The coldest time of the year is also the perfect time to enjoy outdoor winter activities. Most North American ski areas open for the season around Thanksgiving, and the winter season usually continues until early April.
A ski pass allows you to have the most fun on the mountain without freezing your wallet. For a single payment of about $800 to $1,000, they provide you with passes to several different ski areas. If used extensively, these passes save money by eliminating the need to buy individual lift tickets at each of your preferred ski areas.
Some ski tickets also allow you to visit ski areas in other countries, such as Canada or Japan. The lift tickets for your friends and family can be purchased at a discount with a buddy pass, and many of these packages also come with other bonuses.
You can choose from a wide variety of ski passes, each of which grants you entry to a specific collection of ski areas and features unique perks. There’s a ski pass that’ll work for you no matter where you live, what kind of trips you take, or how much money you have to spend.
The Effect of COVID-19 on the Ski Season in 2020 and 2021
When the spread of the coronavirus became widespread in March 2020, ski areas around the world quickly ended their seasons. As we head into the 2020-2021 winter season, there is still a lot of mystery around the severity of the epidemic.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic looks to be made for skiing. Outdoors, and skiers rarely congregate in groups except in transit or when waiting in lines, and they often wear face masks. Even so, it doesn’t imply this season of skiing will be like any other.
Some hotels may open with fewer rooms available, while others will eliminate walk-up purchases and lineups by requiring reservations. Food and drink options at several ski areas are being reduced or eliminated entirely.
Wherever restaurants and bars remain open, the typical lively nightlife will not have the same feel. The lift lines, rental shops, and restrooms are just a few examples of the high-density, high-traffic locations at ski slopes where skiers may expect to be subject to social distance and density laws.
Local breakouts and local limits on enterprises will determine how the situation develops from week to week, if not day to day. Be flexible with your trip dates and itineraries, and try to stay in nearby resorts that can be reached by car to minimize your out-of-pocket costs.
How Do Ski Passes Work?
It costs money to utilize the lifts at ski resorts. If you plan on visiting many resorts over the season, these costs might mount up rapidly. The price of a day pass at some resorts can reach $200 or more.
Many ski resorts now offer season passes that grant visitors access to various mountains for a discounted fee. Because of how much money they save, these are a must-have for anyone planning to travel across the country or the world.
Lift ticket fees can be reduced by as much as 50 percent with the purchase of a season pass, depending on how often you plan to ski or ride. Even if you have no plans to ski all over the country or the world, a season pass can still save you money at any resort you visit frequently.
Competition in the ski ticket market has heated up in recent years, with additional resorts and perks being offered by different companies to entice skiers and snowboarders to purchase multi-resort passes. This means skiers can save money while getting more out of their season passes.
Season passes, though, aren’t for everyone. A ski pass is probably not worth the money if you’re just going to be there for the weekend. In its place, you should try to buy lift tickets in advance online, as most resorts offer multi-day discounts.
Also, many smaller resorts offer their own season passes that are just valid at that resort. Compare prices at your preferred ski area before shelling out for an expensive multi-resort ski pass if you just plan on using it seldom.
Keep in mind, though, that ski passes often come with limitations. There are restrictions on the amount of time you can spend at a resort every day and the days on which your pass is invalid. These are called blackout dates and maximum day usage, respectively.
Before buying a ski pass, be sure you understand when, where, and how you can use it by reading the fine print. You still have to account for the cost of transportation to the ski area, as ski passes do not include this benefit.
Some ski passes include discounts on lodging, but usually only at select hotels and lodges.
The fine print aside, ski passes are a great deal for individuals who can make the most of their time on the mountain. Those that get a ski pass will have the best winter of their lives.
The Top Winter Ski Passes
Only a select few ski passes can compete for the attention of the most avid skiers in the country. Many major cities are within a day trip of the ski areas accessible by the five best ski passes, and some even have public transportation options.
1. Epic Pass
In keeping with its name, Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass grants holders access to 76 ski areas in the Americas, Oceania, and Europe. Vail Resorts has been buying additional resorts recently, so there may be even more of them to visit with your Epic Pass in the future.
