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Which annual ski pass is best: Epic vs. Ikon vs. Mountain Collective

The Points Guy logo The Points Guy 9/2/2020 Summer Hull
a sign on the side of a snow covered slope © Provided by The Points Guy
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Editor’s note: This guide is regularly updated with new information and offers.

At the high elevations in Telluride, Aspen and across the Rockies, the snow has already started to fall once again. And while that means ski season is drawing near, a lot has changed since the last ski season abruptly ended in mid-March (along with the rest of life as we knew it).

At that time, ski resorts ended the 2019–2020 season early due to the rapidly spreading coronavirus. Those holding annual ski passes that hadn’t been fully utilized for spring break trips and beyond were left wondering if they had made a mistake spending hundreds of dollars on a ski pass that was now virtually useless.

It took a while, but the major ski passes eventually all announced some accommodations for last season’s passholders, largely in the form of discounts toward next year’s passes. But, that was only half the story. The other side of the discussion was whether there would even be a 2020–2021 season … and what it would look like.

Vail has recently announced that it plans to operate its 34 resorts this season with some accommodations and changes, such as a reservations-required approach. Not only are reservations required, but those with an Epic Ski Pass will be able to make ski reservations for ski days well before those without.

Thankfully, the various major ski passes are offering some levels of built-in flexibility and protections this year since no one knows what the coming months will hold.

The requirement of advance ski reservations at some mountains, combined with various types of protections, means that choosing a ski pass for next year is actually more complicated than ever. You need to not only know your approximate ski travel plans for the next year, but you also need to think about what will happen if the upcoming ski season doesn’t go as planned. This means carefully evaluating the protections you’ll have before chunking down a large sum of money on a pass.

With all that in mind, prices for some of the biggest ski pass programs in the country, the Epic Pass, Ikon Pass and the Mountain Collective Pass, will start to rise this month. Those with an Epic Pass can begin to make reservations for this year’s ski days starting on Nov. 6. So, whether or not you are ready to press “add to cart,” it is time to begin to seriously think through the mountains you hope to ski and board in the coming months.

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a group of people standing on top of a snow covered slope: Telluride is included with some Epic passes. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy Telluride is included with some Epic passes. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

With single-day lift tickets costing around $200 at major mountains, and annual passes starting at around $400 and up for skiing throughout the whole year, many snow-loving families will do better selecting a pass rather than paying individual lift ticket prices, even if they only ski once or twice in a season. This is true even in a “normal” year, but it may be even more crucial this year due to the reservations and protections.

Related: Best credit card to use for purchasing ski passes

a group of people riding skis down a snow covered slope: Ski Breckenridge with the Epic Pass. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy Ski Breckenridge with the Epic Pass. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

In This Post

Mountain Collective

Prices and protections

  • $469 for adults and $99 for children 12 and under
  • There is a $50 renewal discount for those who had a 2019–2020 pass
  • There is a “No Questions Asked” guarantee that will allow you to receive a full refund on your pass purchase any time before to Nov. 16, 2020.

Pass basics

Mountain Collective has a family of 23 resorts including big names such as Mammoth, Aspen Snowmass, Taos, Banff and Jackson Hole. You get two included days of skiing/boarding at each resort with no blackout dates, a third bonus day at one resort of your choice if you book early enough in the year, then 50% off additional ski days.

This was the pass my own family used last season to ski three days at Mammoth in California and two days at Snowmass in Colorado. Notably, there are no holiday restrictions with this pass.

Five new resorts were added this year, which include Chamonix (France), Grand Targhee Resort (Wyoming), Panorama Mountain Resort (Canadian Rockies) Sun Peaks (British Colombia) and Sugarloaf (Maine).

Related: 6 tips for taking big family ski trips

The Mountain Collective sells a limited number of passes at each cash rate and then the pass typically goes up in price. Additionally, the third day “bonus”0..  day is typically a spring special that will not be available to those who purchase the pass later in the year, though we don’t have good visibility into how long that third day special will last this particular year.

