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Comparing Multiple-Resort Season Ski Passes for 2018-2019

Season passes used to be for locals only. But now anybody who is going to put in more than a single long weekend in Colorado, Utah or elsewhere would be well advised to examine their season pass options as they can pay for themselves quickly. Almost all of the top resorts in North America - Jackson Hole, Aspen, Snowbird, Alta, Whistler, Vail, Park City - can be had as some part of a larger pass.

The creation of Alterra Mountain Co. has created an even more dynamic environment for ski passes, with two expansive, coast-to-coast options for skiers: Alterra's Ikon Pass, and Vail's Epic Pass. The winter of 2018-2019 will be the first in which these titans face off. Skiers who put in at least five days will be close to earning their money back when buying either of the full-fledged versions of the passes, which will retail for around $900.

We want to help you choose.

So the crew at ZRankings did all the research for you. We calculated the total acreage, the overall ratings of each pass's resort portfolio, its price, the average resort snow quality and more. Then we crunched the numbers so that you can figure out which pass is the best investment for you, where you'll get the most bang for your buck and what you'll need to do to get each pass's highest value. So sit back, marvel at your options and buy quickly before the prices go up—and they're always going up.

Price
# of Mountains
Avg PAF
(West)
Top 5 Avg PAF
Avg Snow Score (West)
Top 5 Avg Snow Score
Avg True Snowfall (West)
Full Season Pass?
Free days @ each resort
Half days @ each resort
Epic Pass
$899
No. of Mountains
13
83.4
88.0
70.7
75.5
326.1
Yes
Unlimited
N/A
Ikon Pass
$899
No. of Mountains
30
79.0
92.1
69.2
84.6
279.9
Yes
Unlimited
N/A
Mountain Collective
$459
No. of Mountains
16
81.7
91.6
68.9
80.6
310.3
No
2
Unlimited
Powder Alliance
differs
No. of Mountains
14
66.9
78.0
59.2
66.8
312.1
No
3
0

Epic Pass

Vail Ski Resort
Heavenly
Beaver Creek Resort

Presented by Vail Resorts, the Epic Pass is among the pioneers in the business of bundling season passes. With the Epic Pass you'll get unlimited access to the twelve North American resorts of Vail Resorts: Beaver Creek, Whistler-Blackcomb, Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone, Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, A-Basin, Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton, and Wilmot. Internationally, Australia's Perisher resort is also Epic.

New for 2018-2019: the vanguard resort of southwest Colorado, Telluride, will be part of the full Epic Pass, which will grant skiers seven days at the mountain.

The comparative chart above focuses on the full Epic Pass, which is $899. There is another version of this pass, the Local's Epic Pass, which runs around $600 and comes with some blackout restrictions, which are detailed below.

In total, the Epic Pass grants access to 31,650 acres of ski terrain. The average PAF of the resorts, excluding the three urban resorts, is a respectable 81.3 and the average true annual snowfall of those resorts is 320 inches.

Quite a lineup.

With Wilmot Mountain in Southeast Wisconsin, Vail's tally of Midwestern urban resorts is up to three. Wilmot is an hour from Chicago and less than an hour from Milwaukee, Afton Alps is less than an hour from Minneapolis and Mt. Brighton is less than an hour from Detroit. These hills are great for teaching the kids and give skiers in these markets extra incentive to go with the Epic Pass, which can double as the local pass and the vacation pass.

If you want to spend less and can deal with restrictions and blackout dates, the Epic Local Pass is a more affordable option. You'll get unlimited access to Breckenridge, Keystone, Wilmot, Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton, Arapahoe Basin and 10 days of holiday-restricted access to Vail and Beaver Creek plus restricted access to Park City, Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood.

If you're not going to ski more than 7 days, the Epic 7-Day is an excellent option with 7 days unrestricted accessto the whole Vail empire; at about $600, it also includes 7 free days at the three urban resorts. A similar 4-day pass can also be purchased for about $400.

  Resort
True
Snowfall*
Lift
Ticket
Days to
Payback
     Acreage PAF
Score
Afton Alps
MN
55 in $56 16.1 300 acres 27.9 more
Kirkwood
CA
463 in $99 9.1 2300 acres 81.7 more
Vail Ski Resort
CO
357 in $165 5.4 5289 acres 92.3 more
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area
CO
316 in $76 11.8 900 acres 80.7 more
Beaver Creek Resort
CO
328 in $165 5.4 1815 acres 87.3 more
Whistler
BC
417 in $78 11.5 8171 acres 89.1 more
Telluride Ski Resort
CO
279 in NA N/A 2000 acres 90.2 more
Breckenridge Ski Resort
CO
283 in $154 5.8 2358 acres 81.1 more
Park City Mountain Resort
UT
290 in $122 7.4 7300 acres 87.4 more
Keystone Resort
CO
235 in $125 7.2 3148 acres 80.0 more
Heavenly
CA
322 in $125 7.2 4800 acres 73.7 more
Northstar at Tahoe
CA
316 in $130 6.9 3170 acres 73.5 more
Stowe Mountain Resort
VT
307 in $92 9.8 485 acres 67.7 more

Ikon Pass

Stratton Mountain
Winter Park Ski Resort
Snowbird

The Ikon Pass is a full-on, fire-breathing challenger to Vail's Epic Pass. The Mountain Collective was the expeditionary force that held back Vail's ambitions as well as it could for several years, but the Ikon Pass is the vehicle that can actually match Vail mountain by mountain, vacation by vacation.

