When it comes to choosing your winter ski trip plans, it’s hard to know which winter ski pass is right for you. Between the most popular ski passes like Indy Pass, Ikon Pass, and Epic Pass, which all offer dozens of resorts and easily more than 100 days of skiing, how do pick which pass to purchase this winter ski and snowboard season? In this blog, we’re breaking down the best ski passes, comparing Indy vs Ikon vs Epic pass so you can find out which pass is best for you and have an amazing ski and snowboard season!
I don’t know about you but fall is usually a time when I start thinking about winter plans. In fact, every year’s decision about what ski pass we should buy this year is a very large ordeal!
Do I want to ski Aspen or Breckenridge? Am I purely traveling to ski or do I want to winter at a resort with unlimited access? Oh but wait, road-tripping to small hidden gem ski resorts in the west sounds fun too!
Trust me, in 5 years of skiing and riding, we’ve considered it all!
In this blog, we’re sharing everything we know about how to choose the best winter ski pass this season and why we love Indy, Ikon, and Epic Pass!
Related: Our Favorite Winter Ski Destinations
Table of Contents
Why Buy An Indy, Ikon, or Epic Pass
Indy, Ikon, and Epic Pass are some of the top multi-resort passes you can purchase this season. Unlike a standard season pass that gives you unlimited access to just your local resort, all 3 of these passes offer various combinations of unlimited access skiing and 2-7 day access at dozens of different resorts across north America and even internationally. By purchasing one of these 3 passes, you can ski all season without having to limit your skiing or riding to 1 resort of your choosing.
You might think that buying single lift tickets at a resort would be a better choice if you’re only going to take a few ski trips this year. The truth is, that might not be the case. By purchasing a season-long pass like Indy Pass, Ikon Pass, or Epic Pass you could actually save money on the few ski vacations you take this year.
We’re also going to be diving into the comparison for those who are looking to ski unlimited at a home mountain while also having the opportunity to travel to ski.
Keep in mind that Epic Pass and Indy Pass prices usually go up around Labor Day, while Ikon goes up in October, so if you plan ahead and buy your pass early, you can save a lot of money on your winter ski pass.
The best way to explain the Epic Pass is in the name…EPIC!
The Epic Pass is one of the top 2 ski passes, competing with Ikon, with 38 different North American resorts complete with some of the biggest and most famous ski resorts like Vail, Breckenridge, Park City, Telluride, Whistler, Northstar, Heavenly, and Stowe.
Unlike Ikon Pass where the majority of their resorts only have 7-day access, of all the 38 resorts in North America, all but 1 of them (Telluride) offers unlimited, unrestricted access. It’s also significantly cheaper than the Ikon Pass at $899 for adults. Ironically, for 12 & under an Epic Pass is more expensive at $457.
An even cheaper option than the full Epic Pass is the Epic Local Pass for $669 for adults. The Epic Local Pass still offers unlimited, unrestricted riding at 30 resorts including Breckenridge, Keystone, Crested Butte, Stevens Pass, and Okemo but you only get 10 days combined between Vail, Beaver Creek, and Whistler and there are blackout dates to avoid. You still get unlimited riding at Tahoe resorts, Park City, and Stowe but there are blackout dates.
One feature of the Epic Pass is its high concentration of resorts close to each other. For example, if you live near Tahoe, you have 3 resort options on the Epic Pass to choose from. If you live near Breckenridge, you have 4 ski resorts to choose from within a 45-minute radius. The same goes for the Northeast.
Because of this, Epic Pass has the ability to offer their high-value Regional Local Passes for a low price (in the $500 range). Regional Local Passes which offer a combination of unlimited access (excluding holidays usually) in a core radius, plus limited 5-7 day access to some Epic resorts. This is truly one of the best deals Epic Pass offers, making an Epic Local Pass a no-brainer for locals who live in Summit County, Tahoe, or the Northeast.
If you only plan to take a few ski vacations, Epic Pass also offers the Epic Day Pass where you can pick if you want to visit between 1-7 days throughout the season. Prices for these start at $40/day or $20/day for kids but vary significantly depending on 3 choices of skiing 22, 32, or all 38 Epic Resorts plus your choice to ski on or off holidays
By purchasing this, you can ski save money on skiing some of the best North American resorts compared to at-the-window rates.
