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Why Are Ski Lift Tickets So Expensive?

Skiing is a popular winter sport loved by millions of people around the world. The experience of gliding down a mountain slope with snow-capped trees and clear blue skies is unparalleled. However, skiing is an expensive sport, and one cost that is often criticized is the high price of ski lift tickets. So why are ski lift tickets so expensive, and what factors contribute to their high cost?

1. High Initial Investment

Ski resorts are not cheap to build, operate, and maintain. They require large initial investments to buy land, construct lifts, build lodges, and purchase snowmaking equipment. According to the National Ski Areas Association, the average capital expenditure to build a new ski resort in the United States is around $20 million. Furthermore, ski lifts are expensive to purchase, install, and maintain. According to the American Tramway Association, a typical chairlift costs around $1 million to $3 million, and high-speed detachable chairlifts can cost up to $10 million. Therefore, the high cost of ski lift tickets is partially due to the large initial investment required to establish and maintain a ski resort.

2. Seasonal Business

Ski resorts are seasonal businesses that generate most of their revenue during the winter months. Ski resorts have a limited season, which typically lasts from November to April in most places. During the off-season, ski resorts still need to pay for staff and maintain equipment while generating little to no revenue. Hence, ski lift tickets must bear the cost of operating and maintaining a resort for an entire year despite having a limited ski season.

3. High Operating Costs

Running a ski resort involves many costs, beyond just construction and maintenance. The day-to-day operation of a ski resort requires a large number of employees to operate lifts, groom trails, manage rentals, provide lessons, and maintain equipment. Many of these jobs require specialized skills and training, which can make staffing costs high. Moreover, ski resorts need to invest in snowmaking and grooming equipment to ensure snow coverage and smooth slopes. Snowmaking involves significant energy consumption, and the electricity bill for a ski resort can easily reach thousands of dollars per day.

4. High Demand

The high demand for ski lift tickets is another factor contributing to their high cost. Skiing is a popular sport, and the demand for lift tickets often outstrips supply. When demand exceeds supply, prices inevitably go up. According to the National Ski Areas Association, ski resort visitation in the United States reached 59 million in the 2018-19 winter season, generating $9 billion in revenue. Therefore, ski lift tickets are priced high partially because of high demand.

5. Upgrades and Improvements

Ski resorts always strive to improve the skiing experience for their customers. They upgrade lifts, install new snowmaking equipment, and build new lodges and facilities to attract more skiers. These upgrades and improvements come at a considerable cost and are financed by increasing ski lift ticket prices. However, many skiers are willing to pay the extra cost to enjoy new amenities and improved skiing conditions.


In conclusion, the high price of ski lift tickets is due to a variety of factors, including the high initial investment required to build and maintain a ski resort, the seasonal nature of the business, high operating costs, high demand, and the need to finance upgrades and improvements. Despite the criticism, ski lift tickets’ high cost is a necessary evil to ensure the safe and enjoyable operation of ski resorts, and to continue to bring joy to millions of skiing enthusiasts around the world.