Best annual ski pass: battle between Epic, Ikon, Mountain Collective and Indy

Apr 20, 2022

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Even though ski season isn’t quite over for some, now is the time to start acting on your ski plans for next year as prices are set to start rising beginning this week.

Additionally, some passes allow you to ski this spring with next year’s pass. Buying a pass this spring also locks you into the lowest price of the season and, in some cases, also comes with a few extra perks.

While there are an endless number of region- and mountain-specific passes available, there are four main ski pass options for North American skiers and boarders: the Epic Pass, the Ikon Pass, the Mountain Collective and the Indy Pass.

If your family only takes one or two trips to the mountains in a season, you may reasonably think a season pass isn’t for you, but believe it or not, this isn’t necessarily true.

With single-day lift tickets costing over $200 at major mountains and annual passes starting at around $280 for skiing throughout the whole year, many snow-loving families will do better selecting a pass rather than paying individual lift ticket prices, even if they only take a couple of trips in a season.

Here’s a look at the four main ski passes to help you decide which one may be right for you this year.

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(Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
Telluride is included with some Epic passes. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

In This Post

Ikon Pass

Prices and protections

  • The Ikon Base Pass is $769 for adults; $579 for 13- to 22-year-olds; $569 for college students, nurses and members of the military; $299 for children 5 to 12 (or $199 with the purchase of an adult pass through April 21); and $99 for children 4 and younger. (If you want to ski at Jackson Hole, Aspen Snowmass, Deer Valley, Sun Valley, Alta and Snowbasin, you can purchase the Ikon Base Plus Pass for an additional $200.)
  • There’s an up to $50 renewal discount for those who had a 2021-2022 Ikon Base Pass and purchase by April 21, 2022.
  • The full Ikon Pass is $1,079 for adults; $799 for 13- to 22-year-olds; $769 for college students, nurses and members of the military; $339 for children 5 to 12 (or $239 with the purchase of an adult pass through April 21); and $149 for children 4 and younger.
  • The full Ikon Pass is discounted by up $100 for those who held this pass in the 2021-2022 season and purchase by April 21, 2022.
  • Ikon Session Pass:
    • 4-day option is $419 for adults; $359 for 13- to 22-year-olds; and $259 for children 12 and younger. The discounted price for military personnel, college students and nurses is $359.
    • 3-day option is $349 for adults; $299 for 13- to 22-year-olds; and $209 for children 12 and younger. The discounted price for military personnel, college students and nurses is $299.
    • 2-day option is $249 for adults; $219 for 13- to 22-year-olds; and $159 for children 12 and younger. The discounted price for military personnel, college students and nurses is $219.
  • Purchase an Ikon Pass, Ikon Base Plus Pass or Ikon Base Pass and you’ll be able to ski at select resorts during the spring 2022 season.
  • If you don’t use your 2022-2023 Ikon Pass, you will have the option to defer the purchase price paid for it toward the purchase of a 2023-2024 Ikon Pass — no questions asked. You can make this decision up until Dec. 8, 2022, if the pass is wholly unused.
  • You can also get a percentage of your pass purchase credited toward next year if resorts are closed for all or part of the 2022-2023 season via the Adventure Assurance Program.
  • At an extra cost, you can purchase Pass Protection, which will protect you if you can no longer use the pass due to an eligible covered event at any time after purchasing the pass.

Pass basics

There are four types of Ikon passes.

The Ikon Session Pass will give you two to four days of skiing (depending on the pass purchased) at any of the 37 included mountains, with some blackout dates. This pricing equals around $105 to $125 per day, which is worth it if you are skiing at a more expensive mountain and have just a few days of skiing planned.

The dates do not need to be consecutive or at the same resort. For example, this can be used for two days at Steamboat and another two days at Mammoth Mountain.

Steamboat Springs. (Photo courtesy of darekm101/Getty Images)

Related: Best ski resorts for families in North America

Additionally, there are three other semi-unlimited pass options: The full Ikon Pass, the Ikon Base Pass and the Ikon Base Plus Pass.

