Big Changes Coming to Annual Ski Passes

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Skiing is expensive, almost prohibitively so for a middle-class family. Miles and points help tremendously in managing the overall cost, but lift ticket prices, especially for a whole family, can get out of control in a hurry. One way to rein in expenses a bit is to do the math on a season pass of some sort either with unlimited skiing or with a set number of days that you can use at various resorts. If you are going to ski more than once in a season at the major resorts, getting a pass is almost undoubtedly the way to go. Or, you can be like my parents and ski for $25 a day a little off the beaten path


Currently, there are two main multi-resort annual ski passes to choose between. First, there is the EPIC Pass that we are using this year to ski at Whistler and Vail, but that is also valid at Breckenridge, Keystone, Beaver Creek, Park City, Stowe, and a few others. Second, there is the Mountain Collective Pass that currently includes Aspen Snowmass, Alta, Jackson Hole, Telluride, Taos, Banff, Squaw Valley, and more.

Skiing at Whistler on the Epic Pass

A basic explanation for how these passes work is that with the Epic Pass you can purchase a 4-day, 7-day, or unlimited pass to use at the eligible resorts however you wish. With the Mountain Collective Pass, you get two days included at each of the participating resorts and then additional days are 50% off the regular rate. To give you a price comparison, the 7 Day Epic Pass goes for about $600 – $700 and the Mountain Collective Pass sells for about $400 – $500 with prices generally increasing as ski season approaches. Of note is that the child Mountain Collective Passes are only $99, which is a much better deal than for the paid child Epic Passes.

If you think those are big numbers, and they are, remember that single day tickets are more than $150 per person at many of these resorts.

Telluride joining the Epic Pass program

This week there have been some big announcements for both of these ski pass programs going forward. Today it was announced that Telluride, previously a member of the Mountain Collective, will be joining the Epic Pass program next ski season. My oh my would that pair nicely with whenever the much-delayed SPG Hotel Ajax property in Telluride finally opens…if it ever opens. 

Those with the unlimited Epic Pass will receive seven days to use at Telluride and then they can get 50% off additional days beyond those included seven. Those with the Epic 4 and 7-day passes can use those days at Telluride if they wish, with discounts available after those included dates are used. Conversely, those who are Telluride Season Pass holders or Telluride Ski & Golf Members with full winter benefits can get 50% off lift tickets at Vail mountain resorts.

Telluride is simply magical, so the news of it joining the Epic Pass next season is pretty huge news in the ski world all by itself, but that isn’t the only recent development.

New IKON Pass kicking off for the 2018 – 2019 ski season

While the Mountain Collective Pass will reportedly be around for one more year, the new competitor to the Epic Pass program is going to be IKON. Details on this new pass are still minimal, but you will find many of the familiar faces from the Mountain Collective Pass onboard. Some of the participating 23 resorts include Steamboat, Winter Park, Aspen Snowmass, Copper Mountain, Mammoth, Jackson Hole, Big Sky, Killington, Tremblant, Deer Valley, Alta, Snowbird, Stratton, and more.

Sheraton Steamboat

The new IKON passes will offer options ranging from full unlimited access to a set number of days that will vary by destination. Pricing and exact details are expected in the coming weeks.

Obviously, it makes the most sense for those who ski on passes to focus on one family of ski resorts each ski season. This means that which resorts belong to which pass is pretty key when it comes to planning trips. On paper next ski season I would like to go to Keystone and Aspen Snowmass, but that really doesn’t make sense at all from a pass perspective. From that standpoint, it makes the most sense to either drop down to just one trip or select two mountains that are in the same pass family such as Aspen and Steamboat or Keystone and Breckenridge or Telluride.

What do you hope to see from the new IKON pass program? Does your family purchase a ski pass in order to ski more for less?

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    • It can be, for sure, but it doesn’t have to be. My parents are skiing at Brian Head today. They flew Spirit, rented a $13 a day car in Vegas, and drove to Utah. Weekday lift tickets there are $27 for seniors/kids and $38 for adults. I think the ski industry has made a terrible error in pricing out the majority of the country, but not all resorts are like that.

  1. Is that whistler shot the left turn into bear cub after pony trail splits and becomes Dave Murray downhill on the right ?

  2. Theres also the MAX pass which gives 5 days each at more then 20 resorts.
    Also they have a bit more east coast locations which might be important so some.

