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Max Out Your Multi-Pass: Choose Utah as your Gateway for Getting the Biggest Bang for your Skiing Buck

Endless corduroy, views, and solitude at Beaver Mountain.

Endless corduroy, views, and solitude at Beaver Mountain.

Copyright: Jay Dash

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You bought a ski pass — a multi-pass! Multi-passes can take you to resorts across the country and around the world. Ikon, Epic, Mountain Collective and many more … Each one allows the pass holder to ski or snowboard a fixed or, in some cases, an unlimited number of times at a group of participating resorts. Presumably, you bought one because you love to ski but hate the prices or lines for daily lift tickets, or you don’t want to be limited to a single resort. Guess what? Utah locals don’t either. We want to be on the first chair on a powder day wherever it lands, and we are going to convince you that Utah should be the start, end, gateway, home base, or your future home (yes, it does happen...frequently) for your multi-pass adventure.

Many Utah ski resort season passes have offered benefits at neighboring resorts throughout the state and region for years. As a result, we know snow! If you’re wondering, “If Utah is this good, then why haven’t I heard about it before?” We are ashamed to say, but Utah’s Mighty 5® national parks get disproportionate attention. Conversely, if you’ve read that the parks and multi-passes have been too popular, then read on to discover where skiing’s secret stashes are. Bottom line: We know how to max out our ski passes throughout the state, region, and world to have the most fun at the best price.

Alta has a little magic on display for everyone — come experience it for yourself.   - © Lee Cohen

Alta has a little magic on display for everyone — come experience it for yourself.

Copyright: Lee Cohen

If you look at a map, Utah is the Center of the Multi-Pass Universe

The Intermountain West is the region that lies between the Cascade and Sierra Mountains to the west and the Rocky Mountains to the east stretching from the Canadian to Mexican borders. Interstate 15 (Utah’s “Autobahn,” with speed limits reaching 70 and even 80 mph through the state) cuts almost down the middle providing access to some of the best landscapes and ski resorts anywhere. Ask anyone who visited the XIX Winter Olympic Games in 2002. Hosted in Salt Lake City, athletes and spectators traveled with ease between Utah resorts around Utah to compete or watch events in world-class venues.

So, assuming you’ve just found a bargain airfare to Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC), a real airport and Delta hub serving over 25 million passengers annually with a top on-time record, here is how centering your trip in Utah will make the most of that multi-pass.

Note: We’ve intentionally omitted multi-pass prices because, honestly, between all the early season, late season, Black Friday or other prices and deals (take advantage of the military or college discounts!), it would be impossible to keep them current. Also, each has different benefits, blackout dates, rules, and restrictions. So, go to each pass’ and resort’s website for pricing and the dastardly fine print.

IKON Pass

The Ikon Pass includes 41 ski resorts worldwide, including five in Utah. Here alone, it provides unlimited days to Solitude, seven days to Brighton, seven to Deer Valley and seven shared between Alta and Snowbird. The Ikon Base Pass is a less expensive alternative with five days instead of seven and some blackout dates, primarily during holidays. Maxing out your Ikon Pass days at these Utah resorts alone is at least a $3,600 value.

If you don’t have that much vacation time between November and April (Snowbird, actually, remained open until July 4th, 2019), then locals will tell you that it is absolutely possible — and more common than area employers would like to ski Deer Valley on Friday, Brighton on Saturday and, if your legs are good, Alta or Snowbird or both on Sunday.

Bonus Tip: You could ski Solitude on Saturday and Brighton that night, sneak in Alta or Snowbird the next day and catch a late flight out of SLC, approximately 40 minutes away. Apologies to your employer.

Ready to really max it out? Add Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, also on Ikon, to your itinerary. Set amongst the Tetons, this resort is not only a beautiful mountain but easy to reach from Utah. Flights to the pricey enclave can be as steep as Corbet’s Couloir during winter months, but flying into SLC is often a more-affordable and more-available alternative. The drive is typically under 5 hours from Salt Lake (4.5 hours from Park City) through stunning Star Valley and Snake River Canyon. There’s even a daily van shuttle between SLC and historic downtown Jackson.

