THE SKI PASS
Greeting my friends! I hope this post finds you doing well. It’s that time of the year to buy your annual ski pass, if you have not done so already. Hopefully, your summer has been going well and you are looking forward to those awesome Labor Day plans, but don’t forget to buy your ski pass before prices go up. Every year I write an article on ski passes. This year should be no different. So here is the lowdown on the pass(es) and what I have.
EPIC or IKON
If you are going to ski or ride more than three days you really need to consider an annual EPIC or IKON pass option. Vail Resorts has EPIC while Alterra Corp. has IKON. Vail and Alterra are the respective owners and issuers of these passes. Vail owns not all, but most of their mountains – or shall I say, owns the leases. Most mountains are on federal land and the owner/operators run on a 99 year lease. There are also private resorts where the owner/operator actually owns the land. I believe both companies own private mountains as well. Can anyone confirm this for me? Anyway, I digress. IKON owns a bunch of mountains – two, maybe three, handfuls of resorts and just manages the rest. The top resorts in North America, and some would say the best – Jackson Hole, Aspen, Snowbird, Alta, Whistler, Vail, Park City – can be had with some part of either pass. There is a combined 51 different resorts between the two passes. That is 51 different places you can ski or ride unlimited and another boatload of other resorts on each pass with restrictions. Here is what each pass has to offer:
EPIC – $939
UNRESTRICTED/UNLIMITED ACCESS 37 RESORTS
VAIL, BEAVER CREEK, BRECKENRIDGE, PARK CITY, KEYSTONE, HEAVENLY, NORTHSTAR, KIRKWOOD, STOWE, WILMOT, AFTON ALPS, MT BRIGHTON, PERISHER AUSTRALIA, FALLS CREEK AUSTRALIA, HOTHAM AUSTRALIA, OKEMO, MOUNT SUNAPEE, CRESTED BUTTE, STEVEN PASS, MOUNT SNOW, HUNTER MOUNTAIN, ATTITASH, WILDCAT, CROTCHED, LIBERTY, ROUNDTOP, WHITETAIL, JACK FROST, BIG BOULDER, BOSTON MILLS, BRANDYWINE, MAD RIVER, HIDDEN VALLEY, SNOW CREEK, PAOLI PEAKS, ALPINE VALLEY.
7 DAYS EACH AT TELLURIDE, SUN VALLEY & SNOWBASIN
7 DAYS TOTAL COMBINED AT FERNIE, KIMBERLY, STONEHAM, KICKING HORSE, NAKISKA, MONT-SAINT ANNE
5 TOTAL DAYS EACH AT HAKUBA VALLEY AND RUSUTSU, JAPAN
With additional access to 19 European resorts across France, Italy, Switzerland!
IKON – $1049
UNRESTRICTED/UNLIMITED ACCESS 15 RESORTS
STEAMBOAT, BIG BEAR, WINTER PARK, STRATTON, COPPER MOUNTAIN, SNOWSHOE, ELDORA MOUNTAIN RESORT, CRYSTAL MOUNTAIN, SQUAW VALLEY, ALPINE MEADOWS, TREMBLANT, MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN, BLUE MOUNTAIN, JUNE MOUNTAIN, SOLITUDE
UP TO 7 DAYS EACH AT ASPEN SNOWMASS, SUNDAY RIVER, ARAPAHOE BASIN, SUGARLOAF, JACKSON HOLE MOUNTAIN RESORT, LOON MOUNTAIN, BIG SKY RESORT, TAOS, KILLINGTON-PICO, DEER VALLEY RESORT, SUGARBUSH, BRIGHTON, BOYNE HIGHLANDS, ALTA-SNOWBIRD, BOYNE, THREDBO, THE SUMMIT AT SNOQUALMIE, MT BULLER, AUSTRALIA SKIBIG3, AB CORONET PEAK, THE REMARKABLES, MT HUTT, REVELSTOKE , NISEKO , CYPRESS, VALLE NEVADO
Both passes have great offerings. If you are going to ski/.snowboard four days minimum, you can really stretch your mountain time and dollars. I know $939 and/or $1049 seems expensive now but with average walk-up window ticket sale prices getting close to $200 per day (last year’s snowfall in CO made for great skiing, but the ticket prices skyrocketed to $233-$250 a day). WTF, that’s crazy, I know. The economics of ski resorts is to sell passes and everything else. To do that, you have to get people on the mountain.
WHICH ONE IS BETTER
This is like saying chocolate is better than vanilla or vice versa. I can’t tell you. It really depends on where you live and what mountains you plan to visit. Other than Aspen, Copper and Steamboat (IKON) Colorado specifically the I-70 corridor is pretty well covered by EPIC. Outside of Colorado IKON offers some gems including Big Sky, Jackson Hole, Deer Valley & Alta. EPIC is the original multi resort multi state pass in the industry. To get the most value you pick one pass, stick to those resorts and ski and ride as much as you can. Again, they both have great portfolios of mountains so you really cannot go wrong.
Active and retired military are offered EPIC discounts. As well as adaptive skiers and riders qualify for discounts with proof. IKON offers military and college pass discounts. They have also teamed up with select retailers to offer small sign-up discounts.
THE EPIC & IKON LITE PASS
Wanna save a few bucks? Can you navigate a pass with blackout days and pass restrictions? If you can, then both Vail and Alterra have an additional option for you. The restricted passes are called Epic Local $699 and Ikon Base $749. Both have blackout days and specific mountain restrictions. Please refer to the Epic and Ikon websites for pass specifics, but here is my take on the lighter pass versions. For Vail Resorts, If you need or are planning on more than 10 days at Beaver Creek, Vail and Whistler-Blackcomb combined, the Epic Local in not gonna work for you. For the Alterra mountains, if you need unlimited access, or are planning on more than five days at Stratton or Steamboat then the Ikon Base is not gonna work for you. Also, if you plan to ski or ride on holidays (specifically Christmas week, MLK and/or Presidents weekend) these passes will not work for you. Epic Local also has Thanksgiving and the day after (Black Friday) also restricted. Again, if you can manage the blackouts and restrictions these passes also offer great value.
Here are my pass picks for the 2019/2020 season. Once again, this season I will have an unlimited Epic pass and an Ikon Base pass. Having both passes covers most mountains for me. I like to have options and the ability to go pretty much everywhere. Having both passes enables me to do that. Staying in the Vail valley makes it tough not to have the full unrestricted Epic pass. This year I have also decided to add a Silverton unguided spring season pass to the mix. I was able to get an awesome early bird deal of $199 on this; with a $39 heli drop option. For those that want more information on this specific pass, please reach out directly for specifics or check out the Silverton website for more details. Also, if you have the pass and are interested in a drop, hit me up!
So there you have it! Epic, Ikon Base & Silverton Unguided Spring passes for the win! It’s gonna be a fun winter!! Get your seasons pass while you still can. In just a few weeks some mountains will have lifts spinning, which means season passes will no longer be available for purchase. As they say, “you snooze you lose.”
Thank for taking the time to read this blog. Have a great weekend. Until next time, love one another and be kind to each other. The thrill of the mountain awaits you.