These are better options for those who are looking to ski for more than a few days throughout the season. The full Ikon Pass has no holiday restrictions, a longer list of unlimited resorts and more days at resorts that offer a set number of ski days.

The Ikon Base Pass comes with holiday date restrictions, a shorter list of mountains with unlimited skiing and fewer included days at select additional resorts. Nevertheless, it still includes a ton of skiing at a fixed price.

But if you want to include some extra resorts in your Base Pass purchase, the Ikon Base Plus Pass is the way to go.

This gives you the exact same access as the Ikon Base Pass (with the same restrictions in place) but allows you to also ski at Aspen Snowmass, Jackson Hole, Deer Valley, Alta, Sun Valley and Snowbasin.

Related: Riding the Colorado Ski Train to ski for the day at Winter Park 

The full Ikon Pass also comes with 10 friends-and-family discount lift tickets, whereas the Ikon Base Pass only includes eight of these discounted lift tickets. Each of these reduced fare lift tickets will provide 25% off the regular window-rate price for your buddies. This can be used at all Ikon Pass mountains during the season, except some of the international resorts, and blackout dates apply. (Note: This benefit does not come with the Ikon Session 4-day pass, any of the child passes or the passes for kids 4 and younger.)

Ikon resorts

The Ikon Base Pass gets you unlimited ski days at:

  • Winter Park Resort
  • Copper Mountain
  • Eldora Mountain
  • Palisades Tahoe
  • Mammoth Mountain
  • June Mountain
  • Big Bear Mountain Resort
  • Stratton Mountain
  • Sugarbush Resort
  • Snowshoe Mountain
  • Mont Tremblant Ski Resort in Quebec
  • Blue Mountain Resort
  • Solitude Mountain Resort

You then get five days at each of these resorts (with holiday restrictions):

  • Steamboat Resort
  • Arapahoe Basin Ski Area
  • Crystal Mountain
  • Big Sky Resort
  • The Highlands Ski Resort
  • Boyne Mountain Resort
  • The Summit at Snoqualmie
  • Revelstoke Mountain Resort
  • Cypress Mountain
  • Sunday River
  • Sugarloaf Mountain
  • Loon Mountain Resort
  • Taos Ski Valley
  • RED Mountain Ski Resort
  • Snowbird
  • Brighton Resort
  • Crystal Mountain
  • Windham Mountain
  • Mount Bachelor
  • Schweitzer
  • The Matterhorn in Switzerland
  • Thredbo in Australia
  • Mount Buller in Australia
  • Niseko United in Japan
  • Valle Nevado in Chile
  • Dolomiti Superski in Italy
  • Chamonix-Mont-Blanc in France

You also get five combined days at each of these families of mountains (with holiday restrictions):

  • SkiBig3: Banff Sunshine Village, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Mount Norquay
  • Killington-Pico: Killington Resort and Pico Mountain
  • Coronet Peak Ski Area, The Remarkables Ski Area and Mount Hutt in New Zealand
  • Kitzbühel, Kirchberg and Mittersill Alpine Resort

With the Ikon Base Plus Pass, you can add on access to these mountains:

  • Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
  • Aspen Snowmass
  • Deer Valley Resort
  • Alta Ski Area
  • Sun Valley (new resort added)
  • Snowbasin Resort (new resort added)

The holiday restrictions on this pass are reasonable — just the most-peak ski dates.

  • Northern Hemisphere: Dec. 26-31, 2022; Jan. 14-15, 2023; Feb. 18-19, 2023
  • Southern Hemisphere: July 2-17, 2022; July 1-16, 2023

The holiday restrictions won’t affect your skiing at some of the resorts, such as Winter Park Resort, Copper Mountain and Big Bear Mountain Resort. If you are on a school schedule, you could ski those resorts during the peak holiday dates and then hit some of the other mountains the rest of the time.

You’ll also get 10% off of food, lessons and more at select resort destinations.

