Feature Story
An Ikonic, Epic Battle: For 2022, Season Pass Options Abound 9
Author thumbnail By M. Scott Smith, DCSki Editor

It is once again Spring, which means it’s time to consider purchasing a season pass for the 2022-2023 winter season before prices begin to inch up. In the past, purchasing a season pass was a fairly simply ordeal: if you planned on skiing at one particular resort, it made sense to buy that resort’s season pass. But today the situation is more complex: many ski areas are grouped under single mega passes. For some skiers, this simplifies the equation, allowing them to hit all their favorite resorts for one single fee. But wading through all the options can be a challenge. In this story, we take a look at available options for the 2022-2023 winter season, with a focus on what passes might make the most sense for Mid-Atlantic skiers and boarders.

Once again this year, there are two heavyweights in the ring: the Epic Pass and the Ikon Pass. These passes each come in various flavors, unlocking skiing at destinations across the country. But there are other options. The Indy and Mountain Collective passes are geared towards skiers who would like to “sample” a wide variety of ski resorts, spending up to two days skiing at each. And many resorts — particularly smaller, independent resorts — continue to offer their own season passes.

A common feature across most of these options is that prices begin to climb as the year proceeds: the earlier you buy, the more you save. In some cases, passes are no longer sold past a certain date. (Prices quoted in this article were valid as of April, 2022, and will rise as the year progresses.) In addition, discounted passes are often offered for children or special groups such as active duty military or Senior citizens.

Let’s take a deeper dive into available options, starting with dedicated season passes. If you primarily plan to ski at one local ski area next winter, you might be best served by purchasing a dedicated season pass for that resort. A variety of Mid-Atlantic resorts offer their own season passes. For example, Virginia’s Massanutten Resort is offering Full, Student, and Special Value Passes. Depending on when it is purchased, a Full Season Pass at Massanutten ranges in prices between $476 and $606. If you don’t mind having some blackout days during holiday periods, you can purchase a Special Value Pass for as low as $324.

In West Virginia, Canaan Valley Resort is selling adult season passes for $450 through April 30, 2022. After April 30, the price rises to $600 (or $540 for West Virginia residents). Nearby Timberline Resort is selling Gold Season Passes, valid on all days, for as low as $421, rising to $649 after November 1. Midweek Silver Season Passes at Timberline range in price from $324 to $499.

What if you plan to ski at more than one resort? This is where the Indy and Mountain Collective Passes may make sense.

In 2021, DCSki reader Woody Bousquet leveraged his Indy Pass on a road trip through the southeast. Photo by Woody Bousquet.

The Indy Pass is a fantastic option if you’d like to “taste test” a variety of smaller ski areas. For as low as $279 with some blackout days, you can ski 2 days each at 87 resorts across the country. (An Indy Pass with no blackout days runs $379.) Within the Mid-Atlantic region, participating resorts include North Carolina’s Cataloochee; Pennsylvania’s Blue Knob, Montage Mountain, Shawnee Mountain, and Ski Sawmill; Virginia’s Bryce and Massanutten Resorts; and West Virginia’s Canaan Valley and Winterplace Resorts. But the Indy Pass is also valid at ski areas scattered across the entire country. In early 2021, DCSki reader Woody Bousquet used his Indy Pass to piece together a road trip through the Southeast; he described his experience in this Firsthand Report.

The Indy Pass has also begun expanding into cross country. For the 2022-2023 season, all Indy Pass buyers will receive two daily trail passes each at six cross-country resorts, including West Virginia’s White Grass Touring Center. Or, cross country skiers can purchase a dedicated XC Indy Pass for $69, providing two days cross country skiing each at participating cross country ski areas.

