You no doubt know about the three most-talked-about passes — The IKON, Epic and Mountain Collective passes. But there’s another choice you will want to check out before you go for one of the Big Three. It might change your mind. It’s the Indy Pass — billed as “the spirit of skiing” — and it’s made up of 66 ski areas that don’t fit any cookie-cutter mold offering you 132 days on the slopes. Do the math. They may not be the big names like Vail and Whistler, but these “other names” like Lutsen Mountains in Minnesota, Red Lodge in Montana, Jay Peak in Vermont and so many more will knock your ski socks off, too.
Lutsen Mountains will give you. a western mountain vibe. It measures up on all levels: vertical rise (825 feet); terrain variety (95 runs spread across four interconnected mountains (hence the “s” in its name) and value (drive to, no air travel to deal with) and, best of all, Lutsen collects more than 10 feet of lake effect snow off Lake Superior. BTW — if you followed the World Cup over the years, this is where American downhill champion Cindy Nelson honed her skills.
Red Mountain is the opposite of a glitz and glamor ski area. Intentionally so. You’ll find it in the Beartooth Mountains of Montana and there a diverse mix of terrain (and some good tough stuff) and it’s known for friendly staff and visitors. You’ll likely seek out and find a personal powder stash and as their advertising says, “you shouldn’t have to settle for first tracks when you can enjoy first, second, and third tracks. Red Lodge Mountain is Montana skiing, pure and simple.”
Vermont’s Jay Peak has been struggling internally with ownership issues that dot the news, but that won’t bother you on the slopes of the Northern Vermont gem, about five miles south of the Canadian border in the town of, you guessed it, Jay. The area likely collects the most snow in eastern North America and you can enjoy it on 81 trails, slopes and glades, Most experienced skiers say it’s the nooks and crannies are what really set Jay Peak apart. The Pump House water park is open year-round and will keep your whole family busy when off the slopes.
Those are just three examples. Best part — passes are a bargain with the Indy Pass and it’s sooooooo easy to use and uncomplicated. Buy early a prices go up incrementally as the countdown to the season draws nigh.
New ski areas to the Indy Pass
Seven ski resorts have been added to the Indy Pass and one of them is a huge addition, as in the largest ski area in the U.S. That’s Powder Mountain Ski Resort, with 8,464 skiable acres—including cat skiing terrain. It’s absolutely a ski area that fits the “spirit of skiing” mantra of the card. Indy Pass tickets are limited to keep from overcrowding, if you really can overcrowd all those acres. Powder Mt. is about an hour’s drive from SLC International Airport in Eden.
The other “newbies” to the Indy Pass are Mt. Ashland, Ore.; West Mountain, N.Y.; Snow Valley, Calif; Marmot Basin, Alberta, Canada; Titus Mt., N.Y. and Montage, Mt. Ashland is really a community hill in the town famous for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It’s a small ski area of 240 acres with five lifts, but don’t write it off if you are an advanced or expert skier because of the Cirque, a very steep bowl you’ll long remember. West Mountain is in Queensbury, N.Y. in the foothills of the Adirondacks. Enjoy night skiing? This is for you as half the trails are under the bulbs.
Snow Valley is in the San Bernardino Mountains above Los Angeles and is the closest ski area to the valley floor (closer than the Big Bear resorts as well). It’s a classic ski area with a laid back vibe. Marmot Basin, on the other hand, is a major Canadian ski resort with the highest elevation in the Northern Rockies. Families will enjoy Titus Mountain in upstate Malone, N.Y., while Montage is conveniently located in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, close to Scranton.
Here’s the roster of ski area participants:
West — Powder Mt., Utah; Brundage, Id; White Pass, Wash; 49 Degrees North, Wash; Antelope Butte, Wyo; Apex Mt., BC, Can; Beaver Mt., Utah; Castle Mt., AB, Can; China Peak, Calir; Eaglecrest Alaska; Eagle Point, Utah; Hoodoo, Ore; Hurricane Ridge, Ash; Lost Trail, Mont; Marmot Basin, Alberta, Canada; Mission Ridge, Wash; Mt. Ashland, Ore; Mt. Shasta, Calif; Pomerelle, Idaho; Powder Mt., Utah; Red Lodge, Mont; Sasquatch, BC, Can; Silver Mt., Idaho; Snow King, Wyo; Snow Valley, Calif; Soldier Mt., Idaho, Sunrise Park, Ariz; Tamarack, Idaho; White Pine, Wyo.
Indy Pass Resort spotlight:
One of iconic resorts on the Indy Pass roster is White Pass, Wash., located 12 miles from Mt. Rainier National Park which, of course, is a must to visit if you ski here. There are a couple reasons that it’s iconic. First, it’s not on your every day ski roadmap, but is actually about 53 miles west of Yakima. White Pass is a laid-back ski area, loved by “real skiers” and riders with some 1,500 acres of terrain for all ability levels. The Paradise Basin Expansion area offers 767 additional acres of terrain served by two quads and the High Camp Lodge (try the brunch).
But the real reason it’s iconic is White Pass is where a couple of twin boys who lived in their parents home at the base of the lifts honed their skiing and racing skills right out their front door. Dad, Dave (“Spike”) Mahre was the area’s mountain manager. Phil and Steve Mahre are two of best American skiers of all time. If you are of the right age, you were mesmerized watching the 1984 Winter Olympics TV from Sarajevo, Yugoslavia (the country has been broken up and has not existed under that name since the early 1990s). Phil won the gold medal and Steve took home the silver in the slalom. And don’t even try to count the World Cup and World Championship medals they won. Will knowing all that improve your skiing? Well, maybe. You’ll see them still skiing the mountain, this time with their grandkids.
Midwest — Lutsen Mtns, Minn; Granite Peak, Wis; Crystal Mt., Mich; Big Powderhorn, Mich; BuckHill, Minn; Caberfae, Mich; Detroit Mtn. Rec, Minn; Little Switzerland, Wis; Nordic Mt., Wis; Pino Mt., Mich; Powder Ridge, Minn; Schuss Mt., Mich; Spirit Mt., Minn; Sundown, Iowa; Swiss Valley,Mich; TerryPeak, SD; Trollhauigen, Wis; Tyrol Basin, Wis.
East — Cannon Mt., NH; Jay Peak, Vt; Waterville Valley, NH; Bolton Valley, Vt; Berkshire East, Mass; Black Mt., NH; Blue Knob, Pa; Bryce,Va; Canaan Valley, WV; Cataloochie, NC; Catamount, Mass; Greek Peak, NY; Magic Mt., Vt; Massanutten, Va; Mohawk Mt., Conn; Montages, Pa; Ober Gatlinburg, TN; Pats Peak, NH; Saddleback, Maine; Shawnee, Pa; Snow Ridge, NYU; Suicide Six, Vt; Swain, NY; Titus Mt., N.Y.; West Mt., N.Y.; Winterplace, WV.
Access and pricing
Indy Pass: $279 (adults) by Aug. 31; $299 until Dec. 1, then $329. Two all-day or all-night lift tickets at each resort. Some blackout dates apply.
Indy + Pass: $379 (adults) by Aug. 31; $399 until Dec. 1, then $429. The Indy+ provides two days or nights at each resort with no blackout dates.
Indy Kids Pass: $119 (12 and under) by Aug. 31; $129 until Dec. 1 and then $139.
Indy Kids + Pass: $169 (12 and under) by Aug. 31; $179 until Dec. 1 and then $189.
Indy Add-on pass: You must be a season pass holder at your home resort to purchase and the add-on pass is not valid at that resort. Indy Pass $189; Indy+ $289; Kids Indy Pass $89; Kids Indy+ $139.
The best part: How to use your Indy Pass
The Indy passes NOT a physical pass. Here’s all you need to do to use it: Once you’ve received a confirmation email that your Indy Pass is registered, you can go to any participating resort ticket window to get a free lift ticket. Just present your driver’s license or other photo ID to the ticket agent each time you wish to redeem and they will issue you a day ticket.
Other things to know
Payment Plan: You can set up a monthly pay layaway plan, but it must be paid off by November.
Discount: Take 25 percent off rack rate for a third day.
Lodging: Discounts are available at a range of lodging properties.
Pass protection: $25 guarantees a full refund if purchased at the time you buy your pass.
The Indy vs the Big Boys
There’s a big difference between the Indy Pass and the bigger, broader, louder IKON and Epic Passes. Think of it like taking a weekend or even a Midwest day at your “home hill” — you know, when push comes to shove and someone asks you about your favorite ski area even after returning for a “week out west.” These are all unique, friendly, sometimes small, sometimes not independent ski areas. They aren’t owned by huge “conglomerates” and are generally far more pleasing to your wallet. The other biggie, mentioned above: No physical pass — just show up at the ticket window after you have registered and purchased the pass. It’s all personal taste, of course, but this pass tastes mighty good.