Depending on your holiday/resort choices (like if you choose 3-days of access and want Colorado resort access which comes to $95/day), it could be cheaper to ride smaller, independent ski resorts like Tamarack, Brundage, or even Whitefish.
All Epic Passes come with Epic Coverage which offers protection across a range of Qualifying Personal Events and Qualifying Resort Closures. The key word there is Qualifying so of course, there are some exceptions but for the most part, if you lose days due to injury, job loss, student/military transfer, and more, you may be eligible for a refund.
Between Dec 7th and April 17th, you could also receive a refund for a qualifying closure related to Covid closures.
By owning any Epic Pass, you’ll get Epic Mountain Rewards which gives a 20% discount on food, beverage, and retail like Ikon, but also lodging, equipment rentals, group ski and ride school lessons, and even cat skiing and heli-skiing.
Owners of a full Epic Pass, Epic Local Pass, and Regional Local Passes get 6 Ski-With-A-Friend discounted lift tickets for friends and family. Depending on the ski resort, your friends/family will get anywhere between a 20-30% discount on the window rate.
While Epic will certainly give you an unforgettable winter, Ikon is just as iconic! With more access to more than 50 destinations, including some of the most popular resorts like Aspen Snowmass, Jackson Hole, Winter Park, Mammoth Mountain, Steamboat Springs, Sugarbush Resort, Palisades Tahoe, Taos, Alta, Sun Valley, and Mont Tremblant, getting an Ikon Pass is a guaranteed way to have a legendary winter season.
And that’s not to mention the iconic intentional resorts that are included with Ikon. A full Ikon Pass gives you access to Big3 Alberta, Chamonix-Mont Blanc, Zermatt Matterhorn, Dolomiti Italy, and top resorts in New Zealand, Andorra, Japan, Chile, and Australia.
Full Ikon Pass comes at a hefty price though. It’s $1,229 for adults to get unlimited access to 14 resorts and up to seven days at 39 additional destinations with no blackout dates.
If you’re willing to work around blackout dates, the Ikon Base Pass is significantly cheaper and is a great option for the traveling skier or rider.
The big con of the Base Pass is that Steamboat Springs is removed from your unlimited access and a couple of big resorts are excluded entirely including Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Aspen Snowmass, Deer Valley Resort, Alta/Snowbasin, and Sun Valley. If it sounds like a big bummer to miss out on skiing these resorts, Ikon offers an Ikon Base Plus Pass, which is roughly $200 more than the Ikon Base Pass and still cheaper than a full Ikon.
Owners of Ikon, Ikon Base, and Ikon Base Plus passes get a 25% discount on 10 or 8 lift tickets (respectively)for friends and family based on the window rate.
If you really think you’re only going to take a ski vacation 1 or 2 times this year, two-day, three-day, or four-day Session Pass options are a great choice. They do not have to be used on consecutive days or at the same resort.
The benefit here is that you can ski some of the biggest, best North American ski resorts much cheaper than if you walked up to buy daily lift tickets. The negative is that, if you’re only skiing 2-4 days this season, you can save more money by skiing at smaller, independent ski resorts.
Like Epic, owning any variation of an Ikon Pass gives a small 10-15% discount on food, beverage, retail, and more. You also get preferred pricing on select lodging at some resorts.
The immediate con of Ikon is that you have very limited options for home mountains. What do I mean by this? Well generally you want your home mountain to have unlimited access (more than 7 days) and then from there, you’d be willing to travel and ski, without needing more than 7 days per location.
With Ikon there are only about 6 options in the West and 4 options in the East with unlimited skiing.
One personal preference I don’t love about Ikon is the mistake they made in 2020. We were happy owners of Ikon Base Passes for the 2019-2020 season and were very disappointed that our season got cut short and I mean very short) when all the resorts suddenly closed down in March due to you-know-what. What was most disappointing about this was that Ion never once offered to refund or reimburse us for the unused season, which for many resulted in an entirely unused pass.
Since then, Ikon has implemented a new beneficial Adventure Assurance Program that is free with every Ikon Pass:
- If you purchase a pass and don’t use it by December 8th, you can defer that pass value to the purchase of next season’s pass. This is great, but of course, you have to make that decision by Dec 8th!
- More importantly, if there is an eligible Covid-related closure at your selected North American Ikon Pass destination from December 17, 2022 – March 5, 2023, Ikon Pass holders will receive a proportional credit toward the purchase of a 23/24 Ikon Pass based on the percentage of days closed. Subject to applicable terms and conditions. Click here to read more about how the scenario credits work.