  3. Most of the Mountain Collective (two days per resort) spots are fairly far apart from one another, making it tough to string together even 4 “free” ski days on a single trip, although Alta and Snowbird are definitely an exception (and you might be able to swing up to Snowbasin on the same trip).

  4. Some of the ski resorts in Colorado sell 4-packs / 5-packs for $150-170 depending on the resort [Winter Park, Copper Mountain, Loveland] this works out to around $30 per day. The days can be used separately as well. Same as with the season passes, these have to be bought beforehand.

    If you fill up 10 gallons of gas at a shell station, you can get a 2 passes for the price of 1. Works at Copper and some other ski areas in Colorado []

    • Love these smaller resorts that are still affordable! We’ve gotten spoiled using points to stay right on the pricier mountains, but hope to rent a house with others near one of these less expensive resorts in a coming year. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I live in SLC so Alta, Snowbird and Park City are all within a 30 minute drive and I have been wanting to get my family into skiing. I’m considering getting passes and gear for Christmas this year instead of toys etc… I didn’t even know these passes existed so thank you for sharing so I can look into them further <3 Do you have tricks for pairing them with are particular card to maximize points, price etc?

    • What ages are your children? Those passes mentioned aren’t likely the best for you. You shouldn’t buy gear before you know what you are doing. It is a lot more expensive than a couple of toys from Target/Walmart/Best Buy. Get a rental package. Get lessons. Skiing isn’t something that happens immediately especially for adults. Look into local options since you live there. *Programs through the schools for locals or each resort has something a bit different. Deer Valley/Park City are more geared to non-locals. The SLC resorts get people from everywhere, but a lot of locals. I don’t live in Utah, but grew up in the Utah ski industry. I’ll be skiing in Utah next weekend.

  6. Same in the Northwest. Big culture of skiing for “normal” families. Community ski swaps, cheaper tickets, old slow lifts at most places. Even rope tows. In middle school I knew the kid whose dad was President of the local ski area corporation, and another kid whose dad drove the parking lot shuttle bus on the weekends.

    • I love that…so much more than the ritzy glitzy you find at some of the big resorts. If I lived in one of those areas, that is so where you would find me.

  7. This is admittedly off topic from this post, but perhaps you can share your opinion just the same. You seem to ski often with kiddos; we’re going to do so for the first time this year.

    My wife and I are not avid skiers; last went more than a decade ago. But we want to give our 7 year old daughter a new experience. We are going to be staying at the Westin in Avon.

    Can you please share your thoughts on how best to get her some lessons? Private? Group? Family private? We’re planning on skiing for up to three days. We just really not sure what type of lesson and in what quantity for her. Anything you can share would be appreciated. And I know none of these options are inexpensive. While money is an object, I’d like to give her the best chance to learn and the best chance to figure out if she likes to ski or not. To that end, if you were to say ‘private all the way’, I’d not dismiss the notion.

    • Ha ha – so we have done all of the above and honestly, it does mostly come down to money. Without looking it up, I’d say that a full day private lesson or full day family lesson will run you $700+ per day. Ski school group lesson in that area is probably $250 per day. Some mountains have small group ski school vs. big class ski school. If you have the money to spend and none of you have been on the mountain in a decade, then a private lesson or family private lesson is a great idea. It is roughly 3x the price of already expensive ski school, so it isn’t in the realm of doable for many.

      The other side of the coin, is by that age some kids like the social aspect of ski school. My kid is now in that camp and she makes friends at ski school that she has a great time with. So, don’t fret if $700+ a day is not realistic as I think 7 years old is a great age for regular ski school. You can also always try ski school the first day and then bail out with private lessons if it doesn’t go as well as you had hoped. Three days is probably the minimum for a first-time skier to start to feel at all confident, so prep her for being patient and giving it three full days before making any judgments. Have fun!

  8. A follow up question if you don’t mind opining.

    We are thinking of doing a private group lesson. Limited to 4 people. My wife and I aren’t great or possibly even good skiers, but we have been before. Do you believe that mixing adults who have been skiing with kids who have never been is advisable for such a lesson or will it result in no one getting much out of it?

    • MDtravel, great question and I haven’t been in that exact situation, so I can’t say for sure. My guess is that the bulk of the focus will be on the kids and time will be spent on the magic carpet and such. You will be learning how to help them more than anything. You could also head off for a few runs on your own and then rejoin. Only you know if your kids will learn better with you around or not, but I would imagine the lowest common denominator would be where you spend the bulk of your time.

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