If you planned, for example, to ski two days at Aspen, two days at Mammoth and two days at Snowbird next season, buying the Mountain Collective Pass now for $469 means you’d be paying about $78 per lift ticket per day for those six days of skiing. Your child, up to age 12, would pay just $17 per day on the slopes. Obviously, the more you ski at the different participating resorts, the lower your daily cost. Typically, the Mountain Collective Pass pays off after four or five days of skiing at the current rates.

Related: Where kids ski free

Mountain Collective Resorts

  • Alta Ski Area
  • Arapahoe Basin Ski Area
  • Aspen Snowmass
  • Banff Sunshine
  • Big Sky Resort
  • Chamonix
  • Coronet Peak and The Remarkables
  • Grand Targhee Resort
  • Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
  • Lake Louise
  • Mammoth
  • Mount Buller
  • Niseko United
  • Panorama Mountain Resort
  • Revelstoke Mountain Resort
  • Snowbird
  • Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows
  • Sugarbush Resort
  • Sugarloaf
  • Sun Peaks
  • Taos Ski Valley
  • Thredbo Alpine Village
  • Valle Nevado

Related: Look inside the new W Aspen

a group of people standing on top of a snow covered slope: View from the Westin Snowmass (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy View from the Westin Snowmass (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Ikon Pass

The Ikon Pass began raising prices in June, so while the least expensive price for the season is in the rear-view mirror, the pass is still available for sale.

Prices and protections

  • Ikon Base Pass is $749 for an adult pass, $599 for 13- to 22-year-olds, $339 for children 5 to 12 and $169 for children 4 and under. Active or retired military or college students can get a discounted pass for $529. (If you want to ski at Jackson Hole and Aspen Snowmass, you can purchase days at each destination for an additional $150.)
  • There is a $50 renewal discount for those who had a 2019–2020 Ikon Base pass.
  • The full Ikon Pass is $1,049 for an adult pass, $819 for 13- to 22-year-olds, $369 for children 5 to 12 and $209 for children 4 and under. This pass is also discounted for military personal and college students to $70.
  • The full Ikon Pass is discounted by $100 for those who are renewing and held this pass in the 2019–2020 season.
  • Ikon Session Pass 4-Day is $429 for an adult pass, $359 for 13- to 22-year-olds, $259 for children 0 to 12. The discounted price for military personnel and college students is $359.
  • For any reason, if you don’t use your 20/21 Ikon Pass, you will have the option to defer the purchase price paid for your 20/21 Ikon Pass toward the purchase of a 21/22 Ikon Pass using the new Zero-Day Credit – no questions asked. Now, you can make this decision anytime between Sept. 10, 2020, and April 11, 2021.
  • You can also get a percentage of your pass purchase credited toward next year if resorts are closed for all or part of the 2020–2021 season via the new Adventure Assurance Program.

Pass basics

There are three types of Ikon passes.

The Ikon Session Pass 4-Day is new this year and will give you four days of skiing at any of the 30 included mountains, with some blackout dates. This pricing comes down to around $100 per day, which is worth it if you are skiing at a more expensive mountain and have four specific dates of skiing planned. The dates do not need to be consecutive or at the same resort. For example, this can be used for two days at Steamboat and another two days at Mammoth Mountain.

Related: Best ski resorts for families in North America

There are then two other semi-unlimited pass options: The full Ikon Pass and the Ikon Base Pass.

These are better options for those who are looking to ski more than a few days throughout the season. The full Ikon Pass has no holiday restrictions, a longer list of unlimited resorts and more days at resorts that offer the maximum number of ski days. The Ikon Base Pass comes with holiday date restrictions, a shorter list of mountains with unlimited skiing and fewer included days at select additional resorts. Nevertheless, it still includes a ton of skiing at a fixed price.

The full Ikon Pass also comes with 10 friends-and-family discount lift tickets, where the Ikon Base Pass only includes eight of these discounted lift tickets. This will provide 25% off the regular window-rate price for your buddies. This can be used at all Ikon Pass mountains during the season, except Zermatt, and blackout dates apply. (Note: This benefit does not come with the Ikon Session 4-Day pass, any of the child passes or the 4-and-under passes.)