Related: Review of the St. Regis Deer Valley

Winter Park skiing. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

The pricier full Ikon Pass gets you unlimited ski days with no holiday restrictions at:

  • Steamboat Resort
  • Winter Park Resort
  • Copper Mountain
  • Eldora Mountain
  • Palisades Tahoe
  • Mammoth Mountain
  • Big Bear Mountain Resort
  • June Mountain
  • Stratton Mountain
  • Sugarbush Resort
  • Snowshoe Mountain
  • Mont Tremblant Ski Resort in Quebec
  • Blue Mountain Resort
  • Solitude Mountain Resort

You then get seven days at each of these resorts:

  • Arapahoe Basin Ski Area
  • Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
  • Big Sky Resort
  • The Highlands Ski Resort
  • Boyne Mountain Resort
  • The Summit at Snoqualmie
  • Revelstoke Mountain Resort
  • Cypress Mountain
  • Sunday River
  • Sugarloaf Mountain
  • Loon Mountain Resort
  • Taos Ski Valley
  • Deer Valley Resort
  • Brighton Resort
  • The Matterhorn in Switzerland
  • Thredbo in Australia
  • Mount Buller in Australia
  • Niseko United in Japan
  • Valle Nevado in Chile
  • RED Mountain Ski Resort
  • Windham Mountain
  • Mount Bachelor
  • Crystal Mountain (no longer unlimited access this year)
  • Sun Valley (new resort added)
  • Snowbasin Resort (new resort added)
  • Chamonix-Mont-Blanc in France (new resort added)

You also get seven days combined at each of these mountain “families”:

  • Aspen Snowmass: Aspen Mountain, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk
  • AltaSnowbird: Alta Ski Area and Snowbird
  • SkiBig3: Banff Sunshine Village, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Mount Norquay
  • Killington-Pico: Killington Resort and Pico Mountain
  • Coronet Peak Ski Area, The Remarkables Ski Area and Mount Hutt in New Zealand

You’ll also save 15% with this pass on retail, dining and lessons at participating resort locations.

Related: Points-friendly hotels near Ikon Pass resorts

Westin Mammoth (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Epic Pass

Prices and protections

  • An unlimited Epic Pass costs $841 for adults; and $428 for children ages 5 to 12.
  • An Epic Local Pass costs $626 for adults; $506 for teens ages 13 to 18; and $325 for children ages 5 to 12.
  • Epic 1- to 7-day Passes start at $44 for one day for adults and $22 kids, depending on the number of days, the destination (there are three tiers) and if you are looking to ski on a peak holiday day or not. As you purchase more days, your price per day goes down, meaning you can ultimately ski for as little as $38 per day for adults or $19 per day for kids.
  • If you are in the military (current, active or dependent), are a senior, have permanent disabilities or are in college, you can purchase a pass at a discount.
  • All 2022-2023 Epic Pass purchases come with free coverage that protects you against job loss, resort closure, stay-at-home orders, etc. Note that this built-in coverage comes with caveats, but it will provide actual refunds, not just future credit.

Pass basics

As with Ikon, there are multiple levels of the Epic Pass (the juggernaut of ski passes): there is the full Epic Pass that has no date restrictions and the Epic Local Pass that does have some peak holiday restrictions and access to a slightly shorter list of resorts. There are many regional pass options, too, if you’re looking to ski at a certain mountain or within a certain region.

Just don’t let the “local” distinction in the Epic Local Pass fool you, as it simply means you have some peak-date restrictions around the busiest dates (the last week in December and Presidents’ Day weekend).

If you are skiing no more than seven days in the season, the Epic 1- to 7-day Passes can be personalized with the exact number of lift-ticket days you need. Resorts will fall into one of three-tier categories, so the less expensive resorts will come with slightly lower pricing. Rates will also be determined based on whether you are traveling on a holiday.

Related: Best ski schools for kids in the U.S.

You must read the holiday and date-limit rules for each pass carefully, as there are nuances. For example, Telluride access is included in some passes but not others. The Epic Local Pass also has peak holiday restrictions at some resorts but not for others.

