• Banff Sunshine ski resort

It’s Not Too Late To Buy An Epic Pass, Ikon Pass, And Mountain Collective Pass: Breaking Down The Average Cost Per Day For 2019/2020

Banff Sunshine gondola
Banff Sunshine Photo: Jennifer Nied

If you want to rack up as many days on the slopes as you can, a season pass is the way to go. The main question is: Which pass is right for me and is it too late to buy a 2019/2020 pass?

Short answer: It depends and no. It’s not too late to buy a multi-pass for this upcoming winter depending on where and how many days you want to ride. This season the main multi-resort passes are Epic Pass, Ikon Pass, and Mountain Collective (MC). As a passholder of any of the three, you get access to resorts all over the world.

Each one combines access to awesome ski resorts around North America, Japan, Europe, and in the Southern Hemisphere (yes there are ski resorts in Australia). Epic includes riding at a whopping 78 resorts, Ikon has 41 destinations, and Mountain Collective boasts 18 ski resorts. Depending on where the snow decides to fall each year you can hedge your bets and go to the best, snowiest location.

The number of included days ranges from unlimited at the high end to a set number of free days or half off additional days. The unlimited Ikon and Epic passes can be perfect for locals who live near the mountain, but the fixed days on other passes (like Epic Local and Mountain Collective) may be better value for one or two vacations. Mountain Collective includes two days at each participating resort plus 50% off single-day window prices, which adds up to an excellent value after you do the math.

Using Epic as an example, if you want to get in 10 days at a handful of the 78 resorts, there are a mind-boggling four trillion different combinations. (That’s 12 zeros.) To simplify the options, I’m comparing the passes by specific region. It makes it easy to see which pass works best (and gives the best value) for the type of trips and snowboarding you want to do. The multi-resort passes for the 2019-2020 season launched last spring, so you have missed the lowest prices but they still offer good value if you expect to snowboard enough.

Epic Pass vs. Ikon Pass By Region

If you know where you want to ride this, jump ahead to see the pass that gives you the best value:

In each region, I’m pricing for one adult, non-holiday (non-restricted) for the last week of February into the first week of March 2020. I compare based on the average cost per day (divide total pass price by number of days) and see how many days it would take to pay off the pass using the window ticket prices.

How to read average-cost-per-day tables

Assuming daily ticket price is $120, and cost of a pass is $1,000, it would take nine days of riding before the pass is less expensive than individual window tickets. Column one shows the number of days on the mountain, column two is the average window price per day, and the third column shows the average cost per day after purchasing the season pass. On day nine, the average cost per day of the pass drops below the window price, making it the better value.

Days of ridingWindow PricePass Price
1$120$1,000
2120500
3120333
4120250
5120200
6120167
7120143
8120125
9120111
10120100

Pass prices as of 10/18/19 in US Dollars: Epic Pass $989, Ikon Pass $1,099, and Mountain Collective (MC) $509. Prices are subject to change often so visit each pass or ski resort website for latest pricing.

Colorado Central Ski Resorts

Beaver Creek Larkspur
Beaver Creek, Colorado Photo: Jeff Nied

The core resorts on the Epic and Ikon passes are in the heart of the Colorado Rockies along I-70. These resorts are the go-to vacation spots and favorites for day trips from Denver (if you can tolerate the traffic). Epic includes Keystone, Breckenridge, Vail, and Beaver Creek. Ikon includes Eldora, Copper, Winter Park, and Arapahoe Basin. It’s worth noting that Epic offers almost twice as many skiable acres as Ikon in this area of Colorado.

Epic DaysAcresEpic Pass
Unlimited3,148Keystone
Unlimited2,908Breckenridge
Unlimited5,289Vail
Unlimited1,815Beaver Creek
Ikon Days AcresIkon Pass
Unlimited680Eldora
Unlimited2,465Copper
Unlimited3,081Winter Park
71,458A-Basin (MC)

Colorado’s Rocky Mountains have some of the highest resorts in North America, topping out near 13,000 feet with base areas at 8,000 feet. If you are coming from sea level be prepared for the elevation. (Check out our article on how to handle elevation and avoid altitude sickness like a pro.) The average snowfall in this area is 300+ inches per year, and the snow is typically dry and fluffy. The typical Colorado ski and snowboarding season starts in November and resorts close in mid April.

