Does anyone buy lift tickets for individual resorts anymore? With the popularity of multi-resort passes, it’s easy to think not. Although not every mountain has joined the frenzy, and ski town locals usually purchase some type of season pass to their home resorts, products like the Epic and Ikon passes have changed the way many skiers access resorts (sometimes with controversy).
Compared to traditional ticket and season-pass pricing, the multi-resort options provide excellent value. (Consider a five-day lift ticket for mid-February at Vail, with a discount for prepurchase online, which costs $900; by comparison, the lowest price for a season-long Epic Pass was $841.) And these passes often come with additional perks, like discounts on lodging, on-mountain restaurants, and ski lessons.
Wading through the benefits of each pass can be like navigating a run full of moguls when you meant to hit up a nice cruiser. Here’s a breakdown of how the Epic and Ikon passes stack up against each other, along with the scoop on alternatives like the Mountain Collective Pass and the Indy Pass.
Epic Pass basics
The full pass gives you unlimited access, with no blackout days, at all 41 Vail Resorts–owned ski areas for a year (with the yearlong period beginning and ending in April). These areas include Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone, Breckenridge, and Crested Butte in Colorado; Park City Mountain Resort in Utah; Heavenly Resort in California; Stowe Resort in Vermont; and Whistler-Blackcomb in British Columbia.
You also get access to partner resorts in the U.S. and abroad: seven consecutive or nonconsecutive days at Colorado’s Telluride, seven consecutive or nonconsecutive days at Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (Fernie, Kicking Horse, Kimberley, Nakiska, Mont-Sainte Anne, and Stoneham); seven consecutive days at Italy’s Skirama Dolimiti and France’s Les 3 Vallées; five consecutive days at Verbier 4 Vallées in Switzerland, Rusutsu Resort in Japan and the nine resorts that make up Japan’s Hakuba Valley; and three consecutive days at Austria’s Arlberg.
Cost and purchasing dates
The 2022/2023 Epic Pass ranged from $841 to $949, depending on the purchase date. The Epic Local Pass, with unlimited access to 29 Vail Resorts–owned areas plus extra days, with some restrictions, at other Vail Resorts properties and partner resorts, ran $626–$735. Several lower-priced options with more limited access, plus one- to seven-day passes, were also available.
Sales for the 2022–2023 ski season stopped on December 4. Passes for next winter will go on sale in spring 2023.
These passes come with Epic Coverage, which offers refunds for unexpected events like personal injury, job loss, or resort closures. You get 20 percent off a slew of items at properties and services owned by Vail Resorts: food at on-mountain restaurants; resort-owned lodging; group ski school lessons; ski and snowboard rentals; a day of heli-skiing at Whistler-Blackcomb (must book by December 18, 2022); and Epic Mountain Express airport shuttle service in Colorado.
Another perk is 50 percent off one ski or snowboard tune-up each winter plus one free wax. And bring along friends and family to ski at discounted rates—each pass includes six “Ski with a Friend” tickets (around 20 percent off, sometimes a bit more). If you bought your pass the previous spring, you get Buddy tickets, which deliver a discount in the 40 percent range, depending on the resort.
Summer perks include free scenic lifts and gondola rides at all resorts until the next ski season, plus 20 percent off resort-owned golf courses and bike rentals.
What’s new this winter
Vail Resorts bought Switzerland’s Andermatt-Sedrun resort last spring and it’s now an Epic Pass destination.
Who should buy the Epic Pass
Skiers who don’t want to deal with making reservations for mountain access in advance should consider this pass. To help mitigate crowding, Vail Resorts has limited daily lift ticket sales at its ski areas, but if you have any level of Epic Pass, you’re automatically in.
The pass is also handy if you regularly ski at one of Vail Resorts’ smaller areas in the Midwest or Pennsylvania and want to vacation at one of the larger resorts. Compared to Ikon, the Epic Pass also gives bigger discounts across the board on lodging, lessons, rentals, on-mountain food, and—if you buy the pass early enough—lift tickets for your pals.
Ikon Pass basics
Alterra Resorts sells the Ikon Pass, which comes in three main flavors—Ikon Pass, Ikon Base Plus, and Ikon Base, as well as two- to four-day options. Ikon’s season-long passes are valid from the purchase date until the end of the following snow season (dates vary depending on resort).
