What’s New in the 2019/20 Season Pass Wars?

Next year’s season passes are coming out and both Vail Resorts and Alterra Mountain Company are vying for global dominance—and inching up their prices. Both the Epic ($939) and Ikon ($949) season passes are up about $40-$50  from last year’s early-season pricing, but still bargains compared with where many resort season pass prices were before they were acquired.

The Peak Pass, Peak Resorts’ season pass with access to Mount Snow, three New Hampshire resorts, Hunter Mountain, N.Y. and Peak’s 7 other resorts (in Ohio and Pennsylvania) came out with the same price as last year: $629 if you buy before April 30, and an unrestricted $60 season pass for anyone under 6. Plus, if you buy a 2019/20 pass now you can ski the rest of this season for free.

So what’s new in the 2019/2020 season pass wars? After a flurry of acquisitions, last year by  the two behemoths, things have settled down this season—but just a bit

Vail Resorts, which now owns Okemo, Stowe and Mt. Sunapee in the East—announced its intention to purchase a few more ski areas in Australia and added Sun Valley, Idaho and Snowbasin, Utah to its 2019/20 Epic Pass. It also lost Arapahoe Basin which pulled out of the Epic Pass citing “a pinch in parking.”  Vail Resorts now claims “65+” resorts on its Epic Pass, which includes resorts in the Midwest, Japan, Australia, and Europe.

Alterra, (the resort company that owns Stratton), stayed steady with the  Eastern resorts it partners with:  Vermont’s Sugarbush and Killington/Pico, as well as Maine’s two largest ski areas (Sunday River and Sugarloaf) and New Hampshire’s Loon Mountain.

But in 2018 it acquired Crystal Mountain, Washington and Solitude in Utah.  It also added Taos, N.M., Brighton, Utah and resorts in the Midwest,  New Zealand, Canada, Japan and Chile to the Ikon Pass.  Alterra now has 38 resorts in its Ikon Pass arsenal, including some of the popular Western resorts such as Aspen, Alta/Snowbird and Jackson Hole, Wyo.

IKON PASS CHANGES

Sunny days at Okemo. Photo courtesy Okemo.

For 2019 IKON Pass has a few changes and the one we love is that if you buy an adult pass ($949) you can buy up to two passes for kids under 13 for $199 each, nearly a $100 savings. And the Young Adult Pass ($699) is good for those ages 13 to 22. Renewing passholders can save $30 and you can use your 2019/20 pass this season (after April 8) at resorts such as Mont Tremblant, Mammoth and Squaw Valley.

For New England skiers, the IKON Pass still offers unlimited skiing at Stratton and Tremblant and the option to ski up to 7 days at Vermont’s Killington, Pico and Sugarbush resorts; Maine’s Sugarloaf and Sunday River and Loon Mountain, N.H. You also get up to 7 days of skiing at Western giants such as Aspen/Snowmass, Jackson Hole, Wyo., and Alta/Snowbird. However, if you go with the IKON Base Pass ($699) note that you only get 5 days at Stratton, as well as 5 days at the resorts mentioned above.

EPIC PASS ADDS DAY PASS

The Epic Pass has added a few resorts this year, notably limited (7 days) skiing at Snowbasin, Utah and Sun Valley, Idaho—as well as 7 days at Telluride. However, it also lost Arapahoe Basin, which pulled out of the Epic Pass. In the words of CEO Al Henceroth:  “Arapahoe Basin believes its staff can take better care of its guests by separating from Vail Resorts.”

In the East, Vail Resorts added Okemo and Mt. Sunapee last year and those remain with unlimited, no-black-out skiing on the main Epic Pass as well as the restricted Epic Local Pass. Stowe is also on the Epic Local Pass but with holiday blackouts.

The biggest change for Vail Resorts’ is the addition of the Epic Day Pass. It’s essentially a day pass that you buy ahead of time and that you can load up for 1 to 7 days. The early price starts at $106 per day, non-holidays and could be used at any of 21 resorts, including all three Vermont resorts. As of March 8, a regular weekend lift ticket at Stowe went for $130 (or $119 if you bought online, ahead of time)  and $115 (or $102) at Okemo. The Epic Day Pass claims to be “50 percent” of the window ticket price — which could mean we’ll see $200-plus day tickets next year.

