Ikon vs. Epic Pass: Which Is Better?

Published on 01/27/2023 · 9 min readCan't decide between getting an Ikon or Epic Pass for this season? You're not alone! Ski Expert Tory Dobyns breaks down the differences to help you make a decision!
Tory Dobyns, Ski Expert
By Ski Expert Tory Dobyns

Photo by Madison Olling

The Epic and Ikon season passes have dominated the U.S. ski world over the past five years. Both of these passes are considered “mega passes” and grant users access to a variety of resorts around the world. The Epic Pass includes unlimited skiing at all 41 mountains owned by Vail Resorts and limited access at another 22 partner resorts in Europe, Canada, Australia, and Japan. The Ikon Pass works slightly differently as it offers unlimited skiing and riding at 14 resorts and seven days of skiing at another 39 resorts. With the prices of day passes increasing across the country, both passes may be worth your money even if you only plan to ski for five or seven days throughout the ski season.

About Each Pass

Epic Pass

The Epic Pass was the first “mega pass” introduced back in 2008, with access to just five resorts. Over the years, Epic has expanded and added a huge array of mountains to its passes. Epic has two options: the Epic Pass and the Epic Local Pass. The Epic Pass has full access to 41 mountains with no blackout dates and limited access to the partner resorts. The Epic Local Pass has restricted access at some resorts over the busy holiday times, including Thanksgiving, Christmas/New Year's, one day over MLK weekend, and two days over Presidents’ Day weekend. The local pass is also limited to 10 days each at Vail/Beaver Creek and Whistler Blackcomb.

  • Epic Pass (2022/2023): $859
  • Epic Local Pass (2022/2023): $669

Ikon Pass

The Ikon Pass has fewer options for unlimited skiing and riding at just 14 resorts. That said, you will get seven days each at another 39 resorts. This makes this a great choice for someone who wants to travel and ski many different resorts over the course of the season. Similar to the Epic Pass, the Ikon Pass also has a cheaper pass with some restrictions. The Ikon Base Pass offers unlimited skiing and riding at 13 resorts and 5 days each at another 34 destinations. The Ikon Base Pass has the same blackout dates as the Epic Pass for some of its resorts. The Ikon Pass also offers a discounted pass for college students.

  • Ikon Pass (2022/2023): $1,179
  • Ikon Base Pass (2022/2023): $919

Which Pass Is Right for You? The Epic and Ikon passes will allow you to ski some of the best resorts around the world, so you cannot go wrong with either option. If you plan on skiing primarily at one resort, the Epic Pass may be a better option for you as there are more mountains with unlimited riding. If your home mountain is one of the 14 unlimited destinations on the Ikon Pass, you are in luck. The Ikon Pass is great if you want to travel and ski many different resorts. For instance, you could make a trip to Utah and ski Solitude, Alta, Snowbird, Brighton, and Deer Valley all on one pass.

If you are a high-end expert skier looking to chase some challenging terrain, I recommend the Ikon Pass. The Ikon Pass offers skiing at some of the best and most challenging resorts in America, including Jackson Hole, Big Sky, Alta-Snowbird, Taos, Crested Butte, and Revelstoke. If extremely challenging terrain is not important to you, the Epic Pass may be a better choice. There are many great resorts with terrain for everyone, including Vail, Breckenridge, Northstar, Park City, and Stowe.

Epic PassIkon Pass
Unlimited riding at 41 resorts, limited access at 22 partner resortsUnlimited riding at 14 resorts, 7 days at each of 39 resorts
$859 for the Full Epic Pass, $669 for the Local Pass$1,179 for the Full Ikon Pass, $919 for the Base Ikon Pass
More unlimited riding for those who spend more of their time at one resortGreat for traveling to different resorts
More offerings for the MidwestBetter resorts for high-end expert skiers

Best Passes by Region

Northeast Skiers: A Wash

If you do most of your skiing in the Northeast, both passes have some great mountains to choose from. The Epic Pass has eight resorts with unlimited riding in Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York. Some highlights include Stowe, Stratton, Wildcat, and Mt. Snow. The Epic Pass offers skiing at many small resorts in Pennsylvania. With the Ikon Pass, you will get unlimited riding at Stratton and Sugarbush. In addition, you will get seven days at Sugarloaf, Sunday River, Killington, and Loon.

Colorado Skiers: A Wash

The debate between Ikon and Epic is perhaps the most controversial in Colorado, particularly in the Front Range Mountains close to Denver. The Epic Pass will allow unlimited riding at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, and Crested Butte. In addition, you will get seven days at Telluride. On the other hand, the Ikon Pass has unlimited skiing and riding at four resorts, including Copper Mountain, Winter Park, Eldora, and Steamboat. You will also get seven days at Arapahoe Basin and Aspen Snowmass. I would say the Epic Pass has a slight leading edge for Colorado skiing, but others may disagree. The Ikon Pass has more resorts nearby if you are located in the Denver Metro Area.

