Each ski season, the big news on the slopes is the continuing consolidation within the ski industry. In recent years, Vail Resorts has aquired some of the top ski areas in North America. As part of Vail Resorts’ sweeping consolidation of major resorts, the company’s innovative Epic Pass ($899) offers skiers and snowboarders unlimited access to ski mountains including Heavenly Ski Resort on the California-Nevada border, Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado, and Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia. 

Following Vail Resorts’ industry-changing acquisitions, a capital group named Alterra Mountain Company acquired equally prominent mountain resorts—among them Squaw Valley Ski Resort in California, Stratton Mountain Resort in Vermont, and Mont Tremblant in Quebec—and announced the 2018 debut of its own multi-resort Ikon Pass ($999).

So what does all of this mean for your next ski and snowboard adventure? These cross-continent season passes equal greater access to some of North America’s best ski towns—and ultimately cheaper skiing. If you’re contemplating buying either an Epic Pass or an Ikon Pass this winter 2018-19 reason, grab your ski boots and head to one of these close-to-home U.S. resorts. 

Jackson Hole, Wyoming 
Get in with: Ikon Pass
Haven’t skied Jackson? This is your year. The Wyoming ski resort’s steep slopes are legendary—in-bound runs like Alta Chutes and Corbett’s Couloir are international test pieces for experienced skiiers, and the mountain’s backcountry terrain is so formidable that hiring a guide might be the difference between the best ski day of all time and a serious accident. The resort has worked hard to improve its intermediate terrain recently; at the start of the winter 2018-19 season, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort will open Solitude Station, a 12,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art ski school facility atop the mountain’s beginner terrain. Plus, with more direct flights from cities like San Francisco and Atlanta, this remote Wyoming resort is easier to reach than ever before.

Park City lies east of Salt Lake City, Utah, in the Wasatch Range of the Rocky Mountains.
Park City, Utah 
Get in with: Epic Pass 
A site of the 2002 Winter Olympics, Park City Mountain Resort remains the home training ground for dozens of Olympic athletes. You may well rub elbows with a few of them while taking a chairlift near the expert-level Three Kings terrain park or visiting the ski jump or bobsled facilities (where you can pay to ride with a professional driver). On the other hand, Park City’s expansive 7,300 acres of terrain means you can spread out and avoid the winter jocks—and almost everyone else, too. After a day exploring the mountain’s 17 peaks and 348 ski slopes, check out the Miner’s Camp restaurant at the base of the Silverlode lift for delicious grass-fed beef chili.

Killington, Vermont 
Get in with: Ikon Pass
Nicknamed “The Beast of the East” by skiers and snowboarders, Vermont’s Killington Resort is the largest ski resort in the eastern United States. The New England mountain spans six peaks and boasts a vertical drop of over 3,000 feet. Experts should try the moguls, trees, and steeps off Killington and Bear Mountain Peaks. (On Bear Mountain, Outer Limits is known as the longest and steepest mogul run in the East.) Intermediates should look for the cruise-y blue runs off Snowdon Mountain, and beginners will feel comfy on Ramshead. Also in Vermont—and on the Ikon Pass—Stratton Mountain Resort is regarded as the birthplace of modern snowboarding.

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Big Sky Resort in Montana sits just northwest of Yellowstone National Park.
Big Sky, Montana 
Get in with: Ikon Pass
When Big Sky Resort merged with adjacent Moonlight Basin in 2013, the Montana mountain resort became a 5,800-acre colossus dubbed the “Biggest Skiing in America” by snow sports enthusiasts everywhere. Just 45 miles south of Bozeman’s airport, Big Sky is a great choice for all experience levels. Kids five and under always ski free, and if you are lodging at one of the resort’s conveniently located hotels or condos, kids under 10 ski free. In the evenings, head downslope toward downtown for cozy breweries and great eats like local pizza purveyor Ousel and Spur. 

Breckenridge, Colorado 
Get in with: Epic Pass
Breckenridge is a regular contender for the top winter sports spots in the United States for a reason—the mountain features five peaks and seemingly countless miles of excellent terrain for all skill levels. Peak 9 is a novice’s paradise with dozens of mellow, wide runs where beginners can work to progress. Still, over half of the terrain is expert level, including hike-to double black diamond runs off Peaks 6 and 8. (At an elevation of 12,840 feet, Peak 8’s Imperial Express Superchair is the highest chairlift in North America.) But this Colorado ski town is far more concentrated than its eponymous Rocky Mountain resort. The shop- and restaurant-lined Main Street might be best known for hosting the record-breaking world’s longest shot-ski during the Ullr fest in January 2017, but it’s got plenty of all-ages fun, including a huge arcade at the après-ski eatery Downstairs at Eric’s.

Alta, Deer Valley, and Snowbird, Utah 
Get in with: Ikon Pass
East Coasters can catch a 6 a.m. flight to this Rocky Mountain resort and still make the Alta Ski Area ticket window for half-day access. What’s new for Alta? The Supreme lift, renovated in 2017, provides faster access to the mountain’s legendary powder stashes. What hasn’t changed? The resort is for skiers only—as is Deer Valley Resort, a beloved Utah ski spot located approximately one hour from Alta by car. Deer Valley caps visitor numbers at 7,500 per day, which means it’s easy to find fresh lines all day after a storm.

For Ikon Pass holders who snowboard (or who have snowboarders in their crew), the 2018-19 season pass also grants seven days of fun at the nearby Snowbird, a 2,500-acre ski resort known for its average 500 inches of yearly snowfall. Stay at The Cliff Lodge, which renovated its year-round rooftop pool and spa last summer.

This article originally appeared online in November 2017; it was updated on August 7, 2018, to include current information.

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