If you plan on ditching the Mid-Atlantic next winter and focusing your skiing on distant resorts, you might consider the Mountain Collective Pass. The $539 pass provides 2 days skiing each at over 20 resorts. A bonus third day is available at one resort of the passholder’s choice, with 50% discounts on lift tickets beyond two days. Participating resorts include Alta, Arapahoe Basin, Aspen Snowmass, Big Sky, Jackson Hole, Snowbasin, Snowbird, Sugarloaf, Sun Valley, and Taos, among others. There are even participating resorts in France, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, and Chile. However, there are no participating resorts from the Mid-Atlantic region, limiting the appeal for the Mountain Collective Resort.

That brings us to the mega passes: the Ikon and Epic Passes.

The Epic Pass is offered by Vail Resorts, which now owns dozens of ski areas across the country, including many Mid-Atlantic properties. The Epic Pass comes in a wide variety of flavors, including the $841 unlimited Epic Pass, the $626 Epic Local Pass, the $385 Northeast Midweek Pass, the $145 Epic Military Pass, as well as multi-day Epic Passes that are similar to multi-day lift tickets. There is no Epic Pass focused specifically on the Mid-Atlantic region, or for individual Vail-owned properties within the Mid-Atlantic; instead, Mid-Atlantic skiers will want to choose between the unlimited Epic Pass, the Epic Local Pass, or the Northeast Value Pass.

Vail Resorts now owns eight Pennsylvania ski areas, each covered by the Epic Pass.

For most skiers, the choice will be clear: the Epic Local Pass presents the most value for Mid-Atlantic skiers who plan to ski locally with the potential of adding trips to other regions. The Epic Local Pass provides unlimited skiing at all of Vail’s Mid-Atlantic properties, which has now expanded to include Pennsylvania’s Big Boulder, Hidden Valley, Jack Frost, Laurel Mountain, Liberty Mountain, Roundtop Mountain, Seven Springs, and Whitetail Resorts. But the Epic Local Pass doesn’t stop there; it provides unlimited skiing at properties across the country including Breckenridge, Keystone, Okemo, Crested Butte, and Mount Snow. It also includes non-holiday skiing at Stowe, Park City, and Heavenly, and up to 10 total non-holiday days spread across Beaver Creek, Vail, and Whistler Blackcomb. The Epic Local Pass is probably the best overall value in skiing today, but its popularity has led to some complaints of overcrowding on peak days.

Vail has also added the Northeast Value Pass as an option. At $514, it includes Vail’s Pennsylvania properties, and also includes non-holiday access to New England properties such as Okemo, Hunter Mountain, Mount Snow, and Stowe. If you don’t plan on skiing out west, you can save some money with the Northeast Value Pass.

Competing with the Epic Pass is the Ikon Pass. Ikon is a mega pass offered by the Alterra Mountain Company, another ski area operator that owns many resorts across the country. The Ikon Pass covers 50 ski areas, including Mammoth Mountain, Mt. Bachelor, Steamboat, Aspen Snowmass, Winter Park, Copper Mountain, Big Sky, Jackson Hole, Deer Valley, Alta, Stratton, Killington, Sunday River, Sugarloaf, and Tremblant. Within the Mid-Atlantic region, the Ikon Pass covers just one ski area: West Virginia’s Snowshoe Mountain Resort.

The $1,179 Ikon Pass provides unlimited access to 14 destinations, with up to 7 days each at 35 additional destinations. The $869 Ikon Base Pass provides unlimited access to 13 destinations, with up to 5 days each at 30 additional resorts. Ikon also offers a 2, 3, or 4-day Session Pass. If you only plan to ski at Snowshoe Mountain Resort, you can purchase a season pass valid at Snowshoe for $549.

That’s an overview of available pass options for Mid-Atlantic skiers, but the devil is in the details: most of these passes include a range of price points depending on when they are purchased, as well as a range of options such as children’s pricing, options with different blackout dates, etc. Once you narrow down the passes to those that might fit your needs, you’ll want to explore all of the details specific to that pass.

While no single pass is best for every Mid-Atlantic skier, there are considerations that might steer you in one direction or another.