Ski at Stowe with the Epic Pass. (Photo by Jennifer Yellin/The Points Guy)

Related: Vail of the east: Everything you need to know about skiing at Stowe Mountain

Similar to the last few years, you’ll also receive access to Epic Mountain Rewards, which will get you discounted perks, such as 20% off of ski lessons, lodging, food, rentals and more. This discount is available at all Vail-owned resorts (not partner resorts) and extends to all passholders, even those who just purchase the Epic Day Pass.

Most Epic passes also come with Ski With a Friend Tickets and Buddy Tickets — discounted tickets for friends and families skiing with you. The Buddy Tickets, which offer fixed pricing at each resort, are only available if you purchase your pass by April 21. After that, you’ll still receive Ski With a Friend Tickets where the ticket price fluctuates based on the particular day you’re looking to ski.

Epic resorts

The Epic Pass gets you unlimited skiing at:

  • Vail Ski Resort
  • Beaver Creek Resort
  • Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia
  • Park City Mountain Resort
  • Breckenridge Ski Resort
  • Keystone Ski Resort
  • Heavenly Ski Resort
  • Northstar California Resort
  • Kirkwood Ski Resort
  • Stowe Mountain Resort
  • Wilmot Mountain
  • Afton Alps
  • Mount Brighton Resort
  • Crested Butte Mountain Resort
  • Stevens Pass
  • Okemo Ski Resort
  • Mount Sunapee Resort
  • Mount Snow Ski Resort
  • Attitash Mountain Resort
  • Wildcat Mountain Resort
  • Crotched Mountain Resort
  • Hunter Mountain Resort
  • Liberty Mountain Resort
  • Roundtop Mountain Resort
  • Whitetail Resort
  • Big Boulder Ski Area
  • Jack Frost Big Boulder Resort
  • Boston Mills Brandywine
  • Alpine Valley Resort
  • Mad River Mountain
  • Hidden Valley Resort
  • Paoli Peaks Mountain Resort
  • Snow Creek Mountain Resort
  • Seven Springs Mountain Resort
  • Laurel Mountain Ski Resort

The unlimited will also get you seven days at Telluride.

See forever in Telluride (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
See Forever run in Telluride. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

With the Epic unlimited pass, you also get seven total days at these resorts in the Canadian Rockies:

  • Fernie Alpine Resort in British Columbia
  • Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in British Columbia
  • Kimberley Alpine Resort in British Columbia
  • Nakiska Ski Area in Alberta
  • Mont-Sainte-Anne in Quebec
  • Stoneham Mountain Resort in Quebec

The pass even includes some ski days at resorts in Europe and Japan.

Related: Tips for visiting Crested Butte

The Hythe in Vail. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

The Epic Local Pass gives you access to almost the same resorts as the Epic Pass, with a few restrictions. However, you’ll still receive unlimited and unrestricted access to the following resorts:

  • Breckenridge Ski Resort
  • Keystone Ski Resort
  • Wilmot Mountain
  • Afton Alps
  • Crested Butte Mountain Resort
  • Mount Brighton Resort
  • Stevens Pass
  • Okemo Ski Resort
  • Mount Sunapee Resort
  • Mount Snow Ski Resort
  • Wildcat Mountain Resort
  • Attitash Mountain Resort
  • Crotched Mountain Resort
  • Hunter Mountain Resort
  • Roundtop Mountain Resort
  • Big Boulder Ski Area
  • Liberty Mountain Resort
  • Whitetail Resort
  • Jack Frost Big Boulder Resort
  • Alpine Valley Resort
  • Boston Mills Brandywine
  • Hidden Valley Resort
  • Snow Creek Mountain Resort
  • Mad River Mountain
  • Paoli Peaks Mountain Resort
  • Seven Springs Mountain Resort
  • Laurel Mountain Ski Resort

And for some of the resorts, you’ll still receive unlimited access but with restricted dates:

  • Park City Mountain Resort
  • Northstar California Resort
  • Stowe Mountain Resort
  • Heavenly Ski Resort
  • Kirkwood Ski Resort

You’ll receive 10 restricted dates at each of these resorts:

  • Vail Ski Resort
  • Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia
  • Beaver Creek Resort

The holiday restrictions at select resorts with the Epic Local Pass, regional passes and single-day passes are Nov. 25-26, Dec. 26-31, Jan. 14 and Feb. 18-19. For Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood and Stowe, you can purchase half-price pass tickets on restricted dates.

