While doing some research for my answer in are ski areas shutting down? I was a bit shocked by the American prices for lift tickets. Vail is at $220 and while this may be an exceptionally expensive resort, the average price in season 16/17 was at almost a hundred dollars and for sure has not decreased since.

Compared to Europe, this is outrageous. Ski Arlberg, probably the biggest resort in Austria is at 56€ this season with other top resorts in Austria being close to this. Even if we take expensive Switzerland, most resorts are in the 55 to 65 CHF with top resorts like Zermatt International being at 90-100 CHF (they have dynamic pricing). This is basically a factor of 2 and more to American resorts.

Can anybody tell me reasons for this?

(At the time of writing, $1 = 0.98 CHF = 0.93 €, therefore about the same magnitude)

  • I don't know what the right answer is, but I imagine healthcare costs and accident liability has a lot to do with it. Commented Feb 20, 2020 at 19:23
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    It may be a cultural difference. As an American, I see skiing as "something rich people do." Perhaps it's more of an everyperson activity in the European countries you mentioned.
    – csk
    Commented Feb 20, 2020 at 20:26
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    Looking at Vail and asking why ski resorts are expensive is like looking at Disneyland and asking why theme parks are expensive.
    – Mark
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 2:08
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    Probably just market and demand, i.e. if the resorts can get away with high prices and if there are enough customers at those prices, why not? Whistler is also at about $100CAD/day but other local ski hills near Vancouver are considerably cheaper, around $50/60. In North America, I think it's mostly down to whether the resort is a prestige destination or not - i.e. are you going to lotta-Instagram it or not? Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 18:54
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because ultimately is a question of economics the sister site economics.stackexchange.com should be checked. Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 17:34

2 Answers 2


I've wondered that too. I think the answer is limited supply combined with substantial barriers to opening new resorts. In the US, most mountainous areas in the West are owned by the federal government and administered by the US Forest Service. The permitting process for new resorts on USFS land is ludicrously expensive, slow and complicated (and expansion of existing resorts, though this isn't quite as difficult). You can get into the double digits of millions of dollars before even breaking ground. Then factor in the numerous protests, lawsuits, etc. ANY change in use of federal land goes through and opening a new resort is nearly impossible. Side note: some tracts of private land large enough to develop into a ski resort do exist. However they're rarely offered for sale and needless to say are extremely expensive

Most ski resorts in the West were opened when permitting was much easier. Now you have many more skiers (because of US population growth) and about the same number of large resorts as there were in the 70s (and many less small ones, but that's a different topic). So ski resorts are basically this fossil resource that we can't make any more of as demand increases

Also consolidation in the ski industry (lookin at you, Veil Resorts) probably contributes


Because enough people pay this price for the resort to stay in business.

Sister site What Creates the Price in the First Place

supply and demand depend on a whole range of (hypothetical) prices. However, the equilibrium price (which is a certain price and different from the range of potential prices) is that price where both supply and demand meet. Source

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    While I feel the question isn't very high quality itself, I'm not sure this answer is much help. Two people (including myself) pointed the phenomenon out in comments (supply/demand). If I felt the question needed more than 1 sentence to answer I might have done so, but in this case, should the question even remain open?
    – Gabriel
    Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 17:25
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    @GabrielC. I think it is a question for economics.stackexchange.com as written I don't really see how it fits on TGO. I think this answer and similar comments support this being a question of economics. Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 17:32
  • P.S. If the question is closed as I think it should be, I will delete this answer to facilitate auto delete of the question. Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 17:43
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    Supply and demand is the ultimative answer to all economics questions. The interesting part is why they are so much different in different regions. I think we got already quite a lot of indications in the comments and should keep this out at least migrate it. Deletion is a waste of the time of all the people involved
    – Manziel
    Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 18:53
  • @Manziel I respect your opinion, but dig a little deeper, compare the price of camping and hotels in the same countries/regions you are looking at ski resorts in. How do other outdoor activities measure up? Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 19:22

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