For skiers who primarily ski at Pennsylvania areas, there is a clear winner: the Epic Local Pass provides unlimited skiing at Big Boulder, Hidden Valley, Jack Frost, Laurel Mountain, Liberty Mountain, Roundtop Mountain, Seven Springs, and Whitetail Resorts. Add in the option to ski at world-class properties across the country, including up to ten non-holiday days at the flagship properties of Vail, Beaver Creek, and Whistler Blackcomb, and the $626 Epic Local Pass starts to look like an absolute steal. Or, if you don’t plan to ski out west but might make some trips up to New England, the $514 Epic Northeast Value Pass is a great option.

The value proposition for the Ikon Pass for Mid-Atlantic skiers is less clear. If Snowshoe Mountain Resort is your “home hill,” and you also plan to take a trip or two out west or to New England, then the Ikon Pass might make sense. But only one Mid-Atlantic resort is covered by the Ikon Pass, and for most Mid-Atlantic skiers, Snowshoe ends up being a destination trip as it’s not located near any population centers. From the Washington Baltimore metro region, it can take longer to drive to Snowshoe than to fly to Colorado, and that long drive can get you most of the way to New England areas. Ikon also costs more than Epic.

On the other hand, Ikon has a better footprint in New England than the Epic Pass. So if you plan on taking many trips to New England, the Ikon could be a better fit. Or, if you want to ski at destination resorts such Steamboat, Mammoth Mountain, or Aspen Snowmass, Ikon will be the way to go.

If you shy away from the major resorts and would like to sample and support smaller, independently-owned areas, the Indy Pass provides a great value. And multiple Mid-Atlantic properties participate in the Indy Pass. You can downhill ski at several resorts and even sample cross country skiing at White Grass. However, if you primarily ski at one local hill, the two-day limitation of the Indy Pass will be restrictive and might reduce its appeal.

In 2018, DCSki’s Editor used the Mountain Collective Pass on a road trip to destinations like Wyoming’s Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Photo by M. Scott Smith.

The Mountain Collective Pass is perhaps the least compelling option for Mid-Atlantic skiers, as no Mid-Atlantic properties are included and the two-day limit at individual properties precludes its ability to be used for week-long destination trips at a single resort. However, for skiers wishing to take a road trip, hitting many resorts along the way, the Mountain Collective can be a good option. In fact, DCSki’s Editor did just that in 2018, using the Mountain Collective Pass to embark on an adventure that took him to resorts in Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah.

Finally, many Mid-Atlantic skiers will be happy to ski primarily at their local, independent ski hill. In those cases, buying an individual season pass — which, historically, used to be the only option (back in simpler times) could be the best and simplest choice.

About M. Scott Smith

M. Scott Smith is the founder and Editor of DCSki. Scott loves outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, kayaking, skiing, and mountain biking. He is an avid photographer and writer.

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DCSki Sponsor: Massanutten Resort

