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While some ski resorts are still open (and will be into the summer), others have recently shut down their lifts for the season. But before you pack up the thoughts of skiing or boarding for the summer along with your gear, know that the deadline to get the best deal on an annual ski pass is upon us — prices and perks start melting away for the 2019 – 2020 season as early as tomorrow, April 14.

While there are an endless number of region- and mountain-specific passes out there, there are three main ski pass families for North American skiers and boarders. These are the Epic Pass, Ikon Pass and the Mountain Collective. 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 in many cases, you would be wrong.

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

With single day lift tickets costing $200 at major mountains and annual passes starting at around $400 (or less) for the whole year, a great many snow-loving families will do better strategically selecting the best pass for them rather than paying individual lift ticket prices. However, the earlier you make those decisions the better as the number of included Epic Pass Buddy Passes reduces beginning tomorrow (April 14), and prices for Ikon Passes jump just ten days later on April 24. Mountain Collective hasn’t said when their early-purchase bonus day ends, but I wouldn’t expect it to last much longer, either.

Admittedly, choosing the right ski pass is tough, especially because there is some overlap with certain mountains appearing on the lists for multiple passes. While we can’t crunch the numbers for your exact situation, here’s some info to help you choose the best ski pass for your family so you can make your plans for next season before prices creep upwards.

Related: Best Credit Card to Use for Purchasing Ski Passes

Ski Breckenridge with the Epic Pass (Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
Ski Breckenridge with the Epic Pass (Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

In This Post

Mountain Collective

Prices

  • $449 adults, children 12 and under are $99

Pass Basics

Mountain Collective has a family of 16 resorts where you get two included days of skiing/boarding at each resort with no blackout dates, and then 50% off additional days. If you purchase while supplies last this spring, you get a third included day at the resort of your choosing.

Spring Incentives

The above Mountain Collective prices are valid for a limited number of passes as opposed to the rates ending on a set date. The website states that supplies at those prices are still in stock at the moment, but that could change at any point. However, the real hook to get you to buy early is the inclusion of a third lift ticket day at a mountain of your choice.

If you planned to ski three days at Aspen/Snowmass and two days at Mammoth next season, buying the Mountain Collective now for $449 means you are paying about $89 per lift ticket per day for those five days of skiing. Your child, up to 12, would pay just $20 per day on the slopes. Obviously, the more you ski, the less your per-day cost.

Mountain Collective Resorts

  • Alta
  • Aspen Snowmass
  • Banff
  • Big Sky
  • Coronet Peak | The Remarkables
  • Jackson Hole
  • Lake Louise
  • Mammoth
  • Niseko United
  • Revelstoke
  • Snowbird
  • Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows
  • Sugarbush
  • Taos
  • Thredbo Alpine Village
  • Valle Nevado

Ikon Pass

Prices

  • Ikon Base Pass is $649 for an adult pass, $499 for 13  to 22 year olds, $159 for children 5–12 (with purchase of adult pass, max 2, ends April 24) and $49 for children 4 and under.
  • The full Ikon Pass is $949 for an adult pass, $699 for 13- to 22-year-olds, $199 for children 5–12 (with adult pass purchase, max 2, ends April 24), and $49 for children 4 and under.

Pass Basics

There are two types of Ikon passes. The full Ikon Pass has no holiday restrictions, a longer list of unlimited resorts and more days at the resorts that offer up to a maximum number of ski days. The Ikon Base Pass comes in with some date restrictions, a shorter list of mountains with unlimited skiing and fewer included days at additional resorts … but it still includes a ton of skiing at a fixed price.

Spring Incentives

On April 24, the price of a child’s pass jumps by $100 for each pass. For those who are renewing, there are $10–$30 discounts for doing so by April 24. Additionally, if you want to ski this spring with next year’s pass, you can do so at select resorts with Ikon listed below.

