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7 Affordable Ski Resorts in California

7 Affordable Ski Resorts in California

Offering majestic scenery, varied terrain, and comfortable accommodations, these are the state’s best affordable ski resorts.


5 min read

February 07, 2021

To many tourists, the Golden State is all about the surf, sand, and sun. But to skiing enthusiasts, the appeal of California lies far from its sandy coastlines—it’s way up in its snow-capped mountains. Featuring majestic scenery, varied (and seemingly endless) terrain, and comfortable accommodations, the state’s best affordable ski resorts belong on your next California ski tour.

Whether you’re embarking on your annual winter weekend getaway in the Golden State or planning a ski trip for the first time, these are the affordable ski resorts in California that’ll have you looking forward to your next vacation without breaking the bank.

What to Know Before Planning a Ski Trip to Affordable Ski Towns

  • There are a variety of passes offered by each ski resort. Sift through all the options to find what’s right for you (and your budget) before booking your trip.
  • Choose your destination with your skill level in mind. Some ski resorts offer more advanced runs, while others feature mostly beginner terrains. Knowing beforehand ensures that you’ll have the best time—with no unpleasant surprises.
  • Skiing is a relatively expensive sport. While you may be able to cut costs by staying at a cheap ski resort, you will have to pay for a lift pass, which can be pricey. Daily lift passes at the inexpensive ski resorts listed below cost approximately $40 to $130.
  • Due to increased safety measures, most ski resorts are requiring visitors to purchase tickets well in advance and in limited numbers. Check each resort's website regularly so you can stay up-to-date on any policy changes.

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The best value ski resorts in the Golden State

With 425 acres of skiable terrain and 32 varying trails, Mt. Shasta Ski Park caters to California skiers of all levels.

1. Mt. Shasta Ski Park

Location: 4500 Ski Park Highway, McCloud

Mt. Shasta Ski Park is located in the Cascade Range and is a go-to spot for NorCal ski enthusiasts. This affordable ski resort boasts more than 400 acres of skiable terrain that caters to skill levels, from beginner to highly advanced. The intermediate slopes make up over half of the resort’s terrain, and the longest run extends 1.25 miles.

Though it's known for being a top California ski resort, Mt. Shasta Ski Park offers many other outdoorsy winter activities as well. From hiking and ice skating to snowboarding and snowshoeing, Mount Shasta has it all.

2. Dodge Ridge Ski Resort

Location: 1 Dodge Ridge Road, Pinecrest

Another NorCal favorite, Dodge Ridge is a top affordable ski resort that has been operated by the Helm family since 1976. Today, the 800-plus acres of skiable terrain make it one of the best ski spots not only in California, but also in the entire country. Receiving more than 300 inches of annual snowfall, the terrain at Dodge Ridge is suitable for skiers of all levels; 20 percent of the area is designated for beginners, 40 percent is for intermediate skiers, and 40 percent is for advanced skiers. 

Besides affordable passes and exceptional service, this inexpensive ski resort also boasts a skiing school with classes for all skill levels. For those looking to further explore the area, there are various dining options—fit for every budget—a short drive away from Dodge Ridge.

Donner Ski Ranch boasts one of the highest base elevations in the Sierra, offering some of the best powder in the Lake Tahoe region.

3. Donner Ski Ranch

Location: 19320 Donner Pass Road, Norden

Donner Ski Ranch first opened for skiing in 1937, making it one of the oldest ski resorts in California. And believe it or not, this inexpensive ski resort is still independently owned and operated. Like you and me, Donner Ski Ranch believes skiing shouldn't be reserved for the rich and famous (yay for cheap skiing).

Whether you're an advanced skier or a first-timer, you can have the time of your life skiing at Donner Ski Ranch without breaking the bank. Today, the affordable ski resort boasts 400 skiable acres (38 percent of which are for intermediate skiers) as well as 5 double chairlifts and 1 triple chairlift.

4. China Peak Mountain Resort

Location: 59265 CA-168, Lakeshore

China Peak Mountain Resort is located at Huntington Lake, just 65 miles away from Fresno. Thanks to its rather remote location, this affordable ski resort provides an intimate skiing experience for its visitors. Skiers and riders will find a variety of terrain parks to choose from on the mountain, but the majority of the runs are for advanced and expert skiers; the longest run is 2.25 miles.

This inexpensive ski resort offers slopeside lodging just steps from the lifts. If you’re not staying overnight, you can also drop in for a quick bite and enjoy the wide variety of comforting soups, succulent steaks, and delicious burgers.

Situated only 20 miles outside of Los Angeles, Mount Baldy Ski Resort provides easy access to more than 4,000 acres of terrain.

5. Mount Baldy Ski Resort

Location: 8401 Mt Baldy Road, Mount Baldy

Located about an hour northeast of Los Angeles, in the San Gabriel Mountains, Mount Baldy Ski Resort is a prime skiing location if you’re looking for a good challenge. With a summit elevation of 8,600 feet, this inexpensive ski resort boasts 26 trails serviced by 4 ski lifts. You’ll definitely find beginner- and intermediate-level trails here, but a large number of Mount Baldy’s ski runs are better suited for the pros.

Want an entirely unique SoCal dining experience? Take the 15-minute ride on the Sugar Pine Chair Lift to the popular Top of the Notch Restaurant. Situated at an elevation of 7,800 feet, this dining destination at the affordable ski resort boasts panoramic views of the Angeles National Forest that’ll take your breath away.

6. Sugar Bowl Resort

Location: 629 Sugar Bowl Road, Norden

Sugar Bowl Resort is beloved for its quaint feel and charming ambience. By keeping its classic ski atmosphere, Sugar Bowl Resort has managed to keep the old-school feel of California skiing alive while providing all of the modern amenities you need. Perched atop Tahoe’s Donner Summit, Sugar Bowl Resort is the closest major ski resort to the Bay Area and receives the most snowfall—up to 500 inches of snow per year. The 1,650-acre affordable ski resort offers wide, winding routes that expose you to sweeping views around every turn.

Those staying overnight will love Sugar Bowl's charming European-style rooms— featuring ski-in, ski-out accommodation—and fine-dining restaurant that serves gourmet cuisine in an elegant atmosphere. 

The name says it all—Heavenly Ski Resort is a paradise for skiers, thanks to its stunning scenery and expansive network of ski runs.

7. Heavenly Ski Resort

Location: 3860 Saddle Road, South Lake Tahoe

As its name rightfully implies, Heavenly is one of the most scenic ski resorts in California. This affordable ski resort offers majestic snow-capped mountains and overlooks the crystal blue waters of Lake Tahoe. The breathtaking views of Heavenly are as much of a tourist-magnet as its fantastically skiable slopes.

Approximately a three- to four-hour drive away from San Francisco, this inexpensive ski resort boasts 34 miles of groomed trails across 4,000-plus skiable acres—the most in Lake Tahoe. Even though Heavenly accommodates skiers of all levels, 62 percent of the resort’s 97 runs are designated for intermediate skiers.

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