The full Ikon Pass provides unlimited access (no blackout days) to 14 Alterra-owned ski resorts, including California resorts June Mountain and Big Bear Mountain, and up to seven days total at an additional 39 areas in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Japan, Chile, Australia, and New Zealand.
The Ikon Base lets you visit 13 Alterra destinations, with some blackout days, and ski up to five days at 34 resorts (with blackouts). The Ikon Base Plus adds the four Aspen, Colorado, ski mountains, Alta and Snowbird in Utah, Wyoming’s Jackson Hole, Idaho’s Sun Valley, and Utah’s Deer Valley and Snowbasin to the Base offerings.
Seven resorts require reservations for all Ikon Pass holders: Jackson Hole, Big Sky, Aspen, New Mexico’s Taos Ski Valley, Utah’s Brighton, Summit at Snoqualmie in Washington, and Loon Mountain in New Hampshire.
Cost and purchasing dates
Prices for the current season ranged from $719 to $1,229, depending on the type of pass, when it was purchased, and whether it was a renewal or not. Passes for next winter will go on sale in spring 2023.
Adventure Assurance is included with this pass, which gives pass holders credits in the case of COVID-related closures. It also offers discounts of 10–15 percent at on-mountain restaurants and retail stores owned by Alterra, as well as lodging deals and special offers on ski schools and rentals that vary by location. The Ikon Pass includes 10 vouchers for 25 percent off tickets for friends and family (8 with the Ikon Base and Ikon Base Plus).
Passholders can also use travel agency Ikon Pass Travel for planning trips and get early booking privileges for Alterra-owned Canadian Mountain Holidays heli-skiing trips. Other perks include one monthly free First Tracks session, which gives skiers early-morning access to a ski run, and membership in Protect Our Winters, a climate advocacy nonprofit.
Summer perks include free scenic lift and gondola rides, plus discounts that vary by resort but include things like lodging, golf, mountain bike rentals, and via ferrata guided climbing routes.
What’s new this winter
Seven destinations were added since last winter—Sun Valley, Idaho; Snowbasin, Utah; Chamonix Mont-Blanc Valley, France; Grandvalira Resorts, Andorra; Lotte Arai Resort, Japan, and Panorama and Sun Peaks Resort in British Columbia.
Who should buy the Ikon Pass
Skiers who want to visit resorts known particularly for their expert terrains, like Jackson Hole, Alta and Snowbird, Big Sky, Taos, and Palisades Tahoe should consider this pass. Also, fans of Utah skiing—all of the resorts near Salt Lake City other than Park City (which, granted, is the biggest ski area in the nation) are on the Ikon Pass. Ikon also has three more international destinations than Epic: Chile, New Zealand, and Andorra.
Other ski pass options
Mountain Collective Pass
If you like to travel to a variety of large resorts each winter and spend just two or three days at each, consider the Mountain Collective Pass. Offered through a partnership among 25 ski areas, it provides two days of skiing at each one (no blackouts), with half off the regular ticket price for additional days. Many of these resorts overlap with Ikon Pass areas, but a few are available only with the Mountain Collective: Grand Targhee, Idaho; Quebec’s Le Massif de Charlevoix; Alberta’s Marmot Basin; and Sugar Bowl in California. You’ll get up to 25 percent off lodging, too.
The Mountain Collective Pass ($599) went off sale for the winter on December 12; next winter’s pass will become available in early March 2023.
The Indy Pass continues to grow each winter and offers two days of skiing at more than 120 independently owned ski areas in the U.S., Canada, and Japan, plus a third day at a 25 percent discount. These areas are typically a little under the radar—think Washington’s Mission Ridge, Colorado’s Sunlight, or Vermont’s Bolton Valley—and the focus is on skiing, pure and simple. But what they lack in high-end amenities, they more than make up for in a friendly vibe and skier enthusiasm.
The Indy Base Pass ($349) has some blackout days; the Indy+ Pass ($449) has no blackouts. Bonus: included is the new Indy XC Pass, which gives two days each at 12 cross-country ski areas in the United States and Canada, with 25 percent off a third day.