I was born and raised in NM to a big skiing family. We love to ski and board. I’ve skied at every ski area in NM and enjoy them all; each resort is unique and has a little something different to offer. The best part of living in Albuquerque is that we can be on the mountain in only a couple of hours as the New Mexico ski resorts are only a short drive away.
We recently went with a group of friends to Aspen, Colorado to ski the infamous mountain. Those who were unable to join us were envious. “Aspen. So cool,” they would say vicariously as we readied for our trip. And yes, it was cool. Aspen is legendary. Aspen is beautiful. Aspen’s views are breathtaking. And so were the prices.
Turns out, Colorado skiing is very expensive.
We chose to drive the 9 hours north from Albuquerque to Aspen. After looking at flights we found Aspen was still a four-hour drive from the Denver airport so it just made sense to drive. At least we saved money doing so. It was the only savings we saw for the rest of the trip.
Compare The Cost
As we drove into town we stopped at a local grocery store hoping to find a deal on lift tickets. It’s common to find discounted lift tickets at grocery stores in other Colorado ski towns, but this time it was no dice. We’d be paying full price for our lift tickets. For two days of skiing we are already in $260 per person. That’s $140 per day for full day tickets and the lifts close at 3:30 p.m. Back home in NM, you won’t pay more than $85 a day (most passes are less) at any of the 8 NM ski resorts. Plus, NM area lifts don’t close until 4:00 or 4:30.
“Ok, no biggie. It’s Aspen.” I told myself and just surrendered to the expense.
Next, we headed off to find our lodging for the trip. We had booked a modest one bedroom condo for our group of 5 that set us back $375 per night for three nights. Thank goodness for friends, as we were able to split the total among those who stayed with us. This seems steep in comparison to similar condos back home in NM which range from $185 to $225 a night depending on location and resort.
Now here’s the really frustrating part for most many skiers, rentals. It can be a hassle and take up a lot of time that you’d rather be, well, skiing. Luckily we have our own equipment, but one of our friends did not and needed to find local rentals. Renting on the mountain was going to be a cool $80 per day. That’s outrageous…even for Aspen. Fortunately, we were able to find him an off mountain rental that was $55 per day. This is when the sticker shock started to really seep in. We’re used to rentals in NM that average $40 per day on the mountain and around $22 per day off mountain.
Our first full day of skiing we headed out to Snowmass, a mountain with a ton of diverse terrain. We spent a lot of our day traversing the mountain just trying to check it all out. The runs were similar to any mountain in New Mexico. At midday, we stopped for lunch at the base of the mountain and had a customary burger (gotta try a burger from every mountain we ski), with an adult beverage. Lunch cost $30… each. Over all we had a nice day, but I’m sad to say it wasn’t much better than a day at any one of the ski areas in New Mexico, which have plenty of beginner and intermediate runs mixed with lots of steep challenging terrain.
We ended the day with a so-so dinner. It was good but nothing to write home about and still cost each of us another $50 for appetizers, drinks and dessert.
The second day a couple of us headed to Aspen while the rest stayed at Snowmass. We were warned that Aspen was too hard for some of the intermediate/beginner skiers in our group. I would say Aspen is a very similar mountain to Taos, the black and double black runs at Aspen are no harder than anything at Taos Ski Valley. Taos has some very cool terrain that can challenge even the best skiers in the world. Yet they also have lots of intermediate and beginner trails, which Aspen did not. It was a bummer for our group to split up between the two mountains because of ability. The two mountains were 40 minutes apart, so meeting up for lunch was even out of the question. We prefer a ski resort that skiers of all skill levels can enjoy and have a great time. Meeting at the bottom and grabbing the lift up together just makes for a better group trip.
Lunch on this day was about the same as the day before, minus drinks, which came to about $20 per person.
Our group finally reunited for dinner in Aspen for a moderately priced meal, for Aspen that is. Our meal cost $70 each at a restaurant we found on Yelp rated at $$. The food was good, but not special. There are so many amazing restaurants in all the New Mexico ski towns that would blow this one out of the water at a fraction of the price. We must be spoiled by the authentic cuisine that can only be found in New Mexico.
We love NM
As we headed back to the Land of Enchantment, I reflected on our trip and mostly my bank account. I realized how great New Mexico really is and how skiing, which I’m aware isn’t an inexpensive hobby, is so much more affordable in my own backyard. I can only imagine the expense of taking a family with kids to ski in Colorado. But why would you? Our mountains are really spectacular, with diverse terrain that any skier can enjoy, and great food and culture surrounding it all. After doing a little math as we drove, you’re looking at a fifty percent savings to ski in New Mexico.
Avid New Mexico Skier