Let’s start with a little background and the fact that access to many North American ski areas is being consumed by two mega-giants – Alterra’s Ikon Pass and Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass.
Alterra, parent company for the Ikon Pass, is a privately-held company that stemmed from a business collaboration between the KSL CapitalPartners and Henry Crown and Company, Aspen/Snowmass owners. The Pass came about in 2018 after KSL purchased the now defunct Interest group that owned multiple resorts. The current line up boasts resorts in the U.S. and Canada some of which are owned outright by Alterra. The company is based in Denver, CO.
Vail Resorts, Inc is a publicly traded company based in Broomfield, CO. It consists of three divisions – the Resort division owns 37 resorts in three countries; the Hospitality division owns or operates hotels, lodges, condominiums and golf courses; the Development Company oversees property development and real estate holdings including retail shops. The Vail Resorts Epic Pass is the cornerstone of its consumer marketing approach to selling lift tickets and other amenities.
Both the Ikon and Epic Passes are great deals for those already involved in skiing or snowboarding and those who live near the mountains they represent but maybe not so much for beginners primarily because of the cost.
At the risk of oversimplifying, as of October 1, the cost to purchase an adult (age 23+) Ikon Pass for its currently 41 resorts (with holiday blackouts) is $749 and $1,049 for the Pass with no restrictions. The adult Epic Pass (age 19+) is $719 with blackouts and $969 without. The starting price for a single day pass is $109.
Both Pass programs offer a dizzying array of discounts for students and military personnel but dissecting them takes a bit of time on the Pass web sites. The initial sticker shock may deter some.
Enter the Indy Pass. It has nothing to do with the Indy 500 but with a collaboration of many and smaller independent ski/snowboard areas not affiliated with Ikon or Epic. The Pass is the largest of the three with 44 resorts. It sells for $199 and is good for 88 days of skiing or riding.
According to a recent press release, “the $199 pass, which is aimed at casual skiers and riders, offers passholders two days at each participating resort. Ski areas on the Indy Pass are all independently owned”. There are 15 participating resorts in the West, ranging from Alaska to Arizona, 14 participating resorts across the Midwest, and 15 participating resorts up and down the East Coast. One caveat is that the pass is only good for two visits per resort so hope that you live near a few of them.
The Indy Pass may just be the best bet for those breaking into the sports, especially families. Many beginners have difficulty just getting accustomed to the equipment and techniques and don’t really need to purchase passes for larger mountains with more extensive terrain.
There is more to it than this but enough for now. What impact this will make on the future of the ski industry is to be determined. We will cover a fourth pass – The Mountain Collective – in a future post.