With the announcement of the IKON pass for the 2018/19 season, the decision of which pass to purchase may not be as easy as before. For some, geography can easily dictate what pass to get. For others, the choice just got a whole lot harder.
It’s best to shop early for your pass, as in a year in advance if you play your cards right. This way you can maximize your next snow season, and have something to hold you over in the summer months in between!
For years, the EPIC pass (Vail resorts) has been a predominant force in the ski and snowboarding world. For the same cost as a single mountain season pass, plus the benefit of not having to wait in line to get a lift ticket, it grants access to multiple resorts in North America. The Mountain Collective pass was the next best thing. This pass offers two days at 16 different independent resorts around North America, pricing out to be circa $450 for the season. Now with the IKON pass, the Mountain Collective seems obsolete (same mountains on both passes). This also means the EPIC pass isn't an immediate purchase at the end of the season.
The thought of having access to more resorts may seem like a great selling point. However, the majority of season pass-holders will not take advantage of these new additions. Unless your main goal is to travel, or you are heading to a specific destination for a friend’s wedding, you will likely not need a full 7 days at Telluride or Aspen Snowmass if you’re local to Lake Tahoe.
If your home mountain is unlimited on a certain pass, then it would make the most sense for you to purchase this type of pass. Friends from LA don’t have to think twice about buying the IKON pass since the three main ski resorts they travel to are all on that same pass. However, for those not dictated by geography, there may not be a home mountain due to the multiple resorts that are accessible within the same area (i.e Lake Tahoe and Colorado).
The release of the IKON pass has sparked a debate over which pass is the 'better' of the two. The answer - neither of them are better than the other, or worse in any major way. Sure, there are advantages to one over the other, but that all comes down to preference. What kind of skiing/riding do you do? Which pass has the most mountains close by? Where do you prefer to go?
Only you can answer these questions.
With comparable pricing, and different access options to tailor your mountain experience to your needs, both the IKON and the EPIC have fair pretty well against each other so far.
So what do you do? Well...you read the fine print.
Each season pass offers multiple perks and discounts in varying capacities. Read the fine print for all the details (i.e. military/student discounts, buddy passes, etc) so as to maximize your perfect pass for the adventure you want to have.
Once you get over the sticker shock and get past the shiny names of world class ski resorts, here’s how the IKON and EPIC compare:
Full amount due at purchase [IKON: $899 | IKON BASE: $699]
Buy before May 1st and use for the remainder of 2017/18 season at Squaw, Mammoth, and Winter Park
Military Discount [IKON: $719 | IKON BASE: $479] *Active/retired military only
Student Discount [IKON: $719 | IKON BASE: $479]
Senior Discount [NONE]
25 % off window rate for friends and family [IKON: 10 passes | IKON BASE: 8]
$49 down at signup, remainder due in September [EPIC $899 | EPIC LOCAL: $669]
Can apply the price of a day lift ticket (17/18) to next year's (18/19) pass. Pass must be purchased same day as day ticket
Military Discount [ACTIVE/RETIRED: $99 | VETERAN: $499]
Student Discount [EPIC LOCAL: $619]
Senior Discount [TAHOE VALUE: $489]
25 % off window rate for SWAF (Ski With A Friend) and fixed season discount rate for Buddy (if bought before 5/1/18)
Both passes have similar discounts for food, rentals, and lodging in partnered villages- and the exact same black-out dates. Two main differences are the military rates and the cost due at time of purchase.
For those who may not have $700 just sitting pretty, the Epic pass offers a more economical way to get a season pass for next year. You can actually call in and make payments every month to your season pass balance, which will alleviate any pain of shelling out a large sum of $$ at once. Snow on lay-away!
For our men and women in the military (thank you for your service!), things clearly swing towards the Epic pass. And just in case the $99 price tag didn't seal the deal, consider this: the majority of mountains on the IKON pass offer single mountain military season passes (i.e. Squaw Valley has a $50 season pass for Active military) and other local mountains let you ride completely for free during the week (i.e. Homewood in Lake Tahoe).
For me, it's an easy choice. I prefer the flexibility of multiple mountains, especially when one road is notoriously known for closing every time there is a good snow dump. I combine the Epic pass with the Mountain Collective pass and that gets me the best of both worlds!
Plan with your friends, study terrain maps, and read some ski bum blogs (like this one!) about what mountains have spoken the most to them. No matter which season pass you chose, you won't be disappointed. Do what feels right and which adventure excites you the most. There will always be someone else on the mountain to share the good vibez with - you might make new friends!
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Follow me on Instagram: @j_does_epic
Blog post contributors: Karolin Palmer-Picard