Both the Epic Pass and the Ikon Pass provide an amazing deal to save a ton on lift tickets, however, you still need to sleep somewhere. Let’s consider which pass you should buy based on which hotel programs you have points with.
The Ikon Pass is a bit more versitle giving you a broader choice of mountains than the Epic pass, however, it isn’t truly unlimited like the Epic Pass. The flagship Ikon Pass boasts 39 destinations, but only 14 are unlimited, the remainder are 7 days.
- Ikon Pass $949 ($679 military/college, $699 age 13-22, $299 age 5-12, $199 age 5-12 w/adult purchase, $49 age 0-4, less $30 renewal discount) – No blackout dates – 39 ski resort complexes (unlimited at 14 destinations, 7 days per year at remainder)
- Ikon Base Pass $649 ($489 military/college, $499 age 13-22, $259 age 5-12, $159 age 5-12 w/adult purchase, $49 age 0-4, less $30 renewal discount) – Blackout dates 2019: Dec 26-31, Jan 18-19 (different dates in southern hemisphere) – 39 ski resort complexes (unlimited at 12 destinations, 5 days per year at remainder)
- Epic Pass $939 ($489 age 5-12) – no blackouts – unlimited at 20 destinations, 7 days at 3 resort groups, 5 days at 2 Japaenese resort groups, and a limited ability to use certain european resorts (often with a hotel purchase) – 6 friend tickets (percent discount off window rate), 10 buddy tickets (fixed price ticket), discounts
- Epic Local pass – $699 ($569 age 13-19, $369 age 5-12) – Blackout dates:Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Stowe, Vail, Beaver Creek, Whistler Blackcomb, Sun Valley, Snowbasin (11 days in total): 11/29/19-11/30/19, 12/26/19-12/31/19, 01/18/20, 02/15/20-02/16/20. – 6 friend tickets (percent discount off window rate), 10 buddy tickets (fixed price ticket), discounts
- Epic has 1 to 7 day passes (holiday and non-holiday versions), various regional passes, various military passes (including one as low as $129 for unrestricted 18 resort pass), various college passes
- SWAF ticktets: 16 resorts, e.g, $171 for midseason adult at vail to $40 for a weekday child ticket at brighton. SWAF tickets are best for child or off-peak guest tickets.
- Buddy tickets: 16 resorts, e.g., $129 at Vail, $97 at Park City, $75 at Okemo, $43 at Brighton. Buddy tickets are best to use when the ticket would otherwise be expensive.
- Swiss & Austrian Alps - in addition to deals below, the Epic pass provides for access to 4 Vallees (Verbier, Nendaz, Veysonnaz, Thyon, La Tzoumaz, Bruson) in the Swiss Alps and the Arlberg area (Lech, Zurs, Stuben, St Christoph, St Anton) of Austria based on the purchase of rooms in partner hotels. Probably not of much interest to our readers.
|Mountain(s)||Region||Acres||Main Base Altitude||Ikon||Ikon Base||Epic||Epic Local||Airport (Drive Time)||Hotel Programs|
|Vail||CO||5,289||8,120||N/A||N/A||U||10 BO||EGE (0.75), DEN (2.50)||Mar, IHG|
|Whistler||BC||8,171||2,214||N/A||N/A||U||10 BO||YVR (2)||Mar, Hil|
|Keystone||CO||3,148||9,280||N/A||N/A||U||U||EGE (1.25), DEN (2)||Hyt|
|Northstar CA||Tahoe||3,170||6,330||N/A||N/A||U||U-BO||RNO (0.75)||Mar, Hyt|
|Crested Butte||CO||1,547||9,115||N/A||N/A||U||U||GUC (0.5), DEN (4.75)||C|
|Beaver Creek||CO||1,815||8,100||N/A||N/A||U||10 BO||EGE (0.5), DEN (2.5)||Hyt, Mar|
|Breckenridge||CO||2,908||9,600||N/A||N/A||U||U||EGE (1.5), DEN (2)||Hil, Hyt, Mar|
|Park City||UT||7,300||6,900||N/A||N/A||U||U-BO||SLC (0.75)||Hil, Mar, Hyt, IHG|
|Stevens Pass||WA||1,125||4,061||N/A||N/A||U||U||SEA (2)|
|Telluride||CO||2,000||8,725||N/A||N/A||7/50%||N/A||TEX (0.25), DEN (6)|
|Snowbasin||UT||3,000||6,391||N/A||N/A||7/50%||2/50% BO||SLC (1)||Hil, Mar, Hyt, IHG|
|Sun Valley||Idaho||2,054||5,750||N/A||N/A||7/50%||2/50% BO||BW|
|Hakuba Valley (10 resort group)||Japan||75 to 550||2,300 to 3,100||N/A||N/A||5||5|
|3 Valleys France
(Val Thorens, Meribel,
Courchevel, Les Menuires,
Saint Martin de Bellevelle,
La Tania, Orelle,
