New To Ski

Maximize Your Mountain Time: Top Things to Consider When Choosing Your Next Ski Pass!

by Simon Knott | Published: December 12th, 2022
Morgins

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Choosing the best ski pass can be complicated. There are a lot of variables, where do you ski? How often? And, for how long? among many others. So, how can you compare the different passes?

By creating a log of your recent ski trips, it is possible to put together a picture of your likely future usage and from this, you can work out which ski pass is going to be the most cost-effective.

How To Calculate The Best Ski Pass To Buy?

ski tourer

Use your experience to create a snapshot of your latest ski trips. Create a log or spreadsheet of your last couple of years’ trips, noting dates, resorts, type of pass, prices, and any other information relevant to the pass.

An overall picture of your skiing should emerge, do you have a local resort you use a lot, or do you pick and choose results farther afield? Do you tend to go on weekend trips or longer periods?

From the cumulative totals on your spreadsheet, you can work out the pass cost per day, both when you buy a daily individual pass and a season pass. When calculating the figures for season passes don’t forget to also factor in the discounts some passes offer on lodging, ski rental, etc.

telemark
Photo by Peter Stevens under CC BY 2.0

It may be the case that for the number of days you ski each season, it’s cheaper to buy daily passes rather than invest in a season pass. Unfortunately, there is no one solution that fits everyone’s situation.

Key Takeaway: All skiers and snowboarders have their likes and dislikes, some are prepared to travel to distant resorts, while others prefer easy weekends.

In addition, the mainstream season passes all have different features, so you’re not comparing like for like. So, the only solution is to spend time analyzing your own usage, compare the options and then decide whether to use daily passes or to dive in with a season pass, after checking which one has the best features for you.

USA

piste images
Photo by Gerrit Quast under CC BY-SA 2.0

There are three major players when it comes to multi-mountain passes: Epic Pass, Ikon Pass, and the Mountain Collective. All have additional benefits ranging from discount days, after you’ve used up your allotted slope time, to discounts for friends, as well as deals on food and lodging. 

Day tickets can easily top $200 at popular resorts, while some annual passes start as low as $400 for the whole season. So often, choosing a season pass strategically, after a bit of research, will often win out when compared to buying daily lift tickets.

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Season passes tend to be cheapest in the spring, with price rises following in September and November. Most of the larger players in the season pass market offer 0% finance, so you can spread the cost of the pass over the entire year.

Mountain Collective

Priced at $599 adults
Teens 13-18 $499
Kids 12 and under just $199

With the Mountain Collective Pass members are entitled to 2 days each at the 23 collective destinations and then 50% off all additional days at the same resorts. There are 19 destinations in the US and Canada. With no blackout dates. (Blackout dates are mostly holidays when skiing isn’t allowed)

skiing in Beaver Creek
Photo by Snow Snow licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

In addition to the US and Canada there are several international venues:

Chamonix Mont Blanc in France
Mt Buller and Thredbo Alpine Village in Australia
Coronet Peak, and The Remarkables in New Zealand
Niseko United in Japan
Valle Nevado in Chile

The Mountain Collective includes fewer East Coast resorts, namely, Sugarbush Resort in Vermont and Sugarloaf in Maine.

Lodging benefits

Cardholders receive up to 25% off at some of the best hotels and condos at Mountain Collective destinations. However, the following blackout dates apply December 26, 2022, to January 7, 2023, and February 17 to 21, 2023 (inclusive). Lodging destinations include Alta, Arapahoe Basin, Aspen Snowmass, Banff Sunshine, Big Sky, Jackson Hole, Lake Louise, Sugarloaf, Grand Thargee, Chamonix Mont Blanc, and more.

Protect our winters

Mountain Collective cardholders also receive a complimentary one-year membership to the not-for-profit, Protect Our Winters, which focuses its efforts on legislation regarding climate change. The organization was created in 2007 by a professional snowboarder, Jeremy Jones, who still strives to turn outdoor enthusiasts into climate advocates.

Ikon Pass

Val Thorens Skier

The range of Ikon Passes enables you to choose different amounts of resort access depending on your individual needs.

The simplest pass, The Ikon Session Pass 4-day, offers four days of skiing at 39 of the designated resorts for $519. Blackout days include 26-31 Dec 22, 14-15 Jan 23, and 18-19 Feb 23.

The mid-pass, The Ikon Base Pass, offers five days of skiing at 34 resorts for $919. It also includes 13 unlimited skiing and riding destinations. Blackout days include 26-31 Dec 22, 14-15 Jan 23, and 18-19 Feb 23.

The top-of-the-range pass, The Ikon Pass, gives seven days of skiing at 39 resorts for $1229. The pass also includes 14 unlimited skiing and riding destinations and has no blackout dates.

Includes 34 US destinations, 8 of which are on the east coast.

  • 8 destinations in Canada and in Europe
  • Grandvalira Resorts, Andorra
  • Kitzbuhel, Austria
  • Chamonix Mont Blanc, France
  • Dolomiti Superski, Italy
  • Zermatt Matterhorn, Switzerland
  • And Worldwide
  • Mt Buller and Thredbo, Australia
  • Niseko United and Newlotte Arai Resort, Japan
  • Valle Nevado, Chile
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Good To Know: The Ikon Pass offers discounts for students, nurses, and the military.

