Discover which resorts are giving you the best value for your buck

For most, the holy grail of skiing is finding lots of acreage for not a lot of money. And that's where the new Snowpak.com study comes in. Photo: Krcmar

For most, the holy grail of skiing is finding lots of acreage for not a lot of money. That’s where the new Snowpak.com study comes in. Photo: Courtesy of Stephen Krcmar

Just a few years ago, destination ski resorts in North America kept waiting for their competitors to go first: Who would be the first to break the $100 price barrier for a daily lift ticket? Those were the days.

Lift tickets at Vail and Beaver Creek are now $175, and three digit lift ticket prices are common. But who offers the best value? The folks at the travel site Snowpak.com just put in their two cents with a simple metric: How many acres can skiers/riders access per dollar of lift ticket price.

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For instance, Powder Mountain has 7,000 skiable acres and a $73 lift ticket, yielding 96 acres per dollar, earning the Utah mountain the top slot, followed by Whistler and Park City (the resort is formerly known as Park City Mountain Resorts and Canyons. It combined last summer to form the largest resort in the U.S.).

“What surprised me is that when we dug in a little bit, we saw some mountains you wouldn't expect or mountains that don't have huge, well-recognized names like Whistler, Park City and Big Sky,” said Owen Larkin, co-president of the New York-based SnowPak, during a phone interview.

Snowpak Chart Larkin’s not kidding. Although there are plenty of destination resorts on the list, there are also lesser-known spots like Bogus Basin, Anthony Lakes and Great Divide.

These smaller resorts made the list with low lift ticket prices, a few that are under $50, paired with impressive acreage.

Powder Mountain pulls the one-two punch of a lot of acreage (7,000), as well as an inexpensive lift ticket price ($73), and this is probably why it has a reputation for truth in advertising: There’s typically powder to be found days after a storm.

“At first glance, this [acres/dollar] is a very helpful metric, but when you dig into it, there are really big differences for different people,” said Larkin.

With 2,500 acres and an $88 lift ticket, Jackson Hole averages offers skiers and riders 28 acres per dollar of lift ticket price. This earned it the 20th spot in the Snowpak.com study. Photo: Krcmar

With 2,500 acres and an $88 lift ticket, Jackson Hole averages offer skiers and riders 28 acres per dollar of lift ticket price. This earned it the 20th spot in the Snowpak.com study. Photo: Courtesy of Stephen Krcmar

Take Jackson Hole Moutain Resort for instance. With 2,500 acres and an $88 lift ticket price, the Wyoming destination provides 28 acres per dollar of lift ticket price, enough to earn it the 25th slot in the Snowpak survey. But, only 10 percent of their terrain is suitable for beginners, a number that should be considered if your group includes new skiers.

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This is one of the reasons that Larkin believes the first question a trip organizer must ask themselves is, “what are the needs and considerations of everyone else in the party?” The sweet spot is finding terrain where all members of a party will be challenged to a healthy degree and never get bored.

A photo posted by Berne Broudy (@bernebroudy) on

It would be cool to see more info about crowds factored in. For instance, Vail sells a bazillion Epic Passes, so much so that there’s a joke that Epic stands for Every Prick In Colorado, and although the pass is one of the best deals in skiing, it might be too good because it makes skiing some Vail-owned resorts on the weekend almost unthinkable.

Some areas limit lift ticket sales, so skiing a popular destination like Deer Valley on a holiday is doable. One caveat: Just because a mountain limits lift ticket sales, doesn’t mean they limit it to a level where you’d want to ski it.

But if you get off the beaten path to, say, Wyoming or Montana, lift lines are unthinkable. But, at some of those spots that don’t attract crowds, cold temperatures are common so that should be factored in.

So, if you’re taking Larkin’s advice, use the Snowpak information as a starting-off point. After that, dig a little deeper to find a good match for you and your party.

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