Ikon resorts

The Ikon Base Pass gets you unlimited ski days at:

  • Winter Park Resort
  • Copper Mountain Resort
  • Eldora Mountain Resort
  • Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows
  • Mammoth Mountain
  • June Mountain
  • Big Bear Mountain Resort
  • Stratton
  • Sugarbush
  • Snowshoe
  • Crystal Mountain
  • Tremblant
  • Blue Mountain
  • Solitude

You then get five days at each of these resorts (with holiday restrictions):

  • Steamboat
  • Arapahoe Basin Ski Area
  • Big Sky Resort
  • Boyne Highlands
  • Boyne Mountain
  • The Summit at Snoqualmie
  • Revelstoke Mountain Resort
  • Cypress Mountain
  • Sunday River
  • Sugarloaf
  • Loon Mountain
  • Taos Ski Valley
  • Deer Valley Resort
  • Brighton
  • Zermatt Matterhorn
  • Thredbo
  • RED
  • Mount Buller
  • Niseko United
  • Valle Nevado

You also get five combined days at each of these families of mountains (with holiday restrictions):

  • AltaSnowbird: Alta Ski Area and Snowbird
  • SkiBig3: Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Mount Norquay
  • Killington-Pico: Killington and Pico Mountain
  • Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Mount Hutt

For an extra $150 fee, you can add on access (5-day) to these mountains:

  • Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
  • Aspen Snowmass

The holiday restrictions on this pass are reasonable — just the most-peak ski dates.

  • Northern Hemisphere: Dec. 26–Jan 2, 2021; Jan. 16–17, 2021; Feb. 13–14, 2021
  • Southern Hemisphere: July 4–19, 2020; June 26–July 11, 2021 (Thredbo only)

The holiday restrictions won’t affect your skiing at some of the resorts, such as Winter Park, Copper Mountain, Tremblant, Big Bear, etc. If you are on a school schedule, you could ski those resorts during the peak holiday dates and then hit some of the other mountains the rest of the time.


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You’ll also get 10% off food, lessons and more at select resort destinations.

Related: Review of the St. Regis Deer Valley

a city at night: (Image of Steamboat courtesy of Ikon Pass.) © The Points Guy (Image of Steamboat courtesy of Ikon Pass.)

The pricier full Ikon Pass gets you unlimited ski days with no holiday restrictions at:

  • Steamboat
  • Winter Park Resort
  • Copper Mountain Resort
  • Eldora Mountain Resort
  • Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows
  • Mammoth Mountain
  • Big Bear Mountain Resort
  • June Mountain
  • Stratton
  • Sugarbush Resort
  • Snowshoe Mountain
  • Tremblant
  • Blue Mountain
  • Crystal Mountain
  • Solitude

You then get seven days at each of these resorts:

  • Arapahoe Basin Ski Area
  • Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
  • Big Sky Resort
  • Boyne Highlands
  • Boyne Mountain
  • The Summit at Snoqualmie
  • Revelstoke Mountain Resort
  • Cypress
  • Sunday River
  • Sugarloaf
  • Loon Mountain
  • Taos Ski Valley
  • Deer Valley Resort
  • Brighton Resort
  • Zermatt Matterhorn
  • Thredbo
  • Mt Buller
  • Niseko United
  • Valle Nevado
  • RED

You also get seven days combined at each of these mountain “families”:

  • Aspen Snowmass: Aspen Mountain, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk
  • AltaSnowbird: Alta Ski Area and Snowbird
  • SkiBig3: Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Mount Norquay
  • Killington-Pico: Killington and Pico Mountain
  • Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Mount Hutt (Access begins in the 2020 season)

Related: Points-friendly hotels near Ikon Pass resorts

You’ll also save 15% with this pass on retail, dining and lessons at participating resort locations.

