The Best Resorts on the Ikon PassPublished on 01/27/2023 · 8 min readLooking for some new resorts to check out with your Ikon Pass this winter? Check out these ten suggestions from Ski Expert Lauren Dobbins!
Photo by Lauren Dobbins
The Ikon Pass is a popular mega pass option for many skiers and snowboarders. Designed to compete with the Epic Pass by Vail Resorts, this product offered by Alterra Mountain Company is a cost-effective purchase for skiers and riders looking to hit the slopes for multiple days across many resorts. The full pass features 53 destinations across the U.S. (coast to coast from Washington to Vermont), Canada (Quebec and British Columbia in particular), Italy, Austria, France, Switzerland, Spain, Chile, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.
The cheaper Ikon Base Pass will still give passholders seamling endless options, though some of the areas will have blackout dates. Those looking to only travel a few days should consider the Ikon Session Pass, which offers 2-4 day passes. With so many Ikon Pass destinations across North America, Europe, and beyond, it can be difficult to choose where to go for the next big ski trip. Here are my rankings for the Ikon Pass resorts that I’ve skied, as well as my Ikon bucket list. All photos are from my actual visits.
My Top 6
1. Palisades Tahoe - A Tale of Two Resorts
- Location: Placer County, California
- Skiable Acres: 3,600 (Olympic Valley), 2,400 (Alpine Meadows)
- Vertical Drop: 2,850 ft (Olympic Valley), 1,802 ft (Alpine Meadows)
- Favorite Run: Tram Bowl
Expert Review Palisades Tahoe was previously two separate ski areas: Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley. Following the build of the base-to-base gondola and the recognition of the offensive term in the name, these resorts were renamed to Palisades Tahoe (with the legacy resort areas identified as Alpine Meadows and Olympic Valley). Known as the host for the 1960 Olympics, Palisades Tahoe has a huge reputation for being one of the best ski resorts in the country. When I visited Palisades Tahoe for the first time last January, I was blown away by how it truly lived up to the hype. A beautiful lake view panorama, a variety of difficult terrain, and a large footprint make Palisades something unlike anything else in the Americas. I particularly enjoyed the Olympic Valley side thanks to the extreme terrain, but beginners and families will find a quieter experience on the Alpine Meadows side. I happened to visit on a particularly bad snow year, yet my experience here still puts it at the top (and gives me an excuse to visit it again).
2. Winter Park - Bumps, Bumps, and More Bumps
- Location: Grand County, Colorado
- Skiable Acres: 3,081
- Vertical Drop: 3,060 ft
- Favorite Run: Paintbrush
Expert Review Winter Park has two distinct areas that were once separate resorts: Winter Park and Mary Jane. These areas offer completely different skiing, allowing you to tailor your experience however you would like it. The Winter Park side is perfect for overnight visitors, as it offers direct access to Denver via a cheap train ride and many lodging options. Here you will find the hub for lessons and rentals at a discount for passholders, as well as an extensive learning area and friendly groomers. The Mary Jane side is the opposite and is often seen as the locals' hideaway. Here you will find more moguls than you can ski in an entire season, wide-open bowls, and some excellent glades. The parking is free, and there is no lodging here. If you want to ski or snowboard like a local, the Mary Jane side is the place to be. Make sure you stop by the Waffle Cabin on either side for a delicious treat.
3. Arapahoe Basin - The Legend
- Location: Summit County, Colorado
- Skiable Acres: 1,428
- Vertical Drop: 2,530 ft
- Favorite Run: Glockenspiel Glade
Expert Review Arapahoe Basin is known as The Legend for good reason! A-Basin offers some of the most difficult terrain in Colorado, which you wouldn’t expect with less acreage than many of the other resorts on this list. They also are a bang for your buck if you want to buy a lift ticket here, and their food options are all reasonably priced. I would argue they have the best quality on-mountain food of any place I’ve visited, not to mention they have the best Bloody Mary options (as I described them in another article, the real reason A-Basin is known as The Legend). It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of tree skiing, and the glades in The Beavers area of this resort are unsurpassed. I’m such a fan of A-Basin, I bought their season pass to be able to ski more days there.
