Ski enthusiasts often wonder which ski pass is the best option for them. The answer isn’t straightforward, as multiple factors come into play when weighing the benefits of various passes, such as the Epic Pass, Ikon Pass, The Mountain Collective, and Indy Pass. Comparing different tiers and offerings can be a complex task, but seasoned skiers know the value of having a ski pass, as it ultimately pays off in the long run.

Gone are the days of relying solely on daily lift tickets; ski passes are now the preferred choice for many winter sports aficionados. As they navigate the slopes during the ski season, pass holders enjoy access to an array of resorts and mountains.

This article will give a breakdown of the key differences between the two most popular ski resort passes in the United States: The Ikon Pass and The Epic Pass.

Ikon Pass vs. Epic Pass Overview

The Epic Pass is owned and operated by Vail Resorts, providing access to 40 ski resorts and numerous partners not only in the U.S. but also in other countries. The Ikon Pass is under the ownership and management of Alterra Mountain Company, offering access to its 15 ski resorts and a wide range of partner resorts around the globe, including North America.

Comparing the Ikon Pass and Epic Pass is essential for skiers and snowboarders seeking the best option for their needs. An ideal ski pass varies depending on individual preferences, location, and frequency of visits to ski resorts. Both the Epic Pass and Ikon Pass offer a variety of benefits, while other alternatives like the Mountain Collective Pass or the budget-friendly Indy Pass cater to specific needs.

Choosing between the Ikon Pass and Epic Pass involves considering factors such as preferred ski resorts and the region where one lives. Though a universal ski pass solution doesn’t exist, a suitable option tailored to personal requirements can be found. This comparison between the Epic Pass and Ikon Pass aims to assist in making an informed choice for pass holders.

Ikon Pass Mountains List:

Ikon Pass provides unlimited access to 15 resorts on its main pass and 14 on its Ikon Base Pass. Resorts with unlimited access on the Ikon Pass include Mammoth Mountain, Palisades Tahoe, and Steamboat. The Ikon Pass allows for up to 7 days of skiing or a combined 7 days at select global destinations with no blackout dates. Some of the resorts in this category include Snowmass, Big Sky, and Valle Nevado.

State/CountryResorts
Colorado, USAWinter Park, Copper Mountain, Steamboat, Eldora Mountain
California, USAPalisades Tahoe, Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain, Big Bear Mountain Resort, Snow Valley
Idaho, USASchweitzer
Vermont, USAStratton, Sugarbush
West Virginia, USASnowshoe
Quebec, CanadaTremblant
Ontario, CanadaBlue Mountain
Utah, USASolitude

Epic Pass Mountains List:

Epic Pass offers unlimited access to 40 different resorts. Some of the most notable resorts with unlimited access on the Epic Pass include Park City, Vail, and Beaver Creek. The Epic Pass also offers up to 7 days of skiing at select global destinations without any blackout dates. Resorts in this category include Telluride, Fernie Alpine Resort, and Rusutsu, among others.

State/CountryResorts
Colorado, USAVail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Crested Butte
British Columbia, CanadaWhistler Blackcomb
Utah, USAPark City
California/Nevada, USAHeavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood
Washington, USAStevens Pass
Vermont, USAStowe, Okemo, Mount Snow
New Hampshire, USAMount Sunapee, Wildcat Mountain, Attitash Mountain, Crotched Mountain
New York, USAHunter Mountain
Pennsylvania, USALiberty Mountain Resort, Roundtop Mountain Resort, Whitetail Resort, Jack Frost, Big Boulder, Laurel Mountain, Seven Springs, Hidden Valley
Ohio, USAAlpine Valley, Boston Mills & Brandywine, Mad River Mountain
Missouri, USAHidden Valley, Snow Creek
Indiana, USAPaoli Peaks
Wisconsin, USAWilmot
Minnesota, USAAfton Alps
Michigan, USAMt Brighton
SwitzerlandAndermatt-Sedrun
AustraliaFalls Creek, Hotham, Perisher

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Ikon and Epic 2024 Pass Prices: 

Purchasing the Epic Pass or Ikon Pass early, typically in late March, ensures the best value as prices gradually increase through summer and fall, finally peaking just before the ski season begins. Here’s a price comparison for the 2023-24 ski season:

2023-2024 Ski PassesIkonEpic
Adult Price$1,259$949
Teen Price$939N/A
Youth Price$419$483
Total Number of Destinations5763
Unlimited Access Destinations1541
Additional Destinations4222
*reflects current pricing at the time of publishing

The Epic Pass and Ikon Pass can also be compared to other ski passes. For instance, the adult Mountain Collective Pass costs around $600, whereas the adult Indy Pass is initially priced at $299 or $399 without blackout dates. 