Related: How to ski and stay in Park City with points and miles

Regional pass options

In addition to the Epic Pass and Epic Local Pass, there are a variety of other regional pass options. This is great for those who are looking to stick to skiing in just a specific region.

For example, if you live in the Northeast, you can purchase the Northeast Value Pass, which includes all of the Northeast mountains in the Epic Pass — a total of 21 resorts. This pass is unrestricted for the most part, though there are some limitations if you are looking to ski at Okemo, Mount Snow, Hunter Mountain and Stowe. For just $514 for an adult for the entire winter, this is an unbelievable deal. But if you think you may ski out west just once, then purchasing the Epic Pass or Epic Local Pass is a better option.

Related: Is the Hyatt Place Keystone the best lodging deal in skiing?

Mountain Collective

Prices and protections

  • Mountain Collective passes cost $539 for adults, $439 for teens ages 13 to 18 and $149 for children 12 and younger.
  • All passes are final sale — there’s no refund policy this year.

Pass basics

Mountain Collective has a family of 22 resorts, including big names such as Aspen Snowmass, Taos, Banff and Jackson Hole. Unfortunately, Palisades Tahoe, Mammoth and Sugarbush are no longer on the pass for next season, but Sun Valley and Snowbasin are two new resort options.

With the pass, you get two included days of skiing/boarding at each resort with no blackout dates, then 50% off additional ski days. Notably, there are no holiday restrictions with this pass, which can be huge if you’re planning a ski trip during peak weeks.

And, if you purchase the pass now, you’ll receive a third-day bonus at one resort of your choice.

Related: 6 tips for taking big family ski trips

The Mountain Collective sells a limited number of passes at each cash rate before the pass typically goes up in price.

For example, if you planned to ski two days at Aspen, two days at Snowbasin and two days at Snowbird this season, buying the Mountain Collective Pass would lead to you paying around $90 per lift ticket, per day for those six days of skiing. Obviously, the more you ski at the different participating resorts, the lower your daily cost. Generally, the Mountain Collective Pass pays off after four or five days of skiing at the current rates.

Mountain Collective resorts

  • Alta Ski Area
  • Arapahoe Basin Ski Area
  • Aspen Snowmass
  • Banff Sunshine Village in Alberta
  • Big Sky Resort
  • Chamonix-Mont-Blanc in France
  • Coronet Peak Ski Area in New Zealand
  • The Remarkables in New Zealand
  • Grand Targhee Resort
  • Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
  • Lake Louise Ski Resort in Alberta
  • Mount Buller in Australia
  • Niseko United in Japan
  • Panorama Mountain Resort in British Columbia
  • Revelstoke Mountain Resort in British Columbia
  • Snowbasin Resort
  • Snowbird
  • Sugarloaf Mountain
  • Sun Peaks Resort in British Columbia
  • Sun Valley
  • Taos Ski Valley
  • Thredbo in Australia
  • Valle Nevado in Chile

Related: Look inside the new W Aspen

View from the Westin Snowmass (Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
View from the Viewline Resort Snowmass (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Indy Pass

Prices and protections

  • The Indy+ Pass (with no blackout dates) costs $379 for adults and $169 for children 12 and younger.
  • The Indy Pass (with blackout dates at select resorts) costs $279 for adults and $119 for children 12 and younger.
  • The 2022 Indy Spring Pass costs $189 for adults and $79 for kids for the standard version and $239 for adults and $99 for kids for the Indy+ iteration.
  • Those with a 2021-2022 season pass receive a 10% discount.
  • Through May 17, if you’re a passholder for another mega-pass, you’ll receive an extra discount of $20 off for adults and $10 off for kids (for both the Indy Pass and the Indy+ Pass option).
  • If you have a season pass for a participating resort, you can purchase an Indy AddOn Pass for just $189 for adults and $89 for kids.
  • Current pricing is in effect until May 17, then it goes up $20 for adults and $10 for kids on Sept. 6 and again on Jan. 16, 2023.
  • If you are not able to use your pass, you’ll be provided with a 10% credit for the 2023-2024 season — no refunds will be issued.
  • A pass protection policy can be purchased for $15 to $40 (depending on the pass purchased), which guarantees a full refund for up to one year after you purchase your pass if you don’t use the pass — no questions asked.
  • You are allowed to purchase more than one pass per person.