|Skirama Dolomiti Italy||Alps||N/A||N/A||7||N/A|
|Steamboat||CO||2,965||6,900||U||5-BO||N/A||N/A||HDN (0.5)||Mar, Hil, C|
|Winter Park||CO||3,081||9,000||U||U||N/A||N/A||DEN (2)||BW, IHG|
|Copper||CO||2,465||9,712||U||U||N/A||N/A||DEN (2)||BW, IHG|
|Squaw Valley||Tahoe||4,000||6,200||U||U-BO||N/A||N/A||RNO (1)|
|7||5-BO||N/A||N/A||ASE (0.25), DEN (4)||Mar, IHG, Hyt|
|Jackson Hole||WY||5,500||6,311||7||5-BO||N/A||N/A||JAC (0.75)||Hil|
|Big Sky||MT||5,800||7,500||7||5-BO||N/A||N/A||BZN (1)||C|
|Summit at Snoqualmie||WA||1,914||2,610||7||5-BO||N/A||N/A||SEA (1.25)|
|Revelstroke||BC||3,031||1,680||7||5-BO||N/A||N/A||YLW (2.5), YYC (4.75)|
|Sunday River||New England||870||800||7||5-BO||N/A||N/A|
|Deer Valley||UT||2,026||6,570||7||5-BO||N/A||N/A||SLC (0.75)||Hil, Mar, Hyt, IHG|
|Mt. Bachelor||MT||4,318||5,700||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||RDM (0.5)||Hil, Mar, IHG|
- BO = Black Out Dates Apply, see Ikon and Epic sections above for Blackout Dates
- Italics = I have italizied out what I considered to be the more minor mountains. Outside of the northeast, this usually means under 1,000 acres or under 2,000 if next to other large mountains. For the Northeast, I use an undefined sliding scale related to distance from New York and Boston, i.e., the largest mountains at a given distance to the cities are not considered minor.
- Mar = Marriott/Bonvoy (e.g., St. Regis, Ritz, Sheraton, Westin, Residence Inn, Fairfield Inn)
- Hil = Hilton (e.g., Warldorf, Doubetree, Hampton Inn, Homewood Suites )
- IHG = IHG Hotels & Resorts (e.g., Intercontinental, Holiday Inn)
- Hyt = Hyatt
- BW = Best Western
- C = Significant availability of hotels that can be booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards Note that I only combine acreage when you can connect between the mountains by lift without going out of bounds. Busses don’t count. Backcountry interconnections don’t count.
Additional Details (West Coast / Rockies)
- Vail (5,289 acres)
- Marriott: Sheraton Mountain Vista Villas, Marriott
- IHG: Holiday Inn
- Beaver Creek (1,832 acres)
- Hyatt: Park Hyatt, The Residences at Park Hyatt
- Marriott: Ritz-Carlton at Bachelor Gulch, Westin Riverfront Resort, Westin Riverfront Villas
- Breckenridge (2,908 acres)
- Hilton: DoubleTree
- Hyatt: Hyatt Main Street Station
- Marriott: Mountain Valley Lodge
- Park City/Canyons/Deer Valley (7,300 acres) Note that Park City and Canyons are operated together on one ticket and are on the Epic Pass. Deer Valley, while separated from Park City by a simple (though very well guarded) rope, is a totally separate company and ticket and on the Ikon Pass. Note that there are easy shuttle busses between the town of Park City and the 3 mountains. There is also a “Town Lift” from the center of the town of Park City onto Park City Mountain. The Town Lift is pretty easy if you are staying in town. Stayed near the town lift in 2019 and skied all three. Canyons is my personal favorite and made the decision to pick Ikon over Epic this year a very difficult one. If you are looking for steep powder, Canyons is the place to be. Spent a lot of time on the Ninety-Nine 90 Express chair accessing both front country (double black natural terrain) and a side/back country bowl to skiers’ left off the chair (still not clear if that was technically allowed, there are signs saying that backcountry access is allowed off that chair, though not exactly clear if I was allowed to enter where I did).
- Hilton: Hampton Inn & Suites, Waldorf Astoria, DoubleTree)
- Hyatt: Hyatt Escala
- IHG: Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites
- Marriott: St. Regis Deer Valley, Park City Marriott, Marriott’s MountainSide (Vacation Club), Marriott’s Summit Watch (Vacation Club)
- Note that the MountainSide and Summit Watch are Marriott Vacation Club properties meaning that your Marriott elite status isn’t worth much at those hotels.