Both Epic and Ikon Passes offer shorter-duration alternatives, with 1-7 day passes available as Session Passes on the Ikon Pass and Day Passes on the Epic Pass. These options provide skiers with flexibility in pricing while still granting access to top-quality ski resorts.

Ikon and Epic Pass Perks

Both the Epic Pass and Ikon Pass offer a number of perks for their pass holders. For instance, Epic Pass provides Ski With Friends and Buddy Pass tickets, as well as discounts for military members and college students. On the other hand, the Ikon Pass offers price breaks for military, college students, and nurses, free skiing during late spring of the next year for new pass holders, and even lodging and destination deals.

Overall, whether the Ikon Pass or Epic Pass is considered better for resorts is highly subjective and depends on the individual skier or snowboarder’s preferences.

Epic and Ikon Pass Regional Ski Options

The Epic Pass offers the Epic Local Pass, which grants access to Vail properties in the Rockies, West, Midwest, Northeast, and Mid-Atlantic regions, providing a vast array of options. 

On the other hand, the Ikon Pass includes regional options such as Crystal Mountain in Washington, Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado, June Mountain in California, Bear Mountain and Snow Summit in Southern California, Stratton Mountain and Sugarbush in Vermont, Snowshoe in West Virginia, Solitude and Deer Valley in Utah, and several Canadian and European destinations. 

Both passes cater to skiers looking for localized unlimited skiing experiences.

Ikon and Epic Passes By Region:

Best Ski Pass for Colorado

In Colorado, both the Epic Local Pass and Ikon Pass have their advantages. The Epic Pass covers Vail-owned resorts such as Breckenridge, Keystone, Vail, Crested Butte, and Telluride. Meanwhile, the Ikon Pass grants access to Winter Park, Copper Mountain, Arapahoe Basin, Eldora, Aspen-Snowmass, and Steamboat—a mix of locations closer to Denver and farther away.

Best Ski Pass for Utah

For Utah, the Ikon Pass is likely the better choice, as it encompasses iconic resorts such as Snowbird and Alta in Little Cottonwood Canyon (although snowboarding is not allowed at Alta). The Epic Pass offers Park City Mountain Resort, another great skiing destination.

Best Ski Pass for Lake Tahoe and California

For Lake Tahoe, the Epic Pass includes Heavenly, a vast resort on both the Californian and Nevadan sides of Lake Tahoe, and Northstar California. Nearby, Kirkwood is also included. The Ikon Pass covers Palisades-Tahoe in the area and Mammoth Mountain and June Mountain further south. The Epic Pass is recommended for exclusive Lake Tahoe skiing, while the Ikon Pass is better if you plan to split time between Mammoth and Lake Tahoe.

Best Ski Pass for the Pacific Northwest

The Epic and Ikon passes have minimal Pacific Northwest options. The Epic Pass has Whistler-Blackcomb, the largest ski resort in the region, and Stevens Pass. Conversely, the Ikon Pass offers more resort options, including Mt. Bachelor in Oregon.

Best Ski Pass for the Northeast

While the Ikon Pass provides access to well-known New England resorts like Killington, Stratton, and Sugarbush, the Epic Pass covers even more resorts, including Stowe. If you’re staying in New England, the Epic Pass is the recommended choice.

Best Ski Pass for the Midwest

Midwest skiers and snowboarders might prefer the Indy Pass with 27 resorts to choose from over the limited Midwest options on the Epic and Ikon passes. However, the Epic Pass includes a few local options like Afton Alps near the Twin Cities or Wilmot near Chicago or Cleveland.

Best Ski Pass for the Canadian Rockies

Canadian skiing enthusiasts should opt for the Ikon Pass. While the Epic Pass features Whistler-Blackcomb and a few smaller Canadian resorts like Nakiska, the Ikon Pass includes Revelstoke, Sun Peaks, Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise, and Mt. Norquay.

