Last year, I tried out the Mountain Collective ski pass. It gets you two days of skiing at various resorts across the United States and worldwide. The main draw for me as a new-ish skier was to check out as many resorts across the country as possible. The pass itself is worth the money if you’re willing to travel. Something to factor into the cost is traveling to the resorts. Flights, gas, hotels, and food add to the cost. If you have 10 vacation days a year like I do, it can be almost impossible to get your money’s worth from the pass. But I did!
Most of the resorts, you get at least two days of skiing with the Mountain Collective Pass. However, some have joint partnerships, so you can ski one day at each (like Snowbird and Alta) or two days at only one. Don’t worry though as you get heavily discounted days after your first two.
If you use 10 days of the pass, then it brings the cost down to roughly $40 a day. Most daily lift tickets to the resorts included in the pass range in the $90 per day rate, so even if you can ski five days, you pay roughly $80 for a lift ticket and save.
To keep costs low, my husband, Andy, and I decided to road trip to the resorts. Here are a few tips for planning and saving money with the Mountain Collective pass.
1. Combine passes.
If you’re adding a Mountain Collective to another local season pass like we did, consider adding other resorts en route to break up the drive. Maps are super helpful in the planning phases. We added all the Mountain Collective resorts on a map, along with our Powder Alliance resorts (that were included with our Stevens season pass). Make the icons different colors and be mindful of blackout days.
2. Make a spreadsheet.
Break down vacation days and see if getting the pass is worth the time and money.
Plan to use a work holiday weekend to avoid taking a day off of work. If you’re lucky like me, I get both Martin Luther King Jr. Day and President’s Day off, which means 3-day weekends! Plan to visit the resorts within driving distance and avoid using those precious vacation days.
3. Plan two road trips for the same week.
Make a last-minute decision based on best ski conditions. Watch the weather a week or two before going for both destinations to help make your decision. If neither are worth the trip, ask your boss if you can move the week’s vacation to another time.
4. Stay flexible.
If the resorts are far away or you aren’t comfortable adding the mileage to your car, don’t forget that you’re rolling the dice on weather. Booking trips based on time and not conditions may leave your stoke level low. If you’re experiencing flight delays, then it may cut into your ski time or may make the skiing epic.
5. Bring friends.
Powder Highway crew at Revelstoke.
Rally your friends to buy the Mountain Collective pass. You have someone to help split the costs of hotel, car, gas, etc. The more the merrier and the cheaper. Also, it helps since not everyone has the same travel schedules, so get a few buddies with the pass on one email and start planning!
6. Research the resort.
Find articles with in-depth profiles about the resorts and where to ski. Check out EpicSki guides or other ski-based websites that may do profiles on resorts. Here’s a great one on Jackson Hole.
7. Know where to pick up your pass.
Even if it’s hard to get out of bed when it’s cold outside, you’ll save time waiting in line in the cold to redeem your pass. Add time and get to the resorts early the morning on your first day. Beat the lines if you show up 30 to 45 minutes early.
8. Road trip and hit multiple resorts in one trip.
Even if you only do one of the suggested road trips, the pass will give you a small discount if you can get 5 days of skiing in a trip.
- The Powder Highway: Lake Louise (1 day) + Sunshine Village (1 day) + Revelstoke (2 days)
- The Wild, Wild West: Jackson Hole (2 days) + Snowbird (1 day) + Alta (1 day) + Sun Valley (2 days)
- The Olympian: Whistler + Blackcomb (2 days)
- The Rocky: Aspen (1 day) + Snowmass (1 day) + Telluride (2 days)
- The Californian: Mammoth (2 days) + Squaw Valley (2 days)
- The International Traveler: Coronet Peak (1 day) + The Remarkables (1 day) + Thredbo (2 days)
Stowe (2 days) and Taos (2 days) are also included in the Mountain Collective but are a little further drives to be added to any of these road trips. Taos could be added to the Colorado road trip if you have the time.
9. Sleep in your car.
At a trailhead outside of Sun Valley.
As mentioned, we enjoy road trips and try to sleep in our car when possible. However, we’ve found that the PNW resorts are the most welcoming to letting people sleep in cars in the parking lots. Other areas want to boost tourism, so you have to be creative on how to pull this off. Find a local trailhead that is plowed in the winter, a rest stop, or even find a local neighborhood that may not notice people popping a squat outside in the middle of the night.
10. If you have to fly, take your equipment.
Rental prices can run you $100+ a day, which means you aren’t saving money, and you probably aren’t skiing your best on borrowed gear. Most airlines charge a small fee or allow you to travel for free with ski bags. Before you book your flight, you may want to look at the airline’s policy. I always take my ski boots, but I learned the hard way that if you take touring boots, most resorts won’t allow you to clip into downhill bindings for liability reasons. Even though traveling with skis can be cumbersome, it will save you money.
11. Stay with friends.
Even if your friends in other cities don’t ski, you can hang out with them in the evenings. Take a look on Facebook and filter out friends in certain areas that are the closest to the resort you want to go to. Factor in driving time, gas money, and cost to rent a place.
12. Go to the grocery store.
Eating snacks for lunch in the parking lot.
The Mountain Collective is for tourism. Think of all the resorts on the pass, most have hotels and infrastructure and make money in the winter with escalated food and drink pricing. Finding a rental (sign up for AirBnB) or hotel with a kitchen can save you money. Or pack simple PB&J sandwiches and eat them on the chair lifts during the day to avoid paying $15 for a slice of pizza.
13. Ask a local.
If you’re staying at a rental place with the owners, ask for their advice. They may know where the best places are to ski for the current conditions or where to eat cheaply. They may even be nice enough to show you around the mountain.
Pro tip: It takes more than two days to learn about a resort. Treat your first day at the resort as a scouting day. Ski the resort and make note to your favorite runs and aspects. On the second day, head to your favorites and shred.