I only began skiing in my adult life, but since then I’ve learned a few things about Seattle ski passes and collective ski passes. Over the years, I’ve tried Mountain Collective, M.A.X. Pass, and Ikon Pass.
My ski season passes over the last few years
When I first started skiing, I had a local resort where I bought the Stevens Pass ski pass and only had access to that resort plus a couple of days at their alliance partners (as long as I didn’t ski on blackout dates). I stayed at that resort for a few years but then opted to add on the Mountain Collective Pass.
Related Mountain Collective Posts: 5 Road Trips to Take with Your Mountain Collective Pass & 13 Tips to Get the Most of Your Mountain Collective Pass
I started to get a taste of ski travel and was hooked to try out different resorts. Long road trips and short flights took most of my vacation days for the year.
After a year of the Mountain Collective, I was feeling burnt out. Enter the M.A.X. Pass, where I could ski up to 5 days at various resorts and added on an unlimited local pass to Crystal Mountain. Again, my travel for the year consisted of road trips to Canada and the Mountain West.
I was skiing in Steamboat on one of my M.A.X. Pass days when I overheard people talking about how the pass was going away. I finally found a solution and was curious what they were talking about. In the upcoming days, I found out that the Ikon pass was replacing the M.A.X. Pass. I was livid and wrote why I wasn’t a fan of the Ikon Pass. No ski areas were covered in the PNW.
Related M.A.X. Pass Posts: 4 Resorts: A Western SKi Road Trip with the M.A.X. Pass
Then, Stevens Pass was sold and bought by Vail Resorts and included in the EPIC Pass, which seemed appealing since Whistler-Blackcomb was purchased the year before and also was on the same pass. Next, the shocking news broke: Crystal Mountain was being purchased by Alterra and now available with the Ikon Pass. Both of the locally-ran ski areas were bought by the two largest ski resort companies.
After much debate on focusing on backcountry skiing instead of buying a pass, my husband and I finally bowed to the ski corporations and purchased an Ikon Pass.
Where do you ski the most and do they have a local option?
Make a list of all the resorts you’re willing to drive on a regular basis and research if they have a season pass. Do multiple resorts share or partner with the resorts you have listed?
Buying a local pass may be cheaper than some of the collective pass options. I find it helpful to make a list of all the ski resorts and the season pass amount for a base, midweek, or unlimited cost associated.
How many days do you ski a season? It may be worth buying passes as you want them.
Consider many factors when buying a ski pass. You may save money buying a day pass than season ski passes. Below are some ways to help you track and calculate if a season pass is right for you.
Track your ski days
Do you track how many times you ski in a season? You might want to start. I keep a spreadsheet to make sure I’m getting my money’s worth. If you don’t have an average of how many days you spend a season skiing, try to add up the prior season or look at your calendar and upcoming life events to see how many weekends or days you’ll be able to set aside for skiing. You can even block off those days on your calendar as you plan.
Here’s some things to track:
- Dates or days
- Location or resort
- Partners or friends
- Vertical (if you use a tracking app, like TraceSnow)
- Cost (if you don’t have a season pass to add up how much you’re spending on lift tickets)
Calculate price per day
Once you have a season of tracking, it is easier to know how many days you may use. Take the total cost of the pass you’re looking to buy and divide that by the number for your local resort. Be sure to research the average seasonality of the resorts. Some start as early as Thanksgiving and others don’t start until later in December and close in early spring.
Are you saving money on a daily pass? You normally need to ski at least X times a season to break even on the season pass.
How much ski travel do you plan on doing throughout the season? Are you flexible enough to chase the storms?
Does the pass you’re considering partner or include other local resorts within driving distance or near friends you can visit in the winter months? Yes, travel adds cost to your overall ski season, especially if you don’t have friends to stay with or you have to fly or drive long distances. But it is an excuse to travel during the dreary winter months.
Do you travel for work and can extend your trip(s) to include weekend skiing at a resort?
Are there added costs?
Travel, lodging, and food? I’m not normally the budget type, but it may be worth setting a budget if you’re planning on traveling during the ski season. Resort towns can be costly this time of the year, in addition to eating out. Some resorts even have an additional parking fee for the resort on top of the lift pass!
Do you have other ski partners that will keep you going to the resort even when you feel like sleeping in?
Having a person that will keep you going even if the forecast isn’t calling for the epic pow day or even better someone that will call in sick when it is. I find it is much easier to wake up early on a weekend when you have someone to meet on the mountain or even carpool with.
Collective season passes to consider:
- Ikon Pass – 44 resorts, starting with unlimited at 14 resorts and up to 5 days at 27 resorts, including blackout dates.
- EPIC Pass – local pass includes unlimited access to 36 resorts, plus restricted access to various other resorts and discounts at a handful of other.
- Mountain Collective Pass – 2 days at 23 resorts and discounts for additional days.
- Powder Alliance – buy a season pass at one of the 19 resorts and enjoy additional days with the partner resorts. Blackout days may apply.
- Indy Pass – support the local ski hills and buy a pass to the independent mountain resorts. 50+ resorts at 2 days each.
I find this guide to be an excellent resource for comparing how many ski resorts each pass includes.