The Indy Pass has only been around for 4 seasons now but people quickly took notice, myself included, due to the amazingly low price that still allows you to ski for 2 days each at 119 independently owned resorts across the USA.
I love that we get to support small businesses while we enjoy the adventure of skiing & snowboarding all winter.
Indy Pass has 3 options:
- The Indy Base Pass,
- The Indy+ Pass,
- & The Indy Add-On Pass.
The Indy Base Pass offers access to every resort on the Indy Pass, which in itself takes you to uncrowded resorts where the slopes are empty, the lift lines are short, and there’s an authentic low-key locals vibe everywhere you ride! With the base, you have to work around blackout dates at certain resorts. Each range of blackout dates is different for each resort so be sure to see the Indy Pass website for more details.
The standard Indy Base Pass is $329 for adults (and $149 for kids). Yeah, you read that right! That’s one of the things that makes Indy Pass so great. It’s amazingly affordable compared to Epic and Ikon pass and you still get 100+ resorts.
The only difference between Indy Base and Indy+ is blackout dates. For an extra $100 with Indy+ Pass, there are no blackout dates!
If you visit a resort and love it so much you want to ski a 3rd day, Both the Indy Base Pass & Indy+ Pass give you 25% off the going window rate on lift tickets for an extra day.
In addition, both passes give you 2 trail pass days at all 18 XC resorts which you can see a list of here!
Indy Pass also has a wonderful offer for those who already live near one of the independent resorts on Indy Pass. By owning a season pass at one of the Indy resorts, the Indy Add-On pass gives you 30% off an Indy Pass and turns your season pass into a travel pass where you now have unlimited access at your home mountain plus 2 days at 100+ resorts.
The Indy Add-on Pass again has a Base and Plus variation which give you blackouts or no blackouts respectively.
IndyPass is a truly incredible deal, especially for families and new skiers/riders.
We’re personally aiming to do a big Indy Pass road trip, hitting 2 days at 20 resorts in the west. With the base pass, that puts our daily lift price at about $8 for an adult and $4 for the kids!
If you’re not crazy like us and don’t do big winter road trips, this is by far the best pass if you live in Idaho. There are 8 different resorts within a 6-hour drive from Boise. It’s also great if you live near Spokane, Bozeman, or even Salt Lake City.
Indy is great for RVers/Vanlifers. Nowadays, so many big ski resorts don’t allow overnight parking but at many of these small resorts, you can park overnight for free or for a small fee in the resort parking lots.
Similar to Ikon, with your pass purchase you’ll get Indy Pass Assurance. If you are not able to use your pass at all, we will provide you with a 10% credit towards a pass for the 23/24 season. Unfortunately, Indy won’t offer any refunds for non-use though.
Since this Assurance program doesn’t offer much, you can purchase pass protection for $15-40 (depending on the pass) which guarantees you a full refund if you’re unable to use your pass before April 30, 2022. With this pass protection, you must request a refund or rollover by September 1st, 2023. This is pretty great assurance for how cheap the pass protection is.
Choosing your Ski Pass for 2022-2023 Season
In order to decide the best winter ski pass for you, start by asking yourself these questions:
- How much time do I want to spend skiing this year? Do I want season-long riding or just traveling to ski or both?
- Do you care more about the riding itself or the ambiance of the closest town/lodge, etc?
- Will I be traveling to ski by car, RV, or plane?
- If traveling to ski, is it important to me to save money outside the ski experience?
- Do I hate crowds or do they not bother me?
- How important is refundability and pass coverage to me?
What’s the Best Winter Ski Pass?
Let’s down into the pros and cons of which pass is right for you and why I’d choose each pass…
Ikon Pass Vs Epic Pass
Ikon and Epic are neck-in-neck competitors that offer almost equal pass options. They’re both pricey but offer access to the world’s biggest and most iconic resorts, so how do you choose between the 2?
Both Epic and Ikon offer options for those who live near a major ski mountain and want to travel to ski in addition.
The most significant difference lies in the destinations. The majority of unlimited access resorts on Epic Pass are in Colorado. This includes Vail and neighboring Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and neighboring Keystone, plus Crested Butte and Telluride (not unlimited). There are also 3 Tahoe Resorts, iconic Whistler, and classic favorite Park City.
