When it debuted a couple years ago, the Indy Pass proved itself to be an interesting option for a niche market.
Since then, who could have figured it would turn into, perhaps, the premier pass option for local skiers and riders?
It has, indeed, been quite the year for the Indy Pass. In a landscape that includes behemoths like Epic and Ikon, the Indy Pass has quietly — and quickly — become one of the hottest items on the New England ski scene. Not an “unlimited” pass, per se, the Indy Pass provides two days each at a dozen ski areas in New England, at what was an early-bird price of only $199.
If you do the math, that’s a potential 24 days of skiing in New England at a cost of only $8.29 per day.
After adding New Hampshire’s Cannon Mountain and Vermont’s Jay Peak to the mix prior to the season, the Indy Pass made more waves this week by announcing that Waterville Valley and Saddleback were now part of the family, effective immediately.
“We believe the Indy Pass is helping keep the spirit of independent resorts alive while allowing them to be competitive against the conglomerate mega passes,” Waterville Valley president and general managerTim Smith said. “We’re excited to be joining this collective of independent resorts across the country and can’t wait to welcome passionate skiers and riders to Waterville Valley.”
Also available on the pass are Berkshire East and Catamount in Massachusetts, Black Mountain and Pats Peak in New Hampshire, Bolton Valley, Magic Mountain, and Suicide Six in Vermont, and Mohawk Mountain in Connecticut.
In all, the Indy Pass provides two days of skiing at more than 60 ski areas across North America.
It has reportedly shown great success in New England. Cannon general manager John DeVivo recently told me that Cannon was seeing the fourth-highest usage on the pass, nationwide.
“I think Pats Peak is actually No. 1 in the country,” he said. “I spoke with [Pats Peak general manager] Kris [Blomback] last February and said, ‘Hey we’re starting to think about this, how has it been for you guys?’ And he said, ‘We’ve been seeing a lot of people we’ve never seen before.” That’s a great thing.”
But despite the success Cannon was seeing, it didn’t necessarily want to be part of Indy Pass’ spring option without some blackout capability, particularly with the need to limit guests under COVID protocols. That led to what DeVivo called some “polite feuding” between the two parties.
“No way in hell,” DeVivo said. “Why would I want to add more people here on the weekend? If we’re going to add more people it’s going to be our pass holders.”
The Indy Spring Pass will be available on March 1 for $149, $69 ages 13 and under. It will also provide two days of skiing at all resorts, including Waterville Valley and Saddleback. But there will be weekend blackouts at both Cannon and Magic.
“People seem to be pretty happy with it,” DeVivo said. “Now, fortunately, it’s nowhere near as busy as Epic or Ikon. I’m hearing horror stories out there that a lot of Ikon and Epic resorts are just literally being swamped like you can’t believe.”
Epic and Vail have been taking some flak for their approach this winter, leading to images, nationwide, of epically-long lift lines. There has also been major criticism of the company at places like Attitash, where skeleton crews have led to a less-than-desirable skiing experience. There have been familiar lift problems at the Bartlett, N.H. resort, along with an extremely slow rollout of terrain that has lasted the bulk of the winter.
Epic will still, obviously, remain a strong season pass contender next season, especially if we’re free to roam the Northeast. But there will be those frustrated customers that will, at least, look to add the Indy Pass as insurance.
But the real benefit of Indy is its ability to introduce local gems to those who might not have visited otherwise. Places like Black, Magic, Bolton, and Berkshire East tend to fall under the radar to the behemoths of the East. But they are also classic destinations that give off a totally different vibe.
Getting more people to realize that is healthy for the industry as a whole.
Vermont loosens travel restrictions for those fully vaccinated against COVID-19
Some good news for those itching to ski in Vermont this season, yet are unable to undergo the proper quarantine the state is requesting for visitation.
Beginning this week, travelers who have been fully-vaccinated against COVID-19 — meaning they have received both shots — may visit Vermont, two weeks later, without quarantine.
“I want to be very clear: We’re going to do this carefully and methodically like we have throughout the pandemic, and I’m asking for your patience as we work our way through this process,” Gov. Phil Scott told reporters.
That news could certainly provide a boost for Vermont’s summer tourism, by which point many more will, presumably, have gotten the COVID-19 vaccination. But what it means for skiing is a little more hazy based on the vaccine’s distribution throughout the Northeast.
Officials warn of avalanche danger in the White Mountains
February has been the deadliest month for avalanches across the United States, including Mount Washington.
After finding Ian Forgays, of Vermont, in an avalanche debris, officials from the Mount Washington Avalanche Center are warning about the potential for future situations in the White Mountains this season.
“Our snowpack changes day-to-day, really rapidly, due to wind conditions on Mt Washington,” Frank Carus, lead snow ranger of the Mount Washington Avalanche Center, told WMUR. “We can have 1-2 inches of snow and that can generate an avalanche that’s 1 or 2 feet thick.”
The Mount Washington Avalanche Center has a detailed account of their search for Forays earlier this month, finding him 13 feet down in an avalanche debris pile. He was skiing alone.
“In this case, when Ian Forgays triggered a small wind slab, a partner may have saved his life…but given the terrible terrain trap below, maybe not,” reads the account. “Forgays was found equipped with avalanche safety gear, including an avalanche transceiver, which helped rescuers and the family immensely. It appears evident from the totality of the circumstances that Forgays was prepared and knowledgeable about the mountain and its ski conditions. But, it is important to remember that even the most experienced skiers with all the correct preparations and equipment risk more when skiing alone. Even small avalanches can be deadly, especially over a terrain trap. If there are lessons to be learned from this accident, they aren’t new. Skiing technical lines, in a thin snowpack above a notorious terrain trap, with no partners, even on a Low danger day, raises the stakes tremendously.”
The Mount Washington Avalanche Center is a partnership between the Friends of Tuckerman Ravine, the Mount Washington Avalanche Education Foundation, the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol, and the U.S. Forest Service.
Catch a new episode of New England Ski Journal TV
Check out the latest episode of New England Ski Journal TV, where host Meredith Gorman gets the latest from Sugarbush Resort, Bradford Ski Area, Gunstock Mountain Resort, and Loon Mountain Resort.