The winter season is winding down and as mountain resorts in the north starts to ponder about their last days of skiing and snowboarding, the sale for next season ski passes have started. My first purchase of the Mountain Collective pass opened up a whole new world of skiing for me and gave me a brand new perspective to the mountains. Not all mountains are created equal, and thus makes sense that a different ski resort would provide a fresh experience. With the purchase of Whistler Blackcomb by Vail Resorts, Mountain Collective has lost one of the largest and what was considered the ‘best’ ski resort in North America. Though they have added new independent resorts along the way, which made it worth comparing the other multi-resort access pass that I know of – Epic Pass and Snow Card Tirol. There are probably others out there and if any readers have knowledge of them and would like me to compare them, please drop me a message on the comments section or contact me through email.
Mountain Collective Pass
This multi-resort pass gives holders 2 days of non-restricted access to 16 different independent resorts, with the majority located within North America. In addition, buyers gets 2 days at Valle Nevado in Chile, Hakuba Valley in Japan and Chamonix Mont Blanc in France, the 3 of which are referred to as affiliate resorts with restricted access based on terms & conditions. The additional perk is that any additional days of skiing at any of the 16 main resorts for 50% off the walk-up ticket prices. All this for the price of $399, and if purchased before the current sale runs out, they will get an additional day in the resort of their choice. Below is a map listing the location of the 14 Mountain Collective Resorts located in North America, with 13 located predominantly on the west coast and 1 located in Vermont over on the eastern shore. One of their main resort, Coronet Peak/The Remarkables is around Queenstown in New Zealand, and Thredbo is in Australia, both of which I would not list on the map as they may be cost prohibitive to access if one is based in North America.
The Mountain Collective Pass on the other hand is the cheapest to purchase with current sale prices at $399 and once the current stock is sold out at these prices, they go up to around $499. With no variation here, the lowest cost per day of skiing is around $14 and that is if they travel to all the North American ski resort. Assuming a pass holder accesses just 2 different resorts, that gives them 5 free days for $399, meaning one day costs $80 which is somewhat average in value, though still cheaper than walk-up ticket prices.
Unlike Mountain Collective resorts which are independently owned and managed and thus giving skiers a varied experience from one resort to the other, Epic Pass includes unlimited access to 14 different ski areas, though only 10 of which are proper large ski resorts, while Perisher is located in Australia and another 3 (Wilmot, Afton Alps and Mt. Brighton) are local ski hills Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan. Aside from the draw of the unlimited skiing and snowboarding at the 10 resorts, there is also limited access to European ski resorts including some of the greats like St. Anton and Lech in Austria, Courchevel, Val Thorens and Tignes in France, Verbier in Switzerland and the Dolomites in Italy.
The Epic Pass costs $859 with $49 due on March and the remainder paid in September. This is for the unlimited access, though there are cheaper variations like the Epic Local Pass with restricted (blackout) dates for $639 or the Epic 7 Day Pass for the same $639 for skiers not intending to ski more than 7 days. Assuming one skis for an average of 20 days at any one ski resort for the season, the cost can range to $32 to $43 per day.
Snow Card Tirol
On the European front, there is the Snow Card Tirol which grants holders unlimited access to all 91 ski resorts in the province of Tirol in Austria. Having recently been to Austria to ski, I would say the skiing there is up there and probably there is no better area to ski in than the Austrian Alps.
For a map of the ski resorts, please check their website for details (in German only).
The Snow Card Tirol costs EUR756 (~$815) and it gives unlimited access to all the ski resorts in Tirol which is a significantly smaller area to travel around to ski. This makes it more practical to ski as more resorts are within easy access from Innsbruck. Again, assuming one skis 20 days, the cost per day is around EUR38 (~$41) which is not actually good value since most European ski resorts usually charge around EUR30 to EUR40 per day. This is unlike the case in North America where ticket costs per day usually range between $60-$80 per day.
Cost and Value
Since buyers of multi-resort ski passes seeks value, I figured it is best to look at the price and compare the benefits from there.
As a result, for those not planning to ski more than 20 days, the Mountain Collective Pass seems to be a more value for money pass. For those staying around the Bay Area in California, the state of Colorado, or Vancouver, British Columbia, the Epic Pass might make sense due to the number of resorts these areas. For those planning to spend a month of more in Innsbruck to go skiing, the Snow Card Tirol is probably the best value for variety. For me, the Mountain Collective Pass wins in terms of cost and value due to the lower cost outlay here.
If you’re planning to travel around the world, nothing beats the Epic Pass since on top of North American resorts, it grants pass holders access to some of the top European ski resorts. While there are forms to be filled and in some instances requires hotel reservations from a list (for ski areas in Arlberg, Austria), it has the best reach across North America and Europe.
While the Mountain Collective has the best coverage in North America, they have limited options in Europe. The bonus though is they provide access to resorts in the Southern Hemisphere, which have their ski season in June to October. Thus it might make it more enticing to combine travelling with skiing during the summer months in North America. Skiers elsewhere could also spread out their ski trips around the year. As for skiing in Japan, Hakuba Valley is far from one of Japan’s best ski resorts, and those making the trek there already are better off staying in Niseko, Hokkaido.
As for the Ski Card Tirol, they are really limited to resorts in one section of Austria. So no contest here, and the Epic Pass is perhaps best for geographical extent.
Star Resorts and Highlights
One of the highlights and most advertised feature of the Epic Pass this year was that Whistler Blackcomb has joined them after being acquired by Vail Resorts. Such is the draw of one star resort to a multiple mountain ski pass, and while the Epic Pass manages to add Whistler Blackcomb, I have to note that the Mountain Collective Pass probably has a collection of the best resorts. They have Jackson Hole in Wyoming, and Snowbird near Salt Lake City, Utah, both of which offer some of the most challenging terrain in North America. In addition, ski towns like Aspen, Sun Valley and Telluride offer skiers to experience the culture of skiing that makes it an appealing choice if you are going to be travelling.
For the Ski Card Tirol, the draw here has got to be Kitzbuhel which is regarded highly as one of the best European ski resorts, and is world renowned. There is also Stubai Glacier and Ischgl, both large resorts with modern ski lifts and facilities.
Just based on the recognition given by top ski magazines, peer reviews and personal experience, I had some of my best skiing moments in resorts that are part of Mountain Collective. Hence the Mountain Collective Pass seems to win in this regard.
Travelling and Skiing
Hardcore skiers who skis more than 20 days with their passes and those staying close to the resorts included in the Epic Pass or if you live in the vicinity of the Tyrolean Alps (Munich, Zurich, Innsbruck, Salzburg) then do consider the Epic Pass or Ski Card Tirol. This is especially suitable if one has the time to spend a month or more in these locations.
If it was up to me, I still find the Mountain Collective pass as offering the best value for those keen to combine travelling with skiing. Casual skiers looking to ski with their family can also consider this pass, making it suitable for any skier located anywhere around the world. However if anyone has plans to travel and ski at the same time, do remember to purchase these passes early!