October 26, 2020

Wading into the world of ski ticket/pass pricing and recommendations is potentially perilous. It is confusing and can drive one to dig too deeply into that bottle of red wine. But we like our red wine, so here goes.

In conversations over the years with millions (ok, not millions but lots) of skiers, we have discovered that many eschew buying a season pass or similar ski pass – think Epic Pass. The reasons have always frankly resonated with us – Why be locked into one or a few areas?; What if it rains all winter?; What if I get hurt?; What if my boyfriend gets really mad at me and saws all my skis in half? But bear with us, because this winter may be different.

Even before we get into the damn Covid issues, there is some increasing logic to buying a pass. Day tickets are absurdly expensive (Cannon Mt – $89; Snowbird $130 – $145) and if multi-day ticket programs still exist, they offer fewer true discounts.  Even with early season discounts gone, the mega passes – Epic; Ikon; Mountain Collective and Indy Pass- are actually reasonably priced.  Ikon Pass ($850) gives you unlimited access to 14 major areas.  Some examples – in CO that includes Copper and Winter Park, and in VT Sugarbush and Stratton are included.  That same pass gives you up to 5 days each (with some black out dates) at numerous other areas – Alta/Snowbird, UT; Sunday River and Sugarloaf, ME as examples. Road trip anyone?

Then along comes Covid to really make one overthink this.  Add to all the above queries new ones : What if the ski areas close like they did on March 13, 2020 (anybody else notice that was a Friday the 13th?)?; What if my favorite lodge doesn’t open?; and perhaps most importantly, where will I go to the bathroom? But let’s have faith folks  – WE ARE GOING TO SKI THIS WINTER, so you still need to figure out what makes the most financial sense and what approach might provide the most flexibility.

With all these additional questions in the mix, why buy a pass of some sort you may ask?  The reason is pretty simple. The ski industry knows there are additional issues and questions this year, and they want your business even more than prior years. In other words – they are making it worth it to buy a pass.  All major areas are going to some version of a reservation system and pass holders are either exempt or get top priority in making reservations. Many pass programs have special perks. For instance, thirty four areas using the Epic Pass are totally reserved for pass holders prior to December 8th with no day tickets sold before then. And at a number of the resorts pass holders are the only ones allowed to use indoor bathrooms.* Worried about committing – all the major pass programs offer insurance – money back and/or rollover to 21/22 if the areas close (and in some cases even if you get hurt or lose your job).

An analysis of season pass programs for individual areas is impossible, but our rough analysis is that in most cases if you plan to ski one area more than 12-14 times, it financially makes sense to buy a season pass, and a season pass will give you the above benefits similar to the Epic examples – most importantly priority in any reservation system.

Perhaps the point of all this is that this may be the year to invest in a multi-area pass program, but it requires some research and commitment. Even if the dollars don’t make sense, your status as a pass holder gives you preference in our new reservation-only world.

To get you started in your research:

And of course for season pass info for any one resort, just plug in the name of the resort. Each resort will be more than happy to regale you with info on passes.

*Ok, Ok, we are kidding about only pass holders being able to use indoor bathrooms. Otherwise this is a true story and no names have been changed to protect the innocent.

conSKIerge co-founder

Kevin Dennis is a life long ski bum with a 34 year legal career on the side. Now retired, he skis 80+ days a year. While he lives in Alta UT in the winters, he has traveled extensively through skiing and has skied almost every major resort in North America (and many you have never heard of). He continues to hit the road often throughout the western United States and Canada and trips over the last several years have included ventures in British Columbia, Montana and Colorado. Whether you want to know about the behemoths like Aspen or Squaw or are interested in the road less travelled (Lost Trail Powder Mountain in Montana or Whitewater in BC anyone?), Kevin has been there, has an opinion and you will most likely have to tell him to shut up after a half hour!