Ski and snowboard travel has changed radically in recent years as the industry paradigm has shifted from single visit lift tickets and one-resort season passes to national and global passes covering multiple top resorts worldwide. By far the most popular of these are the Epic Pass from Vail Resorts, which covers both Vail-owned/managed properties (Vail, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek, Park City, Whistler/Blackcomb, etc.) and partners, and Ikon Pass, from Alterra Mountain Company (Deer Valley, Mammoth, Palisades Tahoe, etc.), anchored by the mountains of top ski resort operators Aspen Skiing Company (Aspen/Ajax, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk) and Boyne Resorts (Big Sky, Brighton, Sugarloaf, Sunday River, etc.), plus numerous partners including many of the leading independent areas such as Jackson Hole, Alta, Steamboat and others.
The new model has lowered the daily costs of skiing and snowboarding considerably and given travelers more variety and freedom of choice, which is a very good thing. But the anti-silver lining has been crowds and jam-packed trails, often accompanied by parking shortages and giant lift lines at some participating resorts, big and small. This has been compounded by pent up travel demand from the pandemic lockdown, and increased outdoor recreation across the board, also spurred by COVID. As a result, many travel agents and ski tour operators I’ve talked to tell me that more then ever their clients are asking to be sent someplace less crowded, which has become the main focus in choosing a ski vacation destination, rather than the traditional factors such as the best spas, restaurants, hotels or even terrain.
But if you have one of these passes you don’t have