Pass basics

This pass was first introduced in the beginning of the 2019 ski season and has gained a lot of popularity in the past few years. The pass works similar to the Mountain Collective, where you are capped at the number of days you have at each resort. But with 88 smaller, independently owned ski resorts on the pass, there is no shortage of terrain.

With this pass, you’ll receive two days at each participating resort. If you want to ski a third day, you’ll receive 25% off the ticket window pricing.

There are two pass options available: the Indy Pass and the Indy+ Pass.

The Indy+ Pass allows you to visit all of the resorts on any day the mountain is open, while the less expensive Indy Pass comes with blackout dates. There’s no set blackout date timeframe; instead, each individual resort has its own list. However, some mountains don’t have any blackout dates. The list of blackout dates has not been announced yet (they will be available by May 1), but Indy states that the dates should be similar to what we saw during the 2021-2022 season.

This is a significantly more affordable alternative to the Epic, Ikon and Mountain Collective options. Indy is also constantly adding more resorts to the pass, so there could easily be more than 82 resorts by the start of next season.

The Indy Pass is an unbelievable deal for those looking to try out new resorts. Since these resorts are not part of the bigger passes, you’ll typically see less crowds and more reasonable pricing for lessons, too.

Although my family is most likely getting the Epic Pass this year, I am considering this pass as an add-on option. With six mountains within a two-hour drive of my house in Boston, this pass allows for both day trips and weekend getaways. Assuming I enjoy eight ski days on the pass, that will bring each day of skiing to less than $50 per day. And, of course, the more resorts you visit, the less each day ends up costing.

Related: Where kids ski free

Skiing at Waterville Valley with the Indy Pass (Photo by Jennifer Yellin)

Indy Pass resorts

Western resorts:

  • 49 Degrees North Ski & Snowboard Resort
  • Apex Mountain Ski Resort in British Columbia
  • Manning Park Resort in British Columbia
  • China Peak Mountain Resort
  • Eaglecrest Ski Area
  • Hoodoo Ski Area
  • Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area
  • Mission Ridge Ski & Board Resort
  • Mount Ashland Ski Area
  • Mount Shasta Ski Park
  • Sasquatch Mountain Resort
  • Snow Valley Mountain Resort
  • Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre in British Columbia
  • White Pass Ski Area

Rockies resorts:

  • Antelope Butte Mountain Recreation Area
  • Beaver Mountain Ski Resort
  • Blacktail Mountain Ski Area
  • Brundage Mountain Ski Resort
  • Castle Mountain Resort in Alberta
  • Eagle Point Resort
  • Lost Trail Ski Area
  • Pomerelle Mountain Resort
  • Powder Mountain Resort
  • Red Lodge Mountain
  • Silver Mountain Resort
  • Marmot Basin in Alberta
  • Snow King Mountain Resort
  • Soldier Mountain
  • Sunlight Mountain Ski Resort
  • Sunrise Park Resort
  • Tamarack Resort
  • White Pine Ski Resort

Midwest resorts:

  • Granite Peak
  • Crystal Mountain
  • Big Powderhorn Mountain Resort
  • Buck Hill
  • Caberfae Peaks
  • Detroit Mountain Recreation Area
  • Little Switzerland
  • Lutsen Mountain Ski and Summer Resort
  • Nordic Mountain
  • Pine Mountain Ski & Golf Resort
  • Powder Ridge Mountain Park & Resort
  • Schuss Mountain at Shanty Creek
  • Seven Oaks Recreation
  • Spirit Mountain
  • Sundown Mountain Resort
  • Swiss Valley Ski & Snowboard Area
  • Terry Peak Ski Area
  • The Rock Snowpark
  • Trollhaugen Outdoor Recreation Area
  • Tyrol Basin

