Why buying next year’s Epic ski pass now can save you money

Mar 6, 2020

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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 pricey 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, you can reduce your out of pocket cost for the 2020–2021 ski season with one of the many Epic Pass options. Whether you’re looking to ski just one day or for the entire season, you can drastically reduce your out-of-pocket costs for the next ski season with one of the many flavors of Epic Pass.

The catch: You have to plan ahead … and know how many days you want to ski. Ski pass prices are at their lowest in the spring before the current season ends and begin their climb up the pricing hill as spring turns to summer and, ultimately, fall.

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

Build your own Epic Pass

The Epic Day Passes are available again for the second year in a row. With this pass, you can build your own pass with one to seven days of skiing. You get to decide whether you want those days to be valid for peak holiday stretches (Nov. 27–28, Dec. 26–31, Jan. 17 and Feb. 13–14) or not. A three-day adult pass would set you back $312 for adults or $162 for kids on other dates; that increases to $369 and $189, respectively, if you’d like to ski those peak dates.

Related: Plan your ski trip using miles and points

The Epic day pass can be used at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Crested Butte, Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Stevens Pass, Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton, Wilmot Mountain, Alpine Valley, Boston Mills, Brandywine, Mad River Mountain, Hidden Valley, Snow Creek, Paoli Peaks, Stowe, Okemo, Mount Sunapee, Mount Snow, Hunter Mountain, Attitash Mountain Resort, Wildcat Mountain, Crotched Mountain, Liberty Mountain Resort, Roundtop Mountain Resort Whitetail Resort, Jack Frost, Big Boulder and Whistler Blackcomb.

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.

You’ll find the day passes to be great at the bigger well-known mountains where lift tickets can be $200 per day, but not necessarily a great deal at some of the smaller mountains primarily located in the Mid-Atlantic and New England where skiing can be just $50 per day.

Related: Unlimited skiing with the Ikon Pass

(Photo by SEASTOCK/Getty Images)
(Photo by SEASTOCK/Getty Images)

Epic Local Pass returns

For the last couple of years, the best deal for many families has been the Epic Local Pass.

For the 2020–2021 season, the Epic Local Pass allows for unlimited, unrestricted skiing at Breckenridge, Wilmot, Mt. Brighton, Mount Sunapee, Stevens Pass, Attitash Mountain Resort, Hunter Mountain, Roundtop Mountain Resort, Big Boulder, Boston Mills, Mad River Mountain, Paoli Peaks, Keystone, Afton Alps, Okemo, Crested Butte, Mount Snow, Wildcat Mountain, Crotched Mountain, Liberty Mountain Resort, Whitetail Resort, Jack Frost, Alpine Valley, Brandywine, Hidden Valley and Snow Creek.

Related: Best deal in skiing — Hyatt Place Keystone

Keystone Kidtopia Ice Fort (Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Keystone Kidtopia Ice Fort (Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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, Hakuba Valley and Rusutu. You’ll also receive a 10 “Buddy Tickets” (which are discounted tickets at a flat rate) and six “Ski With a Friend” tickets (where the discounted rate fluctuates and is generally a bit higher than with the Buddy Tickets) which can be used at select resorts. To receive the Buddy Ticket, you’ll need to purchase your pass this spring.

If you’re going to ski more than roughly seven 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 $729 for adults, $589 for teens and $379 for children (ages 5 to 12) may be your best bet. These prices are $10 to $30 more than the 2019 – 2020 season.

Related: Renting a ski house for less than a hotel

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 2020–2021 ski season start at $979 for adults (13+) and $499 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. These prices are $10 to $40 more than this current season.

This pass gets you unlimited skiing at Vail, Whistler Blackcomb, Keystone, Northstar, Stowe, Afton Alps, Perisher Australia (2021 access), Falls Creek Australia (2021 access), Hotham Australia (2020 access), Crested Butte, Mount Snow, Wildcat Mountain, Hunter Mountain, Roundtop Mountain, Big Boulder Mountain, Boston Mills, Mad River Mountain, Paoli Peaks, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Park City, Heavenly, Kirkwood, Wilmot, Mt. Brighton, Okemo, Mount Sunapee, Stevens Pass, Attitash Mountain Resort, Crotched Mountain, Liberty Mountain Resort, Whitetail Resort, Jack Frost, Alpine Valley, Brandywine, Hidden Valley and Snow Creek.

Related: Best credit card for buying a ski pass

Park City, Utah (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Yellin/DealsWeLike.com)
Park City, Utah (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Yellin/DealsWeLike.com)

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 and Rusutsu resorts. The Epic Pass also grants limited access to 26 partner resorts throughout France, Italy, Switzerland, and Austria.

Because skiing alone isn’t nearly as fun, the EpicPass also includes the same Buddy Tickets and Ski with a Friend passes you receive with the Epic Local Pass.