For Epic Pass you’ll have to ride 9 days (seven days for Epic Local) to have a better average cost per day than buying Epic day passes at the window. The Ikon Pass also requires 9 days (six days for Ikon Base) to have a better average cost per day than the window. By day 9 they are fairly comparable average daily cost at $99 for Epic Pass and $110 for Ikon Pass.

DaysWindowEpic LocalEpic PassEpic Location
1$112$739$989Keystone
2112370495Keystone
3112246330Breckenridge
4112185247Breckenridge
5112148198Vail
6112123165Vail
7112106141Vail
811292124Vail
911282110Beaver Creek
101127499Beaver Creek
DaysWindowIkon BaseIkon PassIkon Location
1$144$799$1,099Winter Park
2144400550Winter Park
3144266366Winter Park
4144200275Winter Park
5140160220Copper
6138133183Copper
7136114157Copper
8135100137Copper
913189122A-basin
1012980110Eldora

Colorado Destination Ski Resorts

Aspen Highland Bowl
Aspen Highlands Photo: Jeff Nied

Colorado resorts located farther away from Denver (aka more remote and less crowded woo hoo) offer mountain town vibes and a solid weeklong destination. The town of Crested Butte, for example, has no chain locations (read: no Starbucks) so it offers an authentic local experience, gets you out of your typical routine, and encourages a bit of adventure.

Epic DaysAcresEpic Pass
7 + 50%2,000Telluride
Unlimited1,547Crested Butte
Ikon DaysAcresIkon Pass
75,250Aspen (MC)
Unlimited2,965Steamboat

The Ikon Pass and Epic Pass offer comparable destination resorts in Colorado as well, but differ slightly in pricing. Seven days are included for Telluride on Epic and Aspen on Ikon. For Telluride on Epic the window price is lower, but for Aspen on Ikon Pass you pay the same price as the window (if those are the only resorts you visit with your pass). Aspen is also on Mountain Collective, and it beats Ikon and window prices by day six. You will have to use your Epic or Ikon pass at additional resorts, as a week in Telluride or Aspen alone doesn’t to make it worth buying.

For Crested Butte on Epic Pass, the window price is much better average cost per day. The same is true for Steamboat on Ikon Pass. (Note: I’m only showing seven days here and the passes offer unlimited days so the pass is good for a local, or anyone with more vacation days.) Bundling with other trips ups the value if you have the vacation days and go big on a 14-day trip (or two seven-day trips). Then, the pricing is comparable between passes and much better average cost per day than the window prices.

Epic DaysWindowEpic PassEpic Location
1$149$989Telluride
2137495Telluride
3137330Telluride
4130247Telluride
5130198Telluride
6127165Telluride
7121141Telluride
8119124Crested Butte
9117110Crested Butte
1011599Crested Butte
1111290Crested Butte
1210982Crested Butte
1310676Crested Butte
1410371Crested Butte
Ikon DaysWindowIkon PassLocationMC
1$179$1,099Aspen$509
2159550Aspen255
3159366Aspen200
4149275Aspen172
5149220Aspen156
6149183Aspen145
7149157Aspen137
8150137Steamboat
9150122Steamboat
10151110Steamboat
11151100Steamboat
1215292Steamboat
1314585Steamboat
1414579Steamboat

Utah Central Ski Resorts

Snowbasin Allen Peak
Snowbasin, Utah Photo: Jeff Nied

Utah offers exceptional terrain, beautiful views, and longer seasons with 500+ fluffy inches of annual snowfall. Utah resorts on the Epic Pass and Ikon Pass are within 45 miles of Salt Lake City, which makes them easily accessible to travelers and locals alike. That can mean major gridlock on a powder day, when everyone heads for their favorite mountain up narrow canyon roads. Hours of stopped traffic isn’t uncommon on a powder day. (Powder panic is real here!)

