Last Chance For The Best Deals On Multi-Resort Ski Passes

In the interest of full disclosure, One Mile At A Time earns a referral bonus for anyone that’s approved through some of the below links. These are the best publicly available offers that we have found for each card. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Please check out my advertiser policy for further details about our partners, including American Express, Capital One, Chase, and Citi, and thanks for your support!

While most of us have hung up our snow gear for the season (if you live in the midwest, sorry!) spring is the best time to lock in deals for next year’s ski season passes.

I wrote about this at length last month, so if the world of multi-resort season passes is new to you, make sure you read to the end of the post.

But if you’ve been holding out or contemplating whether or not to pull the trigger, prices will start to increase within the next week, so here are some dates that you should be aware of.

Epic Pass – Buddy Passes included through April 19th

Epic Pass, which covers Vail Resorts, offers a number of options ranging from $699-$939 for adults, as well as some great military discounts and options for Tahoe and Colorado locals, as some of you pointed out.

One additional perk to the Epic Pass is the addition of ten buddy tickets, which offer discounted tickets to Vail’s most prominent – and priciest – resorts. The discounts for the 2019-2020 season have not yet been posted – which I don’t love, but is likely due to the fact that window prices haven’t yet been established. However, 2018-2019 buddy tickets cost anywhere from $48 to $129 – a far cry from Vail’s walk-up window rate of $209.

The reason I bring this up is because April 19th is the last day that Vail offers buddy tickets with their Epic Pass. If you want to take advantage of this promotion, you have until midnight MST on April 19th to lock in the buddy passes with your 2019-2020 Epic Pass.

No further price increases have been announced, but I am sure that they will soon follow.

Ikon Pass – $100 Price Increase April 24th

Ikon Passes, which retail between $649 and $949 for adults, provide access to some of North America’s biggest mountains outside of the Vail conglomerate, including Jackson Hole, Squaw Valley, and Alta/Snowbird.

Squaw Valley

Prices rise by $100 per ticket as soon as the calendar shifts to April 24th, MST, so I would buy before then to lock in the best prices. And, if you’re not sure how much time you have left before the price increase, there is a handy ticker on the home page to remind you:

Mountain Collective – Prices go up…soon

Mountain Collective’s approach to multi-resort ski passes is a little bit different in a couple of ways. First, it’s not a season pass, so much as it is a voucher that offers two lift tickets to each of seventeen destinations, as well as unlimited half-off days at each of these destinations. The price of $449 is quite reasonable if you’re looking to commit to a slightly smaller amount of cash, and I’ve found that this pass typically pays for itself in 3-4 days of skiing.

Many of their mountains are the same as those serviced by Ikon, so this is a great deal if you’re doing a limited number of days at a smattering of destinations.

Aspen Highlands

The other big difference here is that their price increases are based on inventory quantities, not dates. So if you’re tracking this pass but you’re not sure if you should buy now, you can find this graphic at the bottom of their home page:

Alternately, you can follow Liftopia on social media, given that they are ultimately the ones selling Mountain Collective’s tickets and will be sure to notify when prices are about to increase. And while they haven’t publicized the amount by which prices increase – let alone the date – I seem to remember prices going up in $50 increments in years past.


The Ultimate Guide To 2019-2020 Ski Season Passes

If you’ve been hashtagging anything skiing-related this winter – or if you’ve ever so much as looked up the word “snowboard” on the internet – chances are, your social media accounts are probably being blown up by advertisements for next season’s passes. But whether you are already fired up for next season, or you want to scream every time you see the word “Ikon,” two things are clear:

  • With walk-up ticket window prices reaching record highs and big conglomerates taking over, multi-resort season passes are quickly becoming the “new normal” in the ski industry
  • If you’re even thinking of buying a season pass for next season, early spring tends to present the best prices, if you don’t mind coughing up some cash now

So today, I figured we could take a break from aviation news and break down the best values for one of the most popular – and expensive – destination sports out there.

Because while these massive, multi-resort season offer great value, they don’t necessarily offer a clear breakdown of who reaps the most benefits.

Big Sky – a Mountain Collective and Ikon Pass destination

I’ll warn you right now to buckle up (and lower the safety bar) because this post is long, and by design. If you just want the caller commentary on the best values, skip down to the bottom, and bookmark this page to cross-reference resort-by-resort offerings.

Epic Pass – Vail Tickets Without Vail Prices

One can argue that Vail single-handedly changed the game when they first introduced the Epic Pass in 2008 – a season pass that offered access to five ski resorts in Colorado, and one in California.

