Hall passes. Get out of jail free cards. Frequent flier miles. “Sick” days. They all spell “freedom.”
That’s essentially what a season pass ticket is: Freedom from the weekday commute and the weekend chores. It’s also a guarantee you will head for the hills rather than sit home second guessing conditions and asking yourself if you really should go ski or ride. (If you have to ask, the answer is “yes.”)
This season, there are more reasons than ever to commit to a season pass, starting with the fact that a number of ski areas actually dropped their prices over last year. More than that, resorts have figured out that we want options (and a way to hedge against sometimes fickle weather) and the trend in multi-resort season passes has exploded. All you have to figure out is which pass is right for you. Keep in mind early season rate deadlines are coming up fast. Check out our “Early Bird Deals” chart below and read on to find the right pass for your winter.
If you’re someone who likes to chase snow across the Northeast Kingdom, the Judge Pass lets you ski or ride both Jay Peak and Burke. Adults access the two mountains with no blackout dates for $899. New this year: in addition to discounts on lodging, lessons, rentals and retail, you also get discounted tickets at Okemo, Mount Sunapee and Pat’s Peak in New Hampshire, New York’s Mount Bristol, Jiminy Peak and Wachusett in Massachusetts, Shawnee Peak in Maine as well as smaller ski areas in Virginia, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
This winter, when you buy a season pass to Bolton Valley or Magic Mountain, you get an additional 33 days of skiing or riding at 11 other ski areas across the country at no extra cost. That’s because Bolton and Magic are part of the Freedom Pass, a collection of 12 ski areas at some smaller (and quieter) ski areas in some of North America’s most snow-heavy zones including Maine, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, New Mexico, Alaska and more. This year, season pass holders at Bolton Valley and Magic Mountain can present their season pass at any of the other 11 participating ski areas for a single-day lift ticket. The pass had previously been available as a $50 upgrade but this year has been made available to pass holders for free. “We feel the new format adds a tremendous amount of value for our pass holders” said Josh Arneson, vice president of sales and marketing at Bolton Valley. “By eliminating the additional charge, and doubling the number of mountains involved, all pass holders at our partner mountains will now have even greater flexibility. Some may even elect to take a trip to an area on the other side of the country, knowing they will have complimentary lift tickets when they get there.” Other participating mountains include Black Mountain, N.H.; Dartmouth Skiway, N.H.; Eaglecrest, Ak.; Granite Gorge, N.H.; Lost Valley, Me.; McIntyre Ski Area, N.H.; Mount Bohemia, Mich.; Pajarito Mountain, N.H.; Plattekill Mountain, N.Y.; Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort, N.M. and Ski Cooper, Colo. There is a limit of one ticket per pass holder, per day and a limit of three tickets per pass holder at each partner mountain over the season. There are no blackout dates.
Mountain Collective Pass
The Mountain Collective Pass gets even better this winter. Last year the pass added Stowe, Vt. (the only Eastern resort) and Taos, N.M. to its all-star lineup and this year, Revelstoke and Telluride join the Collective. So what’s the deal? For $409, the pass gets you two days of skiing at resorts such as Jackson Hole, Alta/Snowbird, Mammoth, Ski Banff/Lake Louise/Sunshine, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Sun Valley and Taos plus 50 percent off additional lift tickets. If you’re looking to rack up some frequent flier miles, it’s also good at Chamonix in the French Alps, Thredbo in Australia, Valle Nevado in Chile, Japan’s Hakuba Valley and New Zealand’s Ski Queenstown, Coronet Peak and The Remarkables. There are no blackout dates but sales are limited. Another sweet option: if you buy a Stowe Seven or Seven-Plus pass, you automatically get 50 percent off lift tickets at any of the other Mountain Collective resorts. See mountaincollective.com
Multi Alpine Experience (M.A.X.)
The M.A.X. pass gets a boost this year with ten more resorts including Okemo. The 2016/17 pass lets you ski up to five days at each of 32 mountains. In the Northeast, the M.A.X. pass is good at Stratton, Okemo, Killington and Pico, as well as Sugarloaf and Sunday River in Maine; Loon and Mount Sunapee, N.H.; Wachusett, Mass. and Mont Tremblant, in Quebec. Western resorts include Big Sky, Mont., and, in Colorado, Winter Park and Steamboat. You’ll also be able to travel as far as British Columbia and Alaska. If you already have a season pass at Stratton, Okemo or Killington, you can add on an adult M.A.X. pass for $299. Otherwise, the cost for an adult is $649, with no blackout days. This means you could, conceivably, travel and ski 160 days, at a cost per day of $4.05. See themaxpass.com
Okemo’s Ultra Pass
The Ultra Pass gives you unlimited, no-black-out-days at Okemo, Vt., Mount Sunapee N.H. and Crested Butte, Colo., plus three days at Killington for $1,729 for an adult ($1,829 after Oct. 10). If you don’t plan to go to Crested Butte, you can get the other benefits of the Ultra Pass with an Okemo Peak Pass for $1,359 ($1,619 after Oct. 10).
If you want to explore the Northeast, Peak Resorts, owners of Mount Snow, rolls out the Peak Pass with access to seven Northeast resorts . That includes Vermont’s Mount Snow, Attitash, Crotched and Wildcat in New Hampshire, New York’s Hunter Mountain and Big Boulder and Jack Frost in Pennsylvania. Adults ages 30 and older can ski and ride all seven with no blackout dates for $799. Skiers and riders 18 to 29 can explore all seven for $399. See peakpass.com.
The 4.0 College Pass
Fulltime undergraduate and graduate students get unlimited access to four ski resorts—Killington, Pico, Okemo and New Hampshire’s Mount Sunapee. That’s 399 trails and thousands of skiable acres available for weekends, holidays or when you’ve come down with a bad case of midweek “powder flu.” As an added bonus you’ll also get 50-percent off lift tickets for your friends. When bought on pre-buy, it costs $349.
Threesome College Pass
College students looking to cover some of the most challenging terrain in Vermont should immediately schedule courses for the afternoon and sign up for the Threesome College Pass. (No, it has nothing to do with your girlfriend and her roommate.) What it does offer is unlimited skiing and riding at Sugarbush’s Lincoln Peak and Mountain Ellen, and Mad River Glen. Until Nov. 2, it costs $369.