Just a normal day of epic-ness at Snowbasin.  - © James Winegar

Just a normal day of epic-ness at Snowbasin.

Copyright: James Winegar

Epic Pass

Epic Pass comes in so many pricing options (including single and multi-day passes and military, college and senior discounts) making it a flexible and affordable choice for just about everyone. The fully-loaded Epic Pass provides unlimited days at its ever-expanding collection of resorts nationwide, and typically five-to-seven days each at its partner resorts. However, using Utah as your gateway for whatever Epic Pass you choose can make your typical ski vacation — excuse the pun — an epic one.

When using Epic Pass in Utah, most think of unlimited ski days at Park City, one of North America’s largest and most popular resorts and just a 40-minute drive, rideshare or shuttle from SLC. It’s an incredible resort set in a picturesque mining town. Ski down to Historic Main Street, grab a bite at High West Saloon and catch the lift, just yards away, back to the ski runs to burn off that delicious chicken schnitzel. If you want more great skiing with fewer people, however, then use Epic Pass for seven days at the beautiful Snowbasin, home to downhill and Super-G events during the 2002 Winter Olympics and just 45 minutes north of SLC in the mountains above Ogden. Imagine long runs and luxe lodges overlooking a bucolic alpine valley. Snowbasin is a new Epic Pass resort but, as locals have long known, it is one of Utah’s best.

Want to take Epic to the max? If you’re still hungry for more skiing, food, atmosphere or all the above then, from your Salt Lake City base camp, take your Epic Pass up the road to Sun Valley near Ketcham, Idaho, just a 5-hour drive or a slightly longer but very economical daily shuttle from SLC. It might sound remote, but that is precisely why locals, celebrities and dignitaries have been drawn to it for over 80 years. Sun Valley, “America’s first destination ski resort,” is one of the West’s most-storied and revered. This place, anchored by its historic lodge, literally inspired Hemingway to write a classic and will help you create your own memorable stories for years to come.

Mountain Collective

Mountain Collective is designed with the nomadic skier or snowboarder in mind. It is half the price of the Ikon Pass and provides two days each at 18 incredible resorts in North America, including Alta and Snowbird here in Utah. No blackout dates. See a powder day in the forecast? Mountain Collective provides a bonus day to be used at any of its destinations and 50% off for additional days. Chase the powder! What job? What school? In fact, using Utah as your gateway opens up an adventure like no other. Like Ikon Pass, Mountain Collective includes Jackson Hole, Big Sky and Aspen, each approximately a six-hour drive or a quick flight from SLC.

Now for every skier’s bucket list item: After using your Mountain Collective days in Utah and its surrounds, catch the daily nonstop from SLC to Paris, hop on the one-hour connection to Geneva and ski two days on the famed slopes of Chamonix, a Mountain Collective global affiliate. Drop the mic … or ski pole, no, not the ski pole.

Solitude iconic runs are unlimited with Ikon.  - © Adam Clark

Solitude iconic runs are unlimited with Ikon.

Copyright: Adam Clark

Yeti Pass

Yeti Pass is for those who know Utah has The Greatest Snow on Earth® and wants to ski and snowboard every single bit of it. It provides one day at each of Utah’s 15 resorts, including, the new Woodward Park City, the snow sports action hub located right on I-80 between Salt Lake City and Park City. If the idea of crisscrossing Utah (which is only about the size of Kansas) looks chaotic, then we can provide some focus and make it look utterly brilliant instead.

Grab a Utah map. SkiUtah’s trip planner provides a great one. It shows how the resorts are, actually, clustered into areas around the state. Use the filters for distance, snowfall, price (but you don’t care about price; Yeti Pass includes them all). Locals will, also, check the weather. Because of Utah’s unique geography, conditions are different for each ski area. The Cottonwood Canyons are favored for the typical northwesterly “Lake Effect” storms; Park City gets the goods when a Southern blast hits; dumps down south will pound Brian Head, and so on. We are all-weather nerds here in Utah.

