By Karen D. Lorentz
While the effects of a wacko winter—it was unusually warmer, less snowy and more erratic temperature wise than previous weird winters—hasn’t gone by yet, the offer of early-bird season passes is marching on.
Actually, the major ski areas with huge snowmaking capabilities and access to major water storage (snowmaking) ponds have been able to offer some very nice conditions this year—you just had to be free to enjoy those perfect days.
For those with less flexible schedules, the season was probably less than stellar, but the chances of a repeat two years in a row are slim, so the good news is the early bird 2016-17 season passes continue to represent good value.
They also bring some great variety and options in their offerings thanks to the consolidation trend in the ski industry over the last two decades. The consolidation trend has been driving competition and independents have had to find ways to compete, which is good for snowsports aficionados, as it has meant innovative offerings like some of the perks you’ll find with Killington, Pico, and Okemo passes.
When you figure in inflation and the amount of lifts, trails, and mountain amenities available today—no more hour-long waits in a lift line—today’s passes are a rather good deal and sometimes cheaper than in the 1960s or 70s!
But pay attention to early-bird deadlines, as they really do offer the best prices and incentives!
“M.A.X.” is back and better than ever
Last year, the ski industry saw a new season pass being offered by ski competitors Intrawest, Boyne Resorts, and Powdr Corp in the form of the M.A.X. pass, which stands for Multi-Alpine Experience. It’s a pass that allows skiers to utilize areas in their region plus take vacation(s) to another area of the country or Canada.
The $699 pass offered five days at each of the 22 ski areas owned or operated by those giants in North America (including Killington, Pico). A total of 110 days was possible for a pass that paid for itself in less than seven days of use. Killington spokesperson Michael Joseph reported that there were 49,000 M.A.X. Pass visits throughout all 22 resorts and 6,600 M.A.X. passes sold (including add-ons). Killington has seen 4,400 M.A.X. pass visits to April 1, he noted.
This year the pass adds three resorts—Wachusett, Mass.; Alyeska, Alaska; and Solitude, Utah. For five days at each of the 25 mountains, the adult pass is $599 if purchased by May 2. There are now 10 areas in the Northeast.
The M.A.X. pass is also offered as an add-on or upgrade to a qualifying season pass purchase at one of the partner areas for $299. There are no blackout dates for either pass and rates for teen, youth, and child are offered. Learn more at www.themaxpass.com.
“The original premise of the multi-resort M.A.X. pass was to go after core skiers and snowboarders in the New York and Boston metro areas who don’t commit to a single area with a season pass. More ski areas are being added to the group for year two which should benefit everyone and especially the New York market,” said Rob Megnin, Killington’s director of marketing and sales. “Boston was the top market that bought in last year, and Killington saw the most M.A.X. pass visits in the East, third nationally behind two areas in the Pacific Northwest. Had the snowfall situation been different in the East this season, we could have been higher on the list,” he noted.
Killington and Pico early birds
Killington’s early-bird deadline is June 16, 2016 with age groups determined by one’s age as of Nov. 1, 2016.
The Unlimited 2016-17 pass is priced as follows: Adults (ages 30-64), $1,139; Seniors (65-79), $739; Super Senior (80+), $59; 29 Below (19-29), $599; Youth (7-18) $539; Child (6 and under) $59.
Benefits include: M.A.X. pass upgrade option; mountain bike season pass add-on option for $89; Early-bird-only renewal bonus of $100 Beast Bucks for adults and $50 for Seniors and 29-below; free summer K-1 Gondola rides; 20 percent off 1-day tickets at Powdr Resorts; 30 percent off Pico Sports Center membership; discounts on food, lodging, lessons, etcetera; and three free days at Okemo.
“The Okemo and Killington free-day program is a great benefit for our season passholders, who get to ski and ride the whole region. It’s also beneficial for businesses in both areas as cross-traffic increases. We’re proud to offer this reciprocal benefit again this year and plan to continue the program,” Joseph commented.
Killington’s Blackout pass for all ages is $799, with 17 blackout dates (holidays or “peak” days) and three floating days for use on any of the blackout dates. Discounts on various purchases and $50 of Beast Bucks are among the benefits.
The Midweek Pass for all ages is $459 and includes holiday blackout dates and discounts on various purchases.
The 6-and-under passes are $59.
The $319 Vermont student pass has a deadline purchase date of December 15, 2016. It is offered for residents in grades K-12 and gives unlimited access to Killington and Pico. (Vermont resident students who attend a New York or New Hampshire border school also qualify for this pass.)
The College 4.0 pass is $349 for unlimited access to four resorts – Killington, Pico and Okemo in Vermont and Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire—plus five 50% off 1-day lift tickets to share with your college friends (valid at Killington only). Price is valid through Aug. 31, 2016, with proof of eligibility (requires full-time college students for the 2016-17 school term).
All Killington season passes are subject to state and local taxes and include Pico Mountain. (Details at http://www.killington.com/site/tickets/winter_passes/season_passes.)
“My Pico” passes
Sister area Pico Mountain offers its own lower-priced pass, which is good only at Pico Thursdays through Mondays plus holiday weeks.
Pico season passes are: Adults (ages 19-64), $399; Seniors (65-79), $299; Super Senior (80+), $59; Youth (7-18) $189; Child (6 and under) $59 for the early-bird deadline.
They feature a Killington one-day ($134) or two-day ($219) midweek upgrade option for days Pico is closed, as well as the M.A.X. pass option with the June 16 best-deal deadline. For details, visit picomountain.com.
Okemo early birds
New this year, those with a registered Okemo Real.Easy Card can purchase a season pass online at okemo.com and load their season pass onto their RFID-enabled card. Made of durable plastic, cards can last for years and Real.Easy Cards offer direct-to-lift convenience.
Okemo season passes are based on age as of Jan. 1, 2017, with 6 and under free. The best early-bird pricing deadline is April 30 and sales tax is additional.
Okemo’s Ultra pass provides unrestricted access to Okemo plus sister areas Mount Sunapee, N.H., and Crested Butte, Colo., plus three days at Killington. Benefits include discounts on food, demos, ski shop, and 7:45 a.m. lift access on weekends and holidays. Pricing: Adult (19-64), $1,519; Young Adult (13-18), $1,269; Junior (7-12), $1,045; Senior (65-69), $869; and 70+, $425.
The Okemo Peak pass offers unrestricted access to Okemo and Mount Sunapee, plus three days at Killington, and benefits include up to five free days of skiing or riding at Crested Butte. Pricing: Adult (19-64), $1,239; 13-18, $1,065; 7-12, $829; 65-69, $729; and 70+, $335.
A Value pass (blackout dates and benefits) to Okemo and Sunapee for ages 7+ is $719.
A Midweek pass for Okemo and Sunapee (blackout dates) is $385 for ages 7-69 and $275 for 70+.
The College 4.0 pass is $349 until August 31 and $379 till Dec. 15 and $419 thereafter.
Millennial (ages 19-29) and Sunday Plus passes are among other options.
In addition to benefits for each pass, there are also some early-bird incentives, so check www.okemo.com/mountain-info/season-passes/.