Since then, the “Vail Empire” has been buying up ski resorts left and right, with massive improvements going hand-in-hand with massive lift ticket prices. Vail’s home resort has broken all sorts of records, including a 2018-2019 walk-up ticket window price of $209 for an adult one-day lift ticket.

That. Is. Bananas.

Perfect conditions in Vail’s Blue Sky Basin – back before tickets were over $200

Fortunately for us – and fortunately for Vail shareholders – the Epic Pass brings prices back down to reasonable rates for mere mortals. The two best values for the 2019-2020 ski season are the Epic Pass and the Epic Local Pass, as outlined below:

Epic Pass – $939 for adults (13+), $489 for children (5-12)

For the most unrestricted value at the most Vail-owned resorts, this is the way to go. The Epic Pass offers unlimited ski days at the following resorts:

  • Vail (CO)
  • Beaver Creek (CO)
  • Whistler Blackcomb (BC)
  • Breckenridge (CO)
  • Park City (UT)
  • Keystone (CO)
  • Heavenly (CA/NV)
  • Northstar (CA)
  • Kirkwood (CA)
  • Stowe (VT)
  • Wilmont (WI)
  • Afton Alps (MN)
  • Mt. Brighton (MI)
  • Perisher (Australia)
  • Falls Creek (Australia, pending approval)
  • Hotham (Australia, pending approval)
  • Okemo (VT)
  • Mt. Sunapee (NH)
  • Crested Butte (CO)
  • Stevens Pass (WA)

Epic Passholders also have access to the following benefits:

  • Seven days at Telluride (CO) with no restrictions
  • Seven days at Sun Valley (ID) with no restriction’s
  • Seven total days at Utah’s Snowbasin (no restrictions)
  • Seven total days at any combination of these resorts in the Canadian Rockies: Fernie, Kicking Horse, Kimberly Alpine Resort, Nakiska Ski Area, Stoneham, Mont-Sainte Anne
  • Five consecutive days at any of Japan’s Hakuba Valley resorts (on the main island)
  • Five consecutive days at Japan’s Rusutsu Resort (Hokkaido)
  • Access to 30 European resorts across France, Italy, Switzerland and Austria (you can read the full guidelines here).

Other benefits include discounted tickets for friends and family, lodging discounts, summer access to Vail resorts (think scenic gondola rides) and access to all of your ski stats via EpicMix app.

Who should buy the Epic Pass?

This makes total sense for anyone who is a Vail/Beaver Creek or Whistler local, given that these are the most expensive of the Vail-owned resorts.

As a matter of fact, at the time of publishing, a Whistler-only season pass costs about $100 CAD more than an Epic Pass.

Blackcomb Glacier – about as scenic as an in-bounds ski run can get

This may also make sense if you are planning trips to any of the above locations during “Peak” times (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Presidents’ Day, or MLK weekend) given that there are no blackout dates. That said, Epic Passes do not come with line jumping or teleporting abilities, so just know what you’re getting into if you travel to these popular resorts at the same time as everyone else.

Most of the other resorts can be accessed with an Epic Local pass, as outlined below:

Epic Local Pass – $699 for adults (13+), $369 for children (5-12)

Let’s be honest – most of the resorts listed above can be accessed via the Epic Local pass, for about $200 less per person. There are more restrictions and more blackout dates, but for all but peak travelers and Whistler/Vail/Beaver Creek locals, this seems to hit a sweet spot.

The Epic Local Pass offers unrestricted access at the following resorts:

  • Breckenridge (CO)
  • Keystone (CO)
  • Wilmont (WI)
  • Afton Alps (MN)
  • Mt. Brighton (MI)
  • Okemo (VT)
  • Mt. Sunapee (NH)
  • Crested Butte (CO)
  • Stevens Pass (WA)

Epic Local Passholders can access the following resorts on all but the following days: 11/29-30, 12/26-31, 1/18 (2020), 2/15-2/16:

  • Park City (UT)
  • Heavenly (CA/NV)
  • Northstar (CA)
  • Kirkwood (CA)
  • Stowe (VT)

Ten total combined days (subject to the same holiday restrictions) are available at any one of the three following resorts:

  • Vail (CO)
  • Beaver Creek (CO)
  • Whistler Blackcomb (BC)

In addition to access at the above Vail-owned resorts, Epic Local Passholders have access to the following benefits:

  • Two holiday-restricted days at Sun Valley (ID)
  • Two holiday-restricted days at Snowbasin (UT)
  • Five consecutive days at any of Japan’s Hakuba Valley resorts (on the main island)
  • Five consecutive days at Japan’s Rusutsu Resort (Hokkaido)
  • Half-priced tickets to Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, and Stowe on blackout dates
  • Advanced-purchase discounted rates to Vail, Beaver Creek and Whistler Blackcomb during blackout dates

Other benefits include discounted tickets for friends and family, lodging discounts, summer access to Vail resorts (think scenic gondola rides) and access to all of your ski stats via EpicMix app.