Ikon also offers two insurance packages, Pass Protection, which provides protection if an Ikon Pass holder can no longer use their pass due to eligible covered events any time after pass purchase.

And Injury Assurance provides injury insurance that covers eligible out-of-pocket medical expenses if an Ikon Pass holder is injured while using their pass.

Epic Pass

Vail pass
Photo by Robert Tadlock under CC BY 2.0

The Epic Pass is $899 (also on interest-free credit) and offers unrestricted access to the designated resorts, with no blackout dates. Individual epic passes are also available for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 days.

The Epic Pass (ages 13+) gives skiers access to 34 US resorts,

  • Whistler Blackcomb in Canada
  • Andermatt-Sedrun, Switzerland
  • Perisher, Falls Creek, and Hotham, Australia

The Epic Local Pass is $669 (also on interest-free credit). Offers resorts such as Vail, Breck, Park City, and more. Limited access to our partner resorts in North America and Japan. Epic Mountain Rewards scheme offers 20% off food, lodging, lessons, rentals, etc.

Epic Coverage insurance offers refunds for job loss, injury, and illness. Plus, discounted tickets for you, your friends, and your family. Excluded dates are 25-26 Nov 22, 26-31 Dec 22, 14 Jan 23, and 18-19 Feb 23.

Adaptive

There is also a selection of discounted adaptive passes for different resorts and lengths of stay.

Indy Pass

Pink Ski Clothing

The Indy Pass joined the other larger players in the ski pass market in 2019. It aims to appeal to the more independent segment of the market. Instead of focusing on the larger and more commercial resorts, it aims at smaller, independent resorts in North America, so the pass price reflects this.

The Indy Pass gives you two days at each of its designated 92 resorts, rather than unlimited access at just a handful, as with Epic Pass, Mountain Collective & Ikon Pass. It’s a cloud-based pass rather than a physical one, so you go to the ticket office of your chosen resort on the day, show your ID and pick up the pass.

There Are Three Levels of Pass:

1. Indy Base Pass

  • Adult $329 / Kids $149
  • Blackout days at some resorts

2. Indy+ Pass

  • Adult $429 / Kids $199
  • No blackout days
  • Explore 100+ independent resorts
  • Adult $219 / Kids $119

For those who already have an unlimited pass at an Indy Resort. Enables you to turn your season pass into a travel pass and explore 100+ independent, authentic Indy Resorts across the US, Canada, and Japan. The Indy Add-on Pass is not valid at your chosen resort

3. XC Pass

  • Adult $69 / Kids $29
  • Indy Pass offers an XC Pass. Enjoy two trail passes at each resort.

Indy Pass resorts span the West, the Rockies, the Midwest, the mid-Atlantic, the East, five resorts in Japan, and a 50% discount at 15 allied resorts in the US. Blackout days are listed on the website.

All passes can be paid for with 0% monthly payments and a paid pass protection plan offers ‘no questions asked’ protection against illness and accident etc. Indy Pass doesn’t currently offer a discount to students, the military, or seniors.

Europe

Les Gets France

Key Takeaway: Europe offers some of the largest ski areas in the world, so if you’re taking an extended vacation choosing a base linked to one of these areas will ensure you have plenty of terrains to explore.

Fortunately, the prices of ski passes don’t correlate to the length of the available terrain and because of the sheer size of many of them, skiers and snowboarders are spread out, so overcrowding is usually limited to a few bottlenecks.

The following three ski areas offer a huge amount of variety:

1. Portes du Soleil, France, and Switzerland

With over 650 km spanning France and Switzerland, the Portes du Soleil ski area is one of the largest in France. It encompasses 12 resorts, of which Avoriaz and Morzine are the most popular.

The ski area is spread over the Abondance valley, the Alps Valley, the Illiez Valley, and the Morgins Valley. The ski pass price is €486.00 up to age 26 and €942.00 for adults for a season pass.

2. Dolomiti Superski, Italy

Only completed in 1974 the Dolomiti Superski extends over the Triveneto region in the northeast of Italy. There are a total of 1246 km of skiable terrain, which connects 12 ski resorts including Arabba, Colfosco, and Cortina.

The mountains and scenery are spectacular, and it is the largest ski area in the world. The ski pass price is €600.00 up to 16 and €890.00 for an adult season pass.

3. Ski Amadé, Austria

Ski Amadé is the second largest ski area in Europe covering a total of 760 km of slopes. The area is named after the composer Mozart and its terrain links 28 ski areas and towns over five regions.

The scenery is stunning and being Austrian the infrastructure is top of the range, with excellent lifts and groomed runs. The ski pass price is €706.00 for an adult and €277.00 for under 16 for a season pass.

Ski in Italy
Photo by Ritten_Renon licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Final Thoughts

To get the best value from your ski pass you need to research your personal take on time the slopes. Admittedly, it’s not the most interesting task, but with a little effort, it’s possible to narrow down your likely usage, which you can then convert into the most appropriate pass.

Most of the larger season ski pass providers offer 0% finance, which can really take the sting out of one large amount. Similarly, many providers offer useful benefits on lodging, rentals, lessons, as well as personal insurance and cover for a lost pass.

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