With an Ikon Pass there are five great mountains—Solitude, Brighton, Alta, Snowbird, and Deer Valley—and on Epic there are two resorts—Park City and Snowbasin. However, Park City is one of the largest resorts in the U.S. at 7,300 acres (it merged with Canyons in 2015). Also, if you’re a snowboarder you cannot ride at Alta and Deer Valley because these resorts are ski only. Epic wins out on acreage, but Ikon wins for diversity of locations.

Epic DaysAcresEpic Pass
Unlimited7,300Park City
7 + 50%3,000Snowbasin
Ikon DaysAcresIkon Pass
Unlimited1,200Solitude
71,050Brighton
7 split2,500Snowbird (MC)
7 split2,614Alta (MC)
72,026Deer Valley

In order to get a better average cost per day than the window ticket price, once again you have to go 9 days on Epic or 11 days on Ikon. The Mountain Collective Pass equals Ikon and window rates if you go all 11 days at Snowbird. If you find a pair of skis and do 11 days split between Alta and Snowbird, then the Mountain Collective beats Ikon and window rates.

Epic DaysWindowEpic PassEpic Location
1$105$989Snowbasin
2120495Snowbasin
3116330Snowbasin
4115247Park City
5115198Park City
6114165Park City
7114141Park City
8114124Park City
9113110Park City
1011399Park City
1111390Park City
Ikon DaysWindowIkon PassIkon LocationMC Alta/Snowbird
1$86$1,099Solitude$509
286550Solitude255
386366Solitude170
486275Brighton127
586220Brighton114
686183Brighton106
792157Snowbird100
896137Snowbird95
999122Snowbird91
10102110Snowbird88
11104100Snowbird86

California Ski Resorts

California resorts are known for snowstorms so massive that everything, including the chair lifts, gets buried. The coastal climate is more humid creating wetter snow. With 400+ inches annual snowfall, the Lake Tahoe area and farther South to Mammoth are must visit destinations.

Epic Pass offers unlimited riding at three sizeable resorts Northstar, Heavenly, and Kirkwood near Lake Tahoe with 75 miles separating them. Ikon Pass has unlimited access to four mountains in California, but they are spread farther apart. Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows are next to each other in Northern California, but there is a 180 mile drive to Mammoth and its smaller neighbor June resort. Mammoth is at a higher elevation, which brings deeper snow and a longer season, extending into the month of June.

Epic DaysAcresEpic Pass
Unlimited3,170Northstar
Unlimited4,800Heavenly
Unlimited2,300Kirkwood
Ikon DaysAcresIkon Pass & MC
Unlimited3,600Squaw Valley
Unlimited2,400Alpine Meadows
Unlimited3,500Mammoth
Unlimited1,500June

If you’re a local (Sacramento, San Francisco, and more metro areas), then an unlimited pass option is perfect and you’ll have to ride a minimum of 9 days on Epic and 10 days on Ikon to match window rates in California resorts. If you’re coming in from out of town, then Mountain Collective has exceptional value.

Epic DaysWindowEpic PassEpic Location
1$112$989Northstar
2112495Northstar
3112330Northstar
4112247Northstar
5112198Kirkwood
6112165Kirkwood
7112141Kirkwood
8112124Heavenly
9112110Heavenly
1011299Heavenly
1111290Heavenly
Ikon DaysWindowIkon PassLocationMC
1$139$1,099Squaw Valley$509
2139550Squaw Valley255
3108366Squaw Valley200
492275Alpine Meadows150
5102220Alpine Meadows120
6108183Alpine Meadows100
7111157Mammoth73
8113137Mammoth64
9115122Mammoth65
10116110Mammoth59
11117100Mammoth54

Canadian Rockies Ski Resorts

Revelstoke Sub Peak
Revelstoke Mountain British Columbia Photo: Jennifer Nied

The Canadian Rocky Mountains are a dry powder paradise and the more remote resorts provide an escape from long lift lines. When people think of Canadian ski resorts, most think Whistler. There are many more incredible resorts in British Columbia and Alberta. Several of the resorts are on the famed powder highway (named after the snow that blankets the slopes) with others in the iconic Banff National Park. 

