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Right now, a one-day walk-up lift ticket at a ski resort like Beaver Creek, Vail or Breckenridge costs more than $200. For those ranking pricy family trips, that’s almost twice as much as a one-day ticket to Disney World. There’s no question the high price of the occasional lift ticket has priced out many families from major mountains. But thankfully, Vail Resorts is addressing this very real issue for the 2019–2020 ski season by introducing a “Build Your Own” Epic Pass option, with one-day ski rates as low as $89 per day for adults and about half that for kids.

The catch: You have to plan ahead and know how many days you want to ski.

Vail Resorts has said that 47% of lift revenue in its last fiscal year came from those with a seasonal ski pass, which really isn’t shocking since the relative value of a pass has dramatically improved in recent decades as single-day lift ticket prices have skyrocketed.

At 9, my oldest daughter now (thankfully) loves to ski.

New: Build Your Own Epic Pass

Epic Pass’s new build your own pass option for the 2019–2020 season prices a single day of skiing at Beaver Creek, Vail, Breckenridge, etc. at just $106 for adults and $55 for kids. That’s still not cheap, but it’s much better than what was available for the one- or two-day skiers this season. 

The Epic Day Pass can be loaded with one to seven days of skiing. You get to decide whether you want those days to be valid for peak holiday stretches (Nov. 29–30, Dec. 26–31, Jan. 18 and Feb. 15–16) or not. A three-day adult pass would set you back $300 for adults or $156 for kids on other dates; that increases to $352 and $183, respectively, if you’d like to ski those peak dates. Vail says the average daily lift ticket skier spent 2.3 days on the mountain in 2018, so it’s great to see a three-day pass option for those families.

The Epic day pass can be used at Vail, Beaver Creek, Whistler Blackcomb, Breckenridge, Keystone, Crested Butte, Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Stowe, Okemo, Mount Sunapee, Stevens Pass, Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton and Wilmot Mountain. If you purchase four or more days, you also can use some or all of those days at: Telluride, Sun Valley, Snowbasin and Resorts of the Canadian Rockies.

Epic Local Pass Returns

For the last couple of years, the best deal for me has been the Epic Local Pass (though that may change going forward with the new day pass options). For 2019–2020, the Epic Local Pass allows for unlimited, unrestricted skiing at Breckenridge, Keystone, Crested Butte, Okemo, Mount Sunapee, Stevens Pass, Wilmot, Afton Alps and Mt. Brighton. You’ll also get unlimited access (with holiday restrictions) at Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood and Stowe. The Local Pass also includes 10 total combined days (with holiday restrictions) at Vail, Beaver Creek and Whistler Blackcomb. There are additional dates at some partner resorts such as Sun Valley, Snowbasin and Hakuba Valley and 16 total “Buddy Tickets” (which are discounted tickets at a flat rate) and “Ski With a Friend” tickets (where the discounted rate fluctuates and is generally a bit higher than with the Buddy Tickets). That’s more than last year.

If you are going to ski more than roughly six days in the season at Epic mountains, and are willing to have some limits and peak date restrictions at select resorts, the Epic Local Pass at $699 for adults, $569 for teens and $369 for children (ages 5 to 12) may be your best bet. These prices are $10 to $30 more than last season.

Ski Without Restrictions With the Epic Pass

Those who need unlimited, unrestricted skiing at all of Vail’s owned resorts, with additional access to partner resorts, are still looking at the full Epic Pass. Prices for the 2019–2020 ski season start at $939 for adults (13+) and $489 for children (ages 5 to 12). Unlike the Epic Local Pass, there is not a discounted teen Epic Pass — at 13, you jump from child to adult.

Launching at $939 for the 2019–2020 winter season ($40 more than last year), the Epic Pass provides unlimited, unrestricted access to all of the company’s owned resorts and additional access to partner resorts around the world.

This pass gets you unlimited skiing at Whistler Blackcomb, Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Crested Butte, Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Stowe, Okemo, Mount Sunapee, Stevens Pass, Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton and Wilmot in North America. The Epic Pass also includes access to Perisher in Australia, and is expected to include access to Falls Creek and Hotham, pending close of the transaction and receipt of certain approvals.

At partner resorts, the full Epic Pass gets you seven days of skiing each at Telluride, Sun Valley, Snowbasin and the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies; five consecutive days at Hakuba Valley, Japan’s 10 ski resorts; and five consecutive days at Japan’s Rusutsu Resort. The Epic Pass also grants limited access to Les 3 Vallées, Paradiski and Tignes-Val D’Isere in France; 4 Vallées in Switzerland; Arlberg in Austria; and Skirama Dolomiti in Italy.

Because skiing alone isn’t nearly as fun, the EpicPass also includes 10 “Buddy” tickets (up from six last year) and six “Ski With A Friend” tickets.

Epic Changes

In addition to the more customizable day passes and slightly higher pass prices, there are a few other changes coming for next ski season. Notably, Arapahoe Basin has reportedly had enough of the Epic crowds and won’t renew with Vail Resorts for next winter. However, Idaho’s Sun Valley and Utah’s Snowbasin are coming on board as partner resorts.

Points Hotels Near Epic Mountains

Bottom Line

For those who know they want to ski Epic mountains next season, you can purchase a pass now for $49 and pay the balance in September.

There are Epic Pass discounts for those in college and in the military, as well as lower prices for some mountain-specific passes.

Families with kids may also want to wait and see if the Epic School Kids program will work to get your kids on the mountain for free next season.

Stay tuned for a full head-to-head comparison of the Epic, Ikon Pass and Mountain Collective passes.

If you are ready to make a purchase, here are the best credit cards to use for ski pass purchases. Hint: Get your Citi Premier Card ready.

For more ski planning tips, check out:

Featured image by gladassfanny / Getty Images

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