-- The 10 least expensive destinations, from lowest up, are Durango, Colo., at $210 per day, Bend, Ore., Taos, N.M., Salt Lake City, Utah, North Conway, N.H., Whitefish, Mt., Kingfield, Me., Sun Valley, Idaho, Jackson Hole, Wyo., to Banff, Alberta at $323.
-- A substantial price gap occurs between number three, Park City at $677, and number four, Telluride, at $567; data on the inexpensive end show a relatively smooth progression from top to bottom.
Within these numbers, I see some significant patterns:
-- Hotel costs are by far the biggest factor in the cost differences among the various destinations, ranging from $645 at Vail to $96 at Durango.
-- That spread of almost $550 dwarfs the relatively modest spreads for the other cost elements: $26 between the most expensive ski rental in Mont Tremblant, at $52, and the lowest, at $26 in Durango; $47 between the most expensive lift ticket of $110 at Aspen and $63 at North Conway; $5 between the most expensive burger meal of $14 at Mont Tremblant and $9 at North Conway; and between the most expensive beer, $5.42 at Mont Tremblant and $2.85 at Whitefish.
On the whole, the difference in hotel prices appears to be primarily the result of whether the nearest hotel accommodations are limited to a concentrated resort area, as in Vail ($645) and Aspen ($548) or available in a conveniently located city, as in Bend ($94) and Durango ($96). Also, note that the hotel cost in Park City, at $540, is more than four times the cost at nearby Salt Lake City, at $121 for essentially the same ski areas.
But the offset to the cost difference is that the destination experience in a concentrated ski resort like Vail, Aspen, or Park City is totally different from the destination ambience of cities such as Salt Lake City or Bend.
Both the most and least expensive ski destinations are in the western mountains, sometimes close, such as Durango and Crested Butte. The range among eastern ski centers is smaller, from the least expensive at North Conway ($247) to the most at Mont Tremblant ($523).
Clearly, you can spend more or less than the averages reported by TripAdvisor at any of the tested ski centers -- or any others you might want to visit. And at any level, you'll pay a lot less at a ski center where you can stay at a nearby city. Up market or down, the report's data should help you assess the relative costs reasonably well. Check http://www.tripadvisor.com/InfoCenter-actr.2012TripIndexSkiUS for full details.
And when you're looking to keep costs down, take a look at Liftopia.com for available deals on lift tickets just about anywhere you might want to ski, including winter sports centers in the United States, Canada and Europe. Liftopia also posts substantial discounts at some locations.
Also be sure to check OnTheSnow.com and SnoCountry.com, along with individual destination websites, for current information on snow conditions and lift operations.
(Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at eperkins(at)mind.net. Perkins' new book for small business and independent professionals, "Business Travel When It's Your Money," is now available through http://www.mybusinesstravel.com or http://www.amazon.com)