Mountain biking at Keystone – so much scarier than skiing 😉

Who should buy the Epic Local Pass?

This makes most sense for Colorado locals who don’t need heated sidewalks and fresh-baked cookies, or Tahoe locals who don’t mind sticking to the Vail resorts. The North Shore/South Shore spread is great for Bay Area and Sacramento residents. I could also see this working well for Utah residents who are happy sticking to Park City but may want to try Snowbasin for something different, or New Englanders who want a reliable season pass and a trip or two out west.

Honestly, for anyone who is local to one Vail area and traveling to another, this is probably a good way to go. And don’t forget about the Epic SchoolKids pack if you have kids that age.

Other good-to-know info about Vail Resorts:

If you’re just planning one vacation at a Vail-owned resort, you can also buy a pass for a specific number of (1-7) days. Honestly, I’m not sure why you would buy the seven-day pass for $731 over the Epic Local, but I guess someone in the marketing department knew what they were doing or it wouldn’t exist.

In more customer-friendly news, if you are not currently a season pass holder, you may be able to credit one day of this season’s skiing toward a season pass for next year.

We are opting for the Epic Local pass, thanks to our upcoming trip to Japan next season, and when we skied at Park City last week, we learned that we could apply one day’s lift ticket toward next season’s Epic Pass. Park City charges $169 per person for walk-up ski tickets, which would have been a bummer if not for the fact that our Epic Passes effectively cost $531 (less than three Vail days) per person. 

I’m not sure how widespread this discount is across Vail resorts, since we basically learned about it by asking around, but it’s definitely worth looking into if you’re planning another ski day this season. Just note that you do have to pay in full, and – at least at Park City – Epic Passes had to be purchased within ten days of buying the original lift ticket, at the season pass office.

Finally, I can’t write this without waving a hand to the fact that Vail resorts are popular, expensive, and crowded. These season passes present a great value, and it shows. We couldn’t even get into Heavenly a few weeks ago, on a not-holiday weekend, and while Park City was lovely, getting a seat at an apres bar at the resort was an exercise in futility.

Crowds also mean longer lift lines, and runs that get skied off faster. Like with most ski resorts, your best bet is to arrive early – or better yet, ski on weekdays if you can.

Mountain Collective – Great Value for the Vacation Skier

In 2012 – and arguably in response to Vail’s Epic Pass – a different group of resorts came together to form the Mountain Collective. The original four resorts included Jackson Hole, Squaw Valley, Alta, and Aspen/Snowmass, and a $349 pass – powered by Liftopia – bought access to all four of these resorts, all season long.

The catch? Mountain Collective gets you two days, plus unlimited half-off days, at each of their resorts. In other words, this is not a “true” season pass.

Still, there is plenty of value to be derived, if you plan it right. Today, the Collective has expanded exponentially, but the price has not. So let’s see what a 2019-2020 Collective pass will get you.

Mountain Collective – $449 for adults (13+) $99 for children 12 and under (price subject to change!)

Collective locations tend to fluctuate a bit each year, but one pass buys you two days, plus unlimited half-off days, at each of the following resorts:

  • Alta (skiers only) (UT)
  • Aspen Snowmass (CO)
  • Banff Sunshine (AB)
  • Big Sky Resort (MT)
  • Coronet Peak + The Remarkables (New Zealand)
  • Jackson Hole (WY)
  • Lake Louise (AB)
  • Mammoth (CA)
  • Niseko United (Japan)
  • Revelstoke (BC)
  • Snowbird (UT)
  • Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows (CA)
  • Sugarbush (VT)
  • Taos (NM)
  • Thredbo (Australia)
  • Valle Nevado (Chile)

In addition to your two days per resort and unlimited half-off days, you also get a third bonus day at your resort of choice, which can help to round out a trip.

Who should buy the Mountain Collective pass?

While Mountain Collective boasts “32 days” of skiing, I don’t know too many people who plan a trip to the southern hemisphere on a North American ski pass to hop from Chile to New Zealand to Australia, so let’s take those off the table for now.

Of the remaining resorts, Alta and Snowbird can easily be combined into one trip (and you can add Jackson Hole to the mix if you like scenic drives). The same can be said for Banff Sunshine and Lake Louise, with Revelstoke as an obvious third addition, and Squaw/Alpine could ostensibly be combined with Mammoth.

