Ikon vs. Epic: How the Ski Passes Stack Up

Details on the new collective Ikon Pass have just been released. 

Avid skiers know that late season is an especially prime time to head to the slopes—long days, deep snow, sparse crowds. It’s also time to start thinking about next season, especially if you’re looking for a good deal on a season pass. As resorts hustle to lock down revenue while their customers are still in ski mode, many offer their best deals on passes for the following year.

That was underscored this week when details of the new Ikon Pass were announced. Starting on March 6, you can buy the full Ikon Pass ($899), with unrestricted skiing and riding at 12 resorts, plus up to seven free days at another seven destinations. Or you can choose the Ikon Base Pass ($599), which is restricted during the busy holiday weeks, but otherwise offers full pass privileges at nine resorts plus five days each at another 18.

The Ikon is a compelling answer to industry-heavyweight Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass, which grants access to all 15 Vail-owned destinations, which includes resorts around Colorado, Tahoe, Utah and Canada’s Whistler Blackcomb, and also offers free skiing at Epic Pass partner resorts. The 2017-18 Epic Pass sold for $859. Vail has yet to announce pricing and details for next year’s Epic Pass, but spokesperson Liz Biebl says that information will be available in early March, and next year’s Epic Pass will likely go on sale sometime in March. In January, Vail announced that Telluride, Colorado, had signed on as an Epic Pass partner resort.

Mammoth Mountain will be on the new Ikon Pass.

At the core of the Ikon Pass are the resorts of the newly formed Alterra Mountain Company. Alterra was formed over the past year when the owners of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows (KSL) and the owners of Aspen (Crown Partners) joined forces and went on a buying spree, acquiring Mammoth Mountain, Deer Valley and the former Intrawest resorts (Steamboat, Stratton, Mont Tremblant) and others—a total of 11 resorts plus early booking deals at CMH heliskiing. (The Aspen Skiing Company resorts remain separate from the Alterra group.)

Denver-based Alterra says it’s taking care not to homogenize its resorts. “Our goal is to embrace and bolster the individual spirit and personality of each destination,” says Alterra spokesperson Kristin Rust. “We want to listen to the local leadership and the community in each case and embrace each place for what it is.”

As with the Epic Pass, which has been hugely popular, the Ikon allows skiers a mix of unlimited skiing at their home resort as well as the opportunity to travel and try out other destinations.

“It’s like a fantastic bucket list where you’ve got great backyard resorts and then you can get on a plane and go to places you’ve always wanted to ski,” says Rust.

Eastern skiers, in particular, might find the Ikon Pass attractive. Where the Epic Pass includes Vail-owned Stowe, the Ikon offers full or partial access to an impressive list of popular eastern resorts, including Killington, Loon, Sunday River, Stratton, Sugarbush, Mont Tremblant and Sugarloaf.