Way back in 2016, a year before Vail purchased Stowe, skiers and riders could purchase a season pass at the Vermont resort for $2,313. With a daily window rate clocking in at $124, it would take nearly 19 days at the mountain in order to get your money’s worth.
Today, you could make a season investment for next season, including Stowe, for only $1,832. Mind you, that cost also includes unlimited skiing and riding at Attitash, Okemo, Wildcat, Mount Snow, Mount Sunapee, and Crotched Mountain.
Oh, that price also includes unlimited skiing and riding at Sugarbush and Stratton, as well as up to seven more days at Sunday River, Sugarloaf, Loon, and Killington.
It also gives you two days each at Magic Mountain, Cannon, Berkshire East, Black Mountain, Waterville Valley, Jay Peak, Saddleback, Catamount, Bolton Valley, Mohawk Mountain, Pats Peak, and Suicide Six.
That’s a lot of skiing.
Yet, that’s the massive amount you’d have available next winter with a trio of purchases that are helping make skiing more affordable than ever.
At $999, the Ikon Pass is the priciest of the bunch, but when you consider a season pass to Sugarbush alone was $1,779 a few seasons ago, it’s a bargain for the Mad River Valley favorite along with Stratton and select days at Killington, Sunday River, Sugarloaf, and Loon.
The popular Indy Pass is certain to go up in price before next season, so let’s assume it’s a $250 purchase for the 2021-22 season, up from its $199 cost this season. It’s still the best bargain in New England, giving pass holders two days of skiing at a dozen independently-owned locations throughout the region.
Then, there’s the Epic Pass. In an announcement that Vail Resorts had teased for weeks, the resort conglomerate announced on Wednesday that it was reducing — not increasing — its season pass prices for next season by 20 percent across the board. That means New Englanders who purchased an Epic Local Pass for $729 this season can grab one for only $583 for the 2021-22 season.
“The ski industry, our company and skiers and riders everywhere just navigated the most challenging season we have ever encountered,” chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts, Rob Katz said in a statement. “Because of the growth and loyalty of our pass holders, we were able to ensure this season was a success, with full operations across our 34 North American resorts, even amid a pandemic. When we launched the Epic Pass 13 years ago, we began a journey to offer incredible value, flexibility and access to pass holders in exchange for a commitment before the season starts. Since then, we have added 32 resorts to our portfolio to give our pass holders more choice, and watched how they more naturally spread out their skiing over the course of a season. We have also invested over $1.5 billion into the guest experience with industry-leading technological innovations and numerous on-mountain capital improvements. Today, as we double down on our pass strategy by dramatically reducing our pass prices, we are excited to make it easier for everyone to move into a pass, and we remain fully committed to ensuring continuous improvements in the guest experience.”
In other words, what cost Stowe’s faithful more than two grand only five years ago they can now secure with the newly-priced Epic Pass (including no restrictions) for $783 next season, down from $979. A family of four (two adults, two children) can all get the top-tier pass for a grand total of $2,366 next season. That’s only $53 more than it cost for a single pass in 2016.
Vail is, no doubt, going to sell a ton of Epic Passes next season. That can be both beneficial and detrimental to the sport.
On the one hand, getting more people out to the slopes is never a bad thing. According to the National Ski Areas Association, the 2018-19 season saw a total of 59.3 million visits, the fourth-highest total recorded. Last year finished low, only 32nd, due to the pandemic shutting down ski areas across the nation. But with Vail seeing an 18 percent increase in passes sold proper to this season, it will be interesting to see the numbers when released later this spring. COVID certainly kept some visitors away from places like Vermont, which had some of the strictest travel parameters in the country. But we all saw the images of long lines at Vail resorts this past winter. People were definitely still skiing.
Keeping skiing affordable so that it doesn’t price itself away from the general public is something that began way back when the American Ski Company offered its own multi-pass. In fact, the Epic Local is in the same price range at that pass was back in the early-to-mid 2000s. And we all know how that turned out.
Still, for as much flak at Vail Resorts gets in the skiing community, growing the sport is a major upside to affordability.
Then there are the aforementioned lines. More passes sold mean more skiers and riders on any particular day, leading to queue headaches everywhere. It means more use of the terrain, which can be skied off earlier in the day. Those Monday mornings when locals might have had the hill to themselves are a thing of the past.