If you find yourself planning multiple trips a season, and enjoy skiing the tougher mountains, this could be a great way to save a ton of money while enjoying a bucket-list-worth ski season. Jackson Hole, Big Sky, Alta, Squaw, Mammoth, Aspen, and Revelstoke all conjure up images of “wow factor” skiing, while avoiding at least *some* of the commercialism of Vail’s resorts.

We took this approach a few years ago and had an amazing season skiing Squaw, Alta, Snowbird, Aspen Highlands, and Jackson – for next to nothing.

The trek up Highland Bowl – a must-do for expert skiers at Aspen Highlands

Otherwise, the value here could also be derived from simply using the pass on a single ski trip – especially if you are worried about blackout dates. With 2018 ticket window prices ranging from $158-$180 at some of the more popular resorts, a Mountain Collective pass typically pays for itself in four days – even before you factor in the “third day free” offer.

So while I wouldn’t necessarily go this route if you’re looking to rack up a 100-day season, it’s a solid way to save some serious cash at some of North America’s most amazing resorts.

Other good-to-know info about the Mountain Collective:

Aside from having to plan your days judiciously, the biggest issue I had with Mountain Collective was the cumbersome pass pick-up process.

Since this is not a season pass, but rather a group of loosely-connected resorts, you are required to get a new pass/ticket issued at each new resort that you visit. Every resort does it a little bit differently, but the process usually looks something like this.

  • Research Mountain Collective pickup the night before
  • Arrive, park hopefully close to Guest Services or wherever pass pickup is required
  • Locate office, wait in line
  • Get pass issued
  • Take pass photo (maybe)
  • Affix pass to jacket on whichever zipper may offer real estate OR
  • Insert RFID pass into jacket, remove all other existing RFID passes, hope RFID reader works so that you don’t hold up lift line

It’s not the end of the world, but it does get old by about your fourth go.

Finally, it’s worth noting that this pass was designed to include awe-inspiring, bucket-list-worth resorts – not necessarily beginner-friendly resorts. The expansion over the years has certainly helped to diversify the clientele, but maybe don’t plan a trip to Jackson Hole if this is your first time on skis in a decade.

Ikon Pass – Season Pass to Everywhere

First created for the 2017-2018 ski season, the Ikon Pass offers the widest reach, the biggest competition for Vail, and – if my social media accounts are any indication – the biggest online marketing budget. The pass covers sixteen mountains owned by Alterra Mountain Co. – a lesser-known but equally powerful conglomerate – as well as a handful of partner resorts.

Ikon offers two options for the 2019-2020 season.

Ikon Pass – $949 for adults (23+), $699 for young adults (13-22), $299 for children (5-12)

The Ikon Pass includes unlimited ski days at each of the following locations:

  • Steamboat (CO)
  • Winter Park (CO)
  • Copper Mountain (CO)
  • Eldora (CO)
  • Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows (CA)
  • Mammoth (CA)
  • June Mountain (CA)
  • Big Bear (CA)
  • Stratton (VT)
  • Snowshoe (WV)
  • Crystal Mountain (WA)
  • Tremblant (QC)
  • Blue Mountain (ON)
  • Solitude (UT)

Ikon Passholders are also entitled up to seven days at each of the following locations:

  • Aspen Snowmass (CO)
  • Jackson Hole (WY)
  • Big Sky (MT)
  • Killington (VT)
  • Sugarbush (VT)
  • Boyne Highlands (MI)
  • Boyne Mountain (MI)
  • The Summit at Snoqualmie (WA)
  • SkiBig3 (AB aka Banff – not This is Us 😉 )
  • Revelstoke (BC)
  • Cypress (BC)
  • Sunday River (ME)
  • Sugarloaf (ME)
  • Loon Mountain (NH)
  • Taos (NM)
  • Deer Valley (UT)
  • Brighton (UT)
  • Alta (UT)
  • Snowbird (UT)
  • Thredbo (Australia)
  • Coronet Peak + The Remarkables (New Zealand)
  • Niseko United (Japan)
  • Valle Nevado (Chile)

Other benefits of the Ikon Pass include ten discounted Friends and Family tickets (25% off), a complimentary one-year POW membership, discounts on lodging and meals, access to special events, and discounts on select CMH adventures.

Perhaps the biggest fringe benefit of all – if you buy now – is the access to spring skiing. If you buy an Ikon pass for next year, you can start using it right now at the following resorts:

  • Big Bear (CA)
  • Blue Mountain (ON)
  • Snowshoe (WV)

And you can start using it on April 8th at the following mountains:

  • Winter Park (CO)
  • Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows (CA)
  • Mammoth (CA)
  • Crystal Mountain (WA)
  • Solitude (UT)
  • Tremblant (QC)

Considering that some of these mountains experienced record snowfall this year and are scheduled to be open until July, this represents one heck of a deal.