As for which of these two ski passes skiers should buy, we put together something on that: Epic Pass vs. Ikon Pass.

The Ikon Pass itself is a fantastic asset to those who choose to buy it. It offers full, unlimited access to flagship ski resorts across Colorado and California:

Steamboat
Winter Park
Copper Mountain
Mammoth
Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows

And it also gets skiers into Eldora, a family spot on the Denver side of the range.

In addition, the Ikon Pass comes with limited access—either 5 or 7 days, depending if skiers buy the full version of the pass ($900) or the Base version ($600) to a panoply of of other stalwart ski resorts, including a slew of mountains that are not owned by Ikon's parent, Alterra. Among this group:

Jackson Hole
Snowbird and Alta
Big Sky
Aspen - all four mountains
Deer Valley (Alterra owned)

Many skiers will be pushed toward the Ikon Pass thanks to these independent resorts. A family could combine a week trip during the holidays, another week at spring break and a long weekend trip to a combination of resorts such as Jackson Hole, Deer Valley and Steamboat—with all skiing covered by the Ikon Pass. This is the kind of top-shelf variety that, before, was only available to Epic Pass holders.

In the east, the Ikon pass offers full access to a wide collection of ski resorts, from Loon Mountain, Killington and Sunday River, among others. Skiers who spend serious time mining New England will want to consider the Ikon Pass.

Ikon passholders also receive the ability to purchase up to 10 single-day lift tickets at 25% off for friends and family. This discount is valid at all Ikon Pass destinations.

  Resort
True
Snowfall*
Lift
Ticket
     Acreage PAF
Score
Alta Ski Area
UT
521 in $89 2200 acres 96.9 more
Snowbird
UT
466 in $98 2500 acres 96.7 more
Solitude Mountain Resort
UT
400 in NA 1200 acres 85.5 more
Winter Park Ski Resort
CO
348 in $144 3081 acres 87.3 more
Mammoth
CA
356 in $125 3500 acres 84.8 more
Aspen Snowmass
CO
294 in $149 3132 acres 87.5 more
Steamboat Ski Resort
CO
371 in $99 2965 acres 85.3 more
Copper Mountain
CO
280 in $78 2465 acres 78.7 more
Jackson Hole
WY
368 in $130 2500 acres 99.0 more
Revelstoke
BC
359 in NA 3031 acres 84.4 more
Sunshine Village
AB
257 in $70 3358 acres 72.6 more
Aspen Highlands
CO
253 in $149 1028 acres 81.2 more
Deer Valley Resort
UT
275 in NA 2026 acres 80.4 more
Aspen Mountain - Ajax
CO
252 in $149 675 acres 81.8 more
Eldora Mountain Resort
CO
225 in NA 680 acres 59.9 more
Alpine Meadows
CA
364 in $139 2400 acres 77.1 more
Squaw Valley
CA
368 in $139 3600 acres 83.4 more
June Mountain
CA
266 in $89 500 acres 54.5 more
Aspen Buttermilk
CO
200 in $149 470 acres 66.2 more
Lake Louise Ski Area
AB
169 in $68 4200 acres 63.1 more
Killington
VT
240 in NA 752 acres 60.6 more
Bear Mountain Resort - CA
CA
83 in $79 748 acres 47.8 more
Blue Mountain
ON
110 in NA 251 acres 49.0 more
Sunday River Ski Resort
ME
150 in NA 743 acres 52.3 more
Sugarloaf
ME
173 in NA 1056 acres 51.0 more
Mont Tremblant
QC
156 in NA 654 acres 50.5 more
Stratton Mountain
VT
188 in NA 600 acres 46.3 more
Snowshoe Mountain
WV
156 in NA 235 acres 38.1 more
Loon Mountain
NH
170 in NA 370 acres 41.7 more
Big Sky Resort
MT
284 in NA 5809 acres 84.4 more

Mountain Collective

Taos Ski Resort
Sunshine Village
Lake Louise Ski Area
Founded in 2012, the Mountain Collective Pass was the first competitor to Vail's Epic Pass. A group of elite ski resorts came together to form the Collective as a way to combat the sheer awesomeness of the Epic Pass. Rather than offering unlimited skiing at each resort, the Collective created something different entirely.

Here's how it works: with the purchase of the pass, skiers are granted access to two free days at each ski destination. There are 10 North American destinations that include 17 mountains, which are listed below in a table.

Certain mountains are grouped together into destinations. Alta and Snowbird are one destination; the four Aspen mountains are one destination; Mt. Norquay, Lake Louise and Sunshine Village are one destination; and Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows are one destination. Sun Valley, Jackson Hole, Stowe, Taos Whistler and Mammoth are single resort destinations.