Comparatively, Ikon also has a high network of resorts in Salt Lake City and the Sierra region of California. There are still 8 different Colorado resorts on Ikon which includes all 4 resorts at legendary Aspen-Snowmass.
Why I’d Choose Epic:
As I shared earlier in Ikon features, Ikon does not have many options for home mountains because they only have 14 resorts with unlimited access.
If you live near a major ski resort where an Epic Local Pass is offered (Breckenridge area, Tahoe, or Northeast) and want a variety of resort choices within a small radius, Epic is the better choice over Ikon. Especially because these local passes are way cheaper than an Ikon Pass.
If I wanted to a do Colorado-specific ski road trip over the winter, I would also get an Epic Pass.
Epic Pass also offers convenience for those who are flying to ski. Due to the concentration of resorts in Colorado and near Tahoe, it’s pretty clear-cut to fly in and get to these towns without having to do a ton of driving to get to the next resort.
Why I’d Choose Ikon:
When considering Epic Pass vs Ikon Pass, note that even a full unrestricted Epic Pass is still about $300 cheaper than an Ikon Pass.
One thing that can offset the price difference is that 22 & under can get an Ikon Pass for significantly cheaper which is then almost equal to an Epic Pass.
That being said, I would personally be unlikely to choose an Epic Pass because of the location of all the resorts, Epic is great near Colorado and Tahoe and but I usually spend most of my winter near Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming and Epic offers almost no resorts here.
On Ikon Pass or Ikon Base Plus, you get access to Jackson, Sun Valley, Steamboat, Big Sky, Mt Bachelor, Schweitzer, and multiple Salt Lake City Resorts, which are all closer than Epic Resorts.
Both give you international destinations but Epic Pass gives you MORE resorts internationally while Ikon gives you the more legendary resorts (which would my preference if I were to travel internationally to ski).
- Ikon gives you access to Big3 Alberta, Chamonix-Mont Blanc, Zermatt Matterhorn, Dolomiti Italy, New Zealand, Andorra, Japan, Chile, and Australia.
- Epic gives you 10 different resorts in Japan, 6 resorts in the Canadian Rockies (including Fernie), 1 French Alps resorts, 1 Dolomites resort, and 1 Austrian resort.
Ikon* vs Epic* Comparison:
*Comparing both full unlimited passes
- $1,229 Vs $899; $399 vs $457 for kids 12 & under (yes, epic is more expensive for kids)
- 14 unlimited North American destinations Vs 37 unlimited North American destinations
- PLUS 7 days each at 39 destinations (mostly North American) Vs 5-7 days at 21 destinations (mostly international)
- 10 discounted lift tickets for friends/family Vs 6 discounted lift tickets for friends/family
- Personal coverage (i.e. injury) included for additional charge Vs Personal coverage included for free (for injury, job loss, at more)
- Resort closure coverage included for both
- 15% off food/retail Vs 20% off food/retail
Indy Pass Vs Ikon Pass & Epic Pass
While Epic and Ikon Passes are esteemed, iconic, (a little yuppy), and pricey, IndyPass is the down-to-earth, authentic, hidden gem antithesis.
While Ikon and Epic offer the opportunity to ski a home mountain AND travel, Indy Pass itself is purely a travel pass.
That being said, remember that Indy’s Add-on Pass gives you a huge discount on the Indy Pass when you pair it with a full season pass at one of their resorts.
Take for example that you live in Boise and buy a season pass to Tamaracks ($799) + an Indy Pass Add-On ($219), now you’re breaking almost even to an Epic/Ikon Pass price.
But if you live in Kalispell MT, and you buy a season pass to Blacktail ($540) + an Indy Pass Add-On ($219), now all of a sudden you can ski unlimited all year long AND can travel to ski at 100+ for only $759.
So what I’m saying is that in the case of trying to ski a home mountain and trail to ski, the value is dependent on what your home mountain is.
Why I’d Choose Indy Pass:
When we’re talking about making skiing affordable, there’s literally no comparison to talk about Indy besides Ikon. Even if you only skied 6 resorts all year (totaling 16 days), even if you purchase the Indy+ (which has no blackouts), that’s still only $35/day to ski! And when we’re talking families, that’s only $16/day for each kid!