Best Ski Pass for the Northern Rockies

The Ikon Pass is the winner for the Northern Rockies because the Epic Pass currently lacks resorts in this region. Ikon Pass holders have access to Sun Valley and Schweitzer in Idaho, Jackson Hole in Wyoming, and Big Sky in Montana.

Best Ski Pass for the Rest of the World (Europe, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan)

If you’re planning trips to Europe or Japan, your choice will depend on your specific destination. The Epic Pass offers more options in Italy, France, Austria, Switzerland, and Japan, while the Ikon Pass includes summer skiing.

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Things to Consider Before Buying a Ski Pass

When considering purchasing a ski pass, there are several factors to take into account. Here are some questions to ask yourself before making a decision.

What is your budget?

It is important to determine your budget before choosing a ski pass. The Indy Pass offers the most affordable option at $379 for the season (or $279 with blackout dates), with the Mountain Collective coming in at a close second at $570. These passes offer only two days at each destination with additional days at 50% off for the Ikon and 25% off for Indy Pass resorts. The Epic Pass offers the best overall value for unlimited access to multiple resorts at $949 for the season.

How many days on the mountain?

If you plan on skiing for a week or more, one of the mega passes such as the Epic or Ikon Pass will save you money after four or five days. If you have fewer than five days planned, you may want to consider a smaller pass or simply pay for day tickets at the resort. It is recommended to purchase lift tickets online for a discount and to check for discounts on Liftopia.com.

Both the Epic and Ikon passes offer reduced-rate “Ski with a Friend” passes, allowing you to bring a friend for a discounted rate or to join a friend on the slopes for a discount.

What kind of experiences matter most?

Consider your skiing or snowboarding style and what you hope to get out of your pass before making a purchase. For those seeking more intense ski vacations, the Ikon Pass offers access to resorts such as Jackson Hole, Palisades Tahoe, and Taos. The Epic Pass offers access to Telluride in Colorado.

For those who enjoy skiing as a social or relaxation activity, the Epic Pass offers access to resorts such as Vail, Whistler, and Deer Valley, which offer luxurious amenities and après-ski activities.

You should also consider experiences off the mountain.

You know, a skiing vacation doesn’t always have to be just about the slopes! After an exhilarating day of skiing, or even if you fancy a break from the pistes, there’s a world of activities awaiting you.

Imagine snuggling up under a blanket with a cup of hot cocoa during a horse-drawn sleigh ride, or if you’re feeling adventurous, give snowshoeing or snowmobiling a whirl. The mountain environment is simply magical and offers serene landscapes perfect for wintery hikes or ice-skating on a frozen alpine lake.

And let’s not forget the après-ski scene! Once the sun dips below those snowy peaks, ski resorts come alive with vibrant bars, live music, and delectable dining experiences. Whether you’re in the mood for a cozy cabin fondue dinner or dancing the night away in a bustling mountain pub, there’s always something happening.

For those seeking relaxation, many resorts offer luxurious spas where you can rejuvenate with a massage or simply unwind in a steamy outdoor hot tub, gazing up at the stars. So, even if you’re not zooming downhill, there’s no shortage of ways to enjoy a ski getaway.

Where is home?

Your location plays a significant role in determining the value of your ski pass. If you are located near a city, the Epic Pass may be the best option, as it offers access to smaller, local ski areas near metro areas around the country. For example, Afton Alps is located just 20 minutes east of the Twin Cities, and Wilmot is located just an hour or so north of Chicago. If you ski a few days at these resorts and then take another trip out west to another Epic resort, you will get twice the value.

Consider the cost and convenience of travel to the resorts as well. If you live near Minneapolis or Chicago, you can quickly and cheaply fly to Denver to access Colorado’s resorts. If you live in a location that requires a $700 fare with few connections to get to the mountains, consider a pass featuring resorts that are more easily accessible.

Additional Considerations

Blackout Dates for Passes

Ikon Pass: For the Ikon Base Pass, there are some blackout dates, typically around major holidays. The full Ikon Pass generally has no blackouts. Epic Pass: The Epic Local Pass has blackout dates, while the full Epic Pass typically does not.

Insurance Options for Both Passes

Yes, both passes offer insurance options. Ikon Pass and Epic Pass policies cover various situations, including illness, injury, job loss, etc.