The number of resorts in the Collective keeps growing, with Sun Valley as this year's newest addition. Also as of this year, New Zealand's Coronet Peak/The Remarkables is a full Mountain Collective partner, joining the other international destination, Thredbo of Australia.

With the MCP, you're getting access to the top four ranked resorts in North America: Jackson Hole, Snowbird, Whistler and Alta. So while it might not be unlimited access, the MCP brings plenty of elite powder and terrain. You're also getting 41,757 acres of skiable North American terrain and an average PAF (Western resorts only) of 82.9. The average true snowfall at Collective resorts is 312 inches. And you can't beat the quality of the snow. Alta has a perfect total snow score; Snowbird isn't far behind with a score of 95.1.

It's a total of 20 days of skiing with the MCP for $379. Supply is limited at this price, so expect prices to go up throughout the year as the 2016-17 ski season draws nearer. Get it right now and you'll get a kids pass for only $1. You'll also get an additional day at the resort of your choice.

Perhaps the best part of the deal is the deal you get for additional lift tickets after your two days at each destination. These tickets are discounted 50% at the ticket counter as long as supplies last. Not only does mean you're not limited to just two days at each destination but it means that the MCP can be used as a local pass.

Here's the math: If Jackson is your local mountain, you'll use your two days early in the season and each additional day will be just $65, rather than the full priced $130. With a season pass to Jackson priced at $1760, you would need to ski 23 days before you'd lose money on the MCP. By the time you've skied four days at Jackson using the MCP you've already saved money in comparison to buying daily lift tickets.

One thing you're not getting with the MCP is access to Colorado. You've got the four Aspen mountains but that's it. Unless you swear by Aspen, if you're Colorado located this might not be the best pass for you. In comparison, the Epic Pass includes Beaver Creek, Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone and A-Basin.

With an Eastern resort, Stowe Mountain, in the Collective, the MCP hopes to set itself apart from the Epic Pass, which only goes as East as the Detroit area. Season passes at Stowe cost the exorbitant amount of $2,224. Therefore, if you plan on taking one winter trip West, you're better off with the MCP. Even without that trip, you'd need to ski 40 days before you'd lose money on the MC. The Collective features no urban resorts like the Epic Pass does.

  Resort
True
Snowfall*
Lift
Ticket
Days to
Payback
     Acreage PAF
Score
Alta Ski Area
UT
521 in $89 8.3 2200 acres 96.9 more
Snowbird
UT
466 in $98 7.4 2500 acres 96.7 more
Mammoth
CA
356 in $125 5.3 3500 acres 84.8 more
Aspen Snowmass
CO
294 in $149 4.2 3132 acres 87.5 more
Jackson Hole
WY
368 in $130 5.1 2500 acres 99.0 more
Revelstoke
BC
359 in NA N/A 3031 acres 84.4 more
Sunshine Village
AB
257 in $70 11.1 3358 acres 72.6 more
Aspen Highlands
CO
253 in $149 4.2 1028 acres 81.2 more
Taos Ski Resort
NM
258 in $86 8.7 1294 acres 80.9 more
Aspen Mountain - Ajax
CO
252 in $149 4.2 675 acres 81.8 more
Alpine Meadows
CA
364 in $139 4.6 2400 acres 77.1 more
Squaw Valley
CA
368 in $139 4.6 3600 acres 83.4 more
Aspen Buttermilk
CO
200 in $149 4.2 470 acres 66.2 more
Sun Valley Ski Resort
ID
195 in $115 6.0 2054 acres 67.7 more
Lake Louise Ski Area
AB
169 in $68 11.5 4200 acres 63.1 more
Big Sky Resort
MT
284 in NA N/A 5809 acres 84.4 more

Powder Alliance

Timberline Lodge
Crested Butte Ski Resort
Angel Fire Resort
  Resort
True
Snowfall*
Lift
Ticket
Summit
Elevation
     Acreage PAF
Score
Whitewater
BC
393 in NA 6567 ft 1184 acres 85.6 more
Stevens Pass Resort
WA
475 in NA 5845 ft 1125 acres 79.8 more
Timberline Lodge
OR
450 in NA 8540 ft 1415 acres 74.6 more
Snowbasin Ski Resort
UT
313 in NA 9250 ft 2820 acres 75.8 more
Bridger Bowl Ski Area
MT
301 in NA 8800 ft 2000 acres 74.4 more
Mt Hood Meadows
OR
453 in NA 7300 ft 2150 acres 75.6 more
Crested Butte Ski Resort
CO
255 in $108 11875 ft 1547 acres 76.4 more
Sierra-at-Tahoe
CA
390 in NA 8852 ft 2000 acres 68.8 more
Arizona Snowbowl
AZ
204 in $69 11500 ft 777 acres 54.8 more
Angel Fire Resort
NM
210 in NA 10677 ft 445 acres 51.7 more
Silver Star Mountain Resort
BC
223 in NA 6280 ft 3065 acres 59.6 more
Schweitzer Mountain Resort
ID
280 in NA 6400 ft 2900 acres 67.3 more
China Peak
CA
300 in NA 8709 ft 430 acres 52.2 more
Mountain High Resort
CA
122 in NA 8200 ft 290 acres 40.8 more