Related: Best credit card to use for ski trips

a bedroom with a large bed in a room: Use Marriott points at the Sheraton Steamboat Villas. (Image courtesy of hotel) © The Points Guy Use Marriott points at the Sheraton Steamboat Villas. (Image courtesy of hotel)

Epic Pass

Prices and protections

  • Due to the coronavirus shutdowns, 2019–2020 Epic Pass holders receive credits of 20% to 80% of their price paid toward the purchase of a 2019–2020 season pass, based on how much they used last season’s pass.
  • An unlimited Epic Pass is $979 for an adult pass and $499 for children (ages 5–12)
  • An Epic Local Pass is $729 for adults, $589 for teens (ages 13–18), and $379 for children (ages 5–12)
  • Epic 1- to 7-Day Passes range from $92 to $129 per day for adults, $48 to $67 per day for children (ages 5–12) depending on the number of days and if you are looking to ski on a peak holiday day or not,
  • All 2020–2021 Epic Pass purchases will come with free coverage that protects you against resort coverage, job loss, resort closure, stay-at-home orders, etc. Note that this built-in coverage comes with caveats but it will provide actual refunds, not just future credit.
  • Prices will increase beginning after Sept. 17.

Pass basics

As with Ikon, there are multiple levels of the Epic Pass (the juggernaut of ski passes): the full Epic Pass that has no date restrictions and the Epic Local Pass that does have some peak holiday restrictions and access to a slightly shorter list of resorts.

Just don’t let the “local” distinction fool you, as it simply means you have some peak-date restrictions around the busiest dates. If you are skiing a total of seven days or fewer in the season, the Epic 1- to 7-day passes can be personalized with the exact number of lift-ticket days you need and whether or not you are traveling on a holiday.

Related: Best ski schools for kids in the U.S.

You must read the holiday and date-limit rules for each pass carefully, as there are nuances. For example, Telluride access is included in some passes but not others. The Epic Local Pass also has peak holiday restrictions at some resorts but not others.

New this year, you’ll also receive access to Epic Mountain Rewards that will get you discounted perks, such as 20% off ski lessons, lodging, food, rentals and more. This discount is available at all Vail-owned resorts (not partner resorts) and extends to all passholders, even those who just purchase the Epic Day Pass.

Additionally, those with any type of Epic Pass — including the Epic Day passes can make ski reservations for the year at the 34 Vail Resorts beginning on Nov. 6. Those without a pass have to wait until Dec. 8.

a group of people standing on top of a snow covered mountain: See forever in Telluride. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy See forever in Telluride. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Ski With a Friend and Ski With a Buddy ticket information will be available to pasholders on Dec. 8.

Epic resorts

The Epic Pass gets you unlimited skiing at:

  • Vail
  • Beaver Creek
  • Whistler Blackcomb
  • Park City
  • Breckenridge
  • Keystone
  • Heavenly
  • Northstar
  • Kirkwood
  • Stowe
  • Wilmot
  • Afton Alps
  • Mt Brighton
  • Crested Butte
  • Stevens Pass
  • Okemo
  • Mount Sunapee
  • Mount Snow
  • Attitash Mountain Resort
  • Wildcat Mountain
  • Crotched Mountain
  • Hunter Mountain
  • Liberty Mountain Resort
  • Roundtop Mountain Resort
  • Whitetail Resort
  • Big Boulder
  • Jack Frost
  • Boston Mills
  • Alpine Valley
  • Brandywine
  • Mad River Mountain
  • Hidden Valley
  • Paoli Peaks
  • Snow Creek
  • Perisher, Australia — 2021 access
  • Falls Creek, Australia — 2021 access
  • Hotham, Australia — 2021 access

The unlimited will also get seven included days at each of these resorts:

  • Telluride
  • Sun Valley
  • Snowbasin

With the Epic unlimited pass, you also get seven total days at these resorts in the Canadian Rockies:

  • Fernie Alpine Resort
  • Kicking Horse Mountain Resort
  • Kimberley Alpine Resort
  • Nakiska Ski Area
  • Mont-Sainte Anne
  • Stoneham

The pass even includes some ski days at resorts in Europe and Japan.