Tahoe in February of 2019 – because who needs signs when you can spray paint the SNOW WALLS??

Who should buy the Ikon Pass?

If you are local to any of the “unlimited” mountains, this could be a good way to go – although some of the mountains are covered by the less expensive Base Pass as well. This is also probably a good option if you’re planning a trip of at least seven days to any of the partner mountains, or you’re worried about blackout dates.

Finally, if you’re debating between a resort-specific pass or an Ikon Pass, do yourself a favor and  check out a side-by-side comparison of the prices. A Steamboat season pass, for example, is actually more expensive than an Ikon Pass. Go figure.

Ikon Base Pass – $649 for adults (23+), $499 for young adults (13-22), $259 for children (5-12)

The Ikon Base Pass includes most of the locations as the Ikon Pass, but with fewer resorts and some blackout restrictions. For most people, this will probably suffice and will save adults and young adults about $200 a season.

The Ikon Base Pass includes unlimited ski days at each of the following locations:

  • Winter Park (CO)
  • Copper Mountain (CO)
  • Eldora (CO)
  • Big Bear (CA)
  • Snowshoe (WV)
  • Crystal Mountain (WA)
  • Tremblant (QC)
  • Blue Mountain (ON)

Ikon Base Passholders also get near-unlimited ski days at the following destinations, barring blackout dates on 12/26-31, 1/18-19, and 2/15-16:

  • Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows (CA)
  • Mammoth (CA)
  • June Mountain (CA)
  • Solitude (UT)

Ikon Base Passholders are also entitled up to five days at each of the following locations, subject to the same blackout dates:

  • Aspen Snowmass (CO)
  • Steamboat (CO)
  • Jackson Hole (WY)
  • Big Sky (MT)
  • Stratton (VT)
  • Killington (VT)
  • Sugarbush (VT)
  • Boyne Highlands (MI)
  • Boyne Mountain (MI)
  • The Summit at Snoqualmie (WA)
  • SkiBig3 (AB aka Banff – not This is Us 😉 )
  • Revelstoke (BC)
  • Cypress (BC)
  • Sunday River (ME)
  • Sugarloaf (ME)
  • Loon Mountain (NH)
  • Taos (NM)
  • Deer Valley (UT)
  • Brighton (UT)
  • Alta (UT)
  • Snowbird (UT)
  • Thredbo (Australia)
  • Coronet Peak + The Remarkables (New Zealand)
  • Niseko United (Japan)
  • Valle Nevado (Chile)

Other benefits of the Ikon Base Pass include eight discounted Friends and Family tickets (25% off), a complimentary one-year POW membership, discounts on lodging and meals, access to special events, and discounts on select CMH adventures.

Perhaps the biggest fringe benefit of all – if you buy now – is the access to spring skiing. If you buy an Ikon pass for next year, you can start using it right now at the following resorts:

  • Big Bear (CA)
  • Blue Mountain (ON)
  • Snowshoe (WV)

And you can start using it on April 8th at the following mountains:

  • Winter Park (CO)
  • Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows (CA)
  • Mammoth (CA)
  • Crystal Mountain (WA)
  • Solitude (UT)
  • Tremblant (QC)

Considering that some of these mountains experienced record snowfall this year and are scheduled to be open until July, this represents one heck of a deal.

Who should buy the Ikon Base Pass?

If you’re local to any of the Ikon mountains and avoid holiday weekends like the plague, this should do the trick just fine, at a much lower price point. This also probably provides the widest spread of mountains in regions like Southern California and Utah.

Finally, if you’re looking to plan a 4-5 day trip to any single partner destination and don’t plan to travel on holiday weekends, this pass will probably present the best value.

Brighton/Solitude sidecountry

Other good-to-know info about the Ikon Pass:

Given how new the Ikon Pass is, it’s the one that I know the least about – and the only one that I haven’t personally held. The only thing that I can personally attest to is a bit of a cluster that I witnessed at Solitude last week – for some reason, the RFID readers were working on standard lift tickets but not on Ikon Passes, so all passholders were required to ski back to the base lodge (not necessarily a quick endeavor) to get their passes replaced.

I’m pretty positive that this was a one-off, based on how the lift operators were reacting, but it is an indication of the integration challenges that come with a multi-resort season pass.

Other than that, I imagine that the process of picking up tickets at some of the partner resorts is similar to Mountain Collective, but I can’t confirm that with absolute certainty.

And yes, speaking of Mountain Collective, you’ve probably noticed that there is a lot of redundancy between the two. I’ll outline some of the perks below, but high-level – MC is a better pass for short trips and/or some driving between destinations, and Ikon is a better pass for longer trips to a single destination, especially if you live close to any of their mountains.

