Getting a season pass used to be fairly simple. You’d decide which mountain you’d ski the most, hand over your credit card, and that was that. Easy peasy.
But in the past few years, it’s become a lot more complicated. Ski resorts have banded together to offer joint passes that are good at multiple locations. For example, in the Northeast alone, there are a number of regional season multi-passes, such as New York’s Ski3 Pass, Boyne’s New England Pass, and the White Mountain Super Pass. And that doesn’t even include the big multi-resort passes like Epic and Ikon, which are good not only in the Northeast, but at resorts throughout North America.
On the upside, the multi-resort passes can save you loads of money. With many resorts charging well above $100 for a day of skiing, the pay-off comes pretty fast. The catch is figuring out which pass is best for you. You pretty much have to 1) plan where you’re going to ski a year in advance and 2) have a PhD in Math to figure out which makes most financial sense.
To make it even more complex, pass offerings have become a moving target. The prices and offerings seem to change every year. Resorts are added or removed, prices rise or fall, and benefits increase or decrease. So you really have to pay attention to what’s going on, from one year to the next.
This year is no exception. So rather than go into the details of each pass here — you can find out all you need to know at each one’s web site — I thought I’d bring you up to speed on the changes offered by the most notable passes for the coming year.
Vail shook up the ski world this year when it announced the prices for its EPIC pass products. Instead of going up, which is what you’d expect, the prices fell by 20%, bringing them back to the levels not seen since ’15/’16 — and that was when the Epic Pass granted access to only 11 US resorts, with nothing in the Northeast and no Whistler. EPIC is now good at 29 resorts throughout North America, offering some of the biggest and best ski resorts on the continent.
What does this mean? It definitely makes skiing more affordable for a lot more people. And that’s not a bad thing. But this much is certain: Vail is going to sell a hell of a lot of seasons passes. And with the reservation system terminated for next season, we could see significant crowds at all of its resorts.
For more on this, see my blog post of March 30, Vail Has Slashed The Price of its Epic Pass. So What Does This Really Mean?
Alterra didn’t follow Vail’s lead and drop the prices for its IKON passes, though if you renew yours by May 5 (hold on, that’s tomorrow!), you can get a $100 discount ($80 for the IKON Base Pass). The key word here is renew; it’s not for new pass purchases. Alterra has also included another mountain in its 45 mountain line-up: Schweitzer, in northern Idaho, which is a fantastic resort (yes, I’ve been there). But as one hand giveth, the other taketh away: Because of crowding issues this past season, Ikon Base Pass holders will now receive only five days of skiing at Crystal Mountain, rather than the unlimited skiing they had in the past. And the IKON Session Pass will no longer grant access to Jackson Hole, Aspen, Alta, Snowbird or Deer Valley. Also new in 21/22: IKON’s First Tracks Program. This gives pass holders early access one designated morning per month in January, February, and March at each participating destination, though the days may vary by destination. Dates and more details will be announced by November 1, 2021.
The Indy Pass made quite a splash in ’20/’21. For $199, you got two days of skiing at 63 independent resorts, with no blackouts. A real deal. But this is about to change. The price has gone up to $279 (If purchased before May 15. And you better hurry; they’re limiting the number of passes sold at this early-bird pricing “in order to preserve our partner resorts’ uncrowded slopes”). There are also four more resorts in the Indy line-up: Saddleback Mountain (Maine), West Mountain (New York), Powder Mountain (Utah), and Mount Ashland (Oregon). And they’ve ended their no blackouts policy. If you want access every day, you’ll have to buy an Indy+ Pass for $379.
Like the IKON pass, the Mountain Collective Pass is also owned by Alterra. And like the Indy Pass, it gives you two days at each of resorts (there are 23). You also get 50% off all additional days, no blackout dates, and a bonus third day at the resort of your choice. Early bird pricing last year was $469; this year it’s 499 . New for next season: Sun Peaks (BC, Canada)
So which pass will you buy this year? Or are you forgoing the multi-resort pass thing and just getting one for a specific mountain? Whichever you do, the best way to save is to buy now for early bird pricing. Good luck figuring it out.