Related: Tips for visiting Crested Butte

a group of people standing on top of a snow covered mountain: Ski Beaver Creek with the Epic Pass. (Photo courtesy of Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort) © The Points Guy Ski Beaver Creek with the Epic Pass. (Photo courtesy of Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort)

The Epic Pass Local gets you almost the same as the Epic Pass list above, but with a few restrictions. You’ll still receive unlimited and unrestricted access to the following resorts:

  • Breckenridge
  • Keystone
  • Wilmot
  • Afton Alps
  • Crested Butte
  • Mount Brighton
  • Stevens Pass
  • Okemo
  • Mount Sunapee
  • Mount Snow
  • Wildcat Mountain
  • Attitash Mountain Resort
  • Crotched Mountain
  • Hunter Mountain
  • Roundtop Mountain Resort
  • Big Boulder
  • Liberty Mountain Resort
  • Whitetail Resort
  • Jack Frost
  • Alpine Valley
  • Brandywine
  • Hidden Valley
  • Snow Creek
  • Boston Mills
  • Mad River Mountain
  • Paoli Peaks

And for some of the resorts, you’ll still receive unlimited access, but with restricted dates:

  • Park City
  • Northstar
  • Stowe
  • Heavenly
  • Kirkwood

You’ll receive 10 restricted dates at each of these resorts:

  • Vail
  • Whistler Blackcomb
  • Beaver Creek

The local will also give you two days at each of these resorts, plus 50% off additional lift tickets (Telluride is not included in this pass):

  • Sun Valley
  • Snowbasin

The holiday restrictions at select resorts with the Epic Local Pass and single-day passes are Nov. 27–30, 2020, Dec. 26–31, 2020, Jan.16, 2021, Feb. 13–14, 2021. For Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood and Stowe you can purchase half-price pass tickets on restricted dates.

Related: How to ski and stay in Park City with points and mile

Regional Pass Options

In addition to the Epic Pass and Epic Local Pass, there are a variety of other regional pass options. This is great for those who are looking to stick to skiing in just a specific region. For example, if you live in the Northeast, there is a new Northeast Value Pass that includes all of the Northeast mountains in the Epic Pass. This pass is unrestricted for the most part, although there are some limitations if you are looking to ski at Okemo, Mount Snow, Hunter Mountain and Stowe.

Other regional passes include Summit Valley Pass, Keystone Plus Pass, Tahoe Local Pass, Tahoe Value Pass, Kirkwood Pass, Northeast Midweek Pass, Park City Youth Pass, Afton Alps Pass, Mt Brighton Pass and Wilmot Pass.

Related: Is the Hyatt Place Keystone the best lodging deal in skiing?

Priority Access reservations

Epic Pass holders can book up to seven ski days at a time beginning on Nov. 6 and will have exclusive priority access until Dec. 8 when lift tickets will go on sale for all. As you use up your seven reservations you can book more days. Any reservations you make the day-of skiing don’t count against your seven reservations you can hold at one time.

Which ski pass is best?

The $1 million (or $400–$1,000+) question is which major annual ski pass is best?

For access to a large number of resorts, it’s hard to beat the Epic Pass, especially with last year’s acquisition of the Peak Pass. Epic also has the advantage of granting advance access to locking in ski reservations.

However, the Ikon Pass can also get you unlimited skiing at many other desirable resorts. If a few shorter ski trips to different mountains is your game plan for next season, then the Mountain Collective has the lowest price points of the three and can still get you a good number of days on popular mountains — you just need to be willing to switch up your resorts of choice.

The more restrictive tiers of passes in the Ikon and Epic families are also good considerations for saving money if you won’t be skiing during Christmas, Martin Luther King Day weekend and President’s Day weekend.

For several years I went with the Epic Pass, and while that was a great option as we skied at places such as Vail, Beaver Creek and Breckenridge, this past year we changed up our strategy and opted for the Mountain Collective. it was much cheaper and gave my family five days of skiing in total to ski at both Aspen Snowmass and Mammoth. Even though we did not fully maximize the pass due to the season ending a bit earlier than expected, it still only came out to $88 per ski day for me and $20 a day for my 9-year-old (based on last year’s spring pricing).

Related: Plan your ski trip using miles and points

a group of people cross country skiing in the snow: Skiing in Breckenridge (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy Skiing in Breckenridge (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Bottom line

Choosing an annual ski pass is not an easy decision.

