by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
The ski industry has done something very clever – much akin to the hotel and airline loyalty programs keep you within their brand. Two giants have emerged, through acquisition or operation of mountain resorts and through partnerships that give both global reach: Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass and Alterra Mountain Company’s Ikon Pass. This year, both have enhanced their programs with value, reach and even flexibility.
There are still programs that are more local and smaller scale like Liftopia and The Mountain Collective, and independent mountains have reacted with programs aimed at the “Uncommitteds” with extremely inexpensive pass programs or validity through holidays and peak dates when other passes may be blacked out.
But hurry: the last date to purchase the passes is Nov. 24.
But the passes only get you up the mountain. Organizing all the logistics and elements of a ski vacation – from transportation, to accommodations, to rentals to activities on and off the mountain, even choosing from among the hundreds of choices the appropriate destination for a long-haul ski holiday – is the bailiwick of a company like Ski.com.
Here’s a rundown:
Epic Pass is Epic
No question about it: Vail Resorts has stormed the entire East Coast ski market, just this season adding 17 resorts in one fell swoop with its acquisition of Peak Resorts, including such iconic destinations as Mount Snow in Vermont and Hunter Mountain in New York to a list that already included Stowe and Okemo Mountain in Vermont (and Okemo’s sister resorts, Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire and Crested Butte in Colorado), Now add in Attitash Mountain Resort, Wildcat Mountain and Crotched Mountain in New Hampshire and Liberty Mountain Resort, Roundtop Mountain Resort, Whitetail Resort, Jack Frost and Big Boulder in Pennsylvania plus seven more in the Midwest, all of which are included on this season’s Epic Pass.
New for 2019/20 – The Epic Pass now offers access to Sun Valley, Snowbasin, Rusutsu-Japan, and the 17 Peak Resorts ski areas, including Hunter Mountain, New York and Mount Snow, Vermont. Also new for 2020: Access Falls Creek and Hotham, Australia.
The 2019-20 Epic Pass, Epic Local Pass, Epic Australia Pass and Military Epic Pass now include unlimited and unrestricted access to each of the 17 newly acquired Peak ski areas, in addition to the access provided to some of the world’s most well-known resorts including Vail, Whistler Blackcomb, Park City and Breckenridge. Guests with an Epic Day Pass are also able to access these 17 ski areas as a part of the total number of days purchased. For the 2019-20 season, Vail Resorts will honor all Peak Resorts pass products and continue to sell them through the fall. Current Peak Resorts’ pass holders now have the option to upgrade to an Epic Pass or Epic Local Pass.
Epic Pass™: For $969 for adults and $509 for children (ages five to 12), the Epic Pass offers:
Unlimited, unrestricted access to: Whistler Blackcomb, Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Crested Butte, Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Stowe, Okemo, Mount Snow, Mount Sunapee, Attitash, Wildcat, Crotched, Hunter, Liberty, Roundtop, Whitetail, Jack Frost, Big Boulder, Stevens Pass, Alpine Valley, Boston Mills, Brandywine, Mad River, Hidden Valley, Snow Creek, Paoli Peaks, Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton, and Wilmot in North America. The Epic Pass also includes access to Perisher, Falls Creek, and Hotham in Australia.
Limited access to partner resorts, including: seven days at each of Telluride, Sun Valley, Snowbasin, and the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies; five consecutive days at Hakuba Valley, Japan’s ten ski resorts; five consecutive days at Japan’s Rusutsu Resort. The Epic Pass also grants limited access to Les 3 Vallées in France; 4 Vallées in Switzerland; and Skirama Dolomiti in Italy.
Epic Local Pass™: For $719 for adults, $579 for teens (ages 13 to 18) and $379 for children (ages five to 12), the Epic Local Pass offers:
Unlimited, unrestricted access to: Breckenridge, Keystone, Crested Butte, Okemo, Mount Snow, Mount Sunapee, Attitash, Wildcat, Crotched, Hunter, Liberty, Roundtop, Whitetail, Jack Frost, Big Boulder, Stevens Pass, Alpine Valley, Boston Mills, Brandywine, Mad River, Hidden Valley, Snow Creek, Paoli Peaks, Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton, and Wilmot.
Unlimited access with holiday restrictions to: Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, and Stowe.
10 total days combined (with holiday restrictions) at: Vail, Beaver Creek, and Whistler Blackcomb.
Limited access to partner resorts, including: two days (with limited holiday restrictions) at Sun Valley; two days (with limited holiday restrictions) at Snowbasin; and five total consecutive days with no blackout dates at Hakuba Valley’s ten ski resorts in Japan; and five total consecutive days with no blackout dates at Rusutsu Resort.
