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Move Over Vail: Here Are 8 Better Ski Resorts

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With winter fast approaching, skiers across the country are gearing up to book this year’s ski adventure. While many skiers have favorite mountains that they return to again and again, others seek out new and exciting resorts where they can hit the slopes.

A recent analysis of over 6,000 of the world’s ski resorts by Forbes suggests that skiers might want to skip the popular U.S. resorts for better and more economical mountains elsewhere.

skiers ride a chairlift

In the study, Forbes used 14 different metrics to determine the best ski destinations in the world. They ranked each resort based on quality, cost, and accessibility by looking at the length and difficulty of trails, day pass price, average annual snowfall, guest reviews, the après-ski scene, and more. The results were clear, the best ski and snowboard destinations are in Europe.

a skier swishes down the powdery slopes

The only U.S. ski resort that made it into the top 10 was Vail in Colorado, at number 9. While it ranked as the best option for snowboarders and high in average annual snowfall, it also ranked as the most expensive resort in the top 10. In fact, the 8 European resorts that ranked higher than Vail averaged $68, nearly 70% less than Vail’s $239 price tag!

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a ski lodge with skis resting in the snow outside

With the current strength of the U.S. Dollar and affordable winter flights to Europe, skiers might want to consider heading abroad, where they will get more bang for their buck. When considering flights, airport transportation, accommodation, and lift pass prices, it can often be much cheaper to venture to a better-ranked ski resort in Europe.

a skier looks out upon snowy mountains

A quick internet search to compare a week-long ski vacation in Vail with a European counterpart showed that even when accounting for flights abroad, the price to ski in Europe can be significantly less expensive. We aggregated average prices for flights, transportation, hotels, and lift passes to make a comparison. For our example, we priced a vacation for 2 adults originating at New York’s JFK Airport in mid-January and staying 6 nights in a 4-star hotel while skiing for 5 days.

Vail Colorado covered in snow

The result? It is much cheaper to fly to Europe and ski at a better-rated resort in the Alps. Our comparison showed a $2,250 price difference between similar vacations in Vail and Porte du Soleil, a ski area that is both in France and Switzerland. A one-week getaway to Vail came in at $8,808, compared to $6,545 in the Alps. The biggest price differences were in hotel and ski pass prices.

skiing in austria

Not only is a trip to Porte du Soleil less expensive, but it also offers 215 more miles of trails and 131 more ski lifts. Skiers can also get a taste of a different culture by venturing across the Atlantic for their next ski destination. Sure, it might take a bit longer and be unfamiliar, but isn’t that what traveling is all about?

Swiss Alps at night in winter

For visitors thinking about planning their next ski vacation in Europe, Forbes breaks down the best of the best. Here are 8 resorts that ranked higher on their index than Vail:

  • Les Trois Vallées, France
  • Les Portes du Soleil, France/Switzerland
  • Les Quatre Vallées, France
  • Ski Arlberg, Austria
  • Zermatt, Switzerland
  • Silvretta Arena Samnaun/Ischgl, Austria
  • Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Fieberbrunn, Austria
  • Ski Welt, Austria
a skier whips through the powder

Also of note is Forbes’ breakdown within other categories:

Best Ski Resorts in North America

  1. Vail, Colorado
  2. Whistler Blackcomb, Canada
  3. Lake Louise, Canada
Vail resort at dusk

Best Resorts for Advanced Skiers

  1. Big Sky, Montana
  2. Snowmass, Colorado
  3. Les Quatre Vallées, Switzerland
a crowd of skiers gather at a mid-mountain lodge to eat and drink while skiers race down a hill in the distance

Best Resorts for Après-Ski

  1. Les Trois Vallées, France
  2. Ski Arlberg, Austria
  3. Silvretta Arena, Austria/Switzerland

Austria was the heavy-hitter, with its 14 resorts making up 28% of the top 50 list. Following close behind was France with 11 destinations, and Switzerland with 9. The United States has 8 resorts in the top 50, including Vail, Big Sky in Montana, and Snowmass in Colorado.  

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Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.