Hear me out: Cheap flights to the mountains are the best way to break the winter blues.
If, like me, you live somewhere where winter can be brutal, it just means you haven't found someplace where winter is amazing, like mountain towns.
Despite some mountain towns being in far-flung, wilder locations, you'd be surprised how frequent and reliable flights are to some of those destinations. From the cheap flights to Colorado to the Swiss Alps, it's likely that you can find a flight to your snowy, wintry paradise for less than you'd expect.
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 you can 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
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? Because so many airlines offer nonstop service to Denver International Airport (DEN) and (to a lesser extent) Salt Lake City (SLC), 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.
Get flight deals like this one to your inbox with Thrifty Traveler Premium!
And then there's Utah, with is famous ultra-light powder snow that is forgivingly soft and fluffy. And with a dozen or so resorts within an hour of Salt Lake City (SLC), it's a dream destination for most skiers and riders.
Cheap Flights to Montana
Montana's wild, western mountains are also a great place for a mountain retreat. Besides the world-class skiing, Montana is known for having sparse crowds and a true western vibe.
Recently, Thrifty Traveler Premium subscribers received alerts for low fares into Bozeman, Montana (BZN) – home to Bridger Bowl Ski Area and a short drive from world-famous Big Sky.
The aptly named Big Sky is known for its expanse of runs that cater to any skier. Your first day on skis? Its wide-open, slow-rolling groomed runs are a great way to get your feet wet.
Thrill seeker? Disappear into the clouds on the Lone Peak Tram, which plops skiers and riders on the top of Lone Peak, where they can find the steep and deep. Plus, as a ski area that is only a few decades old, Big Sky comes with a long list of modern amenities for the whole family.
Cheap Flights to Jackson Hole
The steeps of Jackson Hole are world famous. It's a legendary ski destination that deserves your attention.
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, 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.
Jackson Hole used to be too expensive and too far flung. 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.
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 four-plus hours away with traffic and fly to the east side of Tahoe instead.
Cheap Flights to Alaska
Alaska is known for its winter adventures, and 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.
But Alaska is famous for its heli-skiing. While it can be an expensive endeavor, it's a bucket list item for most skiers and riders.
The Chugach Mountains outside Anchorage are a world famous heli ski spot. Conditions (and sunlight) are best in Alaska in March, April, and even May.
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 starting at just $216 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. Oh, one tip: Don't bring this argument up at the bar…the locals have strong opinions!
These deals are gone now – get the next one with Thrifty Traveler Premium!
Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise, Revelstoke, and Kicking Horse are some of the snowiest resorts in the world. They are also much quieter than the likes of Whistler or the most popular resorts of the United States. Take a good look here if you're looking for a real mountain getaway this winter.
Cheap Flights to Europe
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 coming 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 Murren, 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 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.
Plus, if you want to get to the Alps in style, we've got Premium subscribers covered there, too! Check out this award alert flying SWISS business class deal we recently found straight into Zurich – from just over 50,000 points each way!
Thrifty Traveler Premium members get award alerts like this one as well as cheap domestic and international cash fares!
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 have 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 $321 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 Chile
Want to go skiing in the summer? Look no further than Chile. The Andes Mountains have some incredible skiing as well, and with this mistake fare to Santiago (SCL) we found earlier this year, it was possible to book a flight that was cheaper than your lift ticket.
Just outside of Santiago, Chile you'll find the ski destination of Valle Nevado. Despite being a far-flung ski area for American tourists, it is on both the Ikon Pass and the Mountain Collective. That means if you can get a low fare down to Santiago, you can be skiing within your pass and saving hundreds!
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.”
Japan is gearing up to reopen to travelers soon, so a flight deal is all you need. Flights to Japan don't get cheaper than this unbelievable fare to Tokyo from last year … for under $200. Just a train ride away are the ski destinations of Hakuba (near Nagano) and Niseko (on the northern island of Hokkaido).
Don't stop your search at just these destinations, though. Premium subscribers have also received tips for low fares to places like Boise, Austria, Spain, Seattle, and more!
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.
|2022-2023 Ski Passes||Ikon||Epic||Mtn. Collective||Indy Pass|
|Adult Price||$1,179||$859||$579||$299/$399* (*no blackout dates)|
|Total Number of Resorts||59||62||27||110|
|Unlimited Access Resorts||14||40||N/A||N/A|
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 at 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.
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.
Here's the 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 are 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 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.
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.