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How To Plan a Budget-Friendly Ski Trip for Two Under $1,000

Updated: Apr 8, 2023

The cold weather started to set in around November. It was time to break out my wool socks and sip apple cider while the sun set early. I sat in front of my fireplace daydreaming about hitting the slopes this winter. If I am being frank, I knew I did not have the funds for a ski trip to Colorado this year, but this did not deter me from planning a ski trip.

It was important for me to ski this winter and not break the bank in the process. The average ski trip can cost anywhere from $2,500 to $10,000 including lift tickets, gear rentals, travel expenses, food, resort fees, etc.

My partner and I decided that we could swing a ski trip if it cost under $1,000 total. We decided we wanted to find a resort that was twelve hours or less from our home in Southwest Missouri and spend five days on the road. This may seem impossible to the average traveler, but as many know, I am not the average traveler.

Here is how we did it.

Colorado, Utah, and Vermont are some of the best states for skiing and snowboarding, but they can get pricey quickly. As a beginner skier who is content with blue and green runs, I decided to start looking at ski resorts in the northern region of the United States.

I did several hours of research on resorts with the help of the website, On the Snow.

I found a small, cost-effective ski resort in Wausau, Wisconsin through their website. The small town is home to Rib Mountain State Park. Each winter the state park is transformed into a ski area named Granite Peak from November to April. We decided to book our tickets and hit the road.

Our General Itinerary

Day 1 -

Travel from Springfield, Missouri to Wausau, Wisconsin

10 Hour & 13 Minute Drive Without Stops

Day 2 -

Explore Wausau, Wisconsin

Night Ski at Granite Peak

Day 3 -

Full Day Ski at Granite Peak

Eat Dinner at Local Restaurant

Day 4 -

Drive to Madison, Wisconsin

2 Hour & 17 Minute Drive Without Stops

Explore the City

Day 5 -

Travel from Madison, Wisconsin to Springfield, Missouri

8 Hour & 22 Minute Drive Without Stops

How It Went

Day 1

James, Ella, and I hit the road at 7 AM. We made sure to complete our two favorite road trip traditions before setting cruise control on I44. We went through the Wendy’s drive thru for breakfast sandwiches and played Willie Nelson’s ‘On the Road Again’ while we sipped our coffee.

The first few hours of our drive were extremely foggy. At least that is what James reported. Ella and I can normally be found snoozing for the first portion of the drive.

It was about time for James and me to switch roles at around 11 AM. The gang was starting to get hungry, so we set a groovy playlist as James pulled our lunch out of the cooler.

One of the biggest ways we save when traveling is by preparing meals for our trips.

We had a pre-cut charcuterie spread for lunch. James put together a layer of meat, cheese, and crackers to feed me while I kept my hands at 10 and 2 on the wheel.

We powered through the drive and arrived at our Airbnb around 6 PM. Just in time for dinner. We decided to heat up homemade chili (also prepped at home) and crack open a well-deserved beer.

Our only expense for our full day of travel was gas! Success!

Day 2

James and I woke up feeling excited to tackle our first full day in Wisconsin! The weather was around thirty degrees and cloudy, so we quickly made coffee as Ella stayed burrowed under the blankets.

I prepared two homemade quiches before we left Southwest Missouri. Ella quickly pounced out of bed when she smelled the quiche warming up in the microwave. Quiche was the perfect warm meal to start our busy day with.


We decided that one cup of coffee wasn’t going to cut it, so we made our way to Tucknee Coffee Company.

The shop had a killer menu, plants around every corner, and three friends running the entire operation. The coffee shop vibe was one of my favorites of the whole trip.

James and I strolled Downtown Wausau before heading back to our Airbnb to bundle up, cook brats, and head to grab a pre-ski beer at Red Eye Brewing Company. More to come on this gem!

I highly recommend night skiing if you are planning a budget friendly ski trip. Night skiing is offered at many ski resorts after sundown. It typically lasts until around 9:00 PM or 10:00 PM. There are floodlights-including LED lamps- which allow for visibility throughout the evening.

Lift tickets and gear rentals were significantly cheaper, and the lift lines were non-existent! We felt like we had the whole resort to ourselves.

Day 3

Granite Peak Ski Area had quality gear, staff was friendly, lift tickets were affordable, and we rarely had to wait in a lift line. James and I got our money’s worth over the course of two days.

Granite Peak currently features 74 runs, boasts a vertical drop of 700 feet, and they aren’t stopping! On January 7, 2023, they announced that the Natural Resources Board approved the Rib Mountain State Park Master Plan, and an expansion of their terrain is on the horizon with 2 new lifts and 8 trails in the plans.

They have live music every weekend, family friendly events, ski lessons, and firepits to keep warm.

I strongly recommend checking out Granite Peak Ski Area if you are looking for a beginner and budget friendly ski trip.

