Dropping in at Big Sky Resort.
Dropping in at Big Sky Resort. (Photo: Ryan Krueger/TandemStock)

Why You Should Buy a Ski Pass Right Now

Resorts offer big discounts and bigger perks to those who buy a 2018–19 ski pass in the next few weeks

Dropping in at Big Sky Resort.
Ryan Krueger/TandemStock(Photo)

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April is skiing’s most underrated month. There are warmer temperatures, no lift lines, and plenty of season-ending parties and pond skims. Right now there are still dozens of resorts open, including many in the Northeast, where nor’easters blanketed the region throughout March. If you didn’t know, it’s also the best time to buy next season’s ski pass.

Don’t believe me? Look at Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass ($899), which is good for unlimited skiing at 15 North American resorts and limited skiing at 46 others in eight countries. If you buy before April 15, you also get six transferable buddy tickets. Until April 9, the new Ikon Pass, which includes skiing at 26 resorts, is offering $250 off a kids’ pass (making it $199) when you also buy an adult pass ($899). Buy the Mountain Collective pass this spring, good for two days at resorts like Snowbird, Aspen, and Jackson Hole ($409), and a child’s pass will cost you just $1.

Ski areas have long offered lower pricing tiers in spring and summer to help with cash flow and as a hedge against a potentially dry upcoming season. But after the lackluster snowfall this season in California and much of Colorado, resorts are stepping up the promos in hopes of getting skiers to commit.

On the East Coast, passes at many of New Hampshire’s resorts, including Waterville Valley and Loon, have better pricing through the spring. Pass prices at Maine’s Sunday River and Sugarloaf will go up after April 30. At Wyoming’s Jackson Hole, they’re offering the all-access Grand Pass before June for $180 cheaper than the August price (normally $1,579), and you get five buddy passes (good for 50 percent off a lift ticket).

One offer with potential for added adventure comes from Montana’s Big Sky Resort. Purchase an unlimited Gold Pass for next season ($1,299) by April 8, and riders over 18 are entered into a drawing to win a heli-ski day on the resort after the season ends. The winner, two friends, and a guide and photographer will have the whole mountain to themselves, and a helicopter will drop everyone at the 11,166-foot summit of Lone Peak for as many runs as they can handle between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. “Last year’s closing day, April 23, was a powder day, and we are getting snow right now, so the skiing should be great,” says Big Sky spokeswoman Chelsi Moy. There’ll also be a champagne brunch at the Lone Peak summit before the final run.

Lone Peak is best known for runs like the North Summit Snowfield and the Big Couloir—a 1,400-foot, sustained 50-degree slope so daunting that riders normally have to sign in with ski patrol and bring avalanche gear and a partner to be allowed in. Not ready to check Big Couloir off your bucket list yet? There are plenty of mellower runs off the south side of the peak, and the chopper will meet you wherever you end up. Either way, Moy says, “without ski patrol’s ropes, moving chair lifts or ski tracks other than your own, it’ll feel like a remote, wild mountain.”

Still want to ski now? Sunday River and Sugarloaf will let you grab a few last turns on next year’s pass. Next-season’s Ikon pass will get you free skiing every day for the rest of this season at five resorts: Squaw Valley, Blue Mountain, Mammoth, and Winter Park. Squaw Valley’s famous Cushing Crossing pond skim is April 28, and Winter Park’s Spring Splash is April 22.

All of which proves that, when it comes to buying a ski pass, it pays to be impatient. 

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