In mid-January, I went to the Winter Park Ski Resort in Colorado for a weekend.
I spent two days skiing and snowboarding, and the one-night trip cost $1,219.
A $263 ski class and my $316 hotel room were the most expensive parts of the weekend.
Travelers often expect to pay hefty prices in ritzy ski towns like Aspen, Colorado, and Courchevel, France — two ski resorts known for luxury and their celebrity clientele.
But even beyond ski resorts beloved by the ultra-rich, the high price of skiing or snowboarding can cause a double take. I learned that the hard way on a recent trip to Winter Park, Colorado.
Winter Park is home to 3,000 acres of skiable terrain. It's also been named the best ski resort in both Colorado and North America, according to Colorado's 5280 Magazine and USA Today, respectively.
And outlets like Planet Ware and Sky-Hi News have previously ranked Winter Park as one of the most affordable resorts in Colorado.
But from lifts to lessons and lodging, I thought that was far from the truth. A one-night, two-day trip in mid-January cost me $1,219.26.
My first expense started with figuring out how to get to the ski resort from my home in Denver, Colorado.
I've experienced the nightmare of ski traffic firsthand, so to minimize stress and soak in mountain views, I boarded Amtrak's Winter Park Express, a train that takes skiers on a direct two-hour ride from Denver to Winter Park.
And while I successfully dodged bumper-to-bumper traffic, the round-trip ticket did dig into my budget with a cost of $118.
My next expense came when I disembarked in Winter Park un-caffeinated and hungry, and headed to the resort's Starbucks.
With nearly every breakfast item sold out, I ordered a toasted plain bagel and a coffee, which cost $12.31. Back in Denver, I pay $8.94 for the same order.
I soon realized that expensive food would be a theme throughout my trip. Later in the day, I stopped at Lime Cantina for lunch. Three mushroom street tacos and a tip cost $19.25.
My priciest meal came the next day at Winter Park's Derailer Bar. Here, I ordered an Impossible burger, which came out to $32.73. After the tip, I paid nearly $40 for the meal.
But a $40 burger was cheap in comparison to the actual price of skiing and snowboarding. Getting on the slopes was easily the most expensive part of my weekend.
I picked up gear at the resort's official rental shop where renting skis and snowboards cost the same. On my first day, I rented a snowboard and boots for $84, which included taxes and a $5 damage-protection fee.
On my second day, I rented a pair of skis, ski boots, and poles. Helmets are included in rentals, but I brought my own. Together, two days of rentals cost $168.
I also needed a lift ticket to get on the slopes. For the first day of my trip, I purchased a one-day lift ticket for $212. Lift tickets range from $113 to $239 depending on the day of the week and how far you purchase in advance, according to the resort's website.
Source: Winter Park Resort
On the second day of my trip, I took a ski class. At Winter Park, beginners like me are required to buy a discounted lift ticket for $74 on top of the class, which cost $189. But after paying $212 for my lift ticket the day before, I thought $263 was a bargain for a lesson and another lift ticket.
A hotel room was my other major expense. Since I didn't have a car, I wanted to book a hotel along the resort's free bus route. I chose one of the few remaining hotels with vacancies, the Winter Park Mountain Lodge.
One night in a room with two queen beds — the cheapest room available 10 days before my trip — cost $316 after taxes and fees.
Smaller expenses throughout the trip also added up. For example, I needed a locker on both days on the slopes, which cost a total of $18.
By the time I left the resort, I spent almost as much as I do on monthly rent in Denver.
I admit I could've made smarter financial decisions. I should've packed a PB&J for lunch like I've done on other ski trips. And if I skipped the train and drove, I would've spent around $30 on gas instead of $118 on a train ticket.
Even with those small changes, skiing is still an expensive hobby. But I also get the appeal. There's no other feeling like zooming down a mountain on a sunny day in beautiful Colorado.
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