The Million Dollar Question Everyone is Asking This Season… Which Pass is Best?

Ryan Kime | | Industry NewsIndustry News
Lift Pass Comprison among Epic, Indy, Mountain Collective and Ikon passes.
Lift Pass Comparison among Epic, Indy, Mountain Collective, and Ikon passes. pc: screenshot the points guy

The Million-Dollar Question

A safe answer would be to say ‘it depends’ but that’s no fun and more importantly it doesn’t help us make a better decision. We still have questions like:

  • Which pass gets you access to the most resorts?
  • What is the cheapest way to access the biggest and most popular resorts?
  • Which pass is the best to use for the holidays?
  • Which is the best option for those who don’t ski or ride on the holidays, but enjoy the rest of the season?

So, what truly is the best deal? It looks like CEO Brian Kelly and his team at The Points Guy (TPG) has the answer. The Points Guy is a lifestyle media company with more than 100 people committed to giving you “hands-on advice” to “maximize your travel experience,” according to its website. Kelly’s team of more than 40 experts sifted through this season’s data, analyzing and comparing lift passes. Here’s what they had to say: (Additional discounts and/or special restrictions may also apply and should be checked on each website for accuracy and details.)

Ikon Pass

With nearly 50 destinations across the globe and carrying major attractions like Aspen Snowmass, Palisades Tahoe, Mammoth Mountain, Copper Mountain, Winter Park, Sugarbush, and more, the Ikon pass is undoubtedly a popular choice among skiers and riders. Ikon offers three different passes:

  • Full-access Ikon Pass has no restrictions on any of its resorts. It is also the most expensive pass at $1,179 for adults with discounts for children, military, and others.
  • Ikon Base Pass at $869 for adults does include blackout dates and caps off at five visits at certain resorts, often the more popular ones like Jackson Hole, Alta, Snowbasin, and others.
  • Ikon 2-day, 3-day, or 4-day Pass options with access to any resort and they don’t need to be used on consecutive days.

Ikon also offers friends and family a 25% discount on lift tickets as well as lots of other benefits with discounts on rentals lodging, food, and more.

Epic Pass

The Epic Pass had been another popular pass since it first started in 2008/09. Offering access to 37 different resorts within the U.S. as well as many others in Canada, Europe, Australia, and Japan, it gives holders access to some premier resorts.

Similar to the Ikon Pass price structure, Epic also offers a 3-tier range of passes, although less expensive.

  • Full Epic Pass has no restrictions in the U.S. except Telluride which is capped at seven days. Prices are $849 for adults, and $439 for children (5-12).
  • Epic Local Pass had some blackout dates and access and is $639 for adults, $519 (teens 13-18), and $335 (5- 12). There are also regional pass options.
  • Epic 1 to 7-day Pass offers tiered pricing based on the resort or travel dates. (e.g. Jackson Hole as a Tier-one resort would be more expensive than most others and most expensive on holidays more than on weekdays.) TPG reports, “With this option (#3) you can ultimately ski for as little as $38/day for adults and $20/day for kids.

Epic also gives Pass holders access to their Epic Mountain Rewards which carries a whole list of other discounts for your trip(s).

Mountain Collective

Mountain Collective offers one season pass right now at $579 for adults, $479 (13-18), and $189 (5-12) that gives you the opportunity to ski 24 resorts including “… big names such as Aspen Snowmass, Taos, Banff, Jackson Hole, Sun Valley, and Snowbasin.”

Indy Pass

With Indy Pass’s two options you gain entry to a family of over 100 smaller independently owned ski resorts and counting. They are continually adding to their family and there is certainly no shortage of possibilities here.

  • Indy Pass costs $339 for adults, $189 (< 12), and carries no blackout dates.
  • Indy+ Pass sits at $299 for adults and $139 for kids and does include some restrictions.

TPG shared their analysis of the Indy Pass saying, “Since these resorts are not part of the bigger passes, you’ll typically see fewer crowds and more reasonable pricing, for lessons, too.”

The skiing never stops with sunny days and great coverage.
The skiing never stops with sunny days and great coverage. pc: screenshot the points guy

Answers To Our Questions

Here are TPG’s answers to our questions:

  • Which pass gets you access to the most resorts?

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

  • What is the cheapest way to access the biggest and most popular resorts?

“For access to a large number of upscale ski resorts, it’s hard to beat the Epic Pass. The local version of the pass is also great if you aren’t visiting on most peak days. The Ikon Pass can also give you unlimited skiing at many other desirable resorts. Which pass is best depends on where you prefer to ski during winter.”

  • Which pass is the best to use for the holidays?

“If you still want to visit 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.”

  • Which is the best option for those who don’t ski or ride on the holidays, but enjoy the rest of the season?

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

With all the options available, it’s sometimes difficult to make a choice. Where do you plan to spend your time this season? What pass do you think is right for you? We’d like to know!

Bluebird bowl skiing in Colorado.
Bluebird bowl skiing in Colorado. pc: screenshot the points guy

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2 thoughts on “The Million Dollar Question Everyone is Asking This Season… Which Pass is Best?

  1. Your definition of a $1m question is extremely questionable.

    You must be part of Biden’s inflation reduction team. Your math is screwy. Please consult your nearest math teacher.

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