Think skiing and snowboarding have gone too glam? Check out these affordable ski areas, where pricing is just one throwback: All preserve a homegrown spirit and unpretentious vibe. So bring your sack lunch to these seven western ski centers and explore slopes ranging from mellow to extreme.
Bogus Basin, Idaho
Non-profit status lets Bogus Basin (located 16 miles from Boise) invest all revenue into mountain operations and improvements, so some amenities match glitzier resorts. Located just east of Simplot Lodge, the Glade Runner alpine coaster hits 27 miles per hour (which feels as fast as space travel, especially on the curves) and a one-ride pass costs $15 ($25 for tandems). Double R Ranch BBQ Smokehouse turns Snake River meats into warming grub at the base. Don’t miss the BBQ bowl combining slow-roasted pork, slaw, and macaroni and cheese. But the vibe is inviting, runs are long (thanks to 1,800 feet of vertical rise), and the slopes appeal to everyone, with beginner boulevards for never-evers and extreme terrain for rippers. Day ticket from $73.
Smart tip: This year, 5th and 6th graders can ski for up to three days for just $18 at 18 mountains in Idaho, including Bogus Basin. Go to skiidaho.us/passports to register a child or find out more.
Donner Ski Ranch, California
Approachable in both cost and location (an hour and a half from Sacramento and 45 minutes from Reno), family-owned Donner is 30 to 90 minutes closer to the Bay Area than Lake Tahoe resorts. All runs trickle down from one central peak. Beginners snowplow down the frontside bunny slopes off chairs #1 and #6, experts rip backside steeps such as The Gully below chair #3, and even non-skiers zoom down snow on two tubing lanes ($35 for two hours) located beside the parking lot, adjacent to the ski runs. Go Tuesday through Thursday for Old School Days (when lift tickets cost $49) to eat pie for breakfast at the Old 40 Bar & Grill, located within the base area lodge—Donner owner Janet Tuttles bakes pies from scratch daily, using tons (literally) of apples and other fillings that she buys in season, freezes, and tucks into hand-rolled crusts. Day ticket from $89.