4. Snowbasin - Skip the Utah Traffic Here
- Location: Weber County, Utah
- Skiable Acres: 3,000
- Vertical Drop: 3,000 ft
- Favorite Run: Wildflower
Expert Review Snowbasin is a bit of a hidden gem for Utah. Located away from the traffic-heavy Cottonwood Canyons, Snowbasin offers fantastic skiing with minimal crowds. It features marked runs for the men’s and women’s downhill events from the Salt Lake City Olympics, the top of which can be accessed via the Allen Peak Tram (built exclusively for these events). The restaurants here are a can’t-miss thanks to their luxurious feel that is unrivaled by any resort I’ve visited. While they currently have no base lodging, a new Club Med resort is planned in the coming seasons.
5. Copper Mountain Resort - The Athlete’s Mountain
- Location: Summit County, Colorado
- Skiable Acres: 2,507
- Vertical Drop: 2,738 ft
- Favorite Run: Western Slope
Expert Review Copper is aptly known as The Athlete’s Mountain for hosting both training for FIS World Cup skiers and major park events such as The Dew Tour. Copper is the place to go to watch some of the best skiers and snowboarders in the world. Thanks to these events, there are plenty of fast groomers to rip and expansive terrain parks for all abilities. Don’t miss out on the Woodward Barn, which is a year-round indoor training facility for park athletes. Copper is unique in the layout of the frontside of the mountain; terrain progresses from easy to difficult from West to East. This layout allows for confined terrain pods based on ability level. If you are looking for more extreme terrain, the Three Bears chair offers endless double-black options.
6. Eldora Mountain Resort - Boulder’s Choice
- Location: Boulder County, Colorado
- Skiable Acres: 680
- Vertical Drop: 1,400 ft
- Favorite Run: Corona
Expert Review Eldora is a small, local resort that just so happens to have unlimited access for Ikon passholders. With convenient bus access from Boulder, this is a fun little spot for anyone visiting the area or if you are making a stop at the University of Colorado. Eldora is known for their race training, as they have launched the careers of many ski racers. It also features one of Ikon’s signature Woodward Parks, which has a wide variety of jumps and rails for those looking for something more high-octane.
My Bucket List
1. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort - The Best of Wyoming
- Location: Teton County, Wyoming
- Skiable Acres: 2,500
- Vertical Drop: 4,139 ft
Spot Overview Jackson Hole is on my bucket list for their reputation alone. They have something for everyone, whether it’s a quaint town for the non-skier or rider in your group to famous extreme terrain. Their must-watch event is the Kings and Queens of Corbet’s, where professional athletes launch insane tricks into Corbet’s Couloir.
2. Big Sky Resort - The Best of Montana
- Location: Madison County, Montana
- Skiable Acres: 5,850
- Vertical Drop: 4,350 ft
Spot Overview Big Sky has one of the largest footprints in the country, second only to Park City. In addition to that statistic, they have the second largest vertical drop in the U.S. (behind fellow Ikon Pass resort, Snowmass). Since Big Sky is so far north in Montana, it offers a huge annual snowfall and some of the best snow in the world.
3. Alta Ski Area - The Best of Utah
- Location: Salt Lake County, Utah
- Skiable Acres: 2,614
- Vertical Drop: 2,538 ft
Spot Overview Alta and Snowbird are technically considered to be the same resort, as using an Ikon Pass day here will get you access to both locations. Notably, Alta does NOT allow snowboarders (whereas Snowbird does). While this of course won’t be a place for my snowboarder friends, it does increase the appeal of Alta to me. Like the other places on my bucket list, Alta is home to incredibly difficult terrain and phenomenal snow.
4. Taos Ski Valley - The Best of New Mexico
- Location: Taos County, New Mexico
- Skiable Acres: 1,294
- Vertical Drop: 3,281 ft
Spot Overview New Mexico as a state is often overlooked as a skiing destination. Most of the resorts here are small and appeal to the local audience. Taos, however, is the exception. Taos is off the beaten path, yet only five hours from Denver and under three hours from Albuquerque. As a result, it offers minimal lines for some amazing skiing.
With so many amazing places to visit on the Ikon Pass, my bucket list feels endless! Here are a few other U.S. resorts I also want to visit someday just from their reputation alone:
- Sun Valley, Deer Valley Resort, Steamboat, Aspen Snowmass (includes Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass), Schweitzer, Killington, Brighton Resort, Solitude Mountain Resort, and Mammoth Mountain
Overall, the Ikon Pass by Alterra Mountain Company offers some of the best vacation destinations in the country. I personally enjoyed the 6 resorts that I visited, and I can’t wait to check the others off of my bucket list! Still not sure which Ikon Pass destination to visit next? Don’t hesitate to reach out to a Curated Ski or Snowboard Expert. We’re happy to help you plan your next trip and make sure you have all the gear you need to have a great time!