Day lift tickets at Utah's Alta and Snowbird have for many years represented one of the best values in U.S. skiing, but new alliances and price reductions are now bringing season passes into line, too. (file photo: Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort)

Utah’s Season Pass Landscape is Changing for the Cheaper

Salt Lake City, UT – Utah’s 14 ski and snowboard resorts have long maintained some of the best day ticket values in the U.S., but also some of the country’s most expensive season pass prices. A number of developments and collaborations taking place this summer, however, appear destined to change that dynamic.

In an era when day tickets to nearly every Colorado resort hover north of the $100 mark, places like Alta Ski Area in Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon have continued at a relative bargain, with adult all-day lift tickets priced at $79 for 2013-14. The early purchase season pass price at Alta, however, is $999 if bought before late September, and the combined Alta/Snowbird season pass price ballooned in recent years to $1,799. At the same time, skiers could purchase an unrestricted Epic Pass good at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado, as well as Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in California, all for $659. Many destination visitors now purchase an Epic Pass and plan their ski vacations around the lift privileges that the pass provides. For those committed to a single mountain, season passes are available in their neighborhood of $300 in many of this country’s ski regions.

Day lift tickets at Utah's Alta and Snowbird have for many years represented one of the best values in U.S. skiing, but new alliances and price reductions are now bringing season passes into line, too. (file photo: Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort)
Day lift tickets at Utah’s Alta and Snowbird have for many years represented one of the best values in U.S. skiing, but new alliances and price reductions are now bringing season passes into line, too. (file photo: Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort)

Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) could be viewed as having been the first to break the ice on the Utah season pass scene, dropping rates in 2010-11 by selling pass options à la carte. Someone interested in the skiing, and only the skiing, could slide all season long for $699 in 2010-11 at early season rates, a sharp drop from PCMR’s pricing in 2009-10. It’s now back up to $780 for 2013-14.

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Last winter Snowbasin joined the fray by introducing its Discovery Pass Program that began at $449 including holiday blackout dates for 2012-13, while those looking for an unrestricted pass could get one for $649, a reduction of more than one-third off the previous season’s $999 rate.

These price reductions, and new collaborations between resorts appear to be finally affecting season pass pricing structures at other Utah resorts. In May, Vail Resorts inked an agreement to operate Utah’s Canyons, and the company has since added Canyons to its Epic Pass priced at $689 this season, $160 less than the price of a Canyons-only season pass last winter. The Mountain Collective, now in its second season, allows pass holders of season passes at Alta, Aspen/Snowmass, Jackson Hole and Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows, and for the first time this season Snowbird, Mammoth Mountain and Whistler Blackcomb, two free days at each of the other resorts and half-price lift tickets thereafter. Starting this winter premium season pass holders at Alta, Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort and Snowbird, all in Utah, get three free days at each of the other partner resorts.

“As another step in adding value and variety for our Alta skiers, we think it is great to be able to add days of skiing at three of our fine neighboring resorts – Snowbird, Deer Valley and Park City Mountain Resort,” commented Alta Ski Area’s President and General Manager, Onno Wieringa.

“Deer Valley is so appreciative of the support from our season passholders year after year. This partnership will provide a great opportunity to thank our loyal guests and allow them more flexibility to experience the Greatest Snow on Earth,” added Deer Valley Resort President and General Manager Bob Wheaton.

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Also this summer, Snowbasin joined the new Powder Alliance, which unites 12 resorts across the West including also Crested Butte, Sierra-at-Tahoe, Stevens Pass, Timberline, Schweitzer, China Peak, Mountain High, Arizona Snowbowl, Mt. Hood Skibowl, Angel Fire Resort, and Bridger Bowl. For the price of your local season pass, Powder Alliance resort members of any age receive three free days at all other participating areas plus special offers on lodging, rentals, buddy tickets, and more.

Alta and Snowbird announced their season pass prices last week. While early bird pass prices to each individual resort remain unchanged from 2012-13, they now include the aforementioned three free days at the other and as a result, the combined AltaBird pass price has dropped by $300 to $1,499. And the latest entry to the game arrived yesterday in the form of a combined Solitude/Brighton unlimited season pass for $999, a full $500 less than even the reduced price of an AltaBird pass announced just last week. Purchase options for the new Solitude/Brighton combo will be announced by each resort this Thursday.

Where this trend is heading is anyone’s guess, but one thing’s for certain: Utah skiers and riders will earn more value in a season pass this season, and have a plethora of new choices to factor into their cost matrix.

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