  • Winter Park Resort
  • Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows
  • Mammoth Mountain
  • Crystal Mountain
  • Solitude
  • Tremblant
  • Big Bear Mountain Resort
  • Blue Mountain
  • Snowshoe

Ikon Resorts

The Ikon Base Pass gets you unlimited ski days at:

  • Winter Park Resort
  • Copper Mountain Resort
  • Eldora Mountain Resort
  • Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows (holiday restrictions)
  • Mammoth Mountain (holiday restrictions)
  • June Mountain (holiday restrictions)
  • Big Bear Mountain Resort
  • Snowshoe Mountain
  • Crystal Mountain
  • Tremblant
  • Blue Mountain
  • Solitude (holiday restrictions)

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

  • Steamboat
  • Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
  • Big Sky Resort
  • Revelstoke Mountain Resort
  • Stratton
  • Sugarbush Resort
  • Deer Valley Resort
  • Boyne Highlands
  • Boyne Mountain
  • Summit at Snoqualmie
  • Revelstoke
  • Cypress
  • Sunday River
  • Sugarloaf
  • Loon
  • Taos
  • Brighton
  • Thredbo
  • Niseko United
  • Valle Nevado

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

  • Aspen Snowmass: Aspen Mountain, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk
  • AltaSnowbird
  • SkiBig3: Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise and Mt. Norquay
  • Killington and Pico
  • Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Mt. Hutt

The holiday restrictions on this pass are reasonable as they are just the most peak ski dates.

  • Northern Hemisphere: Dec. 26–31, 2019; Jan. 18–19, 2020; Feb. 15–16, 2020
  • Southern Hemisphere: July 4–19, 2020 (Thredbo only)

Remember that the holiday restrictions won’t affect your skiing at some of the resorts, such as Winter Park, Copper Mountain, Tremblant, Big Bear, etc. 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.

Image of Steamboat courtesy of Ikon Pass
Image of Steamboat courtesy of Ikon Pass

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

  • Steamboat
  • Winter Park Resort
  • Copper Mountain Resort
  • Eldora Mountain Resort
  • Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows
  • Mammoth Mountain
  • Big Bear Mountain Resort
  • June Mountain
  • Stratton
  • Snowshoe Mountain
  • Tremblant
  • Blue Mountain
  • Crystal Mountain
  • Solitude

You then get seven days at each of these resorts:

  • Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
  • Big Sky Resort
  • Revelstoke Mountain Resort
  • Sugarbush Resort
  • Deer Valley Resort
  • Boyne Highlands
  • Boyne Mountain
  • Summit at Snoqualmie
  • Cypress
  • Sunday River
  • Sugarloaf
  • Loon Mountain
  • Taos
  • Brighton
  • Thredbo
  • Niseko United
  • Valle Nevado

You also get seven days combined at each of these families of mountains:

  • Aspen Snowmass: Aspen Mountain, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk
  • AltaSnowbird
  • SkiBig3: Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise and Mt. Norquay
  • Killington and Pico
  • Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Mt. Hutt
Use Marriott points at the Sheraton Steamboat Villas (image courtesy of hotel)
Use Marriott points at the Sheraton Steamboat Villas. (Image courtesy of hotel)

Epic Pass

Prices

  • Unlimited Epic Pass is $939 for an adult pass, $489 for children 5–12
  • Epic Local Pass is $699 for adults, $569 for teens, and $369 for children 5–12
  • Epic 1 –7 Day Passes range from $125–$88 per day for adults, $65–$47 per day for children.

Pass Basics

Like with Ikon, there are two main levels of the Epic Pass (the juggernaut of ski passes): the full Epic Pass that has no date restrictions and the Epic Local Pass that does have some peak holiday date restrictions. Just don’t let the “local” distinction fool you as it simply means you have some peak-date restrictions around the busiest dates. Epic 1–7 day passes can be personalized for your trip with the exact number of lift ticket days you need and whether or not you are traveling on a holiday.

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

Spring Incentives

Epic Local and Epic Passes are available for $49 down. If you purchase either of those passes by April 14, 2019, you get 10 included discounted buddy passes that allow friends to ski with you for fixed discounted rates. Prices for all of the Epic passes generally go up as the next ski season approaches.