Currency conversion rates factor in if you’re visiting from the U.S., Canada is effectively 25% off and has been for the past four years. This is wonderful for traveling on a budget, but makes getting value out of a multi-pass purchased with U.S. dollars more difficult. Your U.S. dollars go further on window lift tickets and the rest of a ski trip, so no complaining here. (I’ve converted everything to U.S. dollars for the charts.)

Epic Pass added seven days at Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (RCR). There are four locations in the area—Nakiska, Kicking Horse, Kimberly, and Fernie—which form an easy road trip loop from Calgary. Due to the currency conversion Epic pass is more expensive (higher average cost per day) than window prices. That means you will have to do more riding in the U.S. to get your money’s worth from the pass beyond the Epic road trip. More days on your board and on the slopes are always a good thing.

The Ikon Pass includes a total of 14 days at Revelstoke, Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise, and Mt Norquay. Revelstoke is lower elevation (base 1,500 feet), so the season ends in April, while the Banff area and SkiBig3 is at a higher elevation (base 5,400 feet) and can extend into June depending on the snow season. Again, the window prices are cheaper and you will have to do more riding in the U.S. to get your money’s worth on Ikon pass. The road trip from Revelstoke to the SkiBig3 is a trip to remember.

Epic DaysAcresEpic Pass
7 + 50% total1,021Nakiska
3,486Kicking Horse
1,800Kimberly
2,500Fernie
Ikon DaysAcresIkon Pass & MC
73,121Revelstoke
7 for skibig33,358Banff Sunshine
4,200Lake Louise
190Mt Norquay

In Canada, Mountain Collective beats window prices quicker with a lower average cost per day than either Ikon or Epic Passes. One extra perk of the Mountain Collective Pass is a fifth day at Norquay in addition to the advertised two days at Banff Sunshine and two days at Lake Louise. Norquay is the smaller of the SkiBig3 trio, so it’s more of a half day or powder day mountain if you’re an expert rider. But, it’s a good starter slope for beginners or first foray into the Canadian Rocky Mountains. With Mountain Collective, your savings can add up to a stop by Kicking Horse on your way over from Revy and experience its insane terrain.

Epic DaysWindowEpic PassEpic Location
1$87$989Nakiska
271495Kicking Horse
371330Kicking Horse
469247Kicking Horse
569198Kicking Horse
669165Kimberley
766141Kimberley
866135Kimberley
966130Fernie
1066126Fernie
1166123Fernie
Ikon DaysWindowIkon PassLocationMC
1$78$1,099Revelstoke$509
278550Revelstoke255
370366Revelstoke186
467275Revelstoke140
573220Sunshine102
678183Sunshine85
776157Sunshine80
877137Lake Louise64
978122Lake Louise57
1079110Lake Louise56
1180100Norquay46

Mountain West Destination Ski Resorts

There are a few large ski resorts and mountain destinations on the passes that make excellent standalone trips. These are larger resorts with slightly higher day prices, so bundling these with other trips is a great way to add value (and have an awesome winter) if you have the vacation days. Epic Pass has unlimited days at Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, Canada which is an incredible 8,100-acre resort that requires several days to explore.

Some sites try to claim it as the largest resort in North America (actually Powder Mountain in Utah has more acreage, or the private Yellowstone Club+Big Sky if you’re able to gain entry in the exclusive area).

Epic DaysAcresEpic Pass
Unlimited4,757Whistler
Unlimited3,414Blackcomb
7 + 50%2,154Sun Valley
Ikon DaysAcresIkon Pass
75,800Big Sky
72,500Jackson Hole
71,294Taos

The Epic Pass matches window prices after nine days at Whistler Blackcomb. Epic also includes Sun Valley, but there are no other nearby mountains on the pass and Sun Valley won’t equal window rates alone.

Ikon includes seven days at Jackson Hole and seven days at Big Sky. Technically you could combine them into a 190-mile road trip. (We’ll report back when we tackle it.) Big Sky is well-named with 5,300 acres (It grew with a Moonlight Basin merger in 2013). If you do seven days at Jackson Hole, it’s worth the price of the Ikon Pass and is a lower average cost per day than window rates. Mountain Collective has two days each at Jackson Hole and Big Sky resorts and beats Ikon in average cost per day by paying off within four days versus the window price.