Related: Best ski resorts for families in North America

More pass options

In addition to the Epic Pass, Epic Local Pass and Epic Day Pass, there are many additional local pass options. These passes will only allow you access to resorts in a certain region but are significantly less expensive. For those who ski more locally and stick to a certain mountain, this could be a great way to save money during your 2020/2021 ski season. With all pass options, you’ll also receive a 50% discount at many other mountains or during holiday dates — the discounts vary with each specific pass. Additionally, many of these passes come with the Buddy Tickets and Ski with a Friend Tickets.

Tahoe Local Pass

This includes unlimited, holiday restricted skiing at Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood. You’ll also receive five total holiday restricted days at Vail, Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Beaver Creek, Keystone and Park City. This pass costs $619 for adults (19+), $499 for teens (13–18) and $309 for children (5–12).

Tahoe Value Pass

This pass is limited to just three resorts — Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood — and more restrictions. At these three resorts you’ll receive seven-day-a-week access at Heavenly, but only six-day access (Saturdays excluded) at Northstar and Kirkwood. Holiday restricted dates apply as well. This pass costs $529 for adults (19–64), $449 for seniors ($65+), $439 for teens (13–18) and $259 for children (5–12).

Summit Value Pass

With this pass, you’ll receive unlimited, unrestricted skiing at Keystone and unlimited, but restricted, skiing at Breckenridge. This pass costs $589 for adults (19+), $479 for teens (13–18) and $329 for children (5–12).

Keystone Plus Pass

If your main goal is to ski Keystone, this is the perfect pass for you. With this pass, you’ll receive unlimited, unrestricted skiing at Keystone; unlimited skiing at Breckenridge after April 1, 2021; and five days at Crested Butte. This pass costs $389 for adults (13+) and $269 for children (5–12).

Tubing at Keystone (Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Tubing at Keystone (Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Northeast Value Pass

Last year, Vail Resorts acquired Peak Resorts, which added 17 more resorts to the Epic Pass and expanded the Northeast presence. For those in the Northeast who are not looking to take a trip out west, this is a great option and could save you up to $130 off of the Epic Local Pass. With this pass, you’ll receive unlimited, unrestricted access to Wildcat Mountain, Mount Sunapee, Attitash Mountain Resort, Crotched Mountain, Jack Frost, Big Boulder, Whitetail Resort, Liberty Mountain Resort, Roundtop Mountain Resort, Boston Mills, Brandywine, Alpine Valley, Mad River Mountain and Mt. Brighton.

You’ll also receive unlimited, but holiday restricted, access at Okemo, Hunter Mountain and Mount Snow. On top of that, you’ll receive 10 days of skiing at Stowe, but with holiday restrictions. This pass costs $599 for adults (19-64), $449 for seniors ($65+), $449 for teens (13–18) and $419 for college students (17+). There is no children’s pricing available, but you can still purchase the Epic Local Pass for $379.

Related: Kids ski free: Save on your family’s next ski vacation

Northeast skiing Attitash Mountain Resort with the Epic Pass (photo courtesy of Jennifer Yellin/DealsWeLike.com)
Northeast skiing Attitash Mountain Resort with the Epic Pass (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Yellin/DealsWeLike.com)

Northeast Midweek Pass

You’ll receive access to the same mountains as the Northeast Value Pass, but you’ll be limited to just weekday access (Monday thru Friday skiing). The only difference is that you’ll only receive five days of skiing at Stowe, which is half of what you receive with the Northeast Value Pass. This pass costs $494 for adults (18–64) and $339 for seniors ($65+). There are no kids passes available, but you can still purchase the Northeast Value Pass or Epic Local Pass depending on the age of your children.

New: Epic Mountain Rewards

New this year for the 2020 – 2021 season is the introduction of Epic Mountain Rewards. This rewards program will get you 20% off food, lodging, lessons, rentals, the Epic Mountain Express and activities.

The Epic Mountain Rewards discounts are extended all pass holders, even those who just purchase the Epic Day Pass. Between expensive mountain food and ski school, this can save your family hundreds of dollars over the winter. You’ll want to take these savings into account when determining whether or not a specific pass is worth it for you and your family. It could even make sense just for one person to get the pass for the extra savings. This will still give the entire family food and lodging discounts (food is capped at $150 per day), although, for lesson discounts, the actual individual must have the pass, not a family member.

One thing to note is that these savings are only available at Vail owned resorts and not partner resorts.

Related: 6 tips for taking big family ski trips

Points hotels near Epic mountains

Photo courtesy of Park Hyatt Beaver Creek

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 later in the year. Additionally, if you ski at one of the mountains this upcoming ski season, you can apply the cost of the ticket toward next year’s pass. This is ultimately getting you one day of skiing for free during this current winter season.

There are Epic Pass discounts for those in college and 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 an updated 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:

The information for the Citi Premier card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Featured image by gladassfanny/Getty Images

Additional reporting by Jennifer Yellin

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