Mammoth, California. PHOTO: David Reddick
Mammoth, California. PHOTO: David Reddick

How to Choose Between the Epic and Ikon Passes

We broke down both passes down by region to find the pass that gives skiers the most bang for their buck

With the announcement of the Ikon Pass from Alterra Mountain Company in January, it appeared as though the industry-leading Epic Pass from Vail Resorts had finally met its match. While other multi-resort passes like the Mountain Collective and M.A.X. Pass saw success in the market of the road-bound, traveling skier, neither could compete with the 650,000 Epic Passes (costing $899) sold for the 2017/18 season.

However, with the emergence of the Ikon Pass, also $899, many skiers are asking which of the two mega passese will be the better investment. We broke down both passes down by region to find the pass that gives skiers the most bang for their buck.

Colorado
The Epic Pass has long been the go-to for Coloradoans dwelling on the Front Range and in Summit County, providing unlimited access to Vail, Beaver Creek, Breck, Keystone, and A-Basin. Nothing much has changed on that front for next season, other than the addition of seven days each at two ex-Mountain Collective mountains, Telluride and Crested Butte, that Epic Pass holders will now have access to.

For the first time, however, Epic's home territory of Colorado has some serious competition. The Ikon Pass offers unlimited access to Winter Park, Copper Mountain, and Eldora, giving Front Rangers who are growing tired of riding the same Vail-owned resorts year after year new terrain to shred, as well as unlimited access to Steamboat and seven days at Aspen Snowmass for weekend trips. While Epic Passes are still likely to sell big numbers to tourists who spend their holiday time at Breckenridge or Vail, there may be a big local push to the Ikon Pass for those finally given a financially viable alternative to skiing Vail Resorts.

California
For West Coast skiers, the Epic Pass is definitely geared more towards the Tahoe crowd, with unlimited access to Heavenly, Kirkwood, and Northstar, while Southern California-based skiers can't really say no to the Ikon Pass with access to Big Bear just outside Los Angeles. Californian Ikon Pass holders will also be stoked on unlimited access to Mammoth and Squaw, arguably much better mountains when stacked up against Epic's California lineup.

Mountain West
Those residing across the Mountain West, but not in Colorado, are at a bit of a loss when it comes to both the Epic and Ikon Passes. Epic's lone non-Centennial State Rocky Mountain offering is Park City, a decent option for Salt Lake City skiers that can cope with only skiing one mountain all season. As for Ikon, while their lineup includes seven days each at Jackson Hole, Alta, Big Sky, and more, it isn't the best deal for skiers living there full-time, but more geared towards the destination skiers.

East Coast
With fulltime access to Stratton, Snowshoe, Tremblant, and Blue Mountain, as well as a week apiece at Killington and Sugarbush, and seven days between Loon, Sunday River, and Sugarloaf, the Ikon Pass is a no-brainer for those on the East Coast. Offering seven days each at smaller resorts like Okemo and Mount Sunapee, the Epic Pass' major Ice Coast demographic will likely be those who will spend their entire season at Stowe.

Canada
With the acquisition of Whistler back in 2016, the Epic Pass definitely has the hold on Canada's largest skiing market, leaving both locals and those planning a mid-winter Whistler trip with no other real option than to go Epic. The recent addition of Resorts of the Canadian Rockies does add some more incentive to go with Epic, with a week of skiing up for grabs between big mountain havens like Fernie and Kicking Horse.

While the Ikon is packing some major heat with Revelstoke as well as SkiBig3, with only seven days available at each, the Ikon isn't perfect for those wanting to spend their whole season skiing the Great White North. For those looking for an awesome skiing road trip through interior BC, however, a week in Revy on the Ikon Pass is a decision you won't regret.

International
For those that have been saving their pennies to plan the international ski trip of their dreams in 2018/19, the Epic Pass gains access to five consecutive days in Hakuba Valley as well as 30 different resorts across France, Switzerland, and Austria. Big Japan or European vacation on the calendar? Go Epic.

Epic Pass – $899
California: Heavenly, Kirkwood, Northstar
Colorado: Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, Telluride*, Crested Butte*
Utah: Park City
Midwest: Wilmot, Mount Brighton, Afton Alps
Vermont: Stowe, Okemo*
New Hampshire: Mount Sunapee*
Canada: Whistler Blackcomb, Fernie Alpine Resort**, Kimberley Alpine Resort**, Stoneham**, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort**, Nakiska Ski Area**, Mont-Sainte Anne**
Australia: Perisher
Japan: Hakuba Valley (5 consecutive days)
Europe: Access to 30 resorts

*7 days each
**7 days total at Resorts of the Canadian Rockies

Ikon Pass – $899
California: Mammoth, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Big Bear, June Mountain
Colorado: Steamboat, Winter Park, Copper Mountain, Eldora, Aspen Snowmass*
Utah: Deer Valley*, Alta/Snowbird*,
Wyoming: Jackson Hole*
Montana: Big Sky*
Vermont: Stratton, Killington*, Sugarbush*
New Hampshire: Loon Mountain**
West Virginia: Snowshoe
Maine: Sunday River**, Sugarloaf**
Canada: Tremblant, Blue Mountain, Revelstoke*, SkiBig3 (Sunshine, Lake Louise, Mt. Norquay)*

*7 days at each, no blackouts
**7 total days, no blackouts