Around March and April every year we start getting bombarded with emails and adds trying to get us to spend $700-1000 for an Epic or Ikon pass. Do these passes really make sense? Should you buy an Epic or Ikon Pass? Let’s discuss trip planning and how to make sure your really saving money with that big pricy pass.
The best time to plan for next year’s Epic or Ikon Pass is January and February.
The time to start thinking about whether you want to buy an Epic or Ikon Pass is January and February. During this time you can go look up the individual day and multi-day ticket prices at any ski resort. You can see what discount you’re getting for buying online a week to several weeks ahead of time.
Once the Ikon and Epic pass goes on sale in the spring you’ll be past the time of year that you might be doing trips and the daily and multi-day ticket prices won’t be available.
Do you live near a resort that has pass benefits?
Here in Michigan, only Mt Brighton is on the Epic Pass. Mt Brighton by itself isn’t really an attraction. If you go to Mt Brighton and look at the info you’ll see that they will subtract any money you spend on Mt Brighton tickets from online lift ticket sales to the large Epic resorts. In this instance, you can ski Mt Brighton essentially for free whether you buy an Epic Pass or not even if your buying as much as a single day ticket to any big Epic resort.
For the Ikon Pass, we get a lot more benefits. You get days at Boyne Mountain, Boyne Highlands and a season pass to Blue Mountain, Ontario. You can factor in days you want to spend at those places when considering if Ikon makes sense. Money spent on day passes purchased at a small Ikon resort can’t be used towards other Ikon resorts.
Where do you want to go next year
I firmly believe in planning where I want to ski based on where I want to ski and not just where an Ikon or Epic pass is available. I have a few friends that only ski places based on the pass and I think they are missing out on a lot of options.
Out west, Powder Mountain is an awesome place to ski but not on a pass. Places like Loveland Pass in Colorado make for a great ski day too.
How many days are you skiing?
Now is a good time to think about how many trips you’re going to take next year and how many days you want to ski. I know I’m going to get a few weekenders, mostly local. I’m going to fly out west once or twice, three times if I’m really really lucky these days.
Lift ticket prices during the times you want to go.
It’s time to think about where you want to ski next year and have a look at what ticket prices are now for that week next year. Chances are they will be pretty similar.
We typically go to Whistler during the first week of April for a lot of years. We either ski for 4 or 5 days. Our tickets would cost $384 or $472 depending on the number of days.
If we want to go out to Colorado and ski Breckenridge for a few days for a long weekend it will run us $500 to buy the ticket a few weeks before the trip.
If we want to go to Squaw Valley for a 5 day trip in March then we have to buy a combination of 2 day passes and a single day pass for $682.
Say we wanted to go to Jackson Hole for a long weekend in March. Something we’ve also done in recent years. The ticket would run us $420 for 3 days.
What do the Ikon and Epic Pass cost?
Lets look at what the passes cost last year. Expect some degree of price increase for next year. Over crowding was a big problem at Ikon Pass resorts the past 2 winters so expect some structural change (price increase) in the coming years to address it.
- The Ikon Base Pass has a few unrestricted passes on it including Blue Mountain, Ontario and Mount Tremblant
- The Ikon Base Pass has restrictions for Thanksgiving, Christmas-New Years, MLK and Presidents Day on many of it’s destinations. This includes Boyne and Boyne Highlands.
Epic Pass – Unlimited days – $969 Adults
- Unlimited days at 37 Vail ownerd resorts
- Limited Days without restriction at partner resorts
Epic Local Pass – $719 – Adults
- Unlimited days at 9 Vail owned resorts.
- Unlimited days with holiday restrictions (No Thanksgiving, Christmas – New Years, MLK and Presidents Day) at the other Vail owned resorts
- Limited Days without restriction at partner resorts
Epic Day Passes 1-7 Days
- 1 day through 7 day passes. They around $100/day. There is a slight discount for more days.
Is the Epic Pass saving you money?
Now that you know what the lift tickets will cost, you can look at what the passes cost when they come out and figure it out. In our case, buying a 5 day ticket, 1 week in advance at Whistler is a few hundred cheaper than buying an Epic Pass. Unless we do a second trip out west or to Vermont it will cost us more to buy the pass.
If I can add a 3 day weekend in Colorado $501 or Lake Tahoe it starts making a lot more sense. $472 + $501 = $973. In this case it will save a couple hundred with the Epic Local Pass ($719) over buying tickets.
Is the Ikon Pass saving you money?
For a single trip out west, either short trip to Jackson Hole ($420) or 5 days of skiing at Squaw Valley ($681) the pass isn’t saving you money. The Base Ikon Pass $649 is very slightly less expensive than the 5 day ticket by itself.
Add in the fact that you get unlimited days at Blue Mountain and 5 days at Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands and you can do a lot of local skiing on the pass. We regularly go to all 3 resorts at least once each winter. The Boynes have day tickets that go for $90+ and Blue Mountain around $70 with the current exchange rate.
The Ikon Pass has a lot of appeal if your living in Michigan for the local resort access if you happen to want to go ski somewhere out west that is on the Ikon Pass.
If something happens you are committed to buying it.
These passes are pretty rigid. Once you give them the money it’s very hard to get it back. I have a friend who was able to transfer a Mountain Collective pass but not get a refund. I have 2 other friends who had life events happen and were not able to get refunds with the purchase insurance even with doctors notes giving reasons why they couldn’t ski.
If your only saving a couple hundred, you have to ask whether it’s really worth it verse buying tickets 1-2 weeks before your trip. Flexibility has some value. If something happens that you can’t use the pass it is money gone that you otherwise would still have.
Because of Covid19, the passes are offering some guarantees that the passes can be transferred to the following winter if you are unable to use it. This will probably only be a 1 winter thing for winter 20/21
Epic Pass and Ikon Pass – Pro’s and Con’s for Michigan Skiers
- Season pass unlimited access to 7 resorts out west and New England. More for unlimited pass
- Season pass access to Mt Brighton
- The only local access is for Mt Brighton
- Blackout dates during holidays for base/local pass
- Unlimited access to Blue Mountain, ON
- Limited access to Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands (Blackout during holidays for base pass)
- Limited access to many resorts out west and out east (Blackout during holidays for base pass)
- Unlimited access to several out west resorts (Copper Mountain, Winter Park, etc)
- Blackout dates during most holidays for the base pass at many resorts
- You only get 5 days at many resorts even with the higher level pass
Michigan skier’s. Which is better Ikon or Epic Pass
Which pass do you plan on buying next year if any at all?
You might also like:
- First Time Guide To Skiing Out West
- Ski Colorado Cheap. The Best Ski Weekend For Under $500.
- Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort. The Best Skiing
About the author
My name is Ryan C. I am an adventure sports fan and an avid skier, sailor, mountain biker who also enjoys kayaking, and travel. I take any chance I can get to get out in the snow or water. I decided to start this website as a way to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for adventure sports and travel.