We wrapped up our day of skiing and snowboarding around 5 PM. We decided it was time to put on some dry clothes and splurge on dinner!


Red Eye Brewing Company’s food menu caught our eye on day two. We decided to try it out. The brewery works with local farmers to create a variety of different entrees. The menu had everything from woodfired pizza, chicken pot pie, unique starters, and a chef featured menu.

It is safe to say their food was just as kick ass as their beer on draft. James and I decided to order the following to share:


Thrust! IPA - American (7% ABV 75 IBU)

Social Lubricant Bock - Doppelbock (7.9% ABV 22 IBU)


Main Grain Bakery Pretzels - Maldon Salt, House-Made Beer Cheese Sauce & Stone Ground Mustard


Locavore Pizza - Basil Pesto Base, Fennel Sausage, Nueske’s Bacon, Carrot, Kale, Radish, Sartori Basil-Olive Oil Asiago, Whitefeather Organics Micro Greens

Napolitana - San Marzano Tomato Sauce, Prosciutto, Chorizo, Fennel Sausage, Mozzarella, Roasted Red Peppers, Chives

Day 4

We woke up eager to explore Madison, Wisconsin for the day. We cleaned up our Airbnb, loaded the car, and hit the road. Please note that this was the most expensive day of travel as planned to eat out and bar hop.

We checked into The Madison Marquette Hotel when we arrived. The hotel offered a simplified hotel experience that allowed us to truly become a part of the neighborhood without sacrificing the comfort and hospitality that comes from staying in a traditional hotel. Plus, they are dog friendly!

Pro tip, always check to see if your Airbnb host has a way for you to book directly with them to avoid Airbnb fees!

I found The Madison Marquette Hotel rooms on Airbnb and saw they were a small business. I was able to find their website with a quick Google search. Booking directly eliminates fees for small business owners and can give you a better deal in the process. We saved around $10 by booking directly through their website instead of Airbnb.

Our second stop was the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. MMoCA is free to the public, offers rooftop cinema screenings, and is excited for the possibilities their new rooftop restaurant and bar will bring.


We then headed to Williamson Street, affectionately known amongst locals as "Willy Street". The neighborhood is a haven for foodies and was within walking distance from our hotel.

James and I had been wanting to try African Cuisine, so we headed to BURAKA! According to their website, BURAKA means joy and contentment in Oromo, the primary language of Ethiopia. James and I ordered the following:

Begwot - Lamb & carrots in a rich, spicy sauce

Coconut Curry Chicken - A traditional Kenyan dish with chicken and yams cooked in a unique sweet coconut milk and curry sauce


Injera - Ethiopian traditional sourdough flatbread

Next, we decided to stop at The Weary Traveler Freehouse for drinks! The bar had an excellent drink menu, fun decor on every wall, ambient lighting, and a stellar playlist. The Weary Traveler was the perfect way to celebrate the end our weeklong road trip.

Day 5

Homeward bound. We packed up the car and had a smooth ride home to Springfield, Missouri. We unloaded our car and slept in our own bed.

The next morning, we decided to count up our expenses. Please see the detailed breakdown below!

We ended up spending a total of $1,266.33 on our five-day road trip. Our two days at Granite Peak accounted for 36% of our total expenses.

We didn't hit our goal of spending $1,000 total BUT that is okay. We spent a week exploring a new state, moving our bodies on the slopes, and were able to bring Ella along for the adventure. All and all, our budget friendly ski trip was a success! James and I are constantly learning how to travel in a way that suits our lifestyle. It is a learning experience, and we hope to inspire others to do the same!

Expense Breakdown for Two People

Grand Total for 5 Day Road Trip $1,266.33

Granite Peak

Night Ski Lift Tickets $31.62

Night Snowboard Lift Tickets $31.62

Night Ski Gear Rental $27.26

Night Snowboard Gear Rental $32.70

Full Day Ski Lift Tickets $98.10

Full Day Snowboard Lift Tickets $98.10

Full Day Ski Gear Rental $59.96

Full Day Snowboard Gear Rental $65.40

Locker Rental $6.00

Ski Store Stickers $14.24

Granite Peak Total $465

Eating Out

Hardee's $11.22

Tucknee Coffee $6.90

Red Eye Brewing Company (Two Draft Beers, Two Crowlers, One Sticker) $45.09

Red Eye Brewing Company Dinner $72.97

BURAKA Dinner $42.40

Weary Traveler Drinks $42.62

Eating Out Total $221.20


Airbnb in Wausau, Wisconsin (3 Nights + Fees) $448.54

The Marquette Hotel in Madison, Wisconsin (1 Night + Fees) $121.59

Early Check-In Charge $10

Hotel/Airbnb Total $580.13

***Breakdown does not include gas!

***Breakdown includes taxes & tips!


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