Forbes recently ranked 12 U.S. ski resorts for their economical friendliness. The priciest are downright hostile but their ski valets and luxurious accommodations just might make them worth a splurge. • The following are edited excerpts from the Forbes ranking. For the complete report, go to forbes.com.
Jay Peak, Vermont
Jay Peak is the farthest Vermont ski resort from the major cities of Northeast region, right on the Canadian border. This means to compete with the half dozen huge resorts that require less driving, it has to be cheaper — and it is. Jay has an assortment of modestly priced hotels, lodges and condos around the base area, lots of packages and inexpensive cuisine.
Lift ticket: Adult one day, $75.
Probably the best combination of low prices and truly great skiing in the nation, Ogden's two resorts, Snowbasin and Powder Mountain, offer a combined 10,000 skiable acres. Hotels and motels in Ogden run toward the low price end, most throw in breakfast, most offer ski packages, a ski shuttle bus takes you to either mountain daily, and its proximity to Salt Lake City makes plane tickets here cheaper.
Lift ticket: Snowbasin, adult one day, $72; Powder Mountain, adult, one day, $60.
Information: snowbasin.com; powdermountain.com
Crested Butte, Colo.
Skiers and snowboarders come to Crested Butte for great skiing at a great price, not for French cuisine or a spa escape. The nearby town is small and authentic, and guests dining out in Crested Butte will eat a lot of pizza and burgers and have a good time while spending a relatively small amount.
Lift ticket: Adult one day, $59 before Dec. 15 and $92 Dec. 16 until the end of the season.
Big Sky, Mont.
Big Sky has a base village full of affordable condos, and it is a great place for groups. The mountain shares a border and interconnected lifts with neighboring Moonlight Basin, and if you buy the ticket good for both, you have in effect a single ski area that spans well more than 5,000 acres.
Lift ticket: Adult one day for Big Sky, $84.
Heavenly is really two resorts in one. It recently added a mountain village at its base, which is convenient and a great choice for families, though a bit pricier. It also has a long gondola connecting the resort with the town of Stateline on the shore of Lake Tahoe below. Stateline is full of inexpensive casino resorts and lots of budget hotels.
Lift ticket: Adult one day, $70 to $88, depending on week.
Breckenridge draws more skiers than Vail, Aspen or any other resort in the state. Its trails span multiple peaks and the terrain is vast, with plenty for all types of skiers and boarders, including some steep chutes that require just a short traverse.
Lift ticket: Adult one day, $67 to $99, depending on week.
Jackson Hole, WyO.
Jackson has an enormous tourist infrastructure and lots of motels, cabins, lodges and hotels at every price point. It has a huge breadth of restaurants from high-end sushi to burger shacks and barbecue, and the mountain itself offers rental condos and homes and lots of affordable packages that include free air.
Lift ticket: Adult one day, $64 to $95, depending on week.
Steamboat Springs, Colo.
Steamboat has no shortage of quality skiing. Deep powder and tree skiing are its best attributes, along with an Old West, low-key town with prices to match. There is a wide range of condos, hotels, motels, none of them fancy, and an elaborate bus system.
Lift ticket: Adult one day, $64 to $95, depending on week.
Aspen has a decadent reputation, and for the many guests arriving by private jet, it is certainly possible to make the sky the only limit on what you spend. Still there are some less expensive accommodations for beer-and-burger budgets.
Lift ticket: Adult minimum two day, $206.
No resort offers more variety and options than Vail on and off the mountain. It is huge, with skiing for every ability, and most famous for its vast, open bowls. It has four interconnected base villages, linked by walkways and free buses, containing a huge assortment of hotels, condos and small lodges.
Lift ticket: Adult one day, $73 to $105 depending on week.
Beaver Creek, Colo.
It does not get much swankier than Beaver Creek, which has numerous ski-in/ski-out resorts, including the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch, Park Hyatt and the Osprey, closer to the lifts than any hotel in the nation. Yet despite the decadence, the quality of skiing is excellent for all abilities.
Lift ticket: Adult one day, $80 to $105 depending on week.
Deer Valley, Utah
Deer Valley is one of the only ski resorts in the world that limits lift ticket sales every day to keep the experience uncrowded for its high-powered guests. Its slopes are home to three of the most over-the-top luxury ski-in/ski-out hotels in the world, the Montage, the Stein Eriksen Lodge and the St. Regis Deer Crest.
Lift ticket: Adult one day, $96.
New at Colorado resorts
For the past few years, the trend among ski resorts has been the addition of luxury hotels and other upscale facilities. This year, many resorts have turned their attention to ski lifts, with new and replacement lifts operating throughout the West.
That's not all. Other upgrades include restaurants, special skiing areas and nature tours. Here's a look what's new this winter at a few Colorado ski resorts:
• Copper Mountain has several major improvements, including a detachable quad chair lift and the new U.S. Ski Team Speed Center, designed to help the U.S. Ski Team get a jump on winter training.