- I stayed at the MountainSide in 2019. Great experience right at the main Park City base. You exit the ski valet walk by the hot tubs and then a tiny push to the main lift or ski down to another lift if you want to be crazy lazy (happens). Their hot tubs are just what is needed after a day in the powder.
- As crazy as it sounds, the St. Regis needs to compete for Luxury status with the Montage at Deer Valley. The St. Regis is a bit lower if you are altitude sensitive. The Montage has a kids camp (~$120/day) if your kids don’t ski and a kids valet (~$75/day) that provides surround care to ski school allowing you to get last chair. Of course, next to the Montage is a Champagne Yurt. Unfortunately, Montage isn’t on any points program but you may be able to book using Chase Ultimate Rewards.
- Heavenly, Lake Tahoe (4,800 acres; base at 6,450)
- Northstar (3,170 acres)
- Hyatt: Hyatt Regency, Northstar Lodge
- Marriott: Ritz Carlton
- Kirkwood (2,300 acres): N/A</ul>
- Big Sky (Montana) – Big Sky is my favorite mountain of all time. It is utterly humongous. The only mountains of similar scale include Whistler/Blackcomb and newly the combined Park City resorts. There are also so few people on the mountain that you could have acres to yourself. This place seems to NEVER have lines (other than on a tram that services only Expert and Extreme terrain). BTW, if you are used to the ratings system at another mountain, start on the greens and work your way up. You will find glades with real moguls at a good pitch still marked blue. If they mark something a double black, they are very serious about it. One of their easiest doubles is a 39 degree gully. At 50 degrees, they require you bring avalanche gear. But if you are looking for a cruiser, don’t fret. They have countless miles of blue terrain where you will still find fresh corduroy at 3:59pm. To get to Big Sky, use your United points and fly to Bozeman Airport stopping over in Denver. About an hour drive from Bozeman. Bozeman Airport is a delight btw. No points hotels, but I’ve stayed at a $100/night Airbnb a reasonable walk to the lifts (or free shuttle).
- Airbnb (click here for $40 off your first stay)
- With the Chase Reserve, may also be worth considering directly booking with ultimate rewards the Huntley Lodge which is on mountain. I haven’t stayed there but was in there lobby and it seemed like it could be nice.
- Steamboat (Colorado) – Steamboat is a wonderful mountain with minimal crowds. It is about a half hour or so drive from Hayden airport with direct flights from certain Delta, American and United hubs. Alternative is to drive 3-6 hours (depending on the weather and car) from Denver. I won’t be doing that again. Steamboat Springs itself is an adorable town that you can almost walk to from the mountain. Tons of restaurants along with a nice library and museum for the kids. There is also an indoor water park in town. Note if you go during a holiday season, the good restaurants fill up months in advance, but the Sheraton’s casual restaurant will serve you in the lobby if needs be and is surprisingly good.
- Marriott: Sheraton – on mountain; wonderful hotel
- Hilton: Hampton Inn
- With the Chase Reserve, may also be worth considering directly booking with ultimate rewards the The Ptarmigan Inn which is on mountain. I haven’t stayed there but may try it soon.
- Winter Park (Colorado) – Winter Park is a serious mountain a short ride from Denver. It is big with lots of serious terrain. It is split up into territories including the main Winter Park, Mary Jane (a bunch of steep mogul runs off an express lift — serious quad workout), Vasquez Ridge, Parsenn Bowl (wide open skiing), Eagle Wind (amazing glades with no crowds), the Cirque (side country, closed when I was there). The downside is that the mountain gets pretty crowded given how close it is to the city. Also, trying to park there on a weekend wasn’t fun. Get there late and you park across the highway and take a shuttle to the far end of a village where you then get to walk to the lifts. Not a big deal for a couples weekend, but not so easy if you are dragging a little one. Limited points hotel options around, just a Best Western Winter Park in the town of Winter Park (15 min drive) and a Holiday Inn Express in Fraser (30 min drive). The HI Express was very nice though and walk-able from a large supermarket and day care with a drop in option half the price of on-mountain (though didn’t try it). Also note that Winter Park’s base is at a pretty high elevation, if you are altitude sensitive, consider giving yourself a couple of days in Denver and/or getting some meds before you go. Tons of direct flights on points to Denver.
- Best Western: Best Western Winter Park in the town of Winter Park (15 min drive)
- IHG: Holiday Inn Express in Fraser (30 min drive). The HI Express was very nice though and walk-able from a large supermarket and day care with a drop in option half the price of on-mountain (though didn’t try it).
