On March 18th, 2008, Vail Resorts debuted its Epic Pass. For $579, you got unlimited, no-restrictions skiing at six resorts—Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Arapahoe Basin, and California’s Heavenly. Vail Resorts had offered locals-only, multi-resort season passes to its Colorado resorts before, but nothing like this. The ski industry didn’t know what hit it. A ski journalist at the time wrote that Rob Katz, Vail Resort’s CEO, had essentially lost his marbles; it was such an unbelievably good deal that some people thought that Vail Resort’s had made a mistake, and rushed to purchase an Epic Pass before they realized the error and rescinded the offer.
Fast-forward six years and the full Epic Pass now costs $749 and includes unlimited skiing at 18 resorts, including Park City Mountain Resort, which Vail just began operating a few weeks ago, and one resort in Japan and five in Europe. It’s just one of four Epic Pass options available for the 2014-15 ski season (the cheapest version costs $399 and gets you four days at the Vail-owned resort of your choice plus various other perks). Anyway you slice it, all of the Epic Passes are a good deal. More important, the Epic Pass is now just one of many combination season passes now being offered by various resorts. There are now well over a dozen.
Which one is right for you? Below, Gordy Megroz breaks down five of the best deals going. And if you’ve already narrowed it down between the industry’s two heavyweight options—the Epic Pass and the Mountain Collective, which gets you two days each at seven of North America’s best resorts, including Snowbird, Aspen Snowmass, Squaw Valley, and Whistler Blackcomb—check out the incredibly detailed and helpful infographic put together by the folks at Scoutski.com, our favorite new ski-specific travel site.
Epic Pass ($749)
Best For: Coloradans and Californians
Vail Resorts owns or operates five world-class ski areas in Colorado (including Breckenridge and Beaver Creek), three of the best resorts in California (Northstar, Heavenly, and Kirkwood), plus the Canyons and Park City in Utah. The Epic Pass offers unrestricted access to all of them and more (18 resorts total), including five days of free skiing at Verbier, Switzerland; Arlberg, Austria; and Les Trois Vallées, France—three of Europe’s finest mountains. epicpass.com
Mountain Collective ($389)
Best For: The Stormchaser
Five hundred fourteen inches. Four hundred sixty inches. Those are the annual snowfalls at Alta and Jackson Hole, respectively, just two of the ski areas included in the Mountain Collective pass, which also covers 13 other resorts, among them Snowbird, Aspen Snowmass, and Whistler Blackcomb. The pass gets you two days at each resort, plus up to 35 percent off lodging and 50 percent off additional tickets. mountaincollective.com
Powder Alliance Pass (from $299)
Best For: The Sampler
The premise of the Powder Alliance is brilliant. It works like this: you buy a pass at your home resort (or the mountain you intend to visit the most) and receive three days at each of the Alliance’s 12 other member hills, which include Snowbasin, Utah; Stevens Pass, Washington; and Schweitzer, Idaho. powderalliance.com
New England Pass ($1,085)
Best For: The East Coaster
There are a few other combo passes in the Northeast, but the New England Pass gets you the greatest variety. Sugarloaf has some fantastic expert terrain, including 580 acres of new glades in Burnt Mountain and Brackett Basin. Nearby Sunday River has poured over $1 million into snowmaking this season. And the terrain park at Loon Mountain, New Hampshire, is one of the region’s best. newenglandpass.com
Monarch Mountain Season Pass ($430)
Best For: Frequent Fliers
This pass gets you a varying number of days of skiing at seven Colorado mountains and 27 resorts across nine additional states, plus unlimited access to four other resorts in two countries. Among the gems you can explore are Grand Targhee, Wyoming (three days); Silverton, Colorado, home to cliffy, expert-only hike-to terrain (one day); and sleeper European destinations like Austria’s Hochkossen, a small resort with lots of family-friendly terrain and incredible views of the Kaiser mountains. skimonarch.com