Let’s assume that you’re flying into SLC and heading straight to Park City to ski its eponymous resort and Deer Valley because, let’s be honest, they’re the most expensive, and you want to get that big bang for your skiing buck. With a few ski days under you, you’ll stop at Woodward to learn some tricks, post the videos and head to the four Cottonwood Canyon resorts in Salt Lake. [Remember: Deer Valley and Alta are skiers-only, but they’re adjacent to snowboard-crazy Park City and Snowbird] From there, you head less than an hour north to Ogden Valley to ski Snowbasin, Nordic Valley, and Powder Mountain, because you’ve heard about the incredible open terrain, snowcat skiing (PowMow offers laps on a cat) and fewer crowds. You could, then, head further north to Beaver Mountain and Cherry Peak.

Ready for more? If you have a less-than-enthusiastic skier with you (sadly, they do exist), then to preserve the peace, head south to enjoy a few quick runs at Sundance, a rustic-chic resort on the backside of majestic Mount Timpanogos, followed by a seasonal, made-to-order lunch at Foundry Grill before heading to Cedar City, a great base for Brian Head and nearby Eagle Point. To let your ski legs recover, spend a day at Zion or Bryce National Parks which are stunning in winter and their iconic trails are empty.

Reciprocal Pass

Reciprocal Pass is one of the better-kept secrets here in Utah. If you purchase a season pass at Brian Head, Beaver Mountain or Sundance (already some of Utah’s most affordable resort passes), it opens the door to three ski days at each of these and over a dozen others in Western states: Angel Fire, Arizona Snow Bowl, Brundage, Hesperus Ski Area, Mt. Baldy, Pajarito Mountain, Powderhorn, Purgatory, Sipapu, Ski Apache, Snow Valley, Snow Range. These resorts are within a day’s drive from Utah.

Here’s your bonus tip: If you have a season pass at any of these other ski resorts, then make the pass pay for itself by taking it to Utah. With free lift tickets, a chunk of your vacation is already paid for. The terms and blackouts vary among resorts, but there are a lot of ski days between them all. So, use those lift tickets!

Another similar pass to consider: The Power Pass offers unlimited ski days to Powder Mountain and Brian Head in Utah as well as Purgatory, Hesperus Ski Area, Snow Bowl, Pajarito Mountain, and Sipapu. In addition, it provides three days at a dozen other western resorts, including Grand Targhee and Snow King, less than five hours from SLC.

Indy Pass

For those who want “an authentic, uncrowded mountain experience”, then you probably considered or absolutely demanded the Indy Pass. It is a wide-reaching and very affordable option providing two ski days at 44 resorts across North America, including Utah’s Beaver Mountain, Idaho’s Brundage, and Montana’s Lost Trail Powder Mountain, all within a day’s drive from SLC. Admittedly, it might be a six- or seven-hour drive in winter, but it is through some of the Intermountain West’s most beautiful landscapes. For many Indy Pass holders, such road trips — the ones that let them explore and find the hidden gems — are part of the appeal. What makes Salt Lake City a great starting point for the Indy Pass is that, as the largest city in the region, everything you need for your adventure is at or just minutes from the airport: rental cars with racks, top gear rentals, amazing outdoor retail and consignment stores, even snacks from Trader Joe’s and Costco. To save time and money, many things can be reserved online in advance for pickup upon arrival in Salt Lake.

Max Out your Pass in Utah

Making Utah your winter skiing destination — or just the start of your ski trip — is the best and easiest way to get the most value out of your multi-pass. With Utah’s location, accessibility and affordability, it is not surprising why the most popular passes include Utah’s famous and under-the-radar resorts. So, whatever your pass, whatever your plans, make Utah your gateway to adventure.

 

Go Back to Utah Ski Trip Guide

Gallery

Endless corduroy, views, and solitude at Beaver Mountain. - © Jay Dash
Alta has a little magic on display for everyone — come experience it for yourself.  - © Lee Cohen
Just a normal day of epic-ness at Snowbasin. - © James Winegar
Solitude iconic runs are unlimited with Ikon. - © Adam Clark

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