Epic Pass Drops Price

There’s been a show of brinksmanship happening in the ski industry, a sort of “how-low-can-you-go” limbo contest to see who can drop the price bar on season passes the lowest without breaking the bank. “This will change everything!” Vail Resorts’ blasted across its websites in the days leading up to today’s  announcement that its 21/22 season passes will be 20 percent less than they were in 20/21.

Yesterday, Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass set the season pass limbo bar even lower, dropping its price to $783, $196 less than it was for a 20/21 pass. It will also be doing away with the reservation system which limited crowding  during Covid-19 this past season.

This came just two weeks after Alterra Resorts’ announced that the Ikon Pass would go on sale for $999. That pass is good for unlimited days at Sugarbush and Stratton in Vermont, as well as up to 7 days at  28 other resorts including Killington, Vt.,  Sugarloaf and Sunday River in Maine and Mt. Tremblant, Quebec. Out West, the Ikon Pass also guarantees 7 days at Alta, Aspen’s mountains, Jackson Hole, Revelstoke and others as well as Zermatt, Switzerland. An Ikon Base Pass ($729) allows 5 day access to all of those resorts, with the exception of Jackson Hole and Aspen’s mountains.

Vail Resorts’  Epic Local Pass also dropped from $729 to $583. The Northeast Value Pass, which is good at Vail Resorts 18 eastern ski areas went from $599 to $479, with blackout days at all three Vermont resorts (Mount Snow, Okemo and Stowe) as well as at Hunter Mountain, N.Y.  This year the Northeast Value Pass is also only good for 10 days at Stowe.

“The main driver here is, we want to move ticket buyers to a pass,” Vail Resorts chief executive Rob Katz said in an interview with John Meyer of The Denver Post. “That has been a strategy of ours going all the way back to the introduction of the Epic Pass back in 2008. We’ve made huge inroads on this front. We started looking at some of our learning over the last couple years, and we thought we could actually reduce the price, bring more people into the program, and actually have it be profitable and a good decision for the company.”

As if to underscore that point,  Vail Resorts hit the high bell for day ticket sales with a whopping $229 day ticket at Vail in January.  A walk-up day ticket at Stowe on Friday, March 26 (forecast: rain, 56 degrees) was $139 ($123 online). The sunny Saturday before at Sugarbush (owned by Alterra) a day ticket ran $169.

In 2016, Vail Resorts sold 650,000 Epic Passes. For the 2018/19 season Last September, Vail Resorts announced that 20/21 season pass sales were up 18% in units sold over the previous season, to 850,000. Katz’s goalpost for season pass sales has reportedly been 1 million and this move may get him there.

“When we launched the Epic Pass 13 years ago, we began a journey to offer incredible value, flexibility and access to pass holders in exchange for a commitment before the season starts,” CEO Rob Katz stated in a release. “Since then, we have added 32 resorts to our portfolio to give our pass holders more choice, and watched how they more naturally spread out their skiing over the course of a season. We have also invested over $1.5 billion into the guest experience with industry-leading technological innovations and numerous on-mountain capital improvements. Today, as we double down on our pass strategy by dramatically reducing our pass prices, we are excited to make it easier for everyone to move into a pass, and we remain fully committed to ensuring continuous improvements in the guest experience.”

While for many dropping the price of season passes is a good thing, many ski town locals who have watched parking lots fill up and lines grow to 30 minutes or longer on busy days are shuddering.

Opening photo: Stowe Mountain Resort’s gondola. By Scott Braaten/Stowe 

Lisa Lynn

Editor of VT SKI + RIDE and Vermont Sports.