Depending on when in the season you buy, the Epic Pass can cost anywhere from $999 for adults to $509 for children ages 5 to 12. This pass provides unrestricted access to all 37 of Vail’s resorts in North America and Oceania. Many additional mountains around North
America, Europe, and the rest of the world are accessible to a lesser extent. Breckenridge, Colorado’s Keystone Resort, Afton Alps, Minnesota’s Stevens Pass, Washington’s Stowe Mountain Resort, Vermont’s Mount Sunapee, and New Hampshire’s Mount Sunapee are just a few of the many great ski areas included on the Epic Pass.
Lift tickets at these resorts can be somewhat pricey on a daily basis; for example, a day pass to Breckenridge costs $143. If you plan on visiting multiple Vail resorts, the Epic Pass is the best value. Seven individual days at Breckenridge or Vail are comparable in price to the Epic Pass.
In addition, the Epic Pass grants seven days of unlimited access to six resorts in Western Canada, including Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, Canada, and Telluride and Sun Valley in Colorado and Idaho, respectively. If you use up your seven days of access, you can purchase lift tickets to these resorts at a 50% discount.
Some international ski areas, such as Australia’s Perisher and Japan’s Rusutsu, are included in the regular pass. However, accommodations in the southern hemisphere are subject to limitations.
There are significantly stricter regulations for Europe’s 19 resorts. Buy your Epic Pass from the U.S. website and stay at a partner hotel to get free lift tickets to the Verbier ski resort in Switzerland.
You can’t use the European resorts with any other type of Epic Pass purchase. But if you arrange your stay at a participating lodge or hotel using your Epic Pass, you’ll get a free day of skiing for every night you stay.
While ski resort admission is included in the price of an Epic Pass, that’s not the only benefit of owning one. Your friends and family can save up to 40% on admission with the six shares with friend tickets included in the package. It’s more cost-effective to ski as a group, and you might even score a free beer at the lodge after the day is through.
In order to save money on food and gear for skiing, Epic Pass holders are eligible for discounts at select eateries and shops. Also, the Epic Australia Pass and other variants of the Epic Pass provide savings on ski lessons and equipment rentals.
A pass can save you up to 25% on equipment rentals, lessons, and other services if you don’t already have any of these things but want to learn more or improve your skills.
Epic Pass also extended its Epic Coverage guarantee during the 2020-2021 ski season to cover resort closures due to COVID-19. Closings, job loss, injuries, illnesses, pregnancies, military transfers, and jury duty all qualify for full or partial refunds under this policy.
Vail also offers a different pass called the Epic Local Pass for $719 which provides unrestricted access to nine different U.S. resorts, including Stevens Pass, Breckenridge, Afton Alps, and Mount Sunapee.
Even with the new restrictions, the Epic Local still grants you ten days of unlimited skiing or riding at Vail, Beaver Creek, and Whistler Blackcomb, as well as restricted days at over twenty resorts, including five days at Japan’s Hakuba Valley and Rusutsu destinations.
If you live in Denver, Summit County, or Eagle County in Colorado, the Epic Local Pass is your best bet. The price of the pass is more than justified by the value of the 10 days at Vail and Beaver Creek.
Finally, Vail provides the Epic Day Pass for skiers who are on a budget or who don’t plan on skiing often during the season. This affordable pass offers access to the same U.S. resorts as the Epic Pass for one to seven days.
Four- to seven-day Epic Day Passes, for instance, grant holders access to all of the ski areas in the Colorado town of Telluride, Utah’s Snowbasin, and Idaho’s Sun Valley, in addition to six resorts in the Canadian Rockies.
The shorter Epic Day Passes don’t cover these locations. You can’t use your Epic Day Pass at any resorts outside of North America, either.
The Epic Day Pass gives you more leeway in terms of when you may hit the slopes by allowing you to pay more to remove holiday or prohibition periods. From $133 for a single day to $789 for seven days or $113 per day, the price of ski passes decreases as more days are purchased.
Skiers and snowboarders who are passionate about their sport and who are willing to pay more for the convenience of visiting multiple resorts will benefit greatly from the Epic Pass.
In terms of a sheer number of destinations, no other pass, domestic or international, compares to it. Casual skiers, meanwhile, may not feel like they got their money’s worth.
