This week Vail Resorts announced the addition of the Niseko collective to the list of mountains where skiers can use the 2014–2015 Epic Pass. Niseko is Japan’s premier ski destination, on the southwest corner of the island of Hokkaido. It receives close to 600 inches of snow per year and has been the backdrop for numerous ski films, including Sweetgrass Productions’ 2009 Signatures and Felt Soul Media’s 2012 Unicorn Sashimi.
The move continues a trend of adding new resorts to the Epic package each ski season. This time around, Vail took over skiing operations at Utah’s Canyons resort while offering five consecutive days in each of Verbier, Switzerland; Arlberg, Austria; and Les Trois Vallées, France. The pass, which sold for $709 this year, currently works like an unlimited season pass at U.S. resorts including Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, Utah’s Canyons resort, and Lake Tahoe, California’s Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood.
As American ski areas have continued to struggle with several years of erratic and diminishing snowfall, Niseko, along with lesser known ski areas in British Columbia like Whitewater and Revelstoke, have gained prominence among expert skiers who are willing to traverse the planet in search of fresh snow. The addition of Niseko to the Epic Pass should make it a bit easier to ski Japan and also increase Vail Resorts’ claim on one of the best deals in skiing.