Epic Resorts

The Epic Pass gets you unlimited skiing at:

  • Vail
  • Beaver Creek
  • Whistler Blackcomb
  • Breckenridge (also unlimited for Local Pass)
  • Park City
  • Keystone (also unlimited for Local Pass)
  • Crested Butte (also unlimited for Local Pass)
  • Heavenly
  • Northstar
  • Kirkwood
  • Stowe
  • Wilmot (also unlimited for Local Pass)
  • Afton Alps (also unlimited for Local Pass)
  • Mt. Brighton (also unlimited for Local Pass)
  • Perisher
  • Hotham
  • Mount Sunapee (also unlimited for Local Pass)
  • Stevens Pass (also unlimited for Local Pass)
  • Falls Creek
  • Okemo (also unlimited for Local Pass)

The unlimited will also get seven included days at each of these resorts:

  • Telluride
  • Sun Valley
  • Snowbasin

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

  • Fernie Alpine Resort
  • Kicking Horse Mountain Resort
  • Kimberley Alpine Resort
  • Nakiska Ski Area
  • Mont-Sainte Anne
  • Stoneham

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

The holiday restrictions at select resorts with the Epic Local Pass and single day passes are: Nov. 29–30; Dec. 26–31, 2019; Jan. 18, 2020; Feb. 15–16, 2020

Ski Beaver Creek with the Epic Pass (Photo courtesy of Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort)
Ski Beaver Creek with the Epic Pass. (Photo courtesy of Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort)

Which Ski Pass Is Best?

The million dollar (or $449 to $939) question is which major annual ski pass is best? From a pure resort access standpoint, it is hard to beat the Epic Pass. However, the Ikon Pass can also get you unlimited skiing for several hundred dollars less per year, albeit at different ski resorts. If a few shorter ski trips to different mountains is your game plan for next season, then the Mountain Collective has the lowest price point of the three and still gets you a good number of days on popular mountains.

The more restrictive tiers of passes in the Ikon and Epic families are also good considerations to save some money if you won’t be skiing at Christmas, MLK Day weekend and President’s Day weekend.

While I have gone with an Epic Pass of some flavor for the last couple of years, next year we changed our strategy. We opted for the Mountain Collective with two to three days of skiing planned at least at Aspen Snowmass and Mammoth. Even if all we ski the whole season is five days across those two resorts (by buying this spring for a bonus third night at one mountain), we’d be doing well at $88 per ski day for me and $20/day for my 9-year-old. If we are lucky enough to squeeze in a couple more days at a mountain such as Jackson Hole or Taos we will have scored an even better overall deal.

Bottom Line

Choosing an annual ski pass is not an easy decision as you have to factor in where you want to ski, when you want to ski and how frequently you want to hit the powder. 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 found on more than one pass, so grab a cup of hot cocoa and map out all the details for next year’s ski trips while comparing the specifics of each pass. (And here’s the best credit card to use when you make your ultimate decision — hint, get your Citi Premier Card ready.)

List of Ski Resorts Across the Major Passes

Ski Resort Epic Pass Ikon Pass Mountain Collective
Alta 2 Days+50%
Aspen Snowmass 7 days 2 Days+50%
Banff 2 Days+50%
Big Sky 7 days 2 Days+50%
Deer Valley 7 days
Jackson Hole 7 days 2 Days+50%
Steamboat yes
Telluride 7 days
Vail yes
Whistler yes
Mammoth yes 2 Days+50%
Snowbird 2 Days+50%
Squaw yes 2 Days+50%
Sugarbush 7 days 2 Days+50%
Taos 7 days 2 Days+50%
Keystone yes
Northstar yes
Stowe Yes
Afton Alps yes
Sunapee Yes
Stevens Pass Yes
Beaver Creek yes
Breckenridge yes
Park City Yes
Heavenly Yes
Kirkwood Yes
Mt Brighton yes
Falls Creek yes
Okemo Yes
Crested Butte Yes
Sun Valley 7 days
Snow Basin 7 days
Killington 7 days
Boyne Highlands 7 days
Boyne MT 7 days
Snoqualmie 7 days
SkiBig3 7 days
Revelstoke 7 days 2 Days+50%
Cypress 7 days
Sunday River 7 days
Sugarloaf 7 days
Loon 7 days
Alta Snowbird 7 days
Winter Park yes
Copper Mountain yes
Eldora yes
June MT yes
Big Bear yes
Stratton yes
Snowshoe yes
Tremblant yes
Blue MT yes
Solitude yes
Fernie 7 days
Kimberley 7 days
Stoneham 7 days
Kicking Horse 7 days
Nakiska 7 days
Mont-Sainte 7 days
Lake Louise 2 Days+50%

 

Read on for more ski trip planning tips:

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