Mar 21, 2022 - Sports

Epic or Ikon: New prices launch the great ski pass debate

Ski pass price comparison
Data: Axios research; Table: Axios visuals

The snow is beginning to melt from the slopes, so it's time to start thinking about next season.

Driving the news: Vail Resorts and Alterra Mountain released details for 2022-23 passes, an annual ritual that drives conversations in lift lines and Interstate 70 traffic jams.

Vail's Epic Pass increased to $841 from the current $783, but it's still less than the 2019 prices at $979. It allows unlimited access to 40 resorts and lift rides at more than 80 total.

  • The Epic Local pass, which comes with limitations, is $626, up from $583.
  • Local resorts include Vail, Beaver Creek and Breckenridge.

Alterra's Ikon Pass — with unlimited access to 14 resorts and seven days each at 35 destinations — climbed to $1,079 after two years at $999.

  • Two base passes with access to fewer resorts ring in at $969 and $769.
  • Local resorts include Winter Park and Copper.

What they're saying: Rusty Gregory, Alterra's Denver-based CEO, told John recently that pricing is "a very delicate balance. … We need to charge the right amount, not just a high amount."

  • Part of the equation is increased costs and the need to pay employees more, he said.

Between the lines: Vail Resorts made noise with its 20% price cut for passes in the current season. Both major pass dealers told us they saw increased sales but Vail came under fire for its long lines and limited staffing.

The intrigue: Two other options will draw increased interest this year.

With more people traveling thanks to the easing of pandemic restrictions, the Mountain Collective pass is looking more appealing.

  • The $539 pass offers two days of skiing or riding at 22 big-name resorts, including Aspen Snowmass, Arapahoe Basin and Jackson Hole.

Bluebird Backcountry, a ski area south of Steamboat with no lifts, appeals to backcountry skiers with its avalanche-controlled terrain.

  • A new perk for next year's pass: Two tickets at Arapahoe Basin and Powderhorn, as well as one ticket to Sunlight.

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