The Good, The Bad, and The Gnarly: Which Multi-Resort Ski Pass Should You Buy?

Recently, multi-resort ski passes have gained a lot of traction, and for good reason. One single pass gives you access to dozens of mountains, so you can easily ski around your region, the country, or even the world.

But with so many multi-resort passes to choose from, how do you know which one works from you?

Read on to learn the good, the bad, and the gnarly from 3 different multi-mountain ski passes:

1. The Ikon Pass

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The Good

The Ikon Pass’s edge is derived from its sheer numbers. With 5-7 days at 33 destinations, on 3 different continents (Japan, North America, Australia), the Ikon Pass has a lot to offer. In North America alone, its resorts span from New England to the Canadian Rockies, the Southwest to the Northwest. And New Englanders will especially love this pass. The full Ikon Pass offers a collective 21 days at Loon Mountain, Sugarloaf Mountain, and Sunday River, plus 7 at days Sugarbush in Vermont. If you can ski all that and plan a trip out west, the Ikon Pass is a slamming deal.

The Bad

The high number of resorts on this pass also comes with a high price tag. If you buy early in May the cost is cheaper, but later on, the pass will run you between $749-$1,049. Ouch. At that high price also comes blackout dates on the Base Pass, the lesser of the two options. Christmas week and long holiday weekends are a no-go for members of this pass, making it frustrating for those who ski on a school schedule.

The Gnarly

Jackson Hole is one of the most renowned ski resorts in the country, offering tons of steeps that will turn your thighs to jelly. The town of Jackson may be filled with ritzy ski bunnies, but the mountain is filled with locals that can rip. If you want to skip a day at the resort, the Teton Pass offers phenomenal backcountry skiing and incredible views (but don’t forget to pack your avalanche beacon!)

2. The Epic Pass

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The Good

The Epic Pass has all the numbers of Ikon, plus a variety of pass options. The full-priced pass has no blackout dates and offers unlimited skiing at 19 resorts, plus limited access at multiple resorts in the U.S., Canada, Japan, and Europe. The Epic Local Pass offers fewer resorts and more restrictions but still gives unlimited skiing to 10 resorts in the East and West. If you’re on a budget you can opt for a 7-day or 4-day pass, which offer many of the same resorts at a much lower price. And if Colorado is your jam, this might be the pass for you. The full pass offers unlimited skiing at Vail, Beaver Creek, A-Basin, Keystone, Breckenridge, and 7 days at Telluride.

The Bad

While still cheaper than the Ikon pass at $949, enjoying the Epic Pass may depend on your location. It’s a no-brainer for people who ski in Colorado or Tahoe, but much of the West is pretty underrepresented. At the same token, East Coast skiers with easy access to Vermont will be happy to ski Okemo and Stowe. But with only one New Hampshire resort and none in Maine, some New Englanders may want to opt for a different pass closer to home.

The Gnarly

Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort has a massive amount of terrain, breathtaking vistas around every turn, and a fun, Canadian vibe. The Peak 2 Peak Gondola is the world’s longest gondola ride, connecting Whistler to neighboring Blackcomb Mountain. Even if you didn’t like skiing, the stunning views would make the ride worth it alone. If you’re a powder hound, head to Symphony Bowl to try and find the goods. From there, you can take an exit into unpatrolled side country, where gleeful powder hoots are sure to be found.

3. The Mountain Collective

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The Good

While The Mountain Collective doesn’t offer the magnitude of the other passes, it brings something even better to the table—an affordable price tag. At only $469, The Mountain Collective is sort of younger sibling to the Ikon Pass. It offers many of the same resorts (Big Sky, Alta, Snowbird, Taos, Sugarbush, Jackson Hole) at nearly half the price. Even better, the Mountain Collective has no blackout dates, so you can happily plan trips over winter break and long weekends.

The Bad

The low price of The Mountain Collective is matched with a low number of ski days. Offering 2 days at each of its 17 resorts, the Mountain Collective makes it pretty difficult to take a weeklong ski trip. Your best bet would be to plan a trip where the mountains are close together. Head to Utah and ski two days at Alta (skiers only!), 2 days at Snowbird, and 2 days at Snowbasin. Or make the trip north to Canada to ski Lake Louise, Banff Sunshine, and Revelstoke, a 2.5-hour drive from the other Canadian resorts.

The Gnarly

Cloistered in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range in northern New Mexico, Taos is somewhat off the beaten path—but well worth the trip. Before 2005, Taos Ski Valley was a skiers-only mountain, but now snowboarders are also welcomed. Taos is known for its crazy steep runs, its inbound hiking, and it’s quirky and friendly locals. If you need to take a day off from skiing, you can explore the funky town of Taos or take a trip to nearby natural hot springs, for a nice long soak.

There you have it—three passes filled with what dreams are made of. So pick your pass, grab your gear, and pray for some snow. Winter is coming. Where will you go first?

© 2019 Jersey Griggs.