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Ski Pass Happenings in 2023

“So…what ski pass did you get this year?”

Every fall, when our new seasonal shop staff starts to roll in, perhaps our favorite icebreaker is, “what ski pass are you on?”.  As skiers, we’re always looking for the best bang for our buck, right? Which has the most ski areas, least black out dates, where our friends are skiing, or what just works best for us and our schedules. 2023 brings a lot of shake ups in the ski pass offerings this year, so we break down the key differences between passes in our 2023 ski pass comparison. While Ikon and Epic are the meat and potatoes of the ski industry, you’ve got to eat your independent vegetables by taking a good look at what the independent resorts offer.

Booting up at a Powder7 favorite mountain, Loveland Ski Area. | PHOTO: Mitch Warnick

Changes on the Ikon Pass

In classic Ikon fashion, the resort conglomerate provides a spread of pass options for this year. The full Ikon Pass ($1,179) offers the most access and zero (!) black out dates. You get seven additional days at partner destinations, as opposed to five days on the Ikon Base Pass. This year, the Base Pass offers two options, the Base ($869) and the Base Plus ($1,069). Besides about a $200 price difference, the Base Plus offers five days access at six additional destinations not included on the regular Base Pass. Those locales include Aspen Snowmass, Jackson Hole, Alta, Deer Valley, and new additions from Epic; Sun Valley and Snowbasin. Instead of Alta/Snowbird having shared access like last season, to ski over to the Alta side, you’ll want to upgrade to Base Plus. 

For our Washington friends, the biggest news is losing all-season access to Crystal Mountain. You still get five or seven days of access depending if you’re on the full Ikon or the Base. The rest of the all-season access stays the same from last year. You can check out the full breakdown of resort access with Ikon passes here.

Who’s it for?

With unlimited access to Winter Park, Copper Mountain, and Eldora, and several local Colorado hills with partial access, the Ikon makes for a great Front Range pass. A wide variety of additional locations makes finding ski vacation destinations covered under your pass easy.

A Powder7 Favorite Hill: Taos Ski Valley

You’ll often find a Powder7 crew taking trips to Taos every season. With some of the coolest terrain around and small mountain vibes, Taos equals good times. There’s a little something for everyone, from open groomers to tight and technical steeps. Take your pick of the quick hikes to find uniquely Taos hike-to-terrain,

skier at Taos ski area
A lot of Ikon Powder7 staff (and non-Ikon) love to take an annual pilgrimage to Taos. | SKIER: Mikey Lucas PHOTO: Mitch Warnick

New resorts at Mountain Collective

Started by the Aspen Skiing Company back in 2012, the Mountain Collective compiles some of the highest quality terrain and mountains into one pass. The Mountain Collective offers two days at each partner resort, similar to the Indy Pass. With destinations like Aspen Snowmass, Sugarbush, Snowbird and Alta, Jackson Hole, Arapahoe Basin, and Taos, you get a lot of the hits off of the Ikon Pass without the Ikon Pass price. If you plan on skiing more than two days, you can snag 50% off on additional days.

The Mountain Collective is introducing five new resorts this year, bringing back Snowbasin and Sun Valley, and introducing Sugar Bowl in California, Marmot Basin in Alberta, and the wildly French Le Massif de Charlevoix in Quebec. They keep things easy with just one pass option for adults at $579. The cherry on top? Zero black out dates at all resorts, all year. You can see the full pass lineup here.

Who’s it for?

With no black out dates and a reasonable number of days at reach resort, if you like to spend your ski season traveling to a variety of rather than focusing on one resort every trip, this is an excellent choice. These destinations are a little more resort-y than those on the Indy Pass (more on that below), so if you like the big ski hill feel, we’d lean Mountain Collective.

A Powder7 Favorite Hill: Arapahoe Basin

Arapahoe Basin is a Colorado local’s favorite. It’s not for the feint of heart — plenty of steep terrain, limited beginner runs, and a lot of terrain above treeline makes for some windy and cold conditions. If you love bashing through tight trees and steep bowls, there’s nothing better than lapping the Beavers and Pallavicini zone.

skier dropping into Pali at Arapahoe Basin
The Pali zone at Arapahoe Basin is a local’s favorite at the locals mountain. | SKIER: Ben Leoni PHOTO: Jordan Skattum

Updates for the Epic Mountain Pass

Usually the biggest rival with the Ikon Pass, the Epic Pass provides the exclusive access to the infamous Vail Resorts. In the last few years, Epic expanded across the country, with new additions in the Mid Atlantic, Midwest, and East. This makes Epic a great all-round option for lots of local skiing for skiers everywhere. The Epic Local Pass (similar to the Ikon Base, with more limited access compared to the full Epic) provides really extensive access for a pretty great price — just $655 right now.

Epic has a huge variety of pass options available, ranging from the full Epic pass to multi-day passes, to regional passes that have different access to different mountains. You can see the full range here. Don’t forget, Epic prices are jumping up on October 9th!

Who’s it for?

Colorado skiers who ride or die by Vail, Breck, and Keystone, or anyone who spends vacations in the Colorado/Utah area. Not to mention, the full Epic Pass is home to probably the largest spread of international destinations in Europe and Canada, so if that’s on your list this year, this could be a good option.

A Powder7 Favorite Hill: Keystone Resort

Vail and Breck get all the attention, but we find a lot of staff hanging out at Keystone. Just down the hill from Arapahoe Basin, Keystone gets a lot of the same early and late season snow that A-Basin is known for and fights for the earliest opening date every season. You can find quiet trails and powder stashes over by The Outback Lift.

skiers getting ready to drop in at Vail
The best pass is where the besties are at. Pow7 staffers Jonathan and Annabelle get ready to hot lap Vail. | PHOTO: Matt McDonald

Shakeups on the Indy Pass

The Indy Pass entered the scene back in 2019 and provides a unique offering for riders everywhere with over 100 partner resorts. Passholders get two days at each resort, with additional discounts for extra tickets and at other partnered areas, like cross country skiing facilities. 2023 brings in a lot of new partner resorts, including; Mt. Hood Meadows, Mountain High, Dodge Ridge in the West, Nub’s Nob, Snowriver, Chestnut, and Marquette in the Midwest, and Black Mountain and Burke in the East.

The Indy Pass also adds Colorado’s own Bluebird Backcountry. Located right outside of Steamboat here in Colorado, Bluebird offers avalanche controlled terrain without any lifts. You get the experience of backcountry skiing, with plenty of avalanche mitigation and resort facilities. The best part? The Indy Base Pass is just $329. $329! A single day ticket at Vail will run upwards of $200 this year. If you’re interested in learning more, the brains behind the Indy Pass did a great podcast episode with the Storm Skiing Journal you can check out here.

Who’s it for?

Perhaps the best compilation and representation in the Midwest of all the ski passes. It’s great for folks who are based around those parts, but provides plenty of options for destination skiing out W. The Indy Pass is ideal for folks who aren’t hitting the 50+ ski day threshold and are stoked on exploring and traveling off the beaten path.

A Powder7 Favorite Hill: Sunlight Mountain Resort

Just down the road from Aspen Snowmass, Sunlight is a Roaring Fork Valley locals favorite. Avoid the crowds (and ritzy vibe) of Aspen, with a lot of the same incredible terrain. The Indy Pass added Sunlight last February, which combined with Bluebird would make for a great hit of Colorado ski areas.

So you’ve nailed your pass (or passes). Curious about new ski setups for the upcoming year? Dive deep into our 2023 Buyer’s Guide to find the best pair of skis for you.

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