2. Ikon Pass
When compared to the Epic Pass, the Ikon Pass holds its own, as it grants unrestricted access to 41 resorts globally while limiting access to 26 locations. There are two primary iterations of the Ikon Pass: the regular Ikon Pass, and the cheaper Ikon Base Pass.
The price is the main distinction between the two passes, with the Ikon Pass costing $1,149 and the Base Pass $849. The Ikon Pass grants you unlimited days at 15 resorts, while the Ikon Base Pass grants you the same privilege at 14 resorts; together, they offer access to more than 40 destinations.
In contrast to the Ikon Base Pass’ five ski days at 27 partner resorts, the Full Ikon Pass provides seven ski days at 28 partner resorts and has no blackout periods. The Base Pass can be upgraded to include five days of skiing at Aspen Snowmass in Colorado and Jackson Hole in Wyoming for an additional $150.
In order to gain access, you can prepay $499 for a four-day basic pass. The Ikon Session Pass is not the best value ever and has blackout periods, but it does exist.
Passes may be purchased at a discounted rate for select groups. Prices for the Ikon Pass (full access) are $839, the Ikon Base Pass (limited access) is $629, and the Ikon Session Pass (limited access) is $419 for nurses, military personnel, and students.
The resorts of Solitude in Utah, Squaw Valley in California, and Winter Park in Colorado are just a few of the many that are included in the unlimited access offered by the Ikon Pass and Ikon Base Pass.
Aspen Snowmass, Vermont’s Pico Mountain, New Zealand’s Coronet Peak, Canada’s Revelstoke Mountain Resort, Switzerland’s Zermatt Matterhorn, and Japan’s Niseko United are just a few of the resorts that offer limited access with both passes.
Regular skiers can save money by purchasing any version of the Ikon Pass rather than paying the $100-$200 for lift tickets at each of these resorts. Ikon Passes are being offered by several of these resorts in place of traditional season passes.
With the Ikon Pass, you can save up to 25% on lift tickets for yourself and up to nine guests or family members. Although the Epic Pass provides more savings on buddy passes, this is more total friend passes.
You may save a lot of money on necessities like food and gear with the discounts offered by the Ikon Pass, which are similar to those of the Epic Pass. The Ikon Pass is the only season pass that provides year-round admission to events like craft beer festivals, discounted lift tickets for mountain biking, and free gondola rides.
Although the number of unlimited resorts included with the Ikon Pass is smaller than that of the Epic Pass, ski bums still get their money’s worth because of Ikon’s increased number of buddy tickets and off-slope shopping advantages.
The guarantee offered by the Ikon Pass is similar to that of the Epic Pass and comes in handy during the current COVID-19 pandemic. On the other hand, if you don’t utilize your season pass for the 2020-2021 ski season, you can carry it over to the next year thanks to their Adventure Assurance service.
Those who reside near at least one unlimited location and can make multiple excursions to the limited locations would benefit most from Ikon.
Residents of the Salt Lake City area, for instance, have access to Jackson Hole in Wyoming, a four-and-a-half-hour drive from Salt Lake City, as well as five or seven days at the adjacent ski slopes of Alta, Brighton, and Deer Valley.
Similarly, skiers in Central Colorado can access Winter Park and Copper Mountain as many as they like with the Epic Pass but have restricted access to Arapahoe Basin, which switched to the Ikon Pass this season.
3. Mountain Collective
When compared to the massive multinational empires that Epic and Ikon Passes represent, Mountain Collective is a cooperative of locally owned and operated ski areas. It’s a lot cheaper than an Ikon Pass or an Epic Pass at just $589 for an adult and $199 for a child under 12.
There is no “unlimited” skiing, so it’s not as generous either. Instead, Mountain Collective gives you two days of skiing at any of its 23 locations, with no blackout periods.
Jackson Hole in Wyoming, Aspen Snowmass in Colorado, Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico, and Big Sky Resort in Montana are just a few of the well-known destinations that are part of the Mountain Collective. Lake Louise Ski Resort in Alberta, Canada, and Niseko United in Japan are two of its worldwide locations.
In addition to the two complimentary days, Mountain Collective members receive a 50% discount at partner resorts. It also includes a 25% savings on lodging and accommodations, although this perk is subject to ban dates.
Unfortunately, the pass does not provide a single COVID-19 policy because it is truly a community of separate enterprises. As an alternative, they provide a single website with links to the individual resort policies, making it easy to verify only the resorts you’re interested in visiting.
