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Ski Pass Or Daily Lift Ticket? Which Works Best For You?

Updated: May 22

Before you even get to make that first turn, the first thing you need to sort is how you’re going to get on the lift. There are a variety of options in regards to season passes, day tickets, or a combination of the above. Some season passes are mega resort options (were looking at you Epic and Ikon). Others are a hybrid if you will, giving you a several days a different resorts and locations. A few resorts including your traditional mom and pop mountain have a pass option where you ride mostly at said resort with maybe a couple day passes at partnered resorts. Then there is the oh so sweet day pass.

With all of the options listed it can be overwhelming to pick what suites your needs realistically. Maybe you have aspirations of skiing 75 plus days a year ( who doesn’t am I right?). Or perhaps you’re just looking to go for a weekend. Pass options have changed drastically over the last few years. So what are your options. Lets break them down. 

The Day Ticket: Aka Your Ticket To Ride

The traditional and oh so sweet day ticket. Your magically ticket up the mountain to ride. Perhaps your visiting a resort outside your pass partnership, or maybe your just clipping into those bindings for the first time. The day ticket is traditionally for those who are either unsure and not wanting to make a larger investment into an activity they are not even sure they like. However it can also be used for those of us who just need to ride a certain mountain yet our pass will not allow for those sweet turns.

For those of you just beginning, If you are looking for a day or a simple weekend to just try getting out there this is your best bet. This allows you try without a full commitment. However if you are a beginner and are looking to try more than four or five days this is where the math starts to get a bit dicey. The way passes are now set up (especially in the larger corporations) it is systematically designed to incentive you to buy a pass based on the higher cost of a single day ticket. With day tickets running up to $279 a day (yea some resorts have gone a bit crazy) and a pass cost starting at $450 depending on the resort set up. It may make more sense to buy a pass if you are positive you plan on riding more than a few days.


Not sure which pass is best for you or which mountain matches your vibe? Check out our which mountain fits my style here:

The Mom and Pop Resort: Your small ski mountain holding on to their wholesome vibe. 

With the option to go to a larger resort with fancy gondolas (which may or may not run, IYKYK) long insane lines, paid parking, oh the list can go on and on. Maybe that doesn’t sound like your idea of a fun day on the slopes. So what’s left? Where do you go? Let us introduce you to a new idea… the mom and pop resorts. These resorts do not offer fancy gondolas, brand new high speed lifts (at least not the entire resort), they won’t have headliner dis like youre in Vegas. What they lack in WOW factor in selling you things that do not necessarily mean a better day on the mountain they make up for in their incredible atmosphere, reasonable prices, smaller lines, and untouched lines.

There are many advantages to these smaller resorts. The people are typically friendlier, there are less competition for fresh lines, and the stoke is usually pretty high. When you’re not waiting in a 45 min line like your stuck at the DMV it allows for better and fresher turns while getting more runs in. This in turn creates an environment to improve or just getting those turns in. Regardless of your skill level it allows for more time going down instead of standing. These resort passes also typically partner with other smaller resorts so you’re not stuck in just one resort.

The price is usually much lower. This doesn’t mean your missing out on any of the fun though. These resorts offer their own unique vibe. Whether that is a pond skim, special perks for pass holders, etc. This is an option that often goes unnoticed because its less flashy, don’t let that fool you.

The Hybrid Pass: A Little Of This, A Little Of That

The hybrid pass think (Mountain Collective) is a great option for those of you who maybe like a weekend in Colorado, then a weekend in Washington and so on. These passes often give a set number of days, ie: two days at Red lodge, two days at Steven Pass and so on. Often with the additional day at an set discount that usually pretty significant if you just need that extra day at a particle mountain.

If you like to bounce around from place to place without a full commitment to a single mountain while getting and indy feel this is a great option. Pricing is typically far below the buy in of the mega resorts by several hundred dollars, while occasionally giving you access to a few big names.

The Mega Resort: Aka The Names You’ve Heard

Ahh the good old mega resort pass. Your Epic and Ikon options. These options start at $560 for adults and go up to $2700 (yea you read that properly the price of a used car). These are your Mammoth Mountain, Aspen, Jackson Hole options. Were talking huge mountains with traditionally a lot of luxury amenities. There is nothing wrong with craving a spa day in-between those ski days where you’re body is begging for a rest.

These resorts offer fancy amenities that the smaller resorts simply can not afford. From world class djs to insane lines that you’ve probably seen on that ski movie that just made you need to ride.

However there are some drawbacks. Including extremely higher cost before you even get on the mountain to paying for parking, long lines, heavy crowds, and so on.


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