Military Epic Pass™: For $159 for Active and Retired Military and their dependents and $559 for Veteran Military and their dependents, the Military Epic Pass offers:
Unlimited, unrestricted access to: Whistler Blackcomb, Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Crested Butte, Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Stowe, Okemo, Mount Snow, Mount Sunapee, Attitash, Wildcat, Crotched, Hunter, Liberty, Roundtop, Whitetail, Jack Frost, Big Boulder, Stevens Pass, Alpine Valley, Boston Mills, Brandywine, Mad River, Hidden Valley, Snow Creek, Paoli Peaks, Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton, and Wilmot in North America. The Military Epic Pass also includes access to Perisher, Falls Creek, and Hotham in Australia.
Epic Day Pass: Announced earlier this year as a part of Epic for Everyone, the Epic Day Pass provides unprecedented flexibility and season pass discounts to guests skiing as little as one day.
With the customizable pass, guests can unlock discounts of up to 50 percent off lift ticket window prices by selecting the number of days they plan to ski or ride – from one day to seven days – and whether or not to add holiday access.
Use the pass at any of the Company’s North American owned resorts, including Whistler Blackcomb, Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Crested Butte, Park City, and more, including the 17 new resorts. Those purchasing four or more days also get access to Telluride, Sun Valley, Snowbasin, and Resorts of the Canadian Rockies as a part of the total number of days purchased.
There are also local passes.
IKON Pass Adds Zermatt, A-Basin
Alterra Mountain Company’s Ikon Pass expands its offerings this season with the addition of Zermatt in Switzerland (and the famous Matterhorn) and Arapahoe Basin Ski Area in Colorado.
The addition of Zermatt brings the number of destinations available to Ikon Pass holders to 41 around the globe, across five continents, 12 states, 4 Canadian provinces, for a total of 84,385 acres of skiing and 4,857 trails.
The iconic Matterhorn towers over more than 3,500 acres (1,416 hectares) of terrain that spans both Switzerland and Italy, offering Swiss hospitality coupled with Italian lifestyle, in the highest skiable terrain offered in the picturesque Alps. Connected lift service offers Ikon Pass holders access to Rothorn, Gornergrat and the Schwarzsee-Matterhorn glacier paradise within the Zermatt ski area, plus Cervinia-Valtournenche ski areas in Italy, collectively known as Matterhorn ski paradise.
Ikon Pass holders will have seven-day access to Zermatt and the Matterhorn ski paradise network on the Ikon Pass with no blackout dates, and five-day access on the Ikon Base Pass, also with no blackout dates.
“The Matterhorn is a true icon known around the world, so we are thrilled to have Zermatt join the Ikon Pass community,” said Erik Forsell, Chief Marketing Officer for Alterra Mountain Company. “Ikon Pass strives to continually offer pass holders unique experiences in the mountains. Now they can experience Zermatt’s glacier skiing, traditional Swiss fondue, plus its infamous European après ski across two countries, on one pass.”
“Zermatt and Matterhorn ski paradise are pleased to be the first European destination on the Ikon Pass, and we look forward to offering our best Swiss quality and Italian lifestyle to Ikon Pass holders everywhere. We are excited to share our passion and devotion to skiing within the Ikon Pass community and its impressive destination partners across the globe,” said Sandra Zenhäusern, Director of Marketing, Zermatt Bergbahnen AG.
The Ikon Pass unlocks adventure with access to 41 iconic winter destinations across the Americas, Switzerland, Japan, Australia and New Zealand and is a collaboration of industry leaders – Alterra Mountain Company, Aspen Skiing Company, Boyne Resorts, POWDR, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, Alta Ski Area, Snowbird, SkiBig3, Revelstoke Mountain Resort, Taos Ski Valley, Sugarbush Resort, Zermatt, Thredbo, Mt Buller, Niseko United, Valle Nevado, and NZ Ski. Alterra Mountain Company honors each destination’s unique character and authenticity.
A-Basin is located just 68 miles from Denver and boasts the longest season in Colorado, many seasons running through the 4th of July. Affectionately known as “The Legend,” A-Basin sits on the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains and offers a high-alpine, big-mountain experience, paired with a laid-back atmosphere. Its 1,428 acres of iconic terrain includes the East Wall and Montezuma Bowl, plus The Beavers and The Steep Gullies, some of North America’s newest terrain. The Beach, a stretch of prime real estate near the lower-mountain chairlifts, transforms into a Colorado après tradition.
Ikon Pass holders will have seven-day access to A-Basin on the Ikon Pass with no blackout dates, and five-day access on the Ikon Base Pass, with selected blackout dates.