Taos is another remote western resort. Located in New Mexico, it could be a destination trip for Coloradans, similar to driving to Aspen or Steamboat. The Mountain Collective website lists an ambitious road trek combining Aspen, Arapahoe Basin, and Taos. This route includes many miles on mountain roads, but we’ll report back if/when we tackle it.

Epic DaysWindowEpic PassEpic Location
1$112$989Whistler
2112495Whistler
3112330Whistler
4112247Whistler
5112198Whistler
6112165Blackcomb
7112141Blackcomb
8112124Blackcomb
9112110Blackcomb
1011299Blackcomb
Ikon DaysWindowIkon PassLocationMC
1$165$1,099Jackson Hole$509
2160550Jackson Hole255
3155366Jackson Hole197
4152275Jackson Hole148
5149220Jackson Hole118
6147183Big Sky85
7142157Big Sky73
8139137Big Sky72
9131122Big Sky64
10125110Big Sky58

Vermont Ski Resorts

Sugarbush Vermont Photo: Jeff Nied

If you live between New York City and Boston, you’ve likely considered or at least heard about Vermont ski resorts. Vermont is a popular weekend getaway from the cities and draws big crowds. The 18/19 season received decent snowfall in the area but East Coast snow conditions can be hit or miss each year. Buying a pass provides the option of Vermont weekend getaways when snow falls and a larger trip out West when it doesn’t.

Epic includes Mount Snow, Okemo, and Stowe. Ikon includes Stratton, Killington, Pico, and Sugarbush. Both passes have comparable offerings, with similar size resorts. Killington adds a bit more acreage to the group on Ikon Pass.

Epic DaysAcresEpic Pass
Unlimited600Mount Snow
Unlimited667Okemo
Unlimited485Stowe
Ikon DaysAcresIkon Pass
Unlimited625Stratton
7 split1,509Killington
7 split468Pico
7484Sugarbush (MC)

Epic, Ikon, and Mountain Collective are all breaking even with 12 days of Vermont riding (hypothetically four long-weekends). If you live in the New York City or Boston metro areas, then either pass could be a solid choice for an annual pass if you plan on more than two weeks of riding in just this location.

Epic DaysWindowEpic PassEpic Location
1$118$989Mount Snow
2112495Mount Snow
3110330Mount Snow
485247Mount Snow
586198Okemo
686165Okemo
784141Okemo
883124Okemo
985110Stowe
108699Stowe
118590Stowe
128582Stowe
Ikon DaysWindowIkon PassIkon LocationMC Sugarbush
1$104$1,099Stratton$509
290550Stratton255
385366Stratton186
477275Stratton152
585220Killington132
688183Killington118
790157Killington108
889137Killington101
989122Sugarbush95
1089110Sugarbush91
1187100Sugarbush87
128392Sugarbush84

Feeder Ski Resorts

Hunter Mountain
Hunter Mountain New York Photo: Jennifer Nied

Ikon Pass and Epic Pass both include several small- to medium-sized mountains dotted around the country. These work as feeder resorts to get locals interested in snowboarding and skiing (a very good thing) and going on a vacation to a larger resort. Ideal as day-trips, they don’t necessarily warrant a longer-distance trip. Both passes have added more of these ski resorts.

Ikon has more notable locations on its list, especially near Seattle (Crystal and Snoqualmie) and in Maine (Sugarloaf and Sunday River) that double as destinations as well as local spots. Epic added 17 mountains from Peaks Resorts to the pass for the 2019/2020 season. If you live near one of these local resorts, it might make sense to get the pass to get several days local for practice and then bundle it with a larger trip.

Without the larger trip elsewhere, the pass will not pay for itself, though. Ikon offers seven days at most of these locations with a few unlimited. These ski hills are perfect for locals, as well as beginner and intermediate level riders. Some of the mountains have impressive terrain parks and extra activities, like tubing. (Growing up in the Midwest, the local hill only had 35 acres and it was all I needed starting out.)

