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Lift ticket sales capped: What to expect this ski season at Vail Resorts

August 26 2022
7 min read
Snow covered back bowls at Vail
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At some of the highest elevations, the first Colorado snowfall of the season has already blanketed the ground. And with that momentous event complete, ski season isn't far around the bend.

In fact, Vail Resorts currently plans to start the ski season in just a matter of weeks in mid-October with the opening of Keystone, weather and conditions permitting.

As those who have trekked to the mountain resorts can attest, in the last several years, each ski season has looked and operated quite distinctly. The early closing in March 2020, the stringent mask and reservation requirements of the 2020-2021 season and even some continued restrictions into last season — there's been a lot to brush up on as each winter has rolled around.

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And indeed, there are some changes to expect again this time around. Here's what we know about how this ski season will look across the network of Vail Resorts.

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Lift ticket sales again capped

If you want to save some cash, you really should not be buying individual lift tickets at big-name resorts like Vail, Beaver Creek, Park City and Breckenridge. You are massively overpaying by a significant amount by not planning in advance and getting a ski pass of some sort — even one with a set number of days.

But, another reason that individual lift tickets aren't the best plan at Vail Resorts is that they are again capped and can sell out.

SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

Vail Resorts states that lift ticket sales will be limited every day across every resort in order to preserve the guest experience. This may be one lever the company is pulling to combat some of the crowding, traffic and subsequent public relations hit it took last season.

Lift ticket availability will be visible on the resort websites and if they are sold out, you cannot make a purchase at the walk-up ticket windows either.

Related: Comparing the best ski passes of the year

Epic Pass not limited

Those with an Epic Pass, however, are not limited in their ski days (beyond any date restrictions associated with the pass).

Epic Day Pass and Epic Passholders don't need to make a reservation this year and aren't affected by capacity restrictions the way that individual lift ticket skiers may be on certain dates.

A one-day Epic Pass currently starts at $95 for adults and $49 per kid with per-day prices that decrease as the number of days on the pass increase.

Related: TPG's first-timer guide to visiting Vail

No mask, vaccine or dining reservation requirements

If you remember way back into the start of the 2020-2021 ski season, you'll remember that at many mountains you had to wear a mask not only while indoors in the lodge or ski school but also at some outdoor locations.

Food was reservations-required or to-go only and the mood was tense on some mountains as employees became the enforcers of these measures that not every guest was happy about.

November 2020 ski operations. SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

However, that's currently relegated to the ski history books. Vail Resorts has announced that it does not plan to require face coverings, vaccines or dining reservations this coming season.

Ski resort opening dates start in October

While this is obviously subject to change, Vail has announced the planned opening dates for its resorts that kick off in mid-October with Keystone, followed by Breckenridge, Vail and Mt. Snow in early November.

  • Mid-October: Keystone (Colorado).
  • Nov. 11: Breckenridge and Vail (Colorado) and Mt. Snow (Vermont).
  • Nov. 18: Heavenly and Northstar (California), Park City (Utah), Afton Alps (Minnesota), Hunter (New York), Stowe (Vermont) and Wildcat (New Hampshire).
  • Nov. 19: Okemo (Vermont).
  • Nov. 23: Beaver Creek and Crested Butte (Colorado) and Mt. Sunapee (New Hampshire).
  • Nov. 24: Whistler Blackcomb (British Columbia).
  • Nov. 25: Seven Springs (Pennsylvania).
  • Dec. 2: Kirkwood (California) and Stevens Pass (Washington).
  • Dec. 3: Mt. Brighton (Michigan) and Wilmot (Wisconsin).
  • Dec. 16: Big Boulder, Liberty, Roundtop and Whitetail (Pennsylvania).
  • Dec. 17: Alpine Valley (Ohio), Boston Mills/Brandywine and Mad River (Ohio), Hidden Valley and Snow Creek (Missouri) and Paoli Peaks (Indiana).
  • Dec. 23: Hidden Valley and Laurel Mountain (Pennsylvania).

Last year, Wolf Creek in Colorado was able to open in mid-October following a 14-inch snowfall as the first major resort in the U.S. to get the lifts turning, with Arapahoe Basin, also in Colorado, coming in a day or so later. Keystone opened on Oct. 22 in 2021, so this year's mid-October opening goal is certainly possible.

Skiing in Keystone in November 2020. SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

Related: Planning your ski trip with points and miles

Epic Pass prices increase again on Sept. 6

Ski pass prices typically only increase from when they go on sale in the spring until the fall and ultimately when they stop being available at some point in the early-winter months.

And with Epic Passes, there's another price jump scheduled to kick in after Labor Day (Sept. 5). So, if you know you want an Epic product, make your purchase by Labor Day to avoid that next price increase.

New at Vail Resorts this season

Vail Resorts shared that they are investing more in their people and infrastructure this year, which is great. If what you really want to know is what tangible new things you can see and do this season, here are a few upgrades and debuts.

New ski beach at Canyons Village

Stretching from the Red Pine Gondola to the Orange Bubble Express, Canyons Village is host to a new ski beach that consists of seating areas, fire pits and heated pavers.

Upgraded lifts at Tahoe

At Heavenly, the North Bowl lift will go to a high-speed four-person chair and at Northstar, the Comstock Express will upgrade to a six-person chair.

Upgraded lifts at Whistler-Blackcomb

At Whistler-Blackcomb, which has largely been unavailable for international visitors for the last several seasons, the Creekside Gondola will go from a six-person gondola to a high-speed 10-person gondola which should increase capacity in that area by 35%.

The Big Red Express will go from a four-person lift to a high-speed six-person chair.

New lift at Vail

Vail will debut a new high-speed four-person chair that connects Sun Down Bowl to Wildwood. The lift in Game Creek Bowl will also get an upgrade to a high-speed six-person lift, which increases uphill capacity in that area by 50%.

Related: What to know before taking your first ski trip

Bottom line

You still need to pick the best ski-friendly hotel for you. However, decide on which ski pass makes sense and get those flights to the mountains outlined.

Planning a ski trip this year sounds like it will be much easier than in the last several, at least if you have an Epic Pass of some sort and aren't tied to capacity restrictions.

Reservations aren't required for ski days for pass holders or for the casual on-mountain dining outlets, and no lines for checking vaccine cards at the door, as long as Mother Nature cooperates. This ski season sounds like it should be operating quite similarly to the ones of yesteryear.

Featured photo by SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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