The Best Resorts on the Epic PassPublished on 01/25/2023 · 8 min readLooking for your next ski trip destination? Ski Expert Lauren Dobbins explains why the Epic Pass is a great option and details her top resorts to visit on your trip.
All photos by Lauren Dobbins
The Epic Pass is known as the product to launch the mega pass market. Starting in 2008, the Epic Pass introduced consumers to the idea of buying a ski pass before deciding on their vacation destination. The full pass features access to over 40 Vail Resorts-owned ski areas, as well as access to a few select partner resorts. Pass holders can try their hand at skiing and snowboarding internationally, as the Epic Pass has resorts in Canada, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, France, Japan, and Australia. This pass is an excellent option for those who live in a state with multiple resorts (i.e., Colorado and California).
Additionally, this pass is a cost-effective purchase for people who live in a less ski-heavy state with a local resort (i.e., most of the Midwest) and regularly take a ski trip out West. The Epic Pass also has more affordable options for those who live in a specific area (i.e., Tahoe Local Pass and Tahoe Value Pass) or only want to ski for a few days (i.e., Epic Day Pass). Remember, certain pass products will have holiday restrictions and blackouts over a few consecutive days. However, these options are a much better value than buying a lift ticket at the resort window. Choosing where to go for the next big ski trip can be difficult with so many options.
My Top 9 Best Resorts on the Epic Pass
Here are my rankings for the Epic Pass resorts I’ve skied (sorry, Whistler Blackcomb, Stevens Pass, and Stowe). All photos are from my actual visits.
1. Breckenridge: The Most Visited Resort in the U.S.
- Location: Summit County, Colorado
- Skiable Acres: 2,908
- Vertical Drop: 3,398ft
- Favorite Run: Intuition
Breck is my favorite resort, even though it is the closest to my house! I have spent a huge number of days here, and I end up returning every ski season. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, as Breck is the most visited resort in the U.S. What I enjoy most about Breck is that it has ski runs for all of my moods. The greens off Quicksilver were my go-to when I learned how to snowboard. I spend a lot of time on Peak 7 cruising the variety of blue groomers on days when I just want to take it easy and have fun. The options between all five peaks feel endless when I feel like hitting it hard. The Imperial chairlift is the highest chairlift in North America and delivers incredible, extreme bowl skiing (as well as views of Copper, if you know where to look).
If I’m skiing somewhere else in Summit County, I can almost guarantee that I will stop in the town of Breckenridge for dinner and/or a beverage or two. The town is a must-see, thanks to its historic buildings and high-quality restaurants. Check out my article about the best après spots in Colorado to find out where to go for a tasty treat in the area.
2. Vail: The Namesake
- Location: Eagle County, Colorado
- Skiable Acres: 5,317
- Vertical Drop: 3,450ft
- Favorite Run: Outer Mongolia Bowl
The Epic Pass parent company (Vail Resorts) has Vail Ski Resort to credit for their namesake. Known as the flagship of the Vail Resorts-owned properties, Vail is a magical place that the other resorts aspire to live up to. Vail is known for their Legendary Back Bowls, and the name actually delivers! Vail’s back bowls were caused by a fire long before the resort existed, which creates a unique bowl environment not found anywhere else. Although China Bowl is my dad’s favorite spot, Blue Sky Basin takes the cake for me. I love tree skiing, and the 7-mile trek to get to Blue Sky Basin is worth it every time. Vail also has a town at the base that will make you feel like you are in Europe. Between upscale shopping, high-end restaurants, and exceptional lodging choices, the town is a great stop for skiers and non-skiers alike.
3. Beaver Creek: The Home of World Cup Skiing
- Location: Eagle County, Colorado
- Skiable Acres: 2,082
- Vertical Drop: 3,340ft
- Favorite Run: Ripsaw
Beaver Creek is 15 minutes past Vail on I-70. Thanks to its slightly longer drive and smaller footprint, Beaver Creek is consistently quieter than many other resorts. Every year, they host the Birds of Prey FIS World Cup races. Free to the public, it allows for a great opportunity to see Olympians in action. When the races are done, the runs open up for anyone brave enough to ski them! I’ve gone down them when they have moguls (not the terrifying icy surface), and the runs have markers the whole way down for distinctive jumps throughout the actual race course. I always get a sense of pride from completing a run that an Olympian has done (granted, much more slowly)!