Midwest Skiers: Epic Pass

The Ikon and Epic passes have many options for skiers in the Midwest. However, the Epic Pass is a better choice for Midwestern skiers. For example, if you are in Minneapolis, you can ski at Afton Alps, only about 20 minutes from the city. In addition, if you are near Chicago, Wilmont is super close by and on the Epic Pass. The Epic Pass offers skiing at many other smaller Midwest resorts, too.

California Skiers: Ikon Pass

The Ikon Pass is a great choice if you are in California. All four California resorts on the Ikon Pass offer unlimited riding. In the northern part of the state, you will get unlimited riding at Palisades Tahoe (previously known as Squaw Valley). This is one of the most well-known resorts in the state and has amazing expert terrain. The Ikon will also give you unlimited days at Mammoth Mountain, Big Bear, and June Mountain. The Epic Pass also has some great offerings in California, particularly in the Tahoe region. You will get unlimited riding at Kirkwood, Northstar, and Heavenly. These are all great resorts; however, you may not find as much expert terrain at these Tahoe resorts compared to Pallasades Tahoe.

International Travel: Ikon and Epic Passes

If you plan to travel internationally, both passes have great options. They both have offerings in Europe, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan.

Best Pass Destinations

Epic Pass

Best Terrain: Whistler Blackcomb and Crested Butte

If you are searching for challenging, expert-level terrain, you should check out Whistler Blackcomb and Crested Butte. Both of these resorts offer a tremendous amount of steep, challenging riding.

Best Experience and Ski Town: Park City and Vail

If the actual terrain is not your number one priority, you should check out Vail and Park City. Both of these resorts are large, with many terrain options for everyone. You will find extensive intermediate terrain and some beginner and expert terrain. Both of these resorts are welcoming and family-friendly. You will find many dining options on the mountain, high-speed lifts, and plenty of ski instructors available. Vail and Park City also have a great apres scene with many great bars and restaurants. Keep in mind these resorts do get crowded.

Epic Pass Destinations

Other Epic Destinations:

  • 7 days at Telluride, Colorado
  • 7 days total at Canadian Rockies Resorts
  • 5 days each at Hakuba Valley and Rusutsu, Japan
  • Limited access to 26 partner European resorts

Ikon Pass

Best Terrain: Jackson Hole, Big Sky, Palisades Tahoe, and Crystal Mountain

If you are seeking challenging expert-level terrain, you should check out Jackson Hole, Big Sky, Pallasades Tahoe, and Crystal Mountain. All of these resorts have terrain to challenge every level of skier. You will see lots of amazing skiers riding in these resorts.

Best Snow: Alta-Snowbird

If you are looking to chase some powder, the odds of having good snow at Alta-Snowbird are high. These resorts get an average of almost 550 inches of snowfall per year. These resorts also have some incredibly steep, expert-level terrain. They are certainly a favorite for hard-core skiers. Alta and Snowbird are separate resorts, but you can ski from one to another. Keep in mind Alta does not allow snowboards on the resort.

Best Experience and Ski Town: Sun Valley, Idaho, and Aspen-Snowmass

If you are looking for great skiing complemented by fun towns with several great restaurants, bars, and shops, Sun Valley and Aspen-Snowmass should be on your list. Aspen-Snowmass has four resorts, all within 10 miles of each other. There are great terrain options for all ability levels across these four resorts. Aspen is also home to one of the most famous ski towns with great bars, shopping, and other activities when not on the slopes. Sun Valley also has a great town and amazing, varied terrain. Sun Valley is known for its incredibly long and steep groomers.

Ikon Pass Destinations

7 Days Each (overseas Ikon Resorts):

  • Dolomiti, Superski, Italy
  • Kitzbuhel, Austria
  • Coronet Peak, New Zealand
  • Thredbo, Australia
  • Mt. Buller, Australia
  • Lotte Arai, Japan
  • Niseko, Japan
  • Chamonix, France
  • Zermatt, Switzerland
  • Grandvalira, Andorra
  • Valle Nevado, Chile

The Bottom Line

If you are looking for a winter of traveling to many different resorts, the Ikon Pass is likely the choice for you. This ski pass has some amazing mountains on it with incredible terrain. If you plan to primarily ski one resort, the Epic Pass may be a better choice as it has more resorts with unlimited riding. Keep in mind the Epic Local Pass and the Ikon Base Pass are both great options if you are looking to save some money. If you choose these passes, you should just make sure you are not planning any trips during the restricted blackout dates. If you are still unsure on which pass to buy, consider chatting with one of our Curated Ski Experts at no cost!

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