Which Ski Pass is Best for You? Epic vs. Ikon & More

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Fewer and fewer skiers and snowboarders are buying pricey one-day lift tickets to ski resorts. Peak-season day passes at large resorts can be as spendy as $200. Meanwhile, an Epic Pass will grant you unrestricted access to the same resort and many more for $999, while an Ikon Pass might grant you 5-7 days at that same resort plus unlimited access to several other resorts for $999.

There’s no wonder why many people are making the switch to these expensive multi-resort ski passes that will pay themselves off in just a few trips.

However, what about beginners, or those of us who have chosen to ski at our local mountain during this COVID-19 season? What if these passes aren’t in your budget this year? Here, we’ll go over all of your ski pass options so you can make the best choice for your situation.

It’s important to note that all of the prices mentioned may vary depending on the season and time of year.

One-Day Tickets

Although one-day tickets are the less popular choice as of recent years, they still have their spot among all of the lift ticket options. For example, if you’re someone who only skis once or twice per year, a one-day ticket may be the most economic option for you. Or, if you’re a beginner and you just want to try out skiing or snowboarding before making the financial commitment of a season pass.

You might also consider a one-day lift ticket if you’re just visiting a resort for one or two days and you already have a season pass to a local resort that you frequent more often. Whatever the reason, it typically makes sense to stick to one-day tickets if you’re only visiting the resort for one day. 

Season Ski Passes

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Season passes have always been popular among dedicated skiers because they offer unlimited skiing. You can typically “pay them off” (ski enough days at the resort that the season pass has a cheaper per day rate than one-day tickets) fairly quickly if you ski often.

Season passes are a great choice if you only frequent one mountain. They’re meant for people who ski often at the same resort time and time again. It’s important to note that you don’t have to be an experienced skier to get a season pass.

If you’re a beginner and you’re just looking for a small hill to learn on rather than deep powder and fancy resorts, you might want to consider a season pass to a smaller, local resort that offers all you need at an inexpensive price. 

READ MORE: 9 Best Apps For Skiing and Snowboarding

Multi-Resort Ski Passes

You should definitely consider one of these passes if you like to ski at multiple resorts throughout the season. Which pass you choose will likely be based on where you want to ski, where you live, and what your budget is like.

Epic Pass

The Epic Pass launched in 2008 and was arguably the first of its kind. It grants you access to 37 Vail-owned resorts including favorites like those in Vail, CO; Breckenridge, CO; Park City, UT; Stowe, VT; Stevens Pass, WA; Keystone, CO; and Heavenly, CA in addition to 7 days at 24 partner resorts (3 in the U.S. and the rest across Canada, Japan, and Europe).

Epic also has options like the Epic local pass which grants you access to your local hill (if it’s on the list) plus holiday-restricted access to the rest of the list. Some of the regional pass options are specific to certain locations like Lake Tahoe, CA; Colorado’s Summit County; and more; which are worth looking into if you frequent those areas. Vail also offers the Epic Day Pass which grants you 1-7 days of skiing in addition to lift ticket discounts after that. Epic also offers discounts for college students, youth, military personnel, and more. 

Ikon Pass

squaw valley california tahoe

The Ikon Pass is a super-pass that debuted in 2018. It offers unlimited days at all 15 resorts owned by Alterra Mountain Company including favorites like Crystal Mountain, WA; Squaw Valley, CA; Winter Park, CO; Solitude, UT; Mammoth Mountain, CA; and more; in addition to 5-7 days at partner resorts around the world depending on the version of the Ikon pass that you choose to purchase.

The Ikon and Epic passes have similar pricing for adults—a steep price of $999 but worth it if you intend on skiing at multiple resorts for multiple days. The Ikon pass also has cheaper options for young adults (ages 13-22) and children (ages 5-12). 

Mountain Collective Pass

The mountain collective pass grants you 2 days at each of the 23 resorts plus 50 percent off additional lift tickets. These resorts include favorites like Alta, UT; Aspen Snowmass, CO; Big Sky, MT; Jackson Hole, WY; Mammoth Mountain, CA; Sugarbush, VT; and many more for just $449 with a less expensive version for kids under 12. This pass is a great option if you don’t need a season pass but want to travel to quite a few different locations for short weekend trips.

Indy Pass

The Indy pass is a super-pass for smaller, independently-owned resorts. It’s a great option for those on a budget, who prefer local hills to big destination resorts, and occasional skiers who aren’t ready to commit to the bigger passes. The Indy pass grants you 2 days at each of their 59 resorts across North America in addition to 25 percent off a third-day lift ticket.

One thing to look out for on this pass is location. For example, if you live in New England, you’ve probably got lots of Indy pass resort options within driving distance. Whereas if you live in Colorado, there’s not a single Indy pass resort in your state. The Indy pass is a great entry into multi-resort passes at just $249 for adults.

By Christa Huddleston

READ MORE: How to Start Planning an Epic Ski Vacation

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