Epic DaysAcresNearest CityEpic Pass
Unlimited1,125Seattle, WAStevens Pass
7 + 50%820Quebec City, QCStoneham
7 + 50%450Quebec City, QCMont-Sainte Anne
Unlimited320New York CityHunter Mountain
Unlimited300St Paul, MNAfton Alps
Unlimited120Milwaukee, WIWilmot
Unlimited130Detroit, MIMt Brighton
Unlimited65St. Louis, MOHidden Valley
Unlimited25Kansas City, MOSnow Creek
Unlimited65Louisville, KYPaoli Peaks
Unlimited72Cleveland, OHAlpine Valley
Unlimited79Cleveland, OHBoston Mills
Unlimited79Cleveland, OHBrandywine
Unlimited144Columbus, OHMad River
Unlimited100Harrisburg, PALiberty
Unlimited103Harrisburg, PARoundtop
Unlimited109Harrisburg, PAWhitetail
Unlimited100Poconos, PAJack Frost
Unlimited107Poconos, PABig Boulder
Unlimited230Concord, NHMount Sunapee
Unlimited105Jackson, NHAttitash
Unlimited225Jackson, NHWildcat
Unlimited100Bennington, NHCrotched
Ikon DaysAcresNearest CityIkon Pass
7600Vancouver, BCCypress
Unlimited748Los Angeles, CABig Bear
Unlimited2,600Seattle, WACrystal
71,914Seattle, WASnoqualmie
71,240Carrabassett, MESugarloaf
7870Newry, MESunday River
Unlimited630Montreal, QCTremblant
7370Lincoln, NHLoon
Unlimited244Snowshoe, VWSnowshoe
Unlimited364Ontario, CABlue Mountain
7435Boyne Falls, MIBoyne Highlands
7415Pleasant View, MIBoyne Mountain

International (Outside North America) Ski Resorts

Traveling internationally for a snowboarding trip is a unique experience. Being immersed in the local culture, snowboarding on foreign slopes, and enjoying on-mountain culture, are all reasons to cross the Atlantic or Pacific for powder. People ride unique gear, trail signs are atypical, trail maps are distinctive, terrain is rated differently, and sometimes the lifts decide to not run at all (cue breaking out the split board to get up the mountain).

Each of the passes includes days at ski resorts in Europe, Asia, South America, and Oceania. I’ve wondered how many people actually use the pass for a long-haul ski trip? Is it worth the price of a pass or does it just make you feel happy to have the option, but probably won’t actually take a passport-required trip?

European Ski Resorts

Europe is home to some of the largest ski resorts in the world. Epic Pass dominates the European options with 19 total days including seven days at Les 3 Vallees in France. This is the largest ski network worldwide with 26,000 acres across eight mountains. The French Alps have excellent terrain too; though it’s well-known for all-day après, it’s not just about sitting on the mountain drinking bubbly all day.

Epic also includes seven days and 50% off additional days at Skirama Dolomiti in Italy and five days with the purchase of participating lodging at 4 Vallees in Switzerland. Ikon and Mountain Collective only offer one location each in Europe. Ikon includes seven days at Zermatt Matterhorn network in Switzerland, and Mountain Collective includes two days at Chamonix collection of mountains.

European lift tickets are generally cheaper than U.S. resorts (and not due to currency conversion). The passes are not going to pay for themselves if you only use them at one ski resort in Europe. You’ll have to snowboard additional days in the U.S. to make a pass purchase a good value.

CountryEpic DaysAcresEpic Pass
France726,000Les 3 Vallees
Val Thorens
Meribel
Courchevel
Les Menuires
Saint Martin de Bellevelle
La Tania
Orelle
Brides-Les-Bains
Italy7 + 50%a bunchSkirama Dolomiti
Madonna di Campiglio
Pinzolo
Folgaria-Marilleva
Pejo
Ponte di Legno-Tonale
Andalo-Fai della Paganella
Monte Bondone
Folgaria-Lavarone
Switzerland5 w/hotela bunch4 Vallees
Verbier
Nendaz
Veysonnaz
Thyon
CountryIkon DaysAcresIkon Pass
Switzerland73,500Zermatt Matterhorn
Rothorn
Gornergrat
Schwarzsee-Matterhorn
ItalyCervinia-Valtourmenche
CountryMC DaysAcresMountain Collective
France215,000Chamonix
Brevent-Flegere
Grands Montets
Balme Tour Vallorcine
Vormaine
Chosalets
Savoy
Planards

