveler Premium subscribers have also seen a flurry of deals into cities in and around the Alps across Europe for this winter. Fly into Zurich (ZRH) and head into any region of the Alps for an alpine experience nothing like what you’ll find in North America.
There, you’ll find villages, some hundreds of years old, carved into the side of the mountains. If you’re looking for an especially adorable, idyllic village, consider Mürren, which is only accessible by ski lift and has no cars. If you haven’t had bottomless brunch in a rotating, James Bond-themed restaurant at an elevation of nearly 10,000 feet on top of Piz Gloria, then you should!
If you’re dreaming of the French Alps, fly into Geneva (GVA) instead and head to Chamonix, France. It’s the most iconic freeskiing destination in the world, practically a mecca for the world’s best ski mountaineers. Even if you don’t like to ski with ice axes and crevasse rescue gear, the nightlife and energy of Chamonix are world-famous.
Thrifty Tip: You can fly straight to Geneva (GVA) from New York (JFK) on SWISS economy for just 46,500 points roundtrip.
Want to get to the Alps in style? We’ve got Thrifty Traveler Premium subscribers covered there, too! Here’s a deal we recently found flying SWISS business class straight into Zurich – from just over 50,000 points each way!
If you want to save those points, we found some great cash fares to both Geneva (GVA) and Zurich (ZRH) this month, too.
This is just about a tenth of the departure cities that we found on this sweet deal. From almost every airport in the country, you could book a ski season roundtrip to Switzerland for less than $600.
Plus, what’s so special about the Alps is that the skiing itself is crazy cheap when compared to the U.S. and Canada. Think $60-$70 lift tickets instead of the $250 or more can expect to pay at the high-end U.S. resorts.
Further north, in Austria, the Alps also offer some fabulous slopes. Think about the legendary Kitzbuhel, Arlberg, St. Anton, and so many more.
And to fly all the way to Austria, I have an uber-comfy recommendation…
France, Austria, and Switzerland are the most famous ski destinations in Europe, but some other places where we find cheap flights also have some fantastic alpine.
The tiny nation of Andorra and its neighboring mountains of northern Spain has tons of great skiing that is accessible from Barcelona with a three-hour train ride. We recently found fares to Barcelona (BCN) starting at just $439 roundtrip from dozens of American cities!
Italy is also a sleeper pick for some incredible skiing, especially in the Dolomites. You can get to the Dolomites from Milan (MXP) or Venice (VCE) by train as well.
Cheap Flights to Japan
If you’re looking for the weightless, blissful feeling that is skiing powder, then put Japan on your bucket list. During ski season, the snow seemingly never stops falling in the mountains there, hence the nickname “Japanuary.”
My Thrifty Traveler coworkers don’t believe that I didn’t make up the phrase “Japanuary,” so I’m setting out to prove them wrong. That’s right! Yours truly has booked his trip to Japan for this winter to cross off my long-standing number one on my travel bucket list. I plan to collect evidence to prove my colleagues wrong while I’m there skiing scenes like this…
The Niseko region (which is included on the Ikon Pass) on the island of Hokkaido averages about 46 feet – yes, feet – of snow per year, meaning any trip during ski season is bound to be powdery. From Tokyo (HND, NRT), where you’re most likely to find a cheap flight from the U.S., Hokkaido is just a 90-minute flight away. It’s one of the most trafficked flights in the world, with dozens and dozens of options every day.
All you have to do is get to Tokyo first. And you can do it flying in economy, premium economy, or in a lie-flat suite if you so choose.
We’ll start in the back of the plane first, where you can find some nice bargains flying across the Pacific if you know where to look.
These fares were great, but then Delta said, “Hold my Sapporo” with this low fare flying from Los Angeles (LAX).
But that’s a long flight, so I don’t blame you if you want a little extra comfort. Enter American Airlines Premium Economy.
These $1,396 roundtrip fares are what you’d probably pay flying economy from most U.S. cities to Tokyo, so it’s worth a look if a little legroom, a lot more recline, and better food and drink would help make your trip more palatable.
But there is a best way to fly to Tokyo, and that’s in first class.
This flight deal was pretty special. This new nonstop flight from Chicago (ORD) is an amazing option for Japan-bound travelers based in the Midwest (like yours truly). And while this deal only had availability for one passenger per flight, it would make for the comfiest possible ride on the way to your ski trip.