- Copper (Colorado) – Copper is a major mountain a short drive from Denver. While I haven’t been to Copper, it is certainly on my list to try. Downside is the limited choices for point hotels. Tons of points options to get to Denver, of course.
- Best Western: Best Western at Copper Mountain
- Mt. Bachelor (Oregon) – Mt. Bachelor (3,683 acres) is a significant mountain in the Pacific Northwest. It’s 20 miles from Redmond (RDM) Airport serviced by Alaska Air (soon to be part of Oneworld) with direct flights to LAX, SLC, SFO, SEA and PDX along with some United flights. Most hotels are in nearby Bend, OR.
- Crested Butte (Colorado) – Crested Butte has been added to the pass for the 2016-2017 season. It is over 4 hours from Denver airport so not the easiest to get to.
- With the Chase Reserve, may also be worth considering directly booking with ultimate rewards the Grand Lodge (a walk across the village) or Elevation Lodge (near the lifts and kids area).</li>
- Solitude & Brighton (Utah) – Solitude (1,200 acres) and Brighton (1,050 acres) are on the smaller side of the big western mountains but are on the Max Pass and only about 45 minutes from SLC airport. I’ve skied both and love them. Solitude’s base is a bit lower and has more of a resort. Brighton has longer runs and tends to get a bit more snow with its slightly higher elevation. They are under a 10 minute drive from each other and there is a trail to ski between them though it is often closed. Full day kids lesson for 3-4 year old is $200 (9am-4pm with 2x 1 hour semi-private lessons).
- On mountain lodging includes the Inn at Solitude advertising $339/night holiday rate and $269/night regular rate for a regular room and 4/5 on TripAdvisor. I stayed at the Inn and the service was excellent though casual. The Honeycomb restaurant next door is great for dinner.
- There is some type of hostel type lodging at Brighton.
- It is possible to stay at a hotel in the valley and commute up the Big Cottonwood Canyon road to the mountains. A reasonable plan if it isn’t expected to snow, but in heavy snow the roads can temporarily close and most of the time they require either 4 wheel drive or chains. The closest neighborhood to the mountains is called Cottonwood Heights. There is a Marriott Residence Inn and a Hyatt Place there.
- Crystal Mountain, Washington (2,600 acres)
- Stevens Pass, Washington (1,125 acres)
- Fernie Alpine Resort, British Columbia
- Kicking Horse Mountain, British Columbia
- Kimberley, British Columbia
- Nakiska Ski Area Alberta
- Eldora Mountain (680 acres) – 21 miles from downtown Boulder and accessible on a public Ski Bus for $9 round trip in about 45 minutes. Could be worth it if you are nearby. Though those altitude sensitive should note that its base is 9,200ft and peak is 10,600ft.
- Aspen/Snowmass (Colorado)
- Hyatt: Hyatt Grand, Hyatt Mountain Lodge
- IHG: Holiday Inn Express Snowmass Village
- Marriott: St. Regis, Westin Snowmass
- Mammoth (California)
- Marriott: Westin Monache
- Whistler/Blackcomb (British Columbia)
- Marriott: Westin
- Hilton: Hilton
- Jackson Hole (Wyoming)
- Hilton: Hampton Inn (19 min), Homewood Suites (21 min)
Additional Details (East Coast)
- Sugarloaf (Maine) – Sugarloaf (1,230 acres) is probably the best skiing in the east. Gets the most natural snow and is never crowded. The only real downside with Sugarloaf is that it is really far for most everyone to get to. While there are no points hotels, the on mountain options are affordable.
- Sunday River (Maine) – Sunday River (870 acres) may be the best all-round combination of good skiing, a reasonable drive (if you live near Boston) and affordable pricing. Sunday River has lots of good terrain including steeps like White Heat (which scared the hell out of me when I was young) and trees. At about 3 1/4 hours from Boston, it is accessible. While no points hotels, the local options are not too expensive. Even staying ski-on/ski-off is semi-affordable. Not nearly as much of a night scene as Killington, but better to get to bed early to prepare for first tracks.
- Killington (Vermont) – Killington (1,509 acres) is a major mountain in the east less than a 3 hour drive from Boston. Note that their acreage count is “boundary to boundary”, so take it with a bit of a grain of salt if you are a front country skier. I have certainly spent more days skiing here than any other mountain. It has lots of varied terrain and is known for evening options on its access road. While it can get fairly crowded, it isn’t too hard to strategically choose lifts and singles lines to mitigate them. I wouldn’t call it very family friendly (lots of separate drive-up bases, party culture, expensive for New England) and some would say that it isn’t so friendly in general (probably due to its relatively large size and more corporate style management than some area mountains), but has a good amount of terrain for those that love to ski. And bonus points for having somewhat recently changed their policy to officially allow skiing off piste for those that know what they are doing. No point hotel options on mountain and hotel and condo options are more than most of the ME and NH mountains. However, if you are young enough (in age or at heart), “guest” at a friend’s ski share on the couch for short money.