On Epic, if you go 17 days across the three included mountain resorts, it pays off. And hey, flights to Europe during the winter are off peak, there are plenty of affordable lodging options and of course the food and wine is superb, so why not, your work won’t miss you that much. Make this the year you finally use all your vacation days. (My next article, what does 17 straight days of snowboarding do to you?).

Epic DaysWindowEpic PassEpic Location
7$57$138Les 3 Vallees
752138Skirama Dolomiti
5691944 Vallees
195851All Epic Days
DaysWindowIkon or MC PassLocation
2$57$245 (MC)Chamonix
763150 (Ikon)Zermatt

Japanese Ski Resorts

Home to some of the lightest and fluffiest powder in the world, Japan is world-renowned for its deep snow and scenic slopes. Here, it’s not powder it’s Ja-pow. The ski regions are among the snowiest, with close to 600 inches of annual snowfall. There are two areas of Japan included on the passes. The main area is the north island of Hokkaido and home to the 1972 Olympics. Here, you find Niseko United, which is on Ikon and Mountain Collective. Niseko United includes Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village, Hanazono, and Annupuri. A 40 minute drive away is the smaller but less crowded Rusutsu available on Epic.

Epic Pass also includes access to Hakuba Valley. It is Japan’s largest ski area with 10 separate resorts (Hakuba47, Goryu, Iwatake, Jiigatake, Tsugaike Kogen, Cortina, Happo-one, Norikura Onsen, Kashimayari, and Sanosaka). Happo-one is the largest and most popular. It’s located in central Japan near Nagano and hosted the 1998 Olympic events. Only two Hakuba resorts are inter-connected by lifts so you will need to take a shuttle service or drive between the 10 locations, similar to the mountains in Aspen, Colorado.

Epic DaysAcresEpic Location
51,524Rusutsu (West, East, Isola)
52,372Hakuba Valley
DaysAcresIkon & MC Pass
7 (Ikon)2,191Niseko United
2 + 50% (MC)

Similar to Europe, lift tickets in Japan are around 60% less than U.S. resorts. The passes will not pay for themselves with only a Japan trip. You’ll need to snowboard more days in the U.S. to make buying a pass worth it and get a better average cost per day than window rates.

Epic DaysWindowEpic PassEpic Location
5$54$198Rusutsu
551198Hakuba Valley
105399All Epic Days
DaysWindowPassLocation
7$46$157Niseko (Ikon)
746100Niseko (MC)

Southern Hemisphere

For those adventurous travelers who want to extend their riding season into the summer (June through early October), there are a few resorts on the passes in the Southern Hemisphere. The two areas included on the passes are Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) and South America’s Chile. In terms of cost, I consider how much additional value each pass has at the locations. Since window prices are less expensive you wouldn’t buy a pass just to go to one location.

Oceania: Australian/New Zealand Ski Resorts

Epic Pass has three locations in Australia with unlimited access. Perisher is the largest ski resort in Australia and most visited ski resort in the southern Hemisphere. Nearby is Thredbo, which is included on the Ikon and Mountain Collective Passes. Thredbo has the longest runs in the country and is near the highest peak in Australia. These locations are remote (a six-hour drive from Sydney or Melbourne, or 2.5 hours from nearest airport Canberra.)

The other Australian locations on Epic Pass are Falls Creek and Hotham, which are farther south. They are a two-hour drive apart and within driving distance from Melbourne (five hours). Ikon Pass and Mountain Collective include access to Mt. Buller, which is about a three-hour drive from Melbourne. If you’re up for longer drives and the odd kangaroo obstacle, Australian resorts are solid options on each pass. Day pass prices range from $90 to $115 so a seven-day Australia trip is worth $630 to $805 (USD) value on your pass.