Renewal Discounts Comparison

Both Ikon Pass and Epic Pass offer renewal discounts for returning customers. Specific discounts depend on pass type and time of purchase. Check the respective pass websites for the most up-to-date information.

Alternative Pass Options

Apart from the Epic and Ikon Pass options, consider the Mountain Collective or the increasingly popular and more affordable Indy Pass for your snow vacation. We’ve provided a list of useful guides for further exploration:

  • Epic Pass Buyer’s Guide
  • Ikon Pass Buyer’s Guide
  • Mountain Collective Buyer’s Guide
  • Indy Pass Buyer’s Guide

Ultimately, it’s essential to research and compare ski pass options based on your preferred travel destination and lodging needs. Make an informed decision to ensure the best value and experience on your winter adventure.

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Bottom Line

Deciding between the Epic Pass and Ikon Pass comes down to individual preferences and skiing habits. Both passes offer access to numerous resorts, but the best option depends on how frequently and where you plan to ski. For those who live near or frequently visit Epic Pass resorts, it may be the better choice. On the other hand, the Ikon Pass offers access to a wider range of destinations, including international locations. Ultimately, skiers should carefully consider their skiing plans and do the math to determine which pass provides the best value for them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Pass Has More Ski Resorts, Ikon or Epic?

Both Ikon and Epic passes offer access to a large number of ski resorts. However, the number of resorts included in each pass varies. As of the 2023-2024 ski season, the Epic Pass offers access to 48 resorts, while the Ikon Pass offers access to 45 resorts.

What Are the Differences Between Ikon and Epic Passes?

The Ikon Pass and Epic Pass are both season ski passes that offer access to multiple ski resorts. However, there are some differences between the two passes. One of the main differences is the number of resorts included in each pass. Another difference is the pricing structure. The Ikon Pass offers different tiers of passes, while the Epic Pass offers only one pass option. Additionally, the Ikon Pass offers some benefits that the Epic Pass does not, such as discounts on food and beverage purchases at select resorts.

Which Pass Is Better for Skiing in Colorado, Ikon or Epic?

Both the Ikon Pass and Epic Pass offer access to multiple ski resorts in Colorado. However, the specific resorts included in each pass vary. The Epic Pass offers access to several well-known Colorado ski resorts, including Vail, Beaver Creek, and Breckenridge. The Ikon Pass offers access to several Colorado ski resorts as well, including Aspen Snowmass, Copper Mountain, and Winter Park.

Top ski resorts included in both passes

There are many premier ski resorts available on both the Ikon and Epic passes. Some of the most popular resorts include:

  • Aspen Snowmass (Ikon)
  • Mammoth Mountain (Ikon)
  • Big Bear (Ikon)
  • Breckenridge (Epic)
  • Park City (Epic)
  • Vail (Epic)

Is Ikon Pass More Expensive Than Epic Pass?

The pricing for the Ikon Pass and Epic Pass varies depending on the specific pass option and when it is purchased. As of the 2023-2024 ski season, the Ikon Pass is generally more expensive than the Epic Pass. However, the Ikon Pass offers access to some resorts that are not included in the Epic Pass, so it may be worth the extra cost for some skiers.

Ikon Local Pass vs main Ikon Pass: Key differences

The Ikon Local Pass offers restricted access to select ski resorts as well as blackout dates, making it a more affordable option for skiers who don’t require unlimited access. The main Ikon Pass provides unrestricted access to all participating resorts and fewer blackout dates, making it a better choice for those who want the flexibility to ski at various destinations throughout the season.

Are There Any Benefits to the Ikon Local Pass Compared to the Epic Pass?

The Ikon Local Pass and Epic Pass both offer access to multiple ski resorts, but the specific resorts included in each pass vary. The Ikon Local Pass is a more limited version of the Ikon Pass, offering access to a smaller number of resorts. However, the Ikon Local Pass may be a good option for skiers who only plan to ski at a few specific resorts. Additionally, the Ikon Local Pass is generally less expensive than the full Ikon Pass, making it a more affordable option for some skiers.

Scott Meldrum

Scott founded FunOutdoors to connect his professional life with his passions. When Scott isn’t working, you’ll find him on the bike trail, riding a wave, or skiing down a mountain.

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