Archive for March, 2018|Monthly archive page

Epic Pass vs. Ikon vs. Mountain Collective

Okay, I’ll admit that I’m already thinking ahead to next season. I’ve been a Mountain Collective passholder for several years now, and there are a couple other major passes available (nationwide and worldwide), the Epic Pass, and the recently introduced Ikon Pass. Here’s a comparison of the passes and what they offer.

Epic Pass

The Epic Pass is Vail Resorts’ superpass, with a ton of options out there. It’s a rather complex set of options, including blackout days, semi-limited access to some of the super-resorts, and all sorts of other bells and whistles. The majority of the resorts are in Colorado, Utah, and Tahoe. A four day pass is $439, a seven day pass is $669, as is another $669 pass for access to the I-70 resorts in Colorado and a few in the Midwest. Beaver Creek and Vail offer limited access, but I’ve sworn off Vail altogether. The full pass is currently $899. The passes also include a few extras for friends, and include some affiliated resorts like Telluride, Crested Butte, and other goodies that are too numerous to list here. Unless you travel a ton or are a rich ski bum, you’ll probably not cover that much ground in a season.

This one seems Colorado-centric, not surprising since Vail Resorts owns nearly the entire group of resorts along the I-70 corridor. Okay, so that’s too complicated for me to figure out, but it sounds like a decent deal if you live in Colorado and don’t mind insane crowds and traffic on winter weekends. It’s not a good option given where I live.

Mountain Collective

The Mountain Collective is what I think is a stellar collection of the best of US resorts, plus a handful of Canadian and world resorts added in there. You get two days as part of the pass, additional days are half-off. While the collection of resorts is excellent, they are spread out all over the place, and you will spend money traveling, often to small airports and remote locations. But for $409 (early purchase), it’s a great value and a nice way to explore different places. It’s less of a value if you prefer sticking close to home. Most of the resorts are not within easy driving distance of one another, with a few exceptions (Tahoe – Mammoth and the Wasatch Range ski areas). Being destination resorts for the most part, get ready for high lodging and food prices overall, and high airfares.

For those of you who like traveling and sampling the best of the US and international resorts, this is excellent value. Even better if you live near a major airport. Having only two days at the resorts sounds a bit low, but it basically means a long weekend at each place, and you’ll probably recover the cost of the lift ticket prices after 3-4 days.

Ikon Pass

Then there’s the Ikon Pass, introduced for 2018-2019, which has significant overlap with the Mountain Collective destinations.

This pass is California-centric, offering unlimited days at Mammoth / June, Squaw Valley / Alpine Meadows, and also Big Bear. It’s probably going to be the pass of choice for people living in Southern California who make the long trek up to Mammoth on a regular basis, and head for the insanely crowded Big Bear when they’re not at Mammoth. Colorado is the other main ‘center’ for this pass, with unlimited days at Copper, Eldora, Steamboat, and Winter Park. The $599 Ikon Base Pass version seems to be the best deal out of all of these guys, with blackout dates on the days you probably don’t want to be skiing anyways (Xmas, MLK, and Presidents’ Day). So for around $200 (two ski days) more than the Mountain Collective, you get a lot more days at places like Aspen, Jackson, Big Sky, among others (5 vs. 2).

Otherwise it’s $899, which eliminates the blackout dates and gives you additional days (7 vs. 5) at the resorts not offering unlimited access. Not worth it, in my opinion.

Covered by both the Ikon Pass and Mountain Collective: Mammoth, Squaw / Alpine Meadows, Aspen / Snowmass, Big Sky, Jackson Hole, Snowbird / Alta, Revelstoke, Banff area resorts, Sugarbush.

Unique to Mountain Collective: Coronet Peak / Remarkables, Taos, Thredbo, Sun Valley, Valle Nevado, Chamonix, Niseko United

Unique to Ikon: Big Bear, June, Copper Mountain, Deer Valley, Eldora, Steamboat, Winter Park, Blue Mountain, Mont Tremblant, Killington, Loon / Sugarloaf / Sunday River, Stratton

A few places hopped between passes. Whistler Blackcomb went from the Mountain Collective to Epic Pass for the 2017-2018 season, and Telluride will no longer be a Collective destination starting in 2018-2019, having moved to Epic Pass territory. The prices listed are subject to change, but are current as of March 30, 2018.