For those on a tighter budget who still want to enjoy the thrill of skiing, The Mountain Collective is a great option. Even while it offers fewer resorts and fewer perks than the Epic Pass and the Ikon Pass, its significantly lower price makes it a better alternative for individuals who don’t require as many bells and whistles.
And it’s a great way to back locally-owned ski areas that haven’t been bought out by the big boys just yet.
4. Power Pass
The Power Pass is a regional ski pass catering to customers in the Southwestern United States. Power Passes cost $949 for adults aged 37 to 64 at the highest price point, with discounts available for younger and older customers.
Skiing is unlimited at seven resorts in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah with a Power Pass, and the pass holder also receives three free one-day lift tickets to Loveland, Monarch Mountain, and Copper Mountain in Colorado, as well as six discounted tickets for family and friends at a 30% discount.
Purgatory and Hesperus in Colorado, Arizona Snowbowl and Nordic Valley in Utah, and Pajarito Mountain and Sipapu in New Mexico are just some of the resorts that provide unlimited access with a Power Pass.
Prices for lift tickets at these ski areas range from $60 to $200. For these resorts, there are no ban dates on the Power Pass, albeit some of the resorts that are partners have them. Prices in the subsequent price bracket range from $325 to $699.
You can ski as much as you like at five resorts, and you’ll receive 12 limited days at the other two resorts. There are also three complimentary lift tickets to both Colorado’s Monarch Mountain and Utah’s Beaver Mountain.
The Local Power Pass, on the other hand, can be had for less than $500, depending on the customer’s age. It includes three free lift passes for Monarch Mountain and unrestricted access to four resorts (Hesperus, Pajarito, Sipapu, and Nordic Valley).
Skiers in the Southwestern United States, especially the Four Corners region, can save money with the Power Pass. The Power Pass doesn’t compare well to its rivals if you plan to ski in multiple countries or even just different regions of North America.
However, it offers a low-priced option for those in the Southwest who prefer not to go far from home. Power Pass provides complimentary Power Kids Passes to local families.
Because of its substantial age-based discounts, the Power Pass is also a great option for those in their twenties, thirties, and beyond. A full Power Pass, for instance, is only $575 for people between the ages of 19 and 24.
5. Maine Pass (Alternative to New England Pass in ’20 – ’21 Season)
Similar to the Power Pass, the New England Pass allows skiers and snowboarders unlimited access to three different resorts in the New England region. These resorts are Maine’s Sunday River and Sugarloaf and New Hampshire’s Loon Mountain.
Usually, at least. However, the New England Pass will not be available during the 2020–2021 ski season. It will be available again during the 2021–2022 ski season.
Instead, Sunday River and Sugarloaf have collaborated to provide a new pass, the Maine Pass, for guests of the three resorts. There is a pricing range of $399 to $1,599, and it varies based on factors such as the customer’s age, student status, and tolerance for blackout days.
The added value of the Maine Pass comes from its inclusion of savings on friend tickets, retail purchases, and equipment tuning. The pass’s worth is increased by three free days of skiing at Western Boyne Resorts, and by fifty percent at Mountain Collective Resorts, if you’re able to travel to the West.
Prices for a single-resort season pass at Loon Mountain are $589 ($449 for students). However, it is not the best deal of the year because it is only valid Monday through Friday and has 10 blackout dates.
It makes sense for occasional New England skiers who don’t venture far from home to get a Maine or New England Pass, even if these passes don’t include as many destinations as others.
Colder temperatures and shorter days in winter can make anyone feel cooped up and listless. For those who can afford it, winter sports can be a great way to perk up during the doldrums of winter. Food, gear, transportation, and hotel can rapidly add up to several thousand dollars per season.
Ski passes solve the resort access problem for the full ski season with one simple purchase. They reduce overall ticket prices and help you save money on gear, lodging, and resort food.
A ski pass is your ticket to the mountain, and it might make you want to experience the adrenaline thrill of heli-skiing even more.
If you buy a pass that protects you from COVID-19 closures for the 2020-2021 ski season, you can mitigate some of the uncertainty that comes with buying lift tickets. Any of these passes will allow you to go to exotic locations during winter.