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Thursday March 8, 2018 - Email this article to a friend

Most of the major ski resorts in the USA & Canada are now associated with two companies and the competition for dominance in Winter18/19 is amping up. UPDATED


It would be completely unheard of in Europe.

Many of the major resorts are owned by one of two companies, the Aspen conglomerate Alterra Mountain Co. and Vail Resorts.

These ski areas are then tied into collective lift ticket deals.

Both collective ski passes in North America for 18/19, the Epic and the Ikon, are now up for grabs.

They went on sale on the same day last week, 6th March.

And they both cost $899.


The newly formed Ikon Pass includes those that its creator Alterra (Aspen) bought last year.

It rivals the Epic Pass offered by Vail Resorts, now 10 years old and very successful.

It's almost a surpise a serious rival didn't come along sooner.

The Ikon has some catching up to do.

The most recent ski areas added to the Ikon Pass include Utah's Deer Valley, with days at Alta and Snowbird, as well as the 23 resorts in Colorado, Wyoming, California, New England and Canada.

The Epic Pass with its newly joined Canadian Rocky Mountain resorts including Kicking Horse and Fernie - as well as Whistler which was acquired in 2016 - now offers 61 ski resorts through eight countries.

It leaves skiers and snowboarders in a difficult, but clear, position.

Whilst wanting to get in on the very decently priced season passes (for North America) it means people have to choose ski destinations for a season that seems oh-so far away...

March 2ndPlanetSKI's Katie Bamber skiing the much needed overnight-metre in Sun Valley, Idaho
















The politics behind North America's ski industry is both very simple yet convoluted.

Aspen and Vail are buying up mountain resorts, both big and small, in a game that dominates behind-the-ski-scene.

Those they can't buy (either as they are not for sale or break monopoly regulations), they then do reciprocal lift ticket arrangements with.

These collaborative lift tickets cover dozens of desirable resorts (whatever your style) at a much lower cost to a normal US/Canadian season pass.

A better deal even than a week's ski pass.

They want money, commitment and engagment up front.

And then the pass hooks people in to the ancillary products of ski hire, lessons, accomodation, food & beverage etc...

It is a totally different business model to the Alps but here at PlanetSKI we know the Europeans are keeping a close eye on the game.

Telluride new on the Epic Pass - Photo: Brett SchreckengostTelluride new on the Epic Pass - Photo: Brett Schreckengost

















Whether it's the steeps of Snowbird you like, or the up-market atmosphere of Deer Valley:

The bucket list spots of the quiet Telluride or the mighty Vail - these passes let people travel, try out new spots or head to the next new place.

Jackson HoleJackson Hole joins the Ikon Pass














The Ikon Pass announced its Winter 2018/19 price at $899.

Vail's Epic then matched it for next winter.

And now, as well as the resorts owned by each ski shark, other ski areas are signing up to what are becoming co-operative passes.

Lift ticket prices are a strange affair in North America.

A day pass bought from the lift ticket office is a small fortune.

PlanetSKI was in Steamboat, Colorado, last week and we took a look at prices there.

An adult lift pass for a day is $165.

Lift pass warsLift pass wars
















Lift pass warsLift pass wars













Next we were in Breckenridge, owned by Vail Resorts.

The daily price rose to $179.

Lift pass warsLift pass wars
















Lift pass warsLift pass wars




















In many ways the high price of a daily pass is not really aimed at making money, but rather to encourage people to buy a season pass.

And it works.

Vail's Epic Pass holders will next season be able to ski the newly joined nine ski resorts in Japan's Hakuba Valley.

Also for 2018/19 Fernie, Kicking Horse and Kimberley in British Columbia, Nakiska in Alberta and Mont Sainte Anne and Stoneham in Quebec of the Canadian Rockies have been added to the Epic Pass.

Hakuba Valley, Japan joins Epic PassHakuba Valley, Japan joins Epic Pass














But you have to act early.

Now, really, to get the best of the good prices for next season.

Of course there are T' & C's:

Blackout days, a max. number of ski days in certain resorts...

But a redeeming feature is the discount you get in partner resorts once you use up those days - 50% discount in many.

snowbird_500Snowbird on the Ikon Pass














We're working out our route, which pass covers next season's destinations for us.

Stayed tuned.

Photo JH FacebookThe race of the two















See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the mountains.

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