Reader Comments

Mongo
7 months ago (edited 7 months ago)
Member since 02/24/2015 🔗
73 posts
  • From D.C., it takes longer to drive to Snowshoe than to fly to Colorado, and driving to New England doesn’t take much longer than driving to Snowshoe. 
Sure don’t agree with that. Takes me under 4 hours to get from Fairfax County to Snowshoe, no stops, and 10 hours to get to VT with stops for gas and food. I’d like to know how to get to Colorado in under 4 hours, when you include travel time to and from the airport.
Scott - DCSki Editor
7 months ago
Member since 10/10/1999 🔗
1,195 posts
Fair points Mongo, and I just made some small adjustments to the wording in the story.  You're closer to Snowshoe from Fairfax City.  Anywhere between downtown D.C. and Baltimore, the drive to Snowshoe is going to be closer to 5-5.5 hours, and that's without traffic.  If there's traffic or bad weather, it can be much longer (as I've unfortunately experienced most trips I've taken to Snowshoe; granted, there are plenty of opportunities to hit traffic going to New England as well!)  Once you're willing to commit that many hours to travel, it does become compelling to weigh the pros and cons of other options.  For me personally, I'd rather hop on a quick direct flight to Denver and have the wealth and variety of Colorado options available.  Snowshoe offers some of the best conditions in the Mid-Atlantic, but I tend to focus on day trips in the Mid-Atlantic and save my money and travel time for destination trips outside the region that take me to places the Mid-A just can't compete with.
JimK - DCSki Columnist
7 months ago
Member since 01/14/2004 🔗
2,838 posts
It's sort of breathtaking to consider all the relatively affordable pass options when laid out in a presentation like this.  I know there are many pros and cons to the whole mega pass revolution, but I feel fortunate to be in the position to enjoy the pros and mostly avoid the cons.
Scott - DCSki Editor
7 months ago
Member since 10/10/1999 🔗
1,195 posts
Consider that a season pass to Whitetail (and only Whitetail) in 2002 was $599.  That was 20 years ago.  Adjusted for inflation, that would be around $950 today.  A $626 pass today gets you skiing at Whitetail and dozens of other resorts all across the country.  That is quite remarkable.  But, as you point out Jim, one has to be in the right position to enjoy the pros of these types of passes.  Having the flexibility to travel is key, and lift tickets are only one component of the cost of a ski trip.  For people who are just starting out or only able to ski a few days a season, the situation isn't as rosy, as single day lift tickets have surged in price.  It does present an opportunity for smaller, independent areas though.
Mongo
7 months ago (edited 7 months ago)
Member since 02/24/2015 🔗
73 posts

Scott, the key point for me, at least, is that if you're on the Virginia side of the Potomac, then a weekend trip to Snowshoe is do-able (leave Friday afternoon, return Sunday night) but a weekend trip to Vermont is simply off the table. I guess a weekend trip to Colorado or Utah could be done (fly out Friday, get the redeye back Sunday night) but that's a much higher level of pain and expense than Snowshoe, in my book.

I'm standing by for people to tell me they've done weekend trips to Killington but I know I wouldn't be much good at work on Monday morning if I'd done that drive the night before. =D

My intent for next winter is to do two long "destination" trips out West and at least two shorter trips to Snowshoe. Thus, Ikon. 

That said, I'm not too thrilled that Ikon for three people was $839 in 2019 and $1,937 in 2022. Will probably look harder at Epic next year.

superguy
7 months ago
Member since 03/8/2018 🔗
440 posts

I'm up near BWI.

Snowshoe isn't a day trip for me. It's a weekend trip today's going to incur about 5.5 hours drive time, meals and hotel.

I can be in Vermont in 7, or Hunter in less. It doesn't make much sense to do to Snowshoe which is in the middle of nowhere and pretty much a 1 trick pony in the area (though its trick is good 😄) when I can drive a little further and have a lot more choice on a pass that costs a lot less.

I'd love for Ikon to pick up some resorts around here to make it worth it as it has more resorts I'd rather ski at, like Sunday River and the Cottonwoods. Problem is for me is that I'm more likely to use it during peak times so I'd have to buy the full-blown pass to have it actually work for me.

You have at least 8 resorts on Epic that can be day trips from the region. Ikon has ... none.

I ended up with the Northeast Value pass a it covers everywhere I'd go around here. It cost less than my Highlands Pass last year, and I at least have some options for New England, with NH being the most accessible

I think Ikon is going to continue to be a hard sell in this region unless you go north or west to get the value of if it or they pick up some resorts in the region.

I think the single resorts may have a harder time too after their early bird discounts run out. Some, like Wisp, are fairly reasonable. Blue Knob, on the other hand, is just smoking crack with their pricing.  They want $369 until the end of April. Full price is $699. That's insane. That's more than a Highlands Pass last year that gave you 3 mountains in the same area. And much more than even Epic's value pass. All on a mountain that has creaky infrastructure, terrible snowmaking, and never even came close to being 100% open on the runs that theoretically have snowmaking, let alone 100% at all. And they have been for a few years, with this season being a lot worse than last.