4. Park City: The Largest Resort in the U.S.
- Location: Summit County, Utah
- Skiable Acres: 7,300+
- Vertical Drop: 3,226ft
- Favorite Run: McConkey’s Bowl
Park City was two different ski resorts previously: Park City and The Canyons. These resorts have merged into one thanks to a gondola that links them together. As a result of this merger, Park City is now the largest resort in the U.S. It offers something for everyone, from catwalks through mega-mansions to extreme bowl skiing. Park City was always a favorite vacation destination for me as a kid, and that hasn’t changed as an adult! I thoroughly enjoy the soft Utah snow that adds a new layer of fun to moguls and trees. When I’m not skiing, I enjoy my time in their picturesque town (whose only rival is Breckenridge in its rich history and unique flavor).
5. Heavenly: The Best Views
- Location: El Dorado County, California and Douglas County, Nevada
- Skiable Acres: 4,800
- Vertical Drop: 3,500ft
- Favorite Run: Skyline Trail
Heavenly might be the most appropriately named ski resort. The incredible lake views are “heavenly” and one of a kind. When I visited here last January, I spent more time staring at the lake in awe than I did actually skiing! Pictures do not do it justice. Another fun aspect about Heavenly is that it is one of just a handful of ski areas that occupy two states. There is clear signage to indicate when you are heading from California to Nevada (and vice versa). The views from the Nevada side are a stark contrast to the lake, as you can see snowless plains for miles. When I finished taking in the lake views, I could easily walk over the state line to hit the casinos!
6. Crested Butte: The Extreme Skiing Paradise
- Location: Gunnison County, Colorado
- Skiable Acres: 1,547
- Vertical Drop: 3,062ft
- Favorite Run: Gully Glades
I've had a powder day every time I’ve gone to Crested Butte. The best powder I ever experienced was during a December trip that left our car buried under 44” of snow over two days. While Crested Butte is known for its extreme skiing, it should be known for the snow, in my opinion! When it isn’t snowing, the views of the surrounding mountains are just peaceful and beautiful. Crested Butte also has a quaint town just a short drive from the ski resort, and it is a must-visit every time.
7. Northstar: The Groomers Choice
- Location: Nevada County, California
- Skiable Acres: 3,170
- Vertical Drop: 2,280ft
- Favorite Run: Washoe
Northstar offers an incredible number of groomers. They have some incredibly fast rippers on the backside, contrasting the main lake-view cruiser off the top of the main mountain. This resort is an excellent place to visit for the whole family and/or those who don't need the extreme skiing offered by their neighboring resorts. So if you’ve ever wanted to say that you’ve skied on an extinct volcano, look no further than Northstar!
8. Keystone: The Gladed Heaven
- Location: Summit County, Colorado
- Skiable Acres: 3,149
- Vertical Drop: 3,128ft
- Favorite Run: Bushwhacker
Keystone is often touted as the family destination thanks to its kid’s activities, affordable lessons and equipment rentals, and the enormous snow fort at the top. To me, though, Keystone is a destination for difficult tree skiing. Keystone sees a lot of visitors, but I often find myself alone in the trees off the Outback chair. Keystone definitely shouldn’t be overlooked if tree skiing is your thing or if you want to hike to some phenomenal bowls. I’ve racked up a high count of total days here, especially since they are also a can’t-miss spot for mountain bike enthusiasts!
9. Kirkwood: The Local’s Favorite
- Location: Alpine County, California
- Skiable Acres: 2,300
- Vertical Drop: 2,000ft
- Favorite Run: Happiness Is
Kirkwood is a bit of a drive from the other Lake Tahoe ski resorts, making it quieter and fiercely local. Parking here is easy, and the base area feels like a classic, old-school ski area. However, Kirkwood is known for being exceptionally difficult, and I found that reputation to hold true! Kirkwood is a great choice for someone who wants to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Lake Tahoe area and wants to experience skiing as it once was.
Overall, the Epic Pass by Vail Resorts offers some of the best vacation destinations in the country. I personally enjoyed all 9 resorts that I visited and would recommend them to others looking to ski or ride a new mountain. Still not sure which Epic Pass destination to visit next? Don’t hesitate to send me a message, and I’m happy to help you plan your next trip and make sure you have all the gear you need to have a great time!