Best Ways to Save Money on a Ski/Snowboard Trip
Even if you get a great fare and buy the perfect pass, the costs of ski vacations can add up if you are not careful. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you plan.
Buy the Right Ski Pass (And Ski Within It!)
If you are wondering what ski pass is the perfect one to buy this winter, look no further than our comprehensive guide to buying a pass. The guide breaks down the popular Epic and Ikon Passes, along with their more budget-friendly competitors.
|2023-2024 Ski Passes||Ikon||Epic||Mtn. Collective||Indy Pass|
|Adult Price||$1,259||$949||$650||$399/$499* (*no blackout dates)|
|Total Number of
|Unlimited Access Destinations||15||41||N/A||N/A|
(prices current as of Oct. 9, 2023)
When planning a ski trip, your lift tickets are going to be one of the most expensive things you buy. That’s why purchasing a pass, instead of daily lift tickets, can be a better move.
From your budget to your skiing ability (or ambitions), to whatever destinations you have your eyes on this winter, there are a number of questions to ask yourself before buying a pass.
Fly with Bags in Mind
If you have ski equipment, make sure you are booking flights with bags in mind. Budget airlines may entice you with low fares into mountain towns, but then charge you up to $100 for baggage when you get to the airport.
When you are booking airfare, consider upgrading to a ticket that includes bags so you don’t have the hassle of paying for them in the terminal.
Two things to keep in mind as you check ski bags:
- Don’t pay for “oversized baggage” for ski and boot bags if you don’t have to. Most airlines price ski bags as regular luggage, although they come out in the oversized baggage areas at baggage claim when you arrive.
- Some airlines will consider your ski bag and a separate boot bag as one bag, so make sure you don’t overpay to fly your gear to the mountains!
Southwest Airlines is a great option for skiers, as every passenger gets two free bags.
Otherwise, consider getting an airline co-branded credit card like the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard, or the United℠ Explorer Card. All three cards get you a first checked bag free.
Read more: Do You Have to Pay With Your Airline Card to Get Free Baggage?
If you want to consolidate your boot and ski bag, buy a wide-bodied rolling ski bag with a boot compartment. It could save you money – not to mention the hassle of carrying around multiple bags during your travels.
Bottom line: Be sure to check the airline’s baggage policies before booking. You don’t want to be stuck ponying up at the terminal.
Plan Trips Around Your Ski Pass
Skiing within your pass can save you hundreds of dollars – even after factoring in the cost of the pass itself. But maximizing the value requires some planning.
Let’s say you are thinking of a week-long getaway to the Cascade Mountains outside of Seattle with your Epic Pass in tow. You ski a few days at Stevens Pass but then you want to try something new, so you head to nearby Crystal – an Ikon location. On top of the $783 you already spent on the Epic Pass, you’d be spending more than $100 a day to ski at Crystal … while your Epic Pass collects dust.
Instead, head north from Stevens Pass and spend a few days at Whistler-Blackcomb in Canada, another Epic location, which means you can ski for free.
Ikon Pass offers a handy guide to string together a few of its resorts at a time, helping you squeeze some more value and ski days out of your winter.
Buy your pass first and then plan your trips. If you ski two, three, or even four-plus resorts on one pass, you are beating the ski conglomerates at their own game.
Plan your Trips Later in the Winter (and Avoid Christmas!)
Christmas seems like a logical time for a ski vacation. But the week before and after the holiday always has the biggest crowds of the season – and the least amount of snow.
Skiing during Christmastime will almost surely have you waiting in long lines to ski less of the mountain. Most North American ski areas have only 50-70% of their runs open by the end of December. The best snowfall in almost any region comes between January and March.
Choosing a ski trip in February or March will help you avoid crowds and ski the mountains when they are fully open and at their snowiest. Plus, you’re maximizing your chances of catching a storm and skiing some fresh powder!
Other times to avoid a ski trip include New Year’s, President’s Day, and Saturdays, as weekends can get crowded if the ski area is close to a major city like Denver, Salt Lake City, or Seattle. Skiing on weekdays in January, February, and March will provide the best experience.
Your next ski trip is well within reach thanks to these inexpensive fares we have been finding into the mountains for this upcoming ski and snowboard season.
Don’t miss another cheap flight alert to the mountains: Subscribe to our Thrifty Traveler Premium flight deal notification service to get all the deals we find from your airport.