Vail is also doing away with its reservation system for next season. So epic crowds will be a regular occurrence.
But the fact that season passes are now so affordable that skiers and riders can not only afford one, but perhaps two or three, makes it truly an unprecedented time in the sport. The downside comes for the day-skier, the person who skis once or twice a season and walks up to the window to see a ticket price about one-quarter of what the rest of us pay for a season pass. Vail also addressed this with its Epic Day Pass, reduced from $129 to $103 next season. Day passes can also be purchased for as low as $57 a day for a seven-day pass.
The low cost may actually keep some people away, with fear of overcrowding a valid concern. Luckily, with the Ikon, Indy, New England, and individual mountain passes to be offered, there are no shortage of options.
Has Vail gone too cheap? More passes sold means more lines at the lift, less parking in the lot, and more bodies amassed on windy trails. It also means a more diverse customer base (a good thing) as well as more widespread bemoaning (my personal favorite is seeing people complain on Wildcat’s Facebook page about the lack of grooming. At Wildcat. Wildcat.)
For those who want to go back in time to the days of expensive season passes, good at only one mountain, then this news probably doesn’t come as welcome.
For those who want to spend less than they did on a season pass five years ago and be able to ski at more than 20 resorts across New England, well, what once seemed the unthinkable is now a reality.
Vail will offer credits on some unused passes
In other Vail news, the company has decided to reverse course and offer credits to those pass holders who could not use a priority reservation at a resort subject to a state quarantine.
Here’s a copy of the letter some pass holders received this week, courtesy WCVB:
Valued Pass Holder,
We recognize that this season has presented unique challenges, some of which were not anticipated when we rolled out Epic Coverage last spring. While resorts that were subject to quarantines were not covered by Epic Coverage, we have decided to offer you a personalized credit because you had a priority reservation day at a resort that was subject to state quarantine requirements and you have not used your pass this season. This credit will be 100% of the value of your 2020/21 pass product and can be applied towards the purchase of a 2021/22 pass product. Please note that if you decide to use your pass before the core season ends on April 4, 2021, you will no longer be eligible for this credit.
You will receive an email within the next 6-8 weeks with your personalized credit promotional code(s). Your credit can be applied to your 2021/22 pass purchase online at Epicpass.com. Additional details will be included in future correspondence. And, to ensure you have the time you need to make your plans for next season, your credit(s) will be valid through Labor Day, September 6, 2021.
Thank you for being a Pass Holder. We look forward to seeing you on the mountain next season.
I’m curious to hear from anyone who received this letter. I’ve only used my Epic Pass once, in New Hampshire, and didn’t receive an e-mail despite having placed (and cancelled) a number of reservations in Vermont. Drop me a line: email@example.com.
In other ski news….
— The Fifth Annual Wild Corn Backcountry Shindig takes place April 3 at King Pine. Granite Backcountry Alliance will host the event by shutting down all lifts and creating a backcountry skiing environment. Tickets range from $30-
$65 and can be purchased here. The day also includes live music and BBQ.
— Petra Vlhova clinched the overall women’s World Cup title over the weekend. Burke Mountain Academy product Mikaela Shiffrin finished fourth overall, second to Katharina Liensberger in the slalom discipline. France’s Alexis Pinturault won the overall title on the men’s side.
— We have seen glorious skiing and riding in New England this week, with spring temperatures welcoming skiers and riders to the sunny slopes. On Sunday, Waterville Valley was the epicenter of my spring zone; the bliss of skiing in a long-sleeve t-shirt and a light vest, working the soft bumps up and down True Grit. It was the best day of the season. The best day of the last two seasons for that matter.
However, this week’s warmth combined with this weekend’s rain could spell limited terrain moving forward. There’s still plenty of snow, but we’re definitely counting the weeks until the season is finished.
Insert sad emoji here.
— Here’s video of Lindsey Vonn, Hugh Jackman, and a violinist skiing together in Utah. Just because.
Catch the latest episode of New England Ski Journal TV
Spring is the theme of the latest episode of New England Ski Journal TV, with visits to Sugarloaf Mountain, Killington Resort, Wachusett Mountain, and Great Glen Trails. Also, get a taste for what’s on tap at Woodstock Inn Brewery with this month’s Brew Minute. Host Steven Rouse presents an annual favorite, Woodstock’s Wassail Ale.