And how to get the most out of it.
What is the EPIC pass? The EPIC pass is a pass to all of the EPIC owned and operated resorts, including (as of the 2020-2021 season):
Vail, Beaver Creek, Whistler Blackcomb, Breckenridge, Park City, Keystone, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Stowe, Crested Butte, Okemo, Mount Sunapee, Stevens Pass, Wilmot, Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton, Mount Snow, Attitash, Wildcat, Crotched Mountain, Hunter, Liberty, Roundtop, Whitetail, Jack Frost, Alpine Valley, Big Boulder, Boston Mills, Brandy Mills, Brandywine, Mad River, Hidden Valley, Snow Creek, and Paoli Peaks for the 2020-21 season, as well as Perisher, Hotham and Falls Creek in Australia for the 2021 ski season.
EPIC actually started as Vail Resorts and expanded through Colorado and the western USA to encompass some of the most luxurious and best skiing resorts on the west coast. More recently, they’ve branched out to the East Coast, Canada, Europe, Japan, and even Australia. Pretty rad!
In a bunch of other posts I try review the individual resorts for both skiing/snowboarding ease, places to stay, things to do, etc. I’ve had SO SO much fun at pretty much all of these resorts. Here’s a recent review of Keystone and one of Breckenridge.
Which Pass To Choose
There are a few passes on EPIC to choose from. Remember to use your Military, College, or Senior Pass, if you qualify. These are the best deals for the people who, quite honestly, need them or have earned them. The Military deals in particular are excellent; they offer discount pricing for current, former, retired, and even dependents. All of these passes come in full and local variants (except college which is only local). You can pick and choose… more on that below.
In the past 10-15 years, lift rates have gone INSANE at EPIC resorts. A one day ticket in January to ski at Breckenridge is $179 and if you buy a 4 day pass at $668 you save a whopping $12/day = $48 total. Wow. So, consider a pass! Seriously. In order, the passes I’d recommend are:
- EPIC Local Pass ($729 for the 2020/2021 Season) – This pass offers unfettered access to most resorts in the US, limited 10-day total access to Whistler, Vail, and Beaver Creek, and limited access (3-7 days) to the overseas mountains. There are also some popular blackout days such as opening day, Christmas, and New Years. In my opinion, the number of resorts where your offered full access is WELL worth it and, if you’re not a fan of bumper cars on the mountain, then you’ll wanna skip those super popular holiday days anyway. It only takes 4 or 5 days of deep season (January – March) riding to have the pass completely pay for itself.
- Full EPIC Pass ($979 for the 2020/2021 Season) – This is full, unfettered access at pretty much all EPIC resorts. The thing is, in comparison to EPIC local, what you’re really paying for is the removal of blackout days and the lift in daily restrictions at the US and overseas resorts. If you absolutely need to ride more than 3-5 days in that European or Japanese resort, go for it. But, for me, the extra $250 just isn’t worth it. I’d rather spend it on a resort in the mountains 🙂 I used to buy this pass every year, looked back at my data, and realized that I NEVER once actually needed it over the local. Not a single instance. Ever.
- EPIC Regional Passes – EPIC offers passes to common resorts or regions such as Tahoe, Northeast, Keystone, etc. where people tend to spend a lot of their time at just a few resorts. If you fall into this category, it’s a really good idea to grab a regional pass. I think this is great for people who just drive to their nearby ski hills on the weekend. They also have weekday and regional.
- Daily and Multi-day passes – You’re obviously always going to get the most bang for your buck if you buy an unlimited pass and hit the slopes a lot. However, the multi-day passes can really save you a grip as well.
It’s not only that. Passes make it REALLY fun to ride. If the lines are long, I leave and come back. If I want to ski a half day before getting on the plane, I just do it. I’m never worried about losing my daily investment once I get on that first lift. I can come and go as I please because it’s basically all free in the sunk cost of buying the pass.
The pass comes with a few other perks as well.
- Discounted tickets for friends and family – In order to use these, you have to be present to ride with the receiver. You don’t have to ride with them all day, you just have to be present to redeem.
- Buddy Passes – Buddy passes are fixed-price discounted tickets that you can use to ski or snowboard with a friend. They offer an up to 45% discount in the deepest parts of the season when day pass rates are sky high. Buddy passes are automatically included with the purchase of a pass bought prior to Sept 17. The earlier you book the more of these passes you receive.
- Ski With A Friend (SWAF) – Discounted single day tickets that provide variable savings throughout the season (up to 35%) based on the window price of a same day ticket. Advance EPIC and EPIC local, as well as military and student, come with SWAF tickets.
- Discounted lodging, food, and gear on the mountain – EPIC passes come with a flat rate 20% discount on the above items. The lodging discount is awesome in the popular EPIC towns during peak season. There are some great ski-in, ski-out places on a deep discount in pre-season and pretty much any place you stay will be catered towards you having the very best experience on the mountain, since they’re EPIC associated.
Other Considerations – The Ikon Pass
I’d be remiss if I talked this much about EPIC without mentioning the IKON pass as well. IKON is a competitor and for good reason; it’s a very good pass as well. A lot of my friends favor this over EPIC; it really depends on where you like and where you like to ski.
IKON and EPIC have similar pricing and variation for what they order. For example, IKON offers a pass similar to EPIC local that offers unlimited access to 14 of their destinations and up to 5 days at each of 27 destinations. This runs at $849, which is approximately equal to EPIC or EPIC Local.
There are 2/3 main considerations in choosing between the passes:
- Where do you live?! You can see that in the Midwest, Northeast, and West Coast the coverage varies significantly. For example, if you live in Southern or Central California, IKON might be better. If you’re in Reno/Tahoe, you’ll have a lot more options on EPIC. This is particularly true for different cities in the midwest and east coast. On the other hand, if you live in Colorado or Utah, it’s 6 in one hand half-dozen in the other. It really comes down to points #2 and #3.
- Do you like to ski or snowboard? I honestly believe that most of the resorts on IKON are better for skiing and most on EPIC are better for snowboarding. There are some resorts Deer Valley and Alta, both in Utah, are amazing snow resorts that are actually ski only, so if you love to snowboard, you’ll be limited with IKON. This is actually why I like EPIC (I snowboard over skiing) along with point #3…
- How bourgeoise (aka bougey) are you? How much do you like traveling with a family? I’ve found that IKON resorts such as Big Sky, Jackson Hole, Aspen, and Alta tend to be a bit on the higher end, whereas the Breckenridge, North Star, and Whistler resorts tend to be a little more grungy. I think this is actually related to #2, because skiing is viewed as a bit higher class and family friendlier. Both passes definitely have their fancy and less fancy resorts, but I think on average IKON is a bit “higher class”.