Alterra Mountain Company’s Ikon Pass connects some of the most iconic mountains across North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Chile, delivering authentic, memorable snow adventures. The Ikon Pass unlocks access to a community of diverse destinations to ski and ride, including Aspen Snowmass, Steamboat, Winter Park Resort, Copper Mountain, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, and Eldora Mountain Resort in Colorado; Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain and Big Bear Mountain Resort in California; Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming; Big Sky Resort in Montana; Stratton, Killington and Sugarbush Resort in Vermont; Snowshoe in West Virginia; Boyne Highlands and Boyne Mountain in Michigan; Crystal Mountain and The Summit at Snoqualmie in Washington; Tremblant in Quebec and Blue Mountain in Ontario, Canada; SkiBig3 in Alberta, Canada; Revelstoke Mountain Resort and Cypress Mountain in British Columbia, Canada; Sunday River and Sugarloaf in Maine; Loon Mountain in New Hampshire; Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico; Deer Valley Resort, Solitude Mountain Resort, Brighton Resort, Alta Ski Area, and Snowbird in Utah; Zermatt in Switzerland; Thredbo and Mt Buller in Australia; Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Mt Hutt in New Zealand; Niseko United in Japan, and Valle Nevado in Chile. Special offers are available at CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures, the world’s largest heli-skiing and heli-accessed hiking operation.
The Ikon Pass is available now at www.ikonpass.com.
Alterra Mountain Company is a family of 14 iconic year-round destinations, including the world’s largest heli-ski operation and the Ikon Pass. The company owns and operates a range of recreation, hospitality, real estate development, food and beverage, retail and service businesses. Headquartered in Denver, Colorado, Alterra Mountain Company spans six U.S. states and three Canadian provinces: Steamboat and Winter Park Resort in Colorado; Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain and Big Bear Mountain Resort in California; Stratton in Vermont; Snowshoe in West Virginia; Tremblant in Quebec, Blue Mountain in Ontario; Crystal Mountain in Washington; Deer Valley Resort and Solitude Mountain Resort in Utah; and CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures in British Columbia. Also included in the portfolio is Alpine Aerotech, a worldwide helicopter support and maintenance service center in British Columbia, Canada. Alterra Mountain Company honors each destination’s unique character and authenticity and celebrates the legendary adventures and enduring memories they bring to everyone.
For more information, visit www.alterramtnco.com.
Ski .com Facilitates Planning Long-Haul Holidays
With the global reach of Epic Pass and Ikon, the whole world is now the skiers’ oyster, encouraging more and more people to venture to Europe, Asia and Australia for an entirely different downhill experience.
The passes create new incentives for season-pass holders to go further afield from their “local” or familiar mountain, even “shopping” for where the best snow may be or novel activities, amenities, vibe or ambiance. This makes the services of a travel agent with particular expertise in mountain resorts to assist with the logistics (air, car rental, lodging, even rentals, etc.) more in demand. SkiCom, a travel agency/broker specializing in skiing and mountain resorts, brings that expertise cultivated over 50 years, especially when venturing to more off-the-beaten track, even exotic or remote destinations, out of your comfort zone, where help with lodgings, transportation, and non-ski or après-ski activities brings extra value.
Ski.com’s 65 mountain travel experts live and breathe ski culture. They are ski and snowboard enthusiasts who know the intimate details about each resort because they’ve been there, and done that.
These experiences allow them to accurately determine which resort(s) and accommodation(s) is perfect for each customer, based on their interests and budget.
Another benefit of using a ski specialist to help coordinate a long-distance vacation is mitigating the cost. With the rising cost of skiing, “people want to make sure they’re receiving more value for the higher cost,” says Dan Sherman, Ski.com chief marketing officer. “This is where Ski.com can help. In addition for being able to hunt for the best price, we really excel by matching people with the vacation components that are right for them. Also, not too long ago, all you needed for a successful ski vacation was a hotel, a chairlift and a bar. Now, resorts offer world-class amenities, spas, dining, improved family and ski school facilities and additional on- and off-mountain activities.”
Founded in 1971 in the heart of Colorado ski country, Aspen-headquartered Ski.com is one of North America’s largest providers of mountain vacation packages and an industry leader in online travel technology. Ski.com is actually an amalgam of some of the most famous names in ski travel companies: beginning as Aspen Ski Tours, which became Ski.com in 1999; the company over time acquired Lynx Vacations, GoWest Tours, Adventures on Skis, Sportours, AnyMountain Tours, and Rocky Mountain Tours. The company has booked travel for more than one million skiers and riders.
Ski.com specializes in booking custom ski vacations at more than 120 of the most popular ski resorts and heli- and cat-skiing destinations in North America, Europe, Japan and South America, with relationships with more than 120 destinations worldwide and over 4,000 properties worldwide. It is a one-stop shop for custom ski vacation packages that can include everything from discounted lift tickets, lodging, flights, equipment rental, ground transfers, lessons and off-mountain activities (such as dogsledding or nordic skiing).
Visit Ski.com (you can do an on-line chat with a specialist) or call 800-908-5000 or 970-429-3099.
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