Skiing is an expensive hobby. There’s no way around it. However, there can be ways to try to reduce the cost. A season pass, even for someone who only skis a few days a year, is one of these strategies and why I have bought versions of Epic Passes for the past three years.
This is not meant to be a detailed guide about the ins and outs of getting an Epic Pass, but rather, my thoughts on the pass and what went into my decision to purchase a version of it this year for our ski trip to Colorado, as well as how it saved us money.
This article is part of Chasing Snow: Colorado 2022 Trip Report, including:
- Flight Review: Frontier Economy DCA-DEN
- How I Flew the Family to Colorado for $225 WITHOUT Points
- Epic Pass Take 2023: My Thoughts
- Booking a Vacation Rental with Points: My Thoughts
- Lounge Review: Centurion Lounge DEN
The biggest benefit and motivation behind buying an Epic Pass falls under the saving money category. While lift tickets in the U.S. have broken $200 for a single day, day and season pass prices remain affordable.
Knowing that we would only be able to ski a few select days during the 2023 season, unlike the prior two, we opted for Epic’s 3-Day pass, perfect for a long weekend trip. Although lift tickets for our dates were hovering around $450, or $150 per day, this day-pass option came to roughly $235 or $78 per day.
Not only that, it also came with more flexibility. Rather than being locked into a few select dates with the lift ticket, we could have used the Epic Day Pass most days throughout the season.
We also had flexibility. In addition to being able to ski at Keystone, we could have chosen to ski closer to home at Whitetail Resort in PA among other options. Passes we have held in the past have allowed us to visit Tahoe for the weekend, or hop between Vail, Beaver Creek and Breckenridge in CO on a moment’s notice, much better than being locked into certain dates
However, we did not actually end up buying a 3-Day Pass. Alternatively, we bought one 1-Day Pass including holidays, as well as one 2-Day Pass without holidays. This is what permitted us to ski on the Saturday before MLK, a blackout day for some passes.
The other option would have been to buy a 3-Day Pass with holidays (an added expense) to let us ski Saturday (a blackout day), which would have come out to be more than the two separate passes, one of which included the holiday/blackout day.
Further, all of our ski days were loaded onto a single physical pass. This meant that we were able to walk right up to the lift upon arrival, not worrying about having to print passes. The days were used in the hierarchy of lowest category first, so our holiday inclusive date was automatically used on Saturday.
One last small perk that comes with Epic Pass variations is a 20% discount on most things you would need to pay for during your ski trip. From transfers to lodging to rentals, that 20% can sometimes add up to be more of a discount than an inexpensive pass. After all, if you can buy a pass (and 20% off discount) for sub-$80, you would get $200 off your $1000 lodging option (often more in pricey locations such as Vail).
Ski passes are for the planners. As we soon head into March, that means it will be time to think about getting passes for next ski season before this one has even ended. I know that is a crazy proposition for many of us, but that is also how you can save tremendous amounts on your lift tickets.
People who don’t start making their possible winter ski plans until the later fall, or worse, after the season has started, won’t have the ability to save nearly as much. If I recall correctly, we bought our passes sometime around May last year.
Ski passes are not typically refundable. So, besides for extraneous circumstances such as injury or job loss, once you buy your pass you are locked in and often it is use or lose by the end of the season.
The Last Point
As long as I have some ability to plan out my future ski plans, I will try to buy season passes. Not only do I feel they offer more flexibility at a lower price, but sometimes they will lead to bonus trips (if you have already paid for the pass you may as well use it more).
This year was my first time opting for the day pass option. It was no less convenient than the typical full Epic Pass or Epic Local Pass, but it did save us a good amount of money since we only skied three days. Further, buying two separate smaller passes saved us even more.
I have a fondness for some of Epic’s resorts, but I will soon need to start planning next ski season and it will be determined whether I will renew for a 4th year.
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