PEAK PASS OPTIONS

The Peak Pass, Peak Resorts’ season pass to Mount Snow and its 11 other resorts, comes in a variety of flavors, with the regular Explorer pass at $629 but a  $399 price for basically anyone under 30 — that’s unlimited, unrestricted, no-blackout days, plus free skiing this spring and a host of discounts on everything from winter retail purchases to $29 greens fees at Mount Snow’s golf course in the summer. If you’re planning on skiing around New England, live in Massachusetts, New York or Connecticut and don’t want to drive too far, with five big resorts on the ticket, it’s a great deal.

In summary, if you’re shopping around keep this in mind: where do you want to ski, how often and how much are you really going to travel? Here’s the summary:

 

IKON PASS: $949

  • IKON Pass includes unlimited skiing at 13 Alterra-owned resorts, including the East’s Stratton, Mt. Tremblant, Blue Mountain (Ontario).
  • Includes 7 days at Eastern partner ski areas Killington/Pico, Sugarbush, Sunday River, Sugarloaf and Loon.
  • Includes 7 days at big Western ski areas such as Alta/Snowbird, Aspen/Snowmass, Jackson Hole and Taos.
  • Buy an adult pass and you can buy up to two kids passes (under 13) for $199 each.
  • There’s a Young Adult pass for those 13 to 22 for $699

IKON BASE PASS: $649

  • Includes unlimited skiing at Mt. Tremblant and Blue Mountain, as well as 10 other Western resorts, including Copper Mountain and Squaw Valley.
  • Includes just 5 days (with blackout dates) at Stratton and Eastern partner resorts Killington/Pico, Sugarbush, Sugarloaf, Sunday River and Loon as well as 20 other resorts in the West, Chile, New Zealand and Canada.

For more information see IkonPass.com

EPIC PASS: $939

  • Unrestricted, unlimited skiing at Vail Resorts’ 20 resorts, including Okemo, Mt. Sunapee and Stowe in the East.
  • Seven days of skiing at Telluride, (Colorado) Snowbasin (Utah) and Sun Valley, Idaho as well as at Canada’s Kicking Horse, Mt. Sainte Anne, Nakiska, Fernie, Stoneham and Kimberley Alpin Resorts.
  • 5 days at the 10 resorts in Japan’s Hakuba Valley.
  • Between 3 and 7 days at select resorts in France, Italy, Austria and Switzerland, with restrictions.

EPIC LOCAL PASS: $699

  • Unlimited, unrestricted skiing at Okemo, Mt. Sunapee and 7 other resorts in the Midwest and West.
  • Holiday-restricted skiing at Stowe and four other resorts
  • Up to 10 days at Vail, Beaver Creek and Whistler/Blackcomb
  • 2 days at Sun Valley or Snowbasin and 5 days at Hakuba Valley resorts

For more information see EpicPass.com 

PEAK EXPLORER PASS: $629

  • Unlimited, no-blackout days skiing at Mount Snow in Vermont as well as New Hampshire’s Attitash, Crotched and Wildcat Mountains, Hunter Mountain in New York and four Pennsylvania resorts and three in Ohio.
  • Free skiing for the rest of the 2018/19 season
  • 20 percent off lodging at Mount Snow and Hunter
  • 50 percent off tubing, $29 greens fees at Mount Snow’s golf course (Mon. – Thurs.)
  • Free summer chairlift rids

OTHER PEAK PASSES

  • All have the same benefits
  • Peak Ranger ($529) has blackout dates
  • Peak Drifter (under 30) and Peak Explorer Youth (7 to 17) are  $399, unrestricted
  • Kids under 6 can get a Peak Scout pass for $60, unrestricted

For more information see peakpass.com

Updated: March 6

 

Featured photo: Above the clouds in Squaw Valley, California, photo courtesy Alterra Mountain Company.

 

Lisa Lynn

Editor of VT SKI + RIDE and Vermont Sports. Skier. Sometime snowboarder. Future teleskier. Mountain creature.