Ski Pass Comparison: Ikon Pass vs. Epic Pass

Newsroom Canada Ski Pass Comparison: Ikon Pass vs. Epic Pass

One of the most frequently asked questions we get is that of which ski pass is best. Simply put, there’s no clear-cut answer to the question of the best ski pass. It can feel a bit like advanced calculus, comparing the different passes — Epic Pass, Ikon Pass, The Mountain Collective, and Indy Pass — and comparing the many different tiers of so many ski passes. Yet regular season pass holders will tell you that having a ski pass always pays off. Daily lift tickets are out, ski passes are in.

Epic Pass vs Ikon Pass

While we’ve put together guides for the major passes, in this article we’re comparing the Ikon Pass to the Epic Pass. Ultimately, choosing the Ikon Pass or the Epic Pass – or for that matter the other ski passes like the Mountain Collective Pass or the budget-friendly Indy Pass – depends on a lot of factors, with the number one depending on where you plan on skiing and how often you plan to be on snow. The region in the country where you live also can make a difference. The bottom line is that you won’t find a “one-size-fits-all” ski pass solution… but you will find a size that fits you.

However, we’ll try to make the choice easier for pass holders with our guide to the Epic Pass vs Ikon Pass.

Who owns the Epic Pass and Ikon Pass?

Epic Pass is owned and operated by Vail Resorts and is offered at all of its 37 ski areas and numerous partners in the United States and abroad. The Ikon Pass is owned and operated by Alterra Mountain Company and is offered at all of its 16 ski resorts, plus a plethora of partner resorts across the globe.

Vail Resorts.
©Tomas Cohen/Vail Resorts

Pass Price: Epic Pass vs. Ikon Pass prices

Simply put, the earlier you purchase the Epic Pass or Ikon Pass, the cheaper the price will be. Both the Epic Pass and Ikon Pass go on sale in early spring (usually by late March), and that’s the time to grab the best value. The prices rise incrementally several times over the summer and fall and are at the highest point close to the start of the season. Here are some comparisons at one point leading up to the 2023-24 ski season.

  • Epic Pass adult — $1,004; Ikon Pass adult — $1,359
  • Epic Pass child — $512; Ikon Pass child — $429

Options include the Epic Local Pass and specific passes for a number of resorts and regions.

For further comparison of the adult Epic Pass and adult Ikon Pass, the adult Mountain Collective Pass is around $600, while the adult Indy Pass early on is $299, or $399, without any blackout dates. Day Passes (1-7 days) are available on Epic and are known as Session Passes on Ikon Pass.

Shop for Epic & Ikon Now

Which ski pass has the best resorts?

That’s too subjective for us to answer. The real question is at which resorts do you plan to ski and ride? Here’s a list of both ski passes, starting with Epic Pass.

Epic Pass Resorts

  • Unlimited Access Resorts: 42
  • Additional Resorts: 22

Mountains with Unlimited Access

Unlimited ski resort access? Yes, you heard that right. Epic Pass resorts with unlimited access include such iconic resorts as Park City, Vail and Beaver Creek. Here are the unlimited access resorts for the Epic Pass.

Vail's back bowls
The back bowls of Vail Resort. ©Vail

Up to 7 days at select global destinations. No blackout dates.

Ikon Pass Resorts

  • Total Resorts: 55
  • Unlimited Access Resorts: 15 on Ikon Pass and 14 on Ikon Base Pass
  • Additional Resorts: 39

Unlimited Access Resorts

Ikon Pass, too, has a number of unlimited access resorts, although it’s a smaller list. Some of the headliner resorts include Mammoth Mountain, Palisades Tahoe, and Steamboat. Here are the resorts with unlimited access to the Ikon Pass.

Up to 7 days or 7 days combined at select global destinations. No blackout dates.

Which passes offer which perks

Pass holders have a number of benefits for both the Epic Pass and Ikon Pass. Perks of the Epic Pass include Ski With Friends and Buddy Pass tickets and cost breaks for members of the military, plus a local pass for college students. The Ikon Pass offers price breaks for nurses, military, and college students for both full and base passes, plus free skiing in late spring of the next year for new pass holders. Pass holder benefits for Ikon Pass also include first tracks at select destinations once a month, summer adventure opportunities, and lodging and destination deals. Ikon Pass also offers Friends & Family discounted lift tickets.

Ikon Pass vs Epic Pass: Local ski passes

The Epic Pass has an option where you can buy an Epic Local Pass in the Rockies, West, Midwest, Northeast, and Mid-Atlantic regions. The Epic Local Pass is only good for Vail properties, however. There are plenty of choices.

The Ikon Pass has regional localized options in Crystal Mountain in Washington, Steamboat, and Winter Park in Colorado, June Mountain in the Sierras of California, Bear Mountain and Snow Summit in Southern California, Stratton Mountain and Sugarbush in Vermont, Snowshoe in West Virginia, Solitude and Deer Valley in Utah, and more in Canada and Europe.

Ikon Pass vs Epic Pass: A regional guide

Best Ski Pass for Colorado

Colorado is a toss-up for which ski pass is best. The Epic Local Pass includes Vail-owned ski areas – Breckenridge, Keystone, Vail, Crested Butte, and Telluride – all great choices. The Ikon Pass gives you Winter Park, Copper, Arapahoe Basin, and Eldora, which are all an easy hop from Denver, and a few longer hops, such as Aspen Snowmass and Steamboat.

