Dissecting the $200+ Lift Ticket

Alex Camerino | | Industry NewsIndustry News

How is it possible that a single day of skiing can cost more than $200? When you dive into dissecting the world’s most expensive single-day passes most factors may be obvious. However, there are hidden costs that drive up the price of all single-day tickets.

The Obvious Costs

  • Chairlifts are inherently expensive especially when they are highspeed detachable chairs. Lifts greatly differ in price, but many can range from $2-10 million.
  • Snowmaking is crucial for the majority of ski areas in the US as well as one of the most expensive parts of operating a ski resort. Due to the effects of climate change, most ski areas expect to only rely more heavily on snowmaking in the future.
  • Grooming is expensive for two separate reasons. First, a brand new machine can cost well over half a million dollars. Second, upkeep on a groomer and fuel are both expensive when some fleets are as big as several dozen machines.

The Hidden Costs

  • Employees are expensive as it takes many people to operate a large ski resort. Even with extremely low wages for employees of most ski resorts they still cost companies a large portion of their revenue.
  • Employee housing is also expensive for large resorts to provide, however, it is a necessity. Due to expensive mansions in most destination ski towns and the lack of flat ground to build on housing is expensive.
Eagle Bahn Gondola. image: vail resorts

While there are numerous factors in play when determining what a lift ticket will cost, the largest driving force is companies hedging risk. Ski areas (and their profits) rely heavily on cold and snowy winters. With the climate changing at a breakneck pace, ski areas are unsure how long each season will be. By selling season passes at fairly reasonable prices the resorts can guarantee some of their revenue no matter how good the ski season is. In order to steer people towards a season pass or multiday ticket (which typically must be purchased in advance), walk-up lift ticket prices have soared to over $200.

Dissecting expensive tickets
Many ski areas cost over $100 a day to ski. The less infrastructure a ski area has the cheaper a ticket costs. Photo: SLT

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5 thoughts on “Dissecting the $200+ Lift Ticket

  1. The cost of insurance and litigation has to be included as well. Lift tickets are cheaper in Canada, Europe, Japan, and South America because they don’t have to endure near as many lawsuits as US resorts. Sadly, this is a function of American society and will not change so we can look forward to the next ($300/day) milestone.

    1. It is really impossible to accept. I am currently skiing in Vail, daily lift ticket price is up to 240$. Vail lifts are old, without exception, there is no wind shields or heating. Just two days ago, there were 6 inches of new snow, and not a single run was groomed. I saw three snow cats at work at 8 AM. Lift station do not have napkins, no printed maps. Outdated direction signs, confusing messages regarding status of the slopes.. No visible time at most lift station. Thank you Covid for all excuses. Terrible food at mountain restaurants, hardly edible soups, almost no salads, with 5 star resort prices.
      Vail is wonderful but at this price it looks like a rape of intelligence. They may think that Europe is far, but in reality not so much. For much less money. Unless for Covid scare I will not be coming here anymore. And yes, I know , they do not care.

  2. I worked at a Colorado resort in the mid-1990s, and profit margin on ski operations was obscene, like 3 million profit on 9 million revenue – 33%

    In 2019 Vail Resorts had a profit of $300 million on $2 billion revenue – 15% – https://www.aspentimes.com/news/vail-resorts-reports-301-2-million-profit-revenues-up-for-fiscal-year/

    There really should be some strings attached to the forest service permits to limit the fiscal raping.

  3. how does this compare to european ski resorts? An Ischgl day pass costs about 70$ and they have very modern snow making systems, very modern chairlifts and gondolas and exceptional grooming. Building space in the valley is equally limited. Where is the price difference coming from?

  4. Funny you mention the mansions as a cost driver of lift ticket prices. Now why do you think those mansions are taking up so much space? Because the real estate division of the skicos are pushing trophy home development! Employee housing gets town down to build new condo space all the time. Sotty Snowbrains, you whiffed this one.

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