Okay – that’s a lot of info. I still don’t know which pass I should buy!

That’s okay – if you plan on skiing at any of the above destinations next season, and you’re buying a pass now, chances are, you’re coming out ahead.

But if you’re still not sure, here is a quick breakdown of some of the highlights of each pass:

Epic Pass: 

  • Great value for highly-coveted Vail-owned resorts
  • Family-friendly destinations
  • Great option for those local to Colorado
  • Great for Northern California
  • Great for the Canadian Rockies (Epic Pass only)
  • Good for Seattle
  • Good for New England
  • Good for Utah
  • Easiest technology integration

Mountain Collective: 

  • Least expensive option
  • No blackout dates
  • Great destinations for advanced/expert skiers
  • Best option for “weekend warriors” who want to explore multiple destinations
  • Great for short trips or road trips
  • Good for Utah
  • Okay for Northern California
  • Good options for Southern Hemisphere

Ikon Pass: 

  • Most widespread options
  • Best option for Utah
  • Best option for Southern California
  • Best option for New England
  • Best option for spring skiing
  • Great for longer trips to a single destination
  • Great option for the Canadian Rockies

Just don’t wait too long to buy!

All three of these passes will increase in price. While the resorts in question haven’t posted their price increase dates just yet, last year’s Epic passes increased in price in mid-April, while the Ikon passes experienced their first price increase on May 1st.

Mountain Collective operates a little differently, in that they sell a fixed amount of passes at the current discounted rate, and when they’re gone, the price goes up. I’ll do my best to update price increases on all three passes, but your best bet – especially with Mountain Collective – is probably to keep checking the website for inventory updates.

The good news? You can secure an Epic Pass for just $49 down right now, or an Ikon Pass for a down payment of $199.

So, can you get points for buying these passes?

The short answer is yes…although you need to get crafty to maximize value.

All ski lift purchases that I’ve made this year, including my Epic Pass, Liftopia purchases, and walk-up ticket windows have coded as “Entertainment.” So if you’re looking to maximize spend, your best bet is to buy any ski pass with a card that has a specific bonus category for entertainment, like the Citi Premier℠ Card or the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card.

Earn bonus points on Entertainment

If you don’t have a card that rewards entertainment spending specifically, you’ll probably want to look at using a credit card that offers extra points on non-bonused, everyday spend. Alternately, this could be an opportunity to meet a minimum spend requirement on a new card.

Beyond that, there are no shortage of lodging and dining options at any of these resorts, and those are bound to code as such. Just maybe steer clear of the St. Regis Deer Valley for now.

St. Regis Aspen

Alta has better snow, anyway.

Bottom line

I know there’s a lot to digest here – and there are probably plenty of nuances to each program that weren’t covered but may apply to ultra-specific circumstances.

If you’re still waffling, you may want to do some realistic calculations of how many days you plan to ski next winter – and factor in some of the “wow factor” into the equation. For example, I thought there was no way that I would ever ski Vail again, but with ten “free” days and my Japan skiing paid for, a Vail/Breck/Crested Butte trip is suddenly a no-brainer.

All that to say that there isn’t a single formula that works for everyone, but at the end of the day, if you’re looking to maximize your vertical-feet-to-dollar ratio, you probably can’t go wrong with any of these.

Powder day at Squaw

All these deals are great, but if your decision is already made, I would lock the rate in now. Ikon’s prices go up by $100, Mountain Collective is a moving target, and Vail’s buddy passes could potentially save you from buying a whole other season pass, depending on how much skiing you plan on doing with your family.

And if you live for chasing snow, it gives something to look forward to before next season. 🙂

Anyone planning on taking advantage of these deals before the deadlines?

Regarding Comments: The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Comments

  1. Great informative post, thanks! 🙂 The epic pass even is a solid option for EU-skiers, in combination with an US-trip!

  2. I’ve yet to conjure up the courage to go skiing for fear I’mma bust my tush and become the laughing stock. LOL

  3. @Mike – There are some killer discounts (which some of my relatives benefit from, and we’ve been hounded them all season to use). I had to cap it somewhere – and 4,000 words seemed appropriate – but thanks for bringing it up.

    @Andrew – Thank youuuu! Must’ve typed an “8” instead of a “3” somewhere down the line. Or I’m due for an eye doctor visit. In any case, it’s fixed.

  4. For anyone in the military or otherwise eligible for MWR benefits, you can oftentimes find these passes for sale in the MWR office at a substantial discount.

    My husband and I only went to Mammoth for 2 days this year and the mil prices purchased on base were ~30% less than the military price at the resort, and resulted in over 55% off the sticker prices.

