Why Are Lift Tickets So Expensive?

The cost of running a ski resort is exceptionally high, and this expense is passed onto the consumer with expensive lift ticket prices. Ski resorts also try to make as much money as possible, making the cost of lift tickets rise every year. 

I’ve been skiing for nearly my entire life, and I’ve seen the cost of lift tickets increase steadily over the last few decades. Through years of experience and a bit of research, I know what keeps the cost of these tickets on the rise. 

In this post, I’ll explain why lift tickets are so expensive. I’ll provide you with some factors that keep the price of getting on the slopes high and some other information to help you save some money. 

Let’s get our tickets and get out there. 

Why Lift Tickets are Expensive

There isn’t one single reason that makes lift tickets expensive. Instead, a few factors keep this cost high for everyone. Understanding these factors can help you learn the inner workings of the ski industry.

Reason 1: Ski Resort Operating Costs

One of the main reasons lift tickets are so expensive is the operating costs involved in running a ski resort. It costs ski resorts a significant amount of money to operate the lifts every day, which is passed on to skiers in the form of high-priced lift tickets. 

Each lift at the resort requires a large amount of energy to operate. The resort pays a considerable cost every time they turn a lift on. In addition to the energy requirements, there are a lot of other operating costs involved as well.

Ski resorts need to pay all the people who help run the resort. This includes lift operators, ski patrol, mechanics, ski instructors, chefs, waiters, parking lot attendants, and any other job that occurs at the resort. 

They also need to pay for upkeep and maintenance of each individual lift alongside the snowcat drivers who groom and shape the runs every night. Then you have insurance and safety costs to consider. 

These are only some of the ongoing operating costs that a ski resort needs to pay daily. This adds up to a really high total, and the resorts need to cover their bottom line and hope for profits through the sale of lift tickets and passes 

Reason 2: Supply and Demand

Another reason lift tickets are so expensive comes down to supply and demand. The economics of skiing help keep the costs high because skiers are willing to pay a high price to get on the mountain. 

The steady demand for ski lift access allows ski resorts to increase their lift ticket prices because the average skier is willing to pay basically whatever the resort charges. Ski resorts don’t have to encourage people to ski because it is so popular. 

The supply and demand factor also comes into play with the differences in the cost of lift tickets at different ski resorts. More popular and well-known resorts will have higher ticket prices than less popular, smaller resorts.

Reason 3: Inflation

If you’ve been skiing for a while, you surely have noticed that the cost of lift tickets increases every single year. I can’t remember a single season in my entire life when lift tickets have gotten cheaper. 

Much of this steady increase has to do with inflation or simply because goods and services get more expensive as time goes on. 

You can relate the cost of lift tickets to the cost of gasoline/fuel. Fuel costs rise every year, even when other factors relating to its price stay the same. The same is true for lift tickets costs. And they will continue to rise every year. 

How to Save Money on Lift Tickets

There are a few ways to save quite a bit of money on lift tickets. The truth is, most skiers never pay the high walk-up ticket price at the resort, and you shouldn’t either. 

Here are a few ways to save money. 

1. Buy a Pass or Ticket Bundles

If you plan on skiing more than 2 or 3 times in a season, you can save a lot of money by purchasing a ski pass rather than single-day lift tickets. A pass will allow access to the resort all season long while also giving you discounts on food and other items. 

A ski pass might cost a lot upfront, but it’s a good investment for the serious skier and will save you thousands compared to buying lift tickets every time you want to ski.

Similarly, resorts also offer lift ticket bundles that will help you save. For example, you can purchase a four-pack of tickets that will be cheaper than a ski pass and cheaper than individual ticket prices. 

2. Buy Tickets Ahead of Time

If you don’t want to buy a pass or ticket bundle, you can still save quite a bit of money by purchasing your lift ticket ahead of time. Purchasing a ticket at the ski resort the day you go skiing is always the most expensive option. 

Ski shops, grocery stores, and other locations sell lift tickets in advance. You can easily save $20-$50 off the cost of a single-day ticket by purchasing at one of these locations.

Final Thoughts

Skiing is an expensive activity, any way you look at it. The cost of lift tickets is a big part of this, but you also need to pay for your equipment and cold-weather clothing. 

If you plan ahead and either buy a ski pass or discounted lift ticket, you’ll be able to save some money and spend on other essential things like lodging or travel expenses.

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