Mid-Atlantic resorts:

  • Cataloochee Ski Area
  • Blue Knob Resort
  • Montage Mountain
  • Shawnee Mountain Ski Area
  • Ober Gatlinburg
  • Bryce Resort
  • Massanutten Resort
  • Canaan Valley Resort
  • Winterplace Ski Resort

East Coast resorts:

  • Cannon Mountain
  • Bolton Valley
  • Jay Peak Resort
  • Berkshire East Mountain Resort
  • Black Mountain
  • Catamount Mountain Resort
  • Greek Peak Mountain Resort
  • Magic Mountain Ski Area
  • Mohawk Mountain Ski Area
  • Pats Peak
  • Saddleback Mountain
  • Snow Ridge Ski Resort
  • Suicide Six Ski Area
  • Swain Resort
  • Titus Mountain
  • Waterville Valley Resort
  • West Mountain

Japan resorts:

  • Geto Kogen Ski Resort
  • Okunakayama Kogen
  • Shimokura Hachimantai Ski Resort
  • Tazawako Ski Area
Ski lessons at Waterville Valley Resort. (Photo by Jennifer Yellin)

Which ski pass is best?

The million-dollar (or $400 to $1,000-plus) question is which annual ski pass is best?

If you want a ski pass that gives you access to the largest quantity of resorts as possible, then the Indy Pass is the way to go, as it’s about a third of the price of the other passes (though you are capped at two days per resort).

For access to a large number of upscale ski resorts, it’s hard to beat the Epic Pass. The Ikon Pass can also get you unlimited skiing at many other desirable resorts. Which is best depends on where you prefer to ski during winter.

And if you still want some of the bigger name mountains but are looking at a few shorter ski trips to different mountains, then the Mountain Collective will give you access to popular mountains at a lower price point — you just need to be willing to switch up your resorts of choice.

The more restrictive tiers of passes in the Ikon and Epic families are also good considerations for saving money if you won’t ski during Christmas, the weekend of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Presidents Day weekend.

With so many pass options, it’s best to truly map out your desired resorts before figuring out which pass works best. Of course, the price may play a big part in your decision as well.

Related: Plan your ski trip using miles and points

Skiing in Breckenridge (Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Skiing in Breckenridge (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Bottom line

Choosing an annual ski pass is not an easy decision. Ski passes are usually on sale until at least the fall, so you do have time, but we are already on the verge of the early pricing discounts and bonus inclusions starting to melt away.

When making a pass decision, be sure to factor in where you want to ski, when you want to ski, if you need to spread out payments, how frequently you want to hit the powder and what the protections are if the season throws us some curveballs.

I also like to consider which resorts have points-friendly hotels so we can stay near the mountain without spending a chunk of change on lodging. To make things tougher, some mountains are on more than one pass, so grab a cup of hot cocoa and map out all the details for this coming winter’s ski trips while comparing the specifics of each pass.

As for me — we ended up purchasing the Epic Pass this past year.

While there were admittedly many unhappy passholders due to long lift lines and staffing issues, we never really faced those same problems. With a Vail resort just an hour and 20 minutes from my house and my kids enrolled in their development program, it was the best option for my family.

There’s a good chance we will continue with the Epic Pass again for next season, though we aren’t rushing to purchase it just yet. If my kids weren’t in a weekly program, I think we’d likely opt for trying out the Indy Pass instead. There are some great mountains on it without many of the issues that Vail Resorts faced this past year. Since we are a ski-loving family that skis just about every winter weekend, we may even decide to purchase both pass options.

Even though there is still snow on the ground and the season is not quite over for us, we are already looking forward to next season since pass prices only increase from here until the snow starts falling once again.

Featured photo by Adrian Petrisor/EyeEm/Getty Images.

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