For how cheap the pass is, you’d think you be visiting run-down little resorts with only 1 lift and a few runs but that’s not the case! Indy Pass resorts may be smaller than Vail, but they prioritize quality and more intimately work to make your winter experience wonderful!
Prior to owning our Indy Passes this year, we have already visited 3 Indy Resorts and they are absolutely incredible with great runs, great powder, no lift lines, and plenty of cute villages and amenities.
Though Indy doesn’t have much in terms of pass coverage (though you can pay for it), retail discounts, and ski with a friend discount ticket, these smaller resorts are generally less expensive from everything between the cost of food, paying to park, and the cost of goods/services/accommodation in the surrounding towns.
We especially love that when we ski Indy, we directly support small businesses over the massive monoliths of Alterra and Vail Resorts.
I also love that at many resorts, it’s easy to bring an RV.
Indy Pass is also great for people who also like to supplement their downhill riding with cross-country skiing.
No question about it, if you want to travel to ski on a budget or with a family, Indy Pass is the best option! It’s also a good choice if you’re tired of lift lines, crowded slopes, and chaotic ski towns.
Additionally, if you live near one of the resorts on IndyPass it’s almost a no-brainer to buy a season pass and grab an Indy Add-on pass. It’s definitely the most bang-for-your-buck onion to ski as much as you can this season while also getting to travel.
Why I’d Choose Epic or Ikon Pass:
The biggest reason I wouldn’t go with an IndyPass would be if a season pass is a non-negotiable for you.
If you live near an Indy Resort, you can get your Indy Add-On for only $219 however you have to own a full access season pass to your home resort to get that discount.
For many resorts, even small independent resorts, this will bring your total season ski price to about $1,000…which is more than an Epic Pass and almost equal to an Ikon Pass.
When the cost is all about the same to have unlimited skiing at a home resort plus TONS of resorts that you could travel to ski at, at that point, it comes down to which resorts you’d prefer to ski.
Of course, if you live in Montana, Wyoming, or Idaho, there’s not even a good home mountain option on Epic or Ikon which still leaves IndyPass as the superior option.
If you live in Oregon or Washington where home mountain options are available on all 3 pass options, it’s up to your personal preference for resorts.
Indy+ vs Ikon Pass or Epic Pass Comparison:
- $429 for Indy+ vs $1,229 for Ikon; $199 vs $399 for kids 12 & under
- Indy Pass Add-On to a season pass totals between $700-$1,000 depending on the home resort
- 2 days each at 119 resorts in North America Vs (Ikon) minimum 7 days at 41 North American destinations or (Epic) 37 unlimited North American destinations
- 25% off 3rd day of skiing Vs 6-10 discounted lift tickets for friends/family
- Budget-friendly towns to visit Vs Expensive towns to visit
- Full refund (with the purchase of pass protection) if you’re unable to use your pass before April 30, 2022
- 10% credit for next season if pass unused Vs Refund or rollover to next season pass based on the percentage of days in the season unused (see more)
- No resort closure coverage Vs Resort closure coverage included
- No discount on food/retail Vs 15-20% off food/retail
Our 2022-2023 Choice
Over our past 5 seasons, we’ve tried out all of the passes mentioned on this list. The truth is, there’s no best pass because it depends on what you’re looking for each season.
For our first season, we were newbie skiers and just wanted 2-3 resorts to learn at every day for the season. We were based out of Summit County at the time so an Epic Regional Local Pass was a no-brainer and we were very happy with it.
The next year, we got Ikon Base Passes and had a great time taking a road trip out to Utah and back through Mammoth to ski.
We did have a bad year with Ikon during the 19-20’ season when we didn’t get refunds for a half-season, but it looks like Ikon’s new coverage policies will prevent that from happening again.
And in the last 2 years, we chose frequent skier passes at our favorite mountain, Whitefish, and traveled to ski at some Indy Pass resorts (without an Indy Pass at the time) and were beyond satisfied with that too.
This year, we are happy to say that we’ve chosen to go with Indy Passes. With a desire to ski at new resorts, and little attachment to having a full-on season pass, we feel extremely satisfied with the number of resorts we can hit this year, especially considering the amazingly affordable price. Indy Pass really caters to families and RVers/Vanlifesr who want to live affordably on the road without expensive campgrounds.
With our ski passes ready to go, we can’t wait to take off on our big Indy Pass road trip. Stay tuned for more info on how to use your Indy Pass for max skiing!
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