- Pico (Vermont) – Pico (468 acres) is not otherwise noteworthy except that it is adjacent to Killington. Getting much less traffic than Killington, Pico will keep the fresh powder a bit longer, making it a good place to visit a day or two after a dump. Also a great place for a family with little ones learning to ski.
- Loon Mountain (New Hampshire) – Loon (324 acres) is nothing to write home about other than the fact that it is under 2 hours from Boston. I grew up skiing here and have fond memories, but there is very little terrain and extreme crowds. While they claim to have a double black called ripsaw, I’ve been to places where that trail would be a blue or blue/black. While no points hotels, there are some good condo rental options including the Village at Loon across the street and the InnSeason’s Pollad Brook a few blocks away. Both have shuttle service.
- Tremblant (Quebec) – Tremblant (662 acres) is a nice mountain for non-serious skiers. It has a cute little village with bad food but good beverage options and a surprising great crepe place. However, the mountain is the opposite of steep. For some reason they feel they need to label some trails as double blacks, but they grade inflate even more than Loon. It was also very crowded when I was there last with very long lines, though there is a VIP line for certain condo owners and Canadians with Visa Infinite Privilege credit cards (CIBC Aerogold, CIBC, Aventura, CIBC Dividend, RBC Avion, RBC British Airways, TD First Class, TD Aeroplan, Scotiabank Momentum, Scotiabank GM Card and Laurentian Infinite). It is unclear if Americans are able to get this benefit through the $400/year City National Crystal Visa Infinite card. The good news is that there are multiple points hotels right in the village at the bottom of the lifts.
- Starwood: Westin – walking distance in mountain village. Fine hotel but a bit further of a walk from the lift than some of the others, though certainly not a big deal.
- Marriott: Residence Inn – close walk to the lifts
- IHG: Holiday Inn Express & Suites – close walk to the lifts
- Hilton: Homewood Suites – close walk to the lifts
- Fairmont: Fairmont – probably the most fancy of the hotels on mountain
- Stratton (Vermont) – Stratton (670 acres) is a mid size (for the East) mountain in Southern Vermont about 4 hours from New York City and 3 hours from Boston. It doesn’t have any points hotel options. I haven’t been there, but may try it if I’ve already finished my allocation at Sunday River, Killington and Sugarloaf or a storm happens to hover over Southern Vermont.
- Mont Sainte-Anne (Quebec) – Mont Sainte-Anne (450 acres) is a very good mountain
- Hilton Quebec
- Marriott/Starwood: Hotel Pur Quebec, Quebec City Marriott Downtown, Courtyard Quebec City
- Okemo (Vermont)
- Mount Sunapee (New Hampshire)
Bonus Info for fellow Bostonians
Airlines that fly direct from Boston to ski destinations
- Salt Lake City (SLC): Delta
- Denver (DEN): Southwest, United, Jet Blue
Airlines that fly from Boston to ski destinations with one stop:
- Redmond, OR (RDM) – Bachelor(50 min): Alaska (SEA, PDX), Delta (SLC), United (DEN, SFO), American (LAX)
- Bozeman, MT (BZN) – Big Sky(64 min): United (DEN), Alaska (SEA), Delta (MSP, SLC)
- Reno, NV (RNO) – Heavenly(61 min), Squaw (52 min), Northstar (45 min): American (Various), Delta (SLC), Southwest (DEN), United (DEN), Jet Blue (JFK)
- Aspen, CO (ASE) – Aspen(11 min), Snowmass (13 min): United (DEN)
- Yampa Hayden, CO (HDN) – Steamboat(35 min): United (DEN)
- Vancouver, BC (YVR) – Whistler(124 min): Air Canada (YUL, YYZ), American (DFW), United (ORD), Delta (SEA, MSP)
- Mammoth Lakes, CA (MMH) – Mammoth(21 min): Alaska from LAX
- Jackson Hole, WY (JAC) – Jackson Hole(45 min): United (DEN), Delta (SLC)
Please note that I am writing this from the perspective of someone that lives on the east coast so including some of the better east coast “driving mountains” in the mix of the worthwhile even though no one would fly from California for them.
Ski Skiing Ikon Pass Epic Pass American Airlines Delta Airlines United Airlines Hilton IHG Marriott