You have to factor in where you want to ski, when you want to ski, how frequently you want to hit the powder and what the protections are if next season throws us some curveballs. I also like to consider which resorts have points-friendly hotels so we can stay near the mountain without spending a chunk of change on lodging. To make things tougher, some mountains are on more than one pass, so grab a cup of hot cocoa and map out all the details for this coming winter’s ski trips while comparing the specifics of each pass.

As for me — I’m still holding off fully committing, though I am leaning Epic at this point. With a fifth-grader and a 5-year-old in the house, I’m likely to target resorts where both of them can ski for less, leaving me just needing a full-price pass for myself (my husband doesn’t ski). Historically, Telluride has fit that bill by offering free skiing to those 5 and under and participating in the Colorado fifth-grade ski program. This year, that program has changed and isn’t free and doesn’t work for weekend and holiday ski days, but is only $40.

Time will tell how those rules and programs evolve for 2020–2021. What’s your ski pass plans for the upcoming season?

List of ski resorts across the major passes

Ski Resort Epic Pass Ikon Pass Mountain Collective
Alta 7 days (total between Alta Ski Area and Snowbird) 2 days + 50%
Aspen Snowmass 7 days (total between Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk) 2 days + 50%
Banff 7 days (total between Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Mount Norquay) 2 days + 50%
Big Sky 7 days 2 days + 50%
Deer Valley 7 days
Jackson Hole 7 days 2 days + 50%
Steamboat Yes
Telluride 7 days
Vail Yes
Whistler Yes
Mammoth Yes 2 days + 50%
Snowbird 7 days (total between Alta and Snowbird) 2 days + 50%
Squaw Valley Yes 2 days + 50%
Sugarbush Yes 2 days + 50%
Taos 7 days 2 days + 50%
Keystone Yes
Northstar Yes
Stowe Yes
Afton Alps Yes
Mount Sunapee Yes
Stevens Pass Yes
Beaver Creek Yes
Breckenridge Yes
Park City Yes
Heavenly Yes
Kirkwood Yes
Mount Brighton Yes
Falls Creek Yes
Okemo Yes
Crested Butte Yes
Sun Valley 7 days
Snow Basin 7 days
Killington 7 days (total between Killington and Pico)
Boyne Highlands 7 days
Boyne Mountain 7 days
Snoqualmie 7 days
SkiBig3 7 days (total between Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise and Mount Norquay)
Revelstoke 7 days 2 days + 50%
Cypress 7 days
Sunday River 7 days
Sugarloaf 7 days 2 days + 50%
Loon 7 days
Winter Park Yes
Copper Mountain Yes
Eldora Yes
June MT Yes
Big Bear Yes
Stratton Yes
Snowshoe Yes
Tremblant Yes
Blue MT Yes
Solitude Yes
Fernie 7 days
Kimberley 7 days
Stoneham 7 days
Kicking Horse 7 days
Nakiska 7 days
Mont-Sainte 7 days
Lake Louise 2 days + 50%
Arapahoe Basin 7 days 2 days + 50%
Coronet Peak and The Remarkables 7 days (total between Cornet Peak, The Remarkables and Mount Hutt) 2 days + 50%
Mount Buller 7 days 2 days + 50%
Niseko United 7 days 2 days + 50%
Thredbo Alpine Village 7 days 2 days + 50%
Valle Nevado 7 days 2 days + 50%
Crystal Mountain Yes
Zermatt Matterhorn Yes
Wilmont Yes
Brighton 7 days
Mount Snow Yes
Wildcat Mountain Yes
Attitash Mountain Yes
Crotched Mountain Yes
Hunter Mountain Yes
Roundtop Mountain Yes
Big Boulder Yes
Liberty Mountain Resort Yes
Whitetail Resort Yes
Jack Frost Yes
Alpine Valley Yes
Brandywine Yes
Hidden Valley Yes
Snow Creek Yes
Boston Mills Yes
Mad River Mountain Yes
Paoli Peaks Yes
Perisher Yes
Hotham Yes
Chamonix 2 days + 50%
Grand Targhee Resort 2 days + 50%
Panorama Mountain Resort 2 days + 50%
 

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