    Thanks Steph for the article, we will look at the IKON passes for next year!

  5. It’s thorouugly adorable the author believes a pass listing / op-Ed piece is taken seriously with barely a fly by listing+mention plus glacier stock photo of a resort that is easily Top 3 in North America and arguably #1 in the continent terms of ski/board experience and yet brush off the 2010 Winter Olympics Host mountain as merely “commercialism of Vail Resorts” hahahahahh

  6. @HenryLAX – All photos are my own, so in that regard, thank you?

    Don’t get me wrong, some of my best days have been at Whistler AND it’s still subject to heavier PNW snow and high altitude wind closures and hour+ waits to get out of the base on busy holiday weekends, the latter of which is at least in part due to the Vail takeover.

    And it’s still one of my favorite places to ski. Hope you get some good turns up there.

  7. I have an Epic Local Pass for 2018-2019 season. I used it a couple weeks ago at Hakuba in Japan, which was a fun place. I also went to Rusutsu and stayed at the Westin and really loved that hotel, they treat elites great, will definitely go back. They added Rusutsu for next year right as I was arriving this year! Grrrrr, I had to buy tickets!!! But it is cool they have added it now.

    Do know that lift tickets in Japan are shockingly cheap for that expensive country… like $40-60, and they sell 4 hour tickets and the like, which can be plenty to ski from 9 to 1PM. So as one could imagine… lift tickets are the least of your expenses skiing in Japan… just wait till you buy some ground transport. Still it is amazing and worth it and “free skiing” makes me smile.

    Also FYI, some of the Europe resorts include an obligation to buy a certain number of nights at a list of hotels to get the tickets. Hyatt just added Kristiana Lech as an SLH property in Austria, it qualifies as one for the Epic Pass. I am curious if a points stay would work.

    Seems to me… the Epic Local Pass ought to be the base case, what you ought to make work… then when you want to do a big trip to Europe perhaps get the full Epic Pass… though I actually need to run the numbers if that is worth it.

    They should add some South America resorts so I can take a “summer” ski trip.

  8. Thanks for an in-depth look. I didn’t realize the prices would increase so quickly so I’ll be looking to lock in my Ikon pass before May.

    Incidentally, as much as I love Big Sky there was no issue with RFID readers because they don’t use them. They’re still scanning the bar codes!

  9. Of note is that there is a minor/major change to the epic passes for the upcoming season for those that have used it for years. Arapahoe Basin is no longer going to be a part of the Epic Pass. Also, both Epic and Ikon mountain groupings are introducing discounted mountain day passes for those that don’t want to pay lift prices, but also haven’t decided which mountains to do. Just another option for those that want a couple of trips, but not enough to justify the full season pass.

  10. Are you able to get extra points on Citi Premier? I charged my season pass to Citi Premier but didn’t get any bonus points. Citi claims that it has to be movies or performing art to get the extra bonus. Entertainment/ recreation (ski tickets) are not included.

  11. Don’t forget that the management group that owns Purgatory (which includes hesperus in CO, Sipapu and Pajarito in NM, and Arizona Snowbowl gives free season passes to kids 10 years and younger.

  12. Useful post! I live in San Francisco and I quit skiing Tahoe after my first trip to Taos. What a revelation. Fantastic mountain, great facilities, no pretentiousness (I have a Louis V. and Gucci at home, thankyouverymuch). A place for skiers, certified for sustainability and environmental responsibility.

    Tahoe: Disneyland lines, “Sierra Cement” snow, service that hasn’t improved since the 80s and prices as breathtaking as the views. To stand in line.

  13. Or of course the Gold Pass, if you have the $ and want a fully transferrable pass that is valid at almost every non-Vail resort in Colorado.

  14. I have Ikon Base and could not be happier.

    Regarding picking up tickets at the window, this has never been the case for me. It simply stays in my jacket pocket and never comes out, and beeps me through seemlessly.

    – I’ve used it this year at Winter Park, Aspen, Copper, Steamboat, Taos, and Alta.

    – I used it to save $400 off ticket price for my gf’s family (25% of $200 times 8)

    – I am a frequent skier, but not an insanely frequent skier, and never came close to running up against the 5 day limits. Weekend in Aspen, week at Steamboat, etc. Cant imagine going over the allotment

    FWIW

  15. For the childrens Ikon pass, the age limit is set to when you buy the pass. I bought 2 passes in April for my twins that have their birhday in July. For under 4 years old children the base pass costs only 49$!