There are two ski resorts on the Mountain Collective Pass and three ski resorts on the Ikon Pass in New Zealand. Mountain Collective and Ikon passholders get access to The Remarkables and Coronet Peak. These are neighboring resorts close to Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world. Mt. Hutt is the additional location on Ikon Pass and is a top rated ski resort on the South Island. It is a six-hour drive north from the other two resorts and 90 minutes from Christchurch. But, if you’re traveling from the U.S. you’ll probably be there at least a week or two exploring around the island and can make the trek around to the different snowfields. Day pass prices range from $80 to $90 so a seven-day New Zealand trip is worth $560 to $630 USD value on your pass.

CountryEpic DaysAcresEpic Pass
AustraliaUnlimited3,080Perisher
1,110Falls Creek
790Hotham
CountryDaysAcresIkon / MC Pass
Australia7 / 2 +50%1,186Thredbo
740Mt Buller
New Zealand7 / 2 +50%690Coronet Peak
540The Remarkables
900Mt Hutt (not MC)
Chile7 / 2 +50%2,300Valle Nevado

South American Ski Resorts

The other option in the Southern Hemisphere, with less jet lag, is in the Andes Mountains of Chile in South America. Valle Nevado is 90 minutes outside of Sanitago and offers 2,300 acres of powdery back bowls and wide open riding as the resort is entirely above tree line from 9,300 feet up to 12,000 feet. This resort is included on Ikon and Mountain Collective passes. Valle Nevado is connected to La Parva and El Colorado resorts, adding up to a combined 7,000 acres of Tres Valles. An additional ticket must be purchased to access all lifts. The daily ticket price of Valle Nevado is around $75 so with seven days of riding you can extract $525 USD from your pass.

You Should Buy A Multi-Pass Now If…

Multi-passes are still a good buy now if you’ll plan to ride nine days on Epic Pass or Ikon Pass, or six days on Mountain Collective. That’s how many days you need to log to beat out the window prices.

In the past, the number of days you had to ride on Epic was closer to five days, but this year Vail Resorts introduced the Epic day pass program, which effectively dropped day-rates. This ticket option is made for skiers and snowboarders who only visit the resorts a few days each season. Kudos to Vail for welcoming more people on the mountain at a reasonable cost at the risk of lower pass sales.

Summary: Early bird still gets the worm

While you can clearly get plenty of value buying a pass late, it still pays to plan ahead and buy a season pass in March/April when they first go on sale. The passes are cheapest and include summer hiking and biking lift access as well as early-purchase bonuses. Mountain Collective includes one extra day at one location for early buyers, boosting its already high value. Ikon went one step further in 2019 and gave late season lift access to early buyers, resulting in essentially a season and a half of use. Alternatively some resorts, like Jackson Hole and Aspen season passes included a code for a free Ikon base pass for the 19/20 season. It’s their way to appease the locals when the Ikon masses descend.

Bonus value… There are other features included in the Epic pass such as buddy and ski-with-a-friend passes that can also add more value to the pass. Families with adult and child passes will have additional scenarios to consider. (In general, the child pass breaks even with a similar number of days as adult passes.)

Overall Epic and Ikon Passes are comparable. Picking one over the other is more a personal preference of region/type of resorts than the price/value. Mountain Collective directly competes with Ikon Pass in a few locations and wins every time. Proof: I’ve purchased Mountain Collective the past two years, and I hope it doesn’t go away as it offers exceptional value for snowboarders and travelers.

A multi-resort pass isn’t the only way to get in days on the slopes. If you don’t grab a pass, you can buy multi-day tickets in advance or at the window and mix and match between resorts to explore new places and without any pass restrictions, but uncertain prices.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading my thesis paper on multi-resort season passes. I’m awaiting a response from my professor and hope to receive my Snowboard Traveler PhD soon.

Jeff Nied
Jeff Nied

Jeff Nied is cofounder and content creator of Snowboard Traveler with more than 22 years of snowboarding experience. He started making homemade snowboarding movies in his backyard terrain park and worked his way up to climbing the highest alpine bowls in the Rockies. When he’s not on his snowboard, you can find him training for a triathlon or marathon or walking his dog in Central Park.

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