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How to Choose the Best Season Pass for Holiday Travel

This article originally appeared on Ski Mag

Check Out The Complete Season Pass Buyer’s Guide

While we always advise that you shouldn't try to ski over the holidays due to crowds and inflated prices, let's be honest: Sometimes you just have no choice. It's when kids and teachers are on school breaks, college students home for the holidays, and offices closed.

That said, the more you plan ahead, the better equipped you are to make the right choice about which season pass to buy. Say, for instance, you know you'll be skiing over the Christmas holiday period--that will greatly inform your decision. Here's what the major passes offer if you're planning to ski over the holidays.

Whistler at Christmas
You’ll need the full Epic Pass or an Epic Day Pass with holiday access added to ski Whistler over Christmas. Photo: Getty Images

Which Passes Have Blackout Dates, and When Are They?

First of all, neither the full Ikon nor the full Epic have any blackout dates, so if you're planning a holiday trip, that's clearly the way to go.

That said, if you don’t think you’d get enough use out of the full pass and you’re considering one of the second-tier options, such as the Ikon Base and the Epic Local, you’ll be looking at significant restrictions. The holiday blackouts are similar for both:

Ikon Blackout Dates

  • Christmas (Dec. 26-31)

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend (Jan. 13-14)

  • President's Day (Feb. 17-18).

Epic Blackout Dates

  • Thanksgiving (Nov. 24-25)

  • Christmas (Dec. 26-31)

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend (Jan. 13)

  • President's Day (Feb. 17-18)

Which Pass Offers More Holiday Access?

When it comes to the second-tier and regional passes, the Ikon Base is more restrictive than the Epic Local when you consider not only holiday travel but also the number of days at North American resorts. With the Epic Local, eight resorts (Vail, Beaver Creek, Whistler Blackcomb, Stowe, Heavenly, Park City, Kirkwood, and Northstar) are restricted by number of days and holiday blackouts, whereas on Ikon, 22 North American resorts have those restrictions (five days at each, most with blackout restrictions).

Also Read: When Is Ski-In/Ski-Out Lodging Worth the Money?

What's more, Taos Ski Valley moved from the Ikon Base to the Base Plus for next season, meaning that you have to spend another $200-plus to get five days there, as well as Sun Valley, Snowbasin, Deer Valley, Alta Aspen Snowmass, and Jackson Hole, and+-+-. But remember, you need to upgrade to the full pass if you plan to ski over the holidays at any of those resorts.

Can You Add Holiday Access?

Well, yes and no. Say you usually avoid skiing over holidays but you're meeting out-of-town family for a Christmas ski reunion next winter, so you just need pass coverage from Dec. 26-31. While you can't add holidays on the Epic Local or Ikon Base season passes, you can build your own Epic Day pass and opt in for holiday access.

Ikon's comparable product, the Session Passes, available in two-, three-, and four-day options, are blackout restricted, so not ideal for holiday skiers.

Best Pass for Holiday Travel

It's a toss-up between the two full passes, but the Epic Local and Epic Day offer access to more ski areas over the holiday periods with more flexibility on days.

Also Consider

There are no blackout dates on the Mountain Collective, and while you only get two days at each destination, you can add a third day at one resort of your choice, and you get 50 percent off additional days. Depending on how many days you plan to ski, it could be a good deal over the holidays.

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