I know I've badmouthed Vail a lot, much of it deserved IMO. However, I know they'll at least be more reliable and have more open than BK will barring a lot of natural snow. I may get crowds, ave there may be issues this coming season, but I'll willing to gamble and at least try it for a season.  BK at $369 is a huge gamble, let alone $699. $249 would be a lot more reasonable, or even just buying day tickets would probably be better, especially with their low midweek prices.

With the condition BK's in right now, I think they have a lot of stones asking the prices they are. I love the place - you'd be hard pressed to find a better hill in the area when they have the snow. But I just don't see how they can justify their prices. What is management thinking?

I really wish someone like, Boyne, Alterra, or even the Perfects would buy it and make it shine.

lbotta - DCSki Supporter 
6 months ago
Member since 10/18/1999 🔗
1,531 posts
I went crazy with ski passes for this coming season but hopefully I can point out some facts for mid Atlantic skiers/boarders, living as I do, in ski country New England. And being retired, I can ski weekdays mostly. Although family skiing has to be on weekends due to work schedules. 

Living just 12 minutes Door to Door from Sunapee, and just about an hour from Okemo, Epic (retired military) was a no-brainier, at least weekdays. 

However, it must be noted that Sunapee was insanely - unspeakably crowded, on weekends this past season. And it’s a no-go for us on weekends next season. The weekend experience was terrible. I thought I had seen the worst at Snowshoe’s Ballhooter. But Sunapee, Okemo and Stowe were all, on weekends, worse than the worst day at Snowshoe. On top of that, Mt. Snow and Stowe will have paid parking at up to $40 (if Mt Snow is a guide) and unless you stay in the respecting villages, daily charges can mount. So they’re off our weekend list. If Vail continues to neglect Wildcat and do an incomplete job at Attitash, those two are also not worth it. 

I ended up also with a pass to Ragged Mountain.  It’s a well kept secret in the area. 20 minutes from home, 1200 vertical, 200 acres of glades, two mountains, and all high-speed lifts. The side benefit is that as we no longer live in DC, Ragged pass also includes Wintergreen  so we can go there with the kids who are living in DC. 

Cannon Mountain has great deals on passes, it’s a fantastic mountain, and the Indy Pass addition was worth it. 

The Indy Pass is our favorite pass because of the resorts that are included. Bolton Valley is really, really, an amazing place. The vibe is superb. The snow is better than Stowe. Then there’s Magic, a Diamond in the rough but nonetheless a gem. Waterville Valley is superb. Jay Peak is also part of it.  And perhaps the mountain we got to like the best this past season, the newly reopened Saddleback. It’s an overnight trip even for us but everything is new, shiny new. A place where you can let your kids go and they’re safe.  Hands down the best ski experience we had this year.   Ambassadors everywhere to guide you.  And also close to Black Mountain and Sunday River (this last one not in Indy). 

This year I also ended up with Ikon. Primarily for Stratton and Loon and if we end up going West after almost three years as hermits. 

If Sunapee was not an Epic resort, we would have to think twice about Epic even with the low military prices. The experience this year just wasn’t worth it. 
JimK - DCSki Columnist
6 months ago
Member since 01/14/2004 🔗
2,838 posts

Great and informative post Lou.  Epic is going to have to step up its East Coast game. 

I have only two consecutive days at Saddleback and it was ten years ago, but what blew me away was the beautiful scenery of Maine lake country and the Appalachian Trail going over the summit.  Happy it's made a nice comeback.

superguy
4 months ago
Member since 03/8/2018 🔗
440 posts
Take a look at Go Cards if you want to do a few days at Boyne Resorts.  Each resort or resort group (i.e. NE) have somewhat different offerings and different restrictions.  You can save some serious money (up to half off, some with no blackouts) though if you don't have an Ikon pass.  Hit the resort's website and you can see what they offer.

Ski and Tell

Snowcat got your tongue?

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