Hostels and Cheap Mountain Inns Make Bargain Ski Vacations

Mountainside hostels, many private inns and Airbnbs invite families to enjoy snow sports in cheap, comfortable, spotless and private facilities at new style ski hostels.

Vail Resorts on a blue sky day makes it all worthwhile; photo c. Hostelworld.
Vail Resorts on a blue sky day makes it all worthwhile; especially if you’re sleeping for under $50 a night. Photo c. Hostelworld.

Hostelling has come a long way from your youthful backpacking days; in fact, many refer to young travelers sporting rolling suitcases, iPhones and tablets as “flashpackers” because of their aversion to truly spartan accommodations. Today, some of the non-profit groups dedicated to fostering a sense of community among youthful travelers have spruced up their lounges with flat panel TVs, added cybercafes and capuccino makers, and put in large double rooms with ensuite bathing facilities.

Extended families have other options with surprisingly low rates, especially midweek at the smaller resort areas, by searching for condo rentals and Airbnbs with multiple bedrooms, so the rental costs can be shared. Here are some favorite options for those who want to invest in snowsports lessons, not lodging.

Resources for Cheap Ski Lodges & Hostels in North America

Hostelling International USA (HIUSA) is the leading non-profit hostel organization, and they have specially designated Ski Hostels open for guests all winter long. They should not be confused with the spartan dorms that many mountain resorts maintain for local school groups and visiting college teams, most of which are closed to the general public.

Instead, we’re talking about clean and cheerful youth hostels located close to skiing and snowboarding hot spots like Yosemite National Park, California; Park Rapids, Minnesota; Mont Tremblant, Quebec and White River Junction, Vermont. HIUSA’s ski hostels in North America cater to all ages and provide inexpensive, quality accommodations ranging in price from around $20 to $55 per person, per night.

Additionally, there are many small inns and B&Bs that reserve some rooms for dorm style / shared bath living so they can accommodate all ends of the budget spectrum. A for-profit venture, the Dublin based Hostelworld lists many commercial options and boast an easy to use website with over 10 million user reviews. They represent hostels like The Bunkhouse in Minturn, Colorado, where families can take shuttles to Vail or Beaver Creek, hang out in a comfortable common area with other guests and cook while paying around $84 per night per bed in the inn’s dorm facilities. (Sounds high but not bad value in the Rockies.)

While Airbnb doesn’t offer dorm accommodations per se, they have many huge ski houses where you can pack in several families and relive your college days — another great way to save. You can use the money you save on lodging for a much-deserved massage!

Family Facilities & Transport for Skiers

Bunkhouse Hostel, Minturn CO
The Bunkhouse Hostel in Colorado is between Vail and Beaver Creek resorts. Photo. c. Hostelworld

What can you expect from a hostel or dorm room? At hostels or small B&Bs and dorms, family facilities and amenities will vary by location. Some offer ice skating, a cozy bar, and a warm bed from under US$20 per bed per night.

Some hostels have family rooms or small dorm rooms where a family can achieve privacy by booking all the available beds, similar to what you would get in a B&B. Bathroom facilities at hostels are typically shared; a public laundry room and kitchen facilities are available at most every one. The dorm facilities in private B&Bs are similar, though a hot breakfast is usually included in rates.

Reservations for these locations are harder to come by in the months leading up to winter, so check on bed/room availability as soon as you know your travel plans. Airbnb has hundreds of listings — many private homes or condos — so be sure to check what’s available there, and get in touch with owners to verify the proximity to your ski area of choice.

All of the major HIUSA, Hostelworld and HI Canada ski hostels (some open in summer for mountain biking and hiking, too) are listed below along with the major downhill and cross-country ski areas located less than two-hours’ drive or shuttle bus away.

Here are some of the best mountain lodgings that accommodate families and small groups with low cost housing options and often, ways to purchase lift tickets at a discount.

Alberta, Canada Hostels & Ski Areas

The Quiet Area at the Hostelling International Canada hostel in Lake Louise, near Banff, Alberta.
The Quiet Area at the Hostelling International Canada hostel in Lake Louise, near Banff, Alberta. Photo c. HICanada

HI-Banff Alpine Centre
HI-Lake Louise Alpine Centre
Nearest Ski Areas:
Sunshine Village
Lake Louise
Mount Norquay

British Columbia, Canada Lodging & Ski Areas

HI-Fernie the Raging Elk Hostel
Nearest Ski Area: Fernie Alpine Resort

Kamloops B.C. Airbnb: 3BR house with hot tub sleeps 6, 25 minutes to Sun Peaks, $150/N
Nearest Ski Area: Sun Peaks Resort

HI-Nelson, Dancing Bear Inn
Nearest Ski Area: Whitewater Ski Resort

Golden Dreams B & B
Nearest Ski Area: Whistler-Blackcomb Ski Resort

Kelowna B.C. Airbnb: 3BR House sleeps 7, swimming pool & hot tub, $665/N
Nearest Ski Area: Big White

Colorado Lodgings & Ski Areas

Fireside Inn Bed & Breakfast plus Dorms in Breckenridge
Nearest Ski Area: Breckenridge Resort

Saint Moritz Lodge & Hostel
Nearest Ski Areas:
Aspen, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, Snowmass

Maine Hostels & Ski Areas

Bethel Maine Hostel
Nearest Ski Area: Sunday River

Montana Hostels & Ski Areas

Whitefish Hostel
Nearest Ski Areas: Glacier National Park for cross country skiing.
Whitefish Mountain Resort

New Hampshire Hostels & Ski Areas

White Mountains Hostel
Nearest Ski Areas:
Bretton Woods
Attitash Mountain Resort

Oregon Hostels & Ski Areas

HI-Portland, Northwest and HI-Hawthorne
Nearest Ski Areas:
Mt. Hood Skibowl
Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort

Quebec, Canada Hostels & Ski Areas

Nearest Ski Area:
Tremblant for cross country and alpine skiing.

Vermont Hostels & Ski Areas

Family-friendly Airbnb near the Bolton Valley ski resort sleeps 6 for $168 per night during winter. Photo c. Airbnb
Family-friendly Airbnb near the Bolton Valley ski resort sleeps 6 for $168 per night during winter. Photo c. Airbnb

HI-White River Junction, The Hotel Coolidge
Nearest Ski Areas:
Mount Sunapee, New Hampshire
Lake Morey Resort for cross-country skiing.

Turn of River Lodge
Nearest Ski Areas:

Bolton Valley Airbnb: 2BR Ski In/Out Loft sleeps 6, $168/N
Nearest Ski Area: Bolton Valley

Please add any ski hostels and cheap lodges you find on your travels to the Comments section below.  Happy Trails!

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4 Replies to “Skiing On A Budget”

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    This post are very useful one. It is great to see this blog. Thank you for sharing this.
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  • Alex – you can use this story to see the hostels that are located close to ski resorts. To sleep in them would be about $15-$20 per person per night. You can't get much cheaper, and many have their own kitchens where you can prepare meals.

    Most of the small, local ski areas have cheaper lessons and lift tickets. Where are you living, maybe we can suggest a place near your family?

  • hi im after going to see the snow this year and ski but we are on a tight budget any ideas of place and accomidation and ski hire????

  • lowra

    If you are looking into hostels and you are a family, call the hostel to get a sense of the character of the place. We went to a hostel once with our elementary age kids(not in a ski area) and it was filled with young 20 somethings and teens having lots of fun – smoking pot in the parking lot, partying, etc. Even though some hostels have family rooms, if the place is full of kids it can be uncomfortable. Some hostels do have older visitors and more families, so it pays to ask.