When Vail Resorts debuted the Epic Pass in 2008, it was a game changer for the ski industry. Never before had a single season pass provided skiers and riders access to so many resorts at that price point. At the time, the Epic Pass worked at Colorado’s Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin, plus Heavenly in California—all for $579.
Today, of course, Vail Resorts’ roster has expanded significantly. The Epic Pass now gets you unlimited days at 18 Vail-owned properties across Colorado, Utah, California, Vermont, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Michigan, Washington and British Columbia. Earlier this year, Vail announced plans to acquire Hotham and Falls Creek ski resorts in Australia, and pending closing and approvals, Epic Pass holders would also get unlimited days there.
The Epic Pass also includes limited days at partner resorts like Telluride in Colorado, Fernie and Kicking Horse in British Columbia, and new for this winter, Sun Valley in Idaho and Snowbasin in Utah, plus some 30 ski resorts around Europe and 10 in Japan. Next year’s Epic Pass, which is on sale now, costs $939. (The Epic Local Pass, good at select resorts, is $699.) The price of the pass will increase on April 14.
But starting this winter, the Epic Pass had some fierce competition. The Ikon Pass, which parent company Alterra Mountain Company announced in January 2018, offers access to 38 destinations, including Alterra-owned resorts like Squaw Valley and Mammoth in California, Winter Park and Steamboat in Colorado, Mont Tremblant in Quebec and others, plus partner resorts like Jackson Hole in Wyoming, Aspen Snowmass in Colorado, Killington in Vermont, and Alta and Snowbird in Utah. The Ikon Pass, also on sale now with a price spike coming April 24, costs $949. (A base pass, with blackout dates, is $649.)
Bonus: Buy next winter’s Ikon Pass now and you can use it for the remainder of this winter season (and resorts like Squaw Valley and Mammoth plan to stay open into July, thanks to this year’s hefty snowpack).
Kristin Rust, director of public relations for Alterra Mountain Company, said the company won’t release sales numbers for how many Ikon passes they sold this year, but she said, “We are very pleased with the success of the Ikon Pass in our inaugural season.”
Will either pass be adding more resorts in the years to come? Possibly. Spokespeople from Vail Resorts and Alterra Mountain Company told the Co-op Journal they are always looking for new strategic acquisitions and like-minded partners to add value to their passes.
In March, Vail Resorts announced another addition to the Epic Pass lineup. Called the Epic Day Pass, the customizable pass is designed for skiers not needing a full season pass but still looking for multiple days at various resorts. You can choose between one and seven days of skiing at all of Vail’s North American properties, for a discount of up to half off the ticket window prices. (Tickets start as $106 for one day of skiing.)
“The Epic Day Pass is geared toward the occasional skier, someone who might only ski a couple of days a year and doesn’t need the unlimited access that our Epic Pass provides,” said Johnna Muscente, director of communications for Vail Resorts. “Our intention is that products like the Epic Day Pass allow more newcomers and occasional skiers to enjoy the sport, which will ultimately help grow our industry.”
The Ikon and Epic passes are certainly the largest of the collective season passes, but they’re not the only ones. Returning next year for its eight season, the Mountain Collective gets you two days of skiing at each of the 17 resorts on the pass, including Alta; Aspen Snowmass; Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise and Revelstoke in Canada; Big Sky in Montana; Jackson Hole; Mammoth; Snowbird; Sugarbush in Vermont; Taos in New Mexico and new for next winter, Valle Nevado, Chile. A limited number of the Mountain Collective passes are on sale now for $449. Buy it this spring and you’ll get a third bonus day at the resort of your choosing, plus two extra days at Chamonix, France.
The Powder Alliance is another network of ski resorts with pass benefits. Buy a season pass to one of the 19 participating resorts—spots like Sugar Bowl and Sierra-at-Tahoe in California, Loveland and Monarch Mountain in Colorado, Bridger Bowl in Montana, Angel Fire in New Mexico, Whitewater in British Columbia and others—and you’ll get three free days of skiing at the other partner resorts. (The fine print: The free tickets are midweek; come on a weekend and you’ll pay half price for a ticket.)
Ikon Pass vs. Epic Pass
So which pass is right for you? We’ve created a table to help you decide.
|Epic Pass||Ikon Pass|
|Number of Resorts||67 resorts||38 resorts|
|Other Benefits||Discounts on lodging, gear rental, transportation, ski tuning and dining, plus summertime access to select resorts.||Discounts on friends and family lift tickets, retail, lodging and food and beverage and early booking privileges and discounted rates at CMH Heli-Skiing in British Columbia.|
|What’s New?||New access to Rusutsu, Japan, Sun Valley, Idaho, Snowbasin, Utah, and Falls Creek and Hotham in Australia.||Chile’s Valle Nevado and New Zealand’s Coronet Peak, the Remarkables and Mt. Hutt were added to this year’s pass.|
|Coolest Perk||Buy before April 14 and you can get 10 discounted lift tickets for your friends.||Buy next winter’s pass now and you can ski for the remainder of this winter season.|
|Got Kids?||Kids 4 and under are free. Children age 5-12 cost $489.||Kids 4 and under are $49 for the season; age 5-12 are $259-$299 and age 13-22 are $499-$699.|