Breckenridge Ski Area
Breckenridge Ski Area/Vail Resorts

Best Ski Pass for Lake Tahoe and California

Vail Resorts Lake Tahoe ski resorts include Heavenly, the giant South Lake Tahoe resort that actually resides in both California and Nevada and Northstar California on the north side of Lake Tahoe. Kirkwood is a big mountain standout not far away from South Lake Tahoe. Palisades-Tahoe on the north side of Lake Tahoe is on the Ikon Pass. South of Lake Tahoe, Mammoth Mountain is on the Ikon Pass, as well as nearby June Mountain. If you plan to exclusively ski at Lake Tahoe, then we recommend the Epic Pass, while Ikon Pass is the best option if you plan to split time between Mammoth and Lake Tahoe.

Best Ski Pass for Utah

Utah lovers should probably go for the Ikon Pass as it includes the resorts in Little Cottonwood Canyon – literally iconic – such as Snowbird and Alta (remember, though, snowboards are not allowed at Alta). The Epic Pass, on the other hand, offers up Park City Mountain Resort, a big-time, fun place to ski and ride.

Best Ski Pass for the Midwest

Midwest skiers and snowboarders who mostly stay local should bag both the Epic Pass and Ikon Pass, and go for the Indy Pass which offers up 27 resorts. The Epic Pass and Ikon Pass just don’t have the same options in the Midwest as in other regions. Still, the Epic Pass has limited options, such as Afton Alps, if you live near the Twin Cities, or Wilmot if you live near Chicago or Cleveland.

Best Ski Pass for the Northeast

The Ikon Pass has access to renowned New England ski resorts, including Killington, Stratton, and Sugarbush. However, the Epic Pass has more Northeast ski resorts on its pass, including Stowe. If you’re sticking to New England ski resorts, then the Epic Pass is a great choice.

Best bets for early skiing, Killington Vermont.
@Killington Resort

Best Ski Pass for the Pacific Northwest

Neither the Ikon Pass nor the Epic Pass have a lot of Pacific Northwest options. Epic has the largest ski resort, with Whistler Blackcomb, and also has Stevens Pass. But the Ikon Pass has more resort options, including Mt. Bachelor in Oregon.

Best ski pass for the Canadian Rockies

If you plan on skiing a lot in Canada, then the Ikon Pass is a no-brainer. Above, we mentioned that the Epic Pass has Whistler Blackcomb, which is in the Coast Mountains. Its partner resorts also includes a few smaller ski resorts spread throughout Canada, such as Nakiska Ski Area, which is the closest ski area to Calgary. However, the Ikon Pass features several days at a number of prominent Canadian ski resorts, including Revelstoke, Sun Peaks, Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise, and Mt. Norquay.

Best ski pass for the Northern Rockies

Similar to above, the Ikon Pass wins out for the Northern Rockies, considering that the Epic Pass doesn’t currently have any resorts there. The Ikon Pass features Sun Valley and Schweitzer in Idaho, Jackson Hole in Wyoming, and Big Ski in Montana. Sun Valley came over to the Ikon Pass, from the Epic Pass, in 2022.

Rendezvous Bowl at Jackson Hole
The Rendezvous Bowl at Jackson Hole ©Julie Weinberger

Best ski pass for the rest of the world (Europe, Chile, New Zealand, Australia and Japan)

If you plan to head to Europe or even Japan, it just depends on where you want to go. The Epic Pass has the most options for Italy, France, Austria, Switzerland, and even Japan, but the Ikon Pass adds in summer.

Questions to ask yourself before buying a ski pass

Before purchasing a ski pass, there are a few questions you should ask yourself. First and foremost, how often are you going to ski? If you don’t take many ski vacations, or you’re only skiing a couple of times in a season, then a ski pass doesn’t make sense. Additionally, you’ll need to ask yourself questions like what your budget is and where you’re most likely to ski during the ski season. For some skiers, they won’t need to go all out on an Epic Pass or Ikon Pass; they can go with a local ski pass or a pass for just a few days.

Bottom Line

So which ski pass should you go with? They both have a number of popular ski resorts and offer plenty of benefits. In short, both the Epic and Ikon Pass will save you considerable money if you plan to ski or ride for at least a few days. Just do the math. Ski passes have literally changed the way we ski. Gone are the days when you simply walked up to the window to buy your lift tickets.

The Epic Pass has more unlimited access ski resorts than the Ikon Pass’ selection of unlimited access resorts, while the Ikon Pass has a few Southern Hemisphere ski resorts to choose from and a nice selection of perks for pass holders. If most of your ski vacations are going to be in one specific region, then you should consider this, too. For example, the Epic Pass doesn’t have any ski resorts in Montana, Idaho, or Wyoming.

Are there other ski pass options you should consider? While the Epic Pass, Ikon Pass, and Mountain Collective are all good choices, be sure to check out the fast-growing, less expensive, and popular Indy Pass. For more info, check out the links below to all of our pass guides.

More reading

Hero Credit: Big Sky Resort

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