Your Ticket to a World of Ski Cultures
Want to ski in jeans, boardshorts, or lederhosen? There’s a mountain for that on the Ikon Pass.
There are a lot of things to love about skiing. Spending time outdoors with your friends, arcing high-speed turns, finding pockets of perfectly spaced glades, drinking beers in the parking lot at the end of the day. But perhaps the greatest thing is how the sport allows you to travel the world, meet new people, and experience new cultures. This is especially true if you’ve got an Ikon Pass, which gets you unlimited skiing at 41 destinations and gives you an excuse to ski everywhere from Japan to Switzerland, as well as some of the most colorful and unique mountains in North America.
Traditions of the Alps
With a foothold in both Switzerland and Italy, Zermatt Matterhorn is the quintessential Alps snowsports destination. And that's palatable from the moment you board the mountain-climbing cog railway, the best way to access the pedestrian-only alpine hamlet. Check into your chalet, with views of the pyramid-like Matterhorn, an iconic alpine summit towering over Zermatt’s cobbled streets and old churches. History and tradition run deep here—horse-drawn carriages transport skiers around town, and traditional dishes like raclette and spätzle are served nightly. And did we mention the skiing? A network of cable cars accesses the mountain’s nearly 7,500 feet of vertical drop, with terrain ranging from glaciated pistes above 12,000 feet to old-growth tree runs near the base.
Surf, Skate, Ride
California’s ubiquitous surf-skate culture is not limited to its Pacific coastline and urban centers. At Mammoth Mountain—roughly five hours from the beaches of Los Angeles—snowboarders throw skate-inspired tricks out of massive superpipes, powder-day face shots aren’t unlike getting barreled, and, thanks to 300 days of annual sunshine, goggle tans are standard protocol. At Big Bear Mountain Resort, just 100 miles from L.A., that distinctly SoCal vibe is also alive and well. You can surf in the morning and drive a couple of hours to hit the halfpipe under the lights at night. The mountain, which built the fist-known terrain park in 1989, has freestyle terrain for every level of rider, from toddler to pro.
Zen and the Art of Powder
It’s not uncommon to get six inches to a foot of light, cold snow night after night in Niseko United in January—or Japanuary, as it’s often called. And while such substantial snowfall would send most mountains into full-blown powder panic, the vibe here is Zenlike: enlightened and calm. You’ll ski bottomless powder all day, leisurely sip green tea or pop into a speakeasy for sake, and cap it all off by soaking in onsens, traditional hot springs resorts that are designed to restore and replenish. Powder skiing in Niseko is a spiritual, in-the-moment kind of experience—each snow-caked tree even houses its own spirit, called kodama.
Spirit of the Southwest
You’ll find a mystical, natural vibe in the high-desert town of Taos, an artists’ colony with deep Native American heritage, at the thousand-year-old Taos Pueblo, and sustainably minded locals living in Earthships (solar-powered homes made from found materials). Meanwhile, on the steep slopes of nearby Taos Ski Valley, the southwestern spirit takes the form of supremely dry powder and panoramic views of the Sangre de Christo range and surrounding desert. Start with a green chile breakfast burrito to power you up the bootpack along the Ridge, pick your poison from the top of the area’s lift-accessed 12,481-foot Kachina Peak, and end with a night in the newly revamped base area’s high-end hotel, the Blake.
The Upscale Difference
Revered for its five-star lodging and exceptional customer service, Deer Valley Resort has a way of making every guest feel like a VIP. Friendly mountain hosts dish on where the powder stashes are while ski valets carry your gear to the lift and store it for free overnight. Got a question? Text Deer Valley’s digital mountain concierge for the skinny on everything from where to make a dinner reservation to how to catch the free shuttle into town. Even eating here is an experience. Case in point: the Snow Park Lodge’s famous turkey chili and a seafood buffet that’ll have you going back for seconds.
A distinct western flair gives Steamboat an atmosphere that’s as hearty as it is welcoming. You’ll get a tip of a cowboy hat, a gondola-accessed BBQ dinner served at Steamboat's Thunderhead Lodge, and community-wide hoedowns where everyone knows everyone. Sleep in one of the guest ranches that dot the town, and know that Main Street was built to handle cattle drives (which still happen each summer). Steamboat’s most quintessentially western event? Each January for the past 45 years, the Cowboy Downhill has brought together Olympic skiers and ProRodeo stars in chaps for a day of lighthearted ski racing.
French Canadian Style
At Tremblant, just an hour and a half from Montreal, you can get a taste of European culture without the jetlag. You’ll find French-speaking ski instructors and sommeliers at brasseries, a quaint European-style village that’s easy to stroll through in ski boots, and DJs playing electronic dance music into the wee hours. Dine on poutine at sidewalk cafés and slip maple leaf candies into your jacket pocket for a mid-slope treat for your kids. But Tremblant’s European vibe isn’t just French—check out the Scandinave Spa, a Nordic-inspired wellness center tucked into the forest, to unwind after a long day on the slopes.
The Vermont Factor
What gives Sugarbush Resort its rustic yet cozy Vermont character? That’s easy. With 4,000 sprawling acres across four distinct peaks, this mountain is huge, but it doesn’t feel unapproachable. Homegrown skiers sport lumberjack flannels and handmade knit hats. You’ll tackle challenging steeps off the Castlerock double chair, go cat-skiing on Mount Ellen, and explore the wild backwoods of Slidebrook Basin. Then you’ll tuck into the barn-like midmountain Allyn’s Lodge for a bowl of soup by the fire or drench your waffle in local maple syrup at the base area’s Waffle Cabin. See? Tough but also comfy.
The Ikon Pass is the ski & ride season pass that unlocks worldwide adventure and real community feel. Learn more at ikonpass.com.