You no doubt know about the three most-talked-about passes — IKON, Epic and Mountain Collective passes. But there’s another ski pass you should consider before you go for one of the big three. Seriously consider. That’s the Indy Pass, described as “the spirit of alpine skiing at North America’s authentic, independent resorts.” They are on sale to the public from April 1 (and for previous Indy Pass holders a few weeks early) and can be purchased until early December. Buy early, however, as prices go up incrementally as the countdown to the season draws nigh. The Indy Pass, made up of some 100 ski resorts and cross-country ski areas, may not be the big names like Vail, Aspen/Snowmass and Whistler, but Lutsen Mountains in Minnesota, Red Lodge in Montana, Jay Peak in Vermont and so many more offer a great ski experience. Since all the participating resorts are independent, the total list is not completely final at the start. There will be some new resorts and very few defections, however. See the new refund policy below, offering refunds if your favorite resort is not participating this year.
Who owns the Indy Pass?
The Indy Pass came about in 2019 as a less expensive alternative to the big three passes and is not owned by a conglomerate like Vail Resorts or a partnership like the IKON and Mountain Collective passes. The Indy ski pass includes many of the excellent, smaller ski areas that you won’t find with the other passes. The cooperative pass was launched and is still managed by Doug Fish, owner of Fish Marketing in Oregon.
New ski areas made it even better last winter
The addition of new ski areas to the Indy Pass in 2022-23, including the two resorts in California and three Michigan resorts, may help you make up your mind. Indy Pass holders can ski and ride Marquette Mountain, for example, which brings the serious benefit of lake effect snow from nearby Lake Superior. The mountain picks up an average of 150 inches of snow each season. Nub’s Nob has long been a fun resort and is in the Boyne Mt./Boyne Highlands neighborhood in the lower peninsula. Treetops in Gaylord sits at the highest elevation in the lower peninsula (1,394 feet above sea level and offers a playground of 1,500 skiable acres).
Mt. Mankato (or Mt. Kato to locals) is just 15 minutes from downtown Mankato, offering 65 acres of terrain and 19 trails, all lit for night skiing. BigRock Ski Area is a unique story in that it closed in 2013, only to reconstitute itself into a nonprofit to serve the Northern Maine community near the New Brunswick, Canada border. There have been lots of improvements, including tubing hill, snowmaking and trail work. The price is right, too.
Perhaps the new “crown jewel” is Mt. Hood Meadows, Oregon, the largest of the nation’s independent resorts and the most exciting in the western U.S. Mt. Hood Meadows has 2,150 skiable acres with 85 named runs served by 11 lifts.
Just as the 2022-23 season was about to get underway, Indy Pass officials announced even more additions. They included: Calabogie Peaks Resorts and Alpine Loch Lomand, Ontario, Canada; Mountain High and Dodge Ridge, California; Arctic Valley, Colorado; Granby Ranch and Echo Mountain, Alaska; Mt. Crescent, Iowa; Sleeping Giant, Wyoming; Ski Snowstar Winter Sports Park, Illinois; Dry Hill Ski Area, New York; and Whitecap Mountain, Wisconsin. In addition, several cross-country areas were added: Jay Peak Cross-Country Center, VT; Nickel Plate, B.C.; Bear Valley Adventure Center, CA; and Crosscut Mountain Sports Center, MT.
The best part: Passes are a bargain with the Indy Pass and it’s so easy to use. Buy early, however, as prices go up incrementally as the countdown to the season draws nigh. The Indy Pass keeps growing each year as more and more of the regional ski areas and cross-country centers see the value of bringing newbies to their areas with the hopes of converting them into regular guests.
Here’s the current roster of Indy Pass ski area participants:
West resorts on Indy Pass (17):
Alaska resorts on Indy Pass — Eaglecrest; B.C Apex, Manning Park, Sasquatch Mountain; California — China Peak, Mt. Shasta Ski Park, Snow Valley, Mountain High, Dodge Ridge; Oregon — Hoodoo Ski Area, Mt. Ashland; Mt. Hood Meadows; Washington — 49 Degrees North Mountain Resort, Hurricane Ridge Ski & Snowboard Area, Mission Ridge, Ski Bluewood, White Pass.
Rocky Mountain resorts on Indy Pass: (18):
Alberta — Castle Mountain Resort; Arizona — Sunrise Park Resort; Colorado — Echo Mountain, Granby Ranch, Sunlight; Idaho — Brundage, Kelly Canyon, Pomerelle, Silver Mountain, Soldier Mountain, Tamarack; Montana — Blacktail Mountain, Lost Trail Powder Mountain, Red Lodge Mountain; Utah — Beaver Mountain, Eagle Point Resort, Powder Mountain; Wyoming — Antelope Butte, Snow King Mountain, White Pine Ski Resort.
Midwest resorts on Indy Pass (24):
Iowa — Seven Oaks, Sundown Mountain; Michigan — Big Powderhorn Mountain Resort, Caberfae Peaks, Crystal Mountain, Marquette Mountain, Nub’s Nob, Pine Mountain Resort, Schuss Mountain at Shanty Creek, Swiss Valley Ski and Snowboard Area, Treetops Ski Resort; Minnesota — Buck Hill, Detroit Mountain Recreation Area, Lutsen Mountains, Mount Mankato, Powder Ridge Winter Rec Area, Spirit Mountain; So. Dakota —Terry Peak Ski Area; Wisconsin — Granite Peak, Little Switzerland, Nordic Mountain, The Rock Snowpark, Trollhaugen, Tyrol Basin Ski & Snowboard Area.
Eastern resorts on Indy Pass (22):
Connecticut — Mohawk Mountain; Maine — BigRockMountain, Rangeley Lakes Trail Center, Saddleback Mountain; Massachusetts — Berkshire East Mountain Resort; New Hampshire — Black Mountain Ski Area, Cannon Mountain, Pat’s Peak, Waterville Valley Resort; New York — Catamount Mountain Resort, Greek Peak, Peek ‘n Peak, Snow Ridge, Swain Resort, Titus Mountain, West Mountain; Vermont — Catamount Outdoor Family Center, Bolton Valley, Jay Peak, Magic Mountain, Saskadena Six Ski Area.
Mid-Atlantic resorts on Indy Pass (10):
No. Carolina — Cataloochee Ski Area; Pennsylvania — Blue Knob Resort, Montage Mountain, Shawnee Ski Area, Ski Sawmill, Tussey Mountain; Tennessee — Ober Gatlinburg; Virginia — Bryce Resort, Massanutten Resort; W. Virginia — Canaan Valley Resort, Winterplace Ski Resort.
Japan resorts on Indy Pass (4):
Geto Kogen, Okunaakayama Kogan, Shimokura, Tazawako.
Indy Pass Resort spotlight
One of the iconic resorts on the Indy Pass roster is White Pass, Wash., located 12 miles from Mt. Rainier National Park. White Pass isn’t on your everyday ski roadmap but is actually about 53 miles west of Yakima. White Pass has a laid-back ski area, loved by 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 what arguably makes White Pass the most iconic is because of a couple of twin boys who lived in their parent’s home at the base of the lifts where they honed their skiing and racing skills right out their front door. Dad, Dave (“Spike”) Mahre, was the area’s mountain manager, and Phil and Steve Mahre are two of the best American skiers of all time. If you are of the right age, you were probably mesmerized watching the 1984 Winter Olympics 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.
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.
Click for complete details on the Indy Pass.
The best part: How to use your Indy Pass
The Indy passes are not physical passes. 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.
Access and pricing (Prices for 2023-24 available when public sale begins April 1, 2023)
Indy Base Pass: Adults $349; Kids $159. This pass includes some blackout days.
Indy Base AddOn Pass: Adults $239; Kids $129. You must have an unlimited season pass at an Indy Pass ski resort. Turn your season pass into a “travel pass” and explore any and all of the 100 resorts. However, your AddOn pass is not valid at your home resort.
Indy Plus Pass: Adults $449; Kids $209. There are no blackout dates with this pass.
Indy + AddOn Pass: Adults $329; Kids $179.
The Indy Cross-Country Pass: Adults $69; kids $29.
Some advice: Buy your pass at the end of the current season and you can take advantage of a small down payment and a payment plan due in full by December of the next season. The price escalates slightly as the months go by.
Other things to know
Payment Plan: Pass buyers can pay for their passes in up to eight installments with no interest, meaning a base pass would cost less than $35 per month. The Indy Pass Payment Plan is fully managed by Indy Pass, meaning it comes with zero interest, no credit checks, and no third-party lenders unlike the other passes.
New Refund Policy: Any passholder who purchases during the early-bird pricing period (through May 1) will be eligible for the Indy Pass Partner Participation Promise. Pass holders are entitled to a full refund if the resorts they plan to visit are not participating in the program. Refund requests must be submitted by September 1, 2023.
Service fees go away: The 3 percent service fee typically charged on all Indy Passes at checkout will be eliminated for the 23/24 season. In exchange, all pass holders will be mailed a custom-designed 23/24 commemorative, RFID-enabled Indy Pass with a photo for a $10 fee. The physical Indy Pass will include benefits such as direct-to-lift access at select Indy resorts, expedited lift ticket pick-up at all Indy resorts, and discounts on products and services from Indy Pass partners.
Lodging: Discounts are available at a range of lodging properties.
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. The other biggie mentioned above: No physical pass — just show up at the ticket window after you have registered and purchased the pass.