  16. Just purchased my second year IKON Base Pass. I’m a Taos local so I buy a Taos ‘Value’ Season Pass as well (unfortunately, Taos is not one of the unlimited IKON areas, so I need both). One trip and the Ikon pays for itself. On the second trip and beyond, skiing is essentially free (of course, accommodations and travel are the biggest expenses anyway, and I am loathe to use miles/points for domestic air, and when Airbnb’s represent better value, especially for a small group). Agree totally with majik, and the subtle implications of the author, that Vail properties are pretentious, expensive and tooo corporate for my likes. I even have good friends who live very near to Vail/Beaver Creek, but hardly visit as I get little joy from the vibe at those areas, preferring to meet my friends at more fun areas like Jackson, Alta, Aspen, etc. (Not to mention the terrain is so far superior, and lines/crowd so much less at these destinations compared to Vail.) I did have the Mountain Collective before the IKON was created, and it was good for what it was, but for someone that can take at least one week, if not several to ski at various destinations, the IKON is superior. PS. We are seeing A LOT of CO folks coming to Taos with Their IKON passes as the trip can actually be shorter than fighting traffic up to the mountains on I-70, and the crowds, even with increased visitors, and a fairly epic snow year, are still less. Feel free to get in touch if you are visiting Taos, I’d be happy to show you a few locals favorites (if you promise not to write about them). 🙂

  17. “thankfully there are not many(any) ski resorts in republican states” I boycott ski resorts in UT and stay with those in CO

  18. Great information and will be very useful. Seattle is home and the Epic has been a great deal the last couple years. I have found at Whistler the cost of lodging during peak times is more important then the crowds on the slopes. Please continue these types of posts, it can also be about the destination instead of the journey.

  19. As a Utah snowboarder I’m gonna disagree with your statement that IKON is best for Utah. Deer Valley and Alta do not allow snowboarding. Also, Little Cottonwood and Big Cottonwood canyons have terrible and unpredictable traffic – several times this year have had 4 hour + backups. Park City is 25 minutes from SLC on a major freeway (I-80). Final note, EPIC is adding Snowbasin next year, which seriously adds to its value in Utah. Anyone who dislikes crowds should buy the EPIC Local since you wont be going on blackout ski days anyway. Most midweek days I don’t see anyone on the runs.

  20. Did mountain collective 2 years ago. This year and next will do IKON base. This is the best pass for the SE if you want to do snowshoe and then somewhere else. I have never had any issues with scanning and I have been to about 1/2 the resorts since I started last April.

  21. Charmonix is my favorite snowboarding and skiing destination. If you are accompanied by a local, the trails are free. Japan has great slopes!. Coming winter the girlfriend and I are traveling across 17 countries on 5 continents to tackle the steepest slopes.

  22. Thanks for reminding me to renewal my Epic pass for next season. Had almost 20 snowboarding days on my pass the past season on 4 different resorts, three of them are near by and a trip to Whistler Pride. We only have one Icon pass resort here which makes decision much easier in picking between the two.

  23. @Steph…what kind of benefits are you talkin about that your relatives benefit from. Is it airline discounts? Or long-term travel discounts to anywhere in the world? Or benefiting from credit card travelers points? 🙂

  24. I’m a Utah skier, this is is a good write-up of the available passes. One thing to remember, if you’re coming to Utah and using a pass, is that Park City Mountain (Vail owned) is HUGE. 3200′ elevation change, 7300+ skiable acres, 330 trails with 115 groomed nightly. The resorts on the west side of the mtns are fine but you’ll never run out of things to ski at Park City.

    As for me, we most easily access Sundance so we typically buy our season passes there. Mid-mountain means the snow isn’t quite as good (this season was amazing though, 104″ base is almost unheard of there) but the prices are dirt cheap for early purchase. I have a friend who buys corp passes there, often we can use up to 4 of his passes. Plus it’s only ~20 min from my house, hard to beat that! But then Park City is only about 45 min.

  25. Great post. I didn’t know about the Mountain Collective and am definitely going to look into it.

  26. I had a Base Ikon pass this past season and was able to visit Jackson Hole, Deer Valley, Aspen/Snowmass, Winter Park, and Squaw Valley. Regardless of the ski pass, I go to DV and SV annually but the other places was because of Ikon.

    I’ve noticed there is a lot of Ikon hate at JH but I attribute the crowding to the epic snow fall this year. I will probably get another Ikon pass and an Epic one as well since they are offering the military pass for $119. I just wish Ikon had something as cheap, but the military pricing is like 460.

  27. Just did the Winter Park, CO April pass for $134 for 3 days. Just went last week. There was 18 inches of snow overnight and basically only locals were there.

  28. Another DP that Citi doesn’t consider the Ikon Pass an entertainment expense so it doesn’t get 2x on Premier. May want to update the article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *