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TravelHere's how to choose the best ski pass for you this season

Here’s how to choose the best ski pass for you this season

Although most of us are looking forward to spending the next few months at the beach, it’s never too early to think about winter. While planning far in advance can feel daunting for some, now is actually one of the best times to purchase your 2024-2025 season ski pass. In fact, all season passes for next year have already been announced, with prices of some options slated to quickly rise in the near future.

While many region- and mountain-specific passes are available, there are four main ski pass options for North American skiers and snowboarders: the Epic Pass, the Ikon Pass, the Mountain Collective and the Indy Pass.

If your family only takes one or two trips to the mountains in a season, you may reasonably think a season pass isn’t for you. Believe it or not, this often isn’t true.

Single-day lift tickets often cost more than $200 at major mountains, and annual passes start at around $300 for skiing throughout the year. So, many snow-loving families will be better off selecting a pass than paying individual lift ticket prices, even if they only use it a few times. This is especially true now that several passes have options designed for those who plan to ski for just a few days.

Here’s a look at the four main ski passes to help you decide which will be the best option for you this ski season.

Telluride is included with some Epic Passes. SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

Ikon Pass

The Ikon Pass allows you to ski at about 50 destinations worldwide. This includes popular ski resorts such as Winter Park, Aspen Snowmass, Copper Mountain, Palisades Tahoe, Mammoth Mountain, Stratton Mountain, Sugarbush and Mont Tremblant.

Related: Hotels Near Ikon Ski Pass Resorts You Can Book With Points

Since there are many types of skiers out there, Ikon offers four different pass options. This allows you to purchase the pass that works for you and your family — while allowing you to save money along the way.

The full-access Ikon Pass gives you unlimited access to 17 resorts and up to seven days at 41 additional destinations throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, Japan and Australia. The beauty of this pass is there are no date restrictions, so you could hypothetically ski every day this winter. This pass is currently marked at $1,359 for adults (23 years and older), but you’ll find discounted pricing for children, college students, nurses and military members.

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If you aren’t looking to ski as much — or during peak time periods — you can instead opt for the Ikon Base Pass.

This option has blackout dates and caps you at five ski days at select resorts. Some resorts are excluded. The Ikon Base Pass is currently $969 for adults. Similar to the full-access pass, there’s cheaper pricing for children, college students, nurses and military members.

If you want to ski Jackson Hole, Aspen Snowmass, Deer Valley, Sun Valley, Alta, Snowbasin and Taos, you can instead purchase the Ikon Base Plus Pass for an additional $250.


If you think you’ll hit the slopes less than a handful of times this winter, you can instead purchase a two-day, three-day or four-day pass option. For an adult lift ticket, this means you can ski for as little as $120 per day. The dates do not need to be consecutive or at the same resort. For example, you can use it for two days at Steamboat and another two days at Mammoth Mountain.

Both the Ikon Pass and Ikon Base Pass offer friends-and-family discounts on lift tickets, which provide 25% off the regular ticket window price for your buddies. You can use this at all Ikon Pass mountains during the season — except for some of the international resorts — and blackout dates apply. (Note: This benefit does not come with the Ikon Session four-day pass, any of the child passes or the passes for kids age 4 and younger.) You’ll receive a slight discount on food, retail and more at select resort destinations.

If you purchase an Ikon Pass for the 2024-2025 ski season but don’t expect to use it anymore because your plans changed, you’ll have the option to defer the cost toward a 2025-2026 Ikon Pass — no questions asked. You can make this decision until Dec. 12 if the pass is wholly unused.

Related: I had a free day in Denver and decided to take the ski train


Epic Pass

One of the biggest and most popular passes available is the Epic Pass, which offers options that cater to each individual skier or rider.

The Epic Pass is less expensive than the competing Ikon Pass and offers access to 38 destinations within the U.S. and many additional resorts throughout Canada, Europe, Australia and Japan. Some more well-known resorts include Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Park City, Northstar, Heavenly, Stowe, Okemo and Whistler Blackcomb.

Related: The right — and wrong — age for kids to start skiing

If you want to ski throughout the country most days of the week, you’ll want to look into the full Epic Pass — especially since you have until May 27 to purchase the pass at the lowest price of the season.

At $982 for an adult pass or $501 for a child pass (ages 5 to 12), you’ll receive unlimited skiing at almost all locations with no blackout dates. (In the U.S., Telluride is the one location where you’ll be capped at just seven days.)

The Epic Local Pass, on the other hand, includes access to most (though not all) of the same resorts, but you’ll have some peak-date restrictions at select resorts. Pricing is less expensive — just $731 for an adult pass, $591 for kids ages 13 through 18 and $380 for children ages 5 through 12.

If you are in the military (current, active or dependent), are a person with disabilities or are in college, you can purchase some of the passes at a discount.

If you don’t plan to ski more than seven days in the season, you can personalize the Epic Day Pass with the exact number of lift ticket days you need. Resorts will fall into one of three categories, so the less expensive resorts will come with a slightly lower pass price. Rates will also depend on whether you are traveling on a holiday.

With this option, you can ultimately ski for as little as $44 per day for adults or $23 per day for kids.

In addition to the Epic Pass and Epic Local Pass, there are various other regional pass options. This is great for those looking to ski in a specific region.

All 2024-2025 Epic Pass purchases come with free coverage that protects you against job loss, resort closure, stay-at-home orders and more. Note that this built-in coverage comes with caveats, but it will provide actual refunds, not just future credit.

Ski at Stowe with the Epic Pass. JENNIFER YELLIN/THE POINTS GUY

Similar to the last few years, you’ll also receive access to Epic Mountain Rewards, which will provide discounted perks, including 20% off ski lessons, lodging, food and rentals. This discount is available at all Vail-owned resorts (not partner resorts) and extends to all passholders, even those who just purchase the Epic Day Pass.

Most Epic passes also come with Ski With a Friend Tickets and Buddy Tickets — discounted tickets for friends and family members skiing with you. If you want to ensure to receive Buddy Tickets, which offer fixed pricing at each resort, you’ll want to make sure to purchase your pass by May 27. After that date, Buddy Tickets most likely won’t come with the pass, but you’ll still receive Ski With a Friend Tickets, where the ticket price fluctuates based on the particular day you’re looking to ski.

Related: How to ski and stay in Park City with points and miles

The See Forever run in Telluride. SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

Mountain Collective

Mountain Collective has a family of 25 resorts, including big names such as Aspen Snowmass, Taos, Banff, Jackson Hole, Sun Valley and Snowbasin.

With the pass, you get two included days of skiing/boarding at each resort with no blackout dates; then, you get 50% off additional ski days. Notably, there are no holiday restrictions with this pass, which can be huge if you’re planning a ski trip during peak weeks.

Related: 8 tips for a successful multigenerational ski trip

Mountain Collective sells a limited number of passes at each cash rate before the pass typically increases. Right now, the pass costs $605 for adults, $485 for teens ages 13 through 18, and $205 for children 12 and younger.

Obviously, the more you ski at the different participating resorts, the lower your daily cost. Generally, the Mountain Collective pass pays off after four or five days of skiing at the current rates.

Stunning mountain vistas at the Viewline Resort Snowmass. SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

Indy Pass

This pass came on the scene at the beginning of the 2019 ski season and has gained popularity in the past few years.

The Indy Pass works similarly to the Mountain Collective, where you are capped at a certain number of days per resort. However, with more than 180 smaller, independently owned ski resorts eligible, there is no shortage of terrain. Those who enjoy cross-country skiing will even have access to many cross-country resorts (included in the total number of resorts).

With this pass, you’ll receive two days at each participating resort. If you want to ski a third day, you’ll receive 25% off the ticket-window pricing.

Unfortunately, all passes sold out back in March. However, you can sign up for their waitlist in case pass sales resurface for this winter. Last year, passes sold out around the same time frame, but sales reopened again in the fall for a short period.

On the chance you can purchase a pass for this winter — or you’re even planning ahead for next year — the Indy Pass offers two options: the Indy+ Pass and the Indy Base Pass. The Indy+ Pass allows you to visit all the resorts any day the mountain is open, while the slightly less expensive Indy Base Pass comes with blackout dates. (There’s no set blackout date time frame; instead, each individual resort has its own list.)

When the pass options were available a few months ago, the Indy+ Pass was $469 for adults and $259 for children 12 and younger, while the Indy Base Pass was just $349 for adults and $199 for children 12 and younger. There’s also a cross-country resort access pass for less.

Additionally, there’s an entire list of allied resorts where, as a passholder, you’ll receive discounts on daily lift tickets (50% off midweek and non-peak weekend prices and 25% off posted holidays and peak weekends).

As you can see, the Indy Pass is a significantly more affordable alternative to the Epic, Ikon and Mountain Collective options. Since these resorts are not part of the bigger passes, you’ll typically see fewer crowds and more reasonable pricing for lessons, too. Those with the Indy Pass can also receive lodging deals at specific mountains.

It might be difficult to snag the pass for the 2024-2025 season. Still, it’s a great option to keep in mind for next year — or if the waitlist happens to open up later this year (which did happen in 2023).

You can preview the Indy Pass mountains by region: West, Rockies, Midwest, East, Mid-Atlantic and Japan.

Skiing at Waterville Valley with the Indy Pass. JENNIFER YELLIN/THE POINTS GUY

Which ski pass is the best?

The million-dollar (or $300 to $1,000-plus) question: Which annual ski pass is best?

If you want an affordable ski pass that gives you access to the largest number of resorts possible, then the Indy Pass is the way to go. It’s about a third of the price of the other passes (though you are capped at two days per resort). And while it’s no longer (currently) available for sale, fingers crossed they open the waitlist for additional pass sales.

For access to a large number of upscale ski resorts, it’s hard to beat the Epic Pass. The local version of the pass is also great if you aren’t visiting on most peak days.

The Ikon Pass can also offer unlimited skiing at many other desirable resorts.

Which pass is best depends on where you prefer to ski during winter.

If you still want to visit some of the bigger-name mountains but are looking at a few shorter ski trips to different mountains, then the Mountain Collective will give you access to popular mountains at a lower price point. You just need to be willing to switch up your resorts of choice.

The more restrictive pass tiers in the Ikon and Epic families are also good ways to save money if you don’t want to ski during Christmas, Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend or Presidents Day weekend.

With so many pass options, it’s best to map out your desired resorts before figuring out which pass works best. Of course, the price may play a big part in your decision as well.

Skiing in Breckenridge. SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

Bottom line

Choosing an annual ski pass is not an easy decision. Ski passes are usually on sale through the fall, so there’s time to decide. However, we are already past early pricing discounts for some passes, so you don’t want the next-tier pricing to melt away.

When making a pass decision, be sure to think about where you want to ski, when you want to ski, if you need to spread out payments, how frequently you want to hit the slopes and what the protections are if the season throws us some curveballs.

I also like to consider which resort areas have points-friendly hotels, so we can stay near the mountain without spending a chunk of change on lodging. To make the decision tougher, some mountains are on more than one pass. So, grab a cup of hot cocoa and map out all the details for your winter ski trips while comparing the specifics of each program.

My family will be purchasing the Epic Pass for the fourth year in a row. This past winter, we skied more than 20 days between resorts in New Hampshire (our home mountain), Vermont and Colorado. The pass brought our daily cost to around $30 per day — and even less for my kids. Compared to regular lift prices, this proved to be an incredible deal.

Even if you don’t find yourself at the mountain every weekend, like my family, there’s a good chance that planning ahead and purchasing a pass will save you a good chunk of change for next winter.


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