• At Beaver Creek, a new high-speed detachable quad chair lift in the Rose Bowl area will help reduce congestion at two other lifts. Elsewhere on the mountain, families with children ages 6 and older can enjoy new guided family snowshoe nature tours.
• Aspen Snowmass' Buttermilk Mountain has a new lift and terrain.
The endless winter
Looking for a way to enjoy the slopes all season? Well, gap-year programs aren't just for college students trying to find themselves before launching their careers. They are also ways for people taking a career break — or just looking for work — to indulge their passion.
Ski Famillie arranges seasonal ski work on the French slopes for people of all age. Right now, recruiters are looking for nannies and cooks. Employees can ski on their days off. Room and board are part of the benefit package.
For more information, go to www.skifamillie.co.uk.
The trick is all treat for skiers
The pre-Halloween snowstorm in the Northeast ruined trick-or-treating plans but was a boon to New England's ski resorts, which opened just a few days after the holiday, at least for a few days.
Vermont's Killington Resort, battered badly by tropical storm Irene in August, fired up its lifts, giving advanced skiers and riders a chance to get some rare October runs in on its Rime run, an ungroomed upper mountain trail with 600 vertical feet. Tickets are $39 for adults.
Down the road in West Dover, Mount Snow also opened a chairlift on its learning hill, turning it into a terrain park for what it's billing as "rail-fest-type-teaser weekend." Proceeds from its $10 lift tickets went toward helping a popular bowling alley in nearby Wilmington that was badly flooded by Irene.
Sunday River in Newry, Maine, also opened, charging $29 for an adult ticket and offering skiing on its upper T2 trail on Locke Mountain.
Skiing closer to home
The call of the big mountains out West is strong for skiers from flat Florida, but you don't have to go that far to enjoy some powder. Head north to West Virginia, where slopes are benefitting from early snowfall.
Snowshoe Mountain Resort had more than 20 inches of natural snow fall in October and is scheduled to open on Nov. 23.
Other West Virginia resorts: Timberline Resort is expected to open on Dec. 8, Winterplace on Dec. 9, Canaan Valley opens on Dec. 10 and Oglebay Resort is set to open in mid December.
Cram for exams, then ski
ESPN recently named the best colleges for skiers. For those who want to ski between classes, here are four they should consider applying to:
• University of Utah
Snowbird. Brighton. Alta. Park City. Solitude. If you're a student at the University of Utah, these resorts — and the Wasatch backcountry — are your playground.
• University of Vermont
At the University of Vermont, students who ski have lots of options: Jay Peak, Killington, Sugarbush and Mad River are all do-able for day trips. The closest ski area to Burlington is Bolton Valley, where the UVM Outing Club owns and rents a cabin on the access road.
• University of Colorado at Boulder
Campus is 30 minutes from Eldora, Boulder's local ski hill, and backcountry skiing in the Indian Peaks. On weekends, students and faculty can ride the Ski Bus round-trip from campus to Keystone, Breckenridge, Vail or Arapahoe Basin for $15.
• Middlebury College
Vermont's Middlebury College owns its own ski area, the Middlebury Snowbowl, where a student lift ticket costs just $34.
For the complete list, go to ESPN.go.com
Low-impact adventures in California
Many Golden State ski resorts are increasing opportunities for low-speed winter sports, among them snowshoeing, telemarking, cross-country or skate skiing. Plus, there are plenty of places to sail down a hill on an inner tube, toboggan or an old-school sled.
Snowshoe sales were up more than 20 percent last winter from the previous year, according to industry sources. The largest segment, nearly 50 percent, of the over-35 crowd of winter sports participants is made up of those who go cross-country skiing. And cross-country skiing involves the highest percentage of women, 45 percent, of any winter sport.
The Lake Tahoe region has several significant cross-country ski areas with trail networks. Nearby Tahoe-Donner has a cross-country area with 51 trails covering 100 kilometers, and despite the ski area's proximity to winter cabins, you can quickly depart into forest and leave the masses behind.
San Francisco Chronicle
Tampa Bay ski clubs
• The Clearwater/St. Petersburg Ski & Sports Club hosts several trips this season, beginning with a Taos, N.M., excursion Jan. 7-14. The other locations include Park City, Utah; Sun Valley, Idaho; Telluride, Colo.; Lake Tahoe, Nev., and Snowmass, Colo. Prices vary, but are generally $1,200 to $1,800 and include round-trip airfare from Tampa, transportation at the location, lodging and some meals. Deadlines for final payment have passed for some trips but you might check to see if there are openings.
The group meets monthly from September to May on the second Tuesday of the month at the Thirsty Marlin, 351 West Bay Drive, Largo. For more information, go to snowshark.org.
• Florida Ski Adventures has a trip arranged to Snowmass, Colo., Jan. 28-Feb. 4. Cost is $1,329 including airfare. For more information, go to floridaskiadventures.com.
• The Onyx Ski & Sports Club of Tampa Bay plans several trips this season, including Colorado, Vermont and Idaho. The club typically has afternoon meetings the second Sunday of each month from September to June. For information, go to onyxski.com.