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Bigger Mountains, Cheaper Passes

Alterra Mountain Company and the Ikon Pass just announced their pass pricing for next winter—and it promises more ridiculously cheap skiing and riding for us all.

Adjusted for inflation, skiing, and here we’re talking about riding a lift up and sliding down, not the wagyu truffle burgers and spa treatments, is cheaper today than it was in the 1970s. At least that’s true if you get in 26-plus days of skiing to spread out the costs. It all began with a season pass price war in the highly competitive Colorado market back in the 1990s. Then the 500 pound gorilla in the room launched the multi-resort pass everyone who glides has heard about. And now, with the Ikon Pass in the competitive mix, the multi-resort passes should stay affordable for the foreseeable future. The deals are indeed nuts: Say you live in Colorado or California and buy the full Ikon Pass for $899. That’s less than half the price of a full season pass at a famous resort in a box canyon that charges upwards of $2,200. Ski 26 days—a day at each Ikon destination—and your lift ticket price just fell to $34. Or just rip up places like Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows or Steamboat all season long and after 45 days you cut the cost to less than 20 bucks a day, which is cheaper than a lift ticket cost in the 1980s when $20 was a lot of money.

Among some smaller resorts, the new parent company (Alterra Mountain Company) includes Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Steamboat, Mammoth, Deer Valley Resort, Stratton, Tremblant, Winter Park, CMH Heli-skiing, and, if the rumors are to believed, possibly a few more nationally-ranked destinations. Ikon Pass resorts include Aspen’s four peaks, Killington, Copper Mountain, Eldora, Sugarbush, Big Sky Montana, Sugarloaf, Alta, and Snowbird. And oh yeah, Revelstoke Mountain Resort, which just saw the biggest snowfall in a decade. There are more.  

We’ll have to wait and see what having two resorts conglomerates competing means to the long-term health of unaffiliated ski areas that can’t afford to sell passes for below their operating costs. But if affordable skiing at multiple mountains is the goal, then we all win.


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