Link to original article, which will contain updates throughout the year: https://www.peakrankings.com/content/epic-or-ikon-2021-22
With the deadline for Ikon’s lowest pass prices fast approaching, you may be debating whether to pick up this multi-resort pass for next season. You might be wondering how valuable the pass will be next season, especially compared to the Epic Pass suite, which recently received a 20% across-the-board price cut. In this piece, we’ll aim to shed light on the differences between these two passes.
Both Ikon and Epic offer a substantial portfolio of resorts, and we haven’t covered them all (we hope to pen a comprehensive guide on each pass by the quality of the individual mountains they offer at a later date). Both passes contain access to multiple resorts across major U.S. destination regions such as Colorado, Lake Tahoe, Utah, and Vermont. Both passes offer options in Canada as well, although for Epic, all but Whistler (which—full disclosure—is currently our highest-rated resort) are on the full pass only.
Some resorts, such as Jackson Hole and Aspen/Snowmass for Ikon and Telluride for Epic, are not included on the cheapest pass products. However, these high-end resorts offer some of the best overall experiences in North America. Jackson Hole ties for 2nd in our rankings, while Telluride ties for 6th. We haven’t completed our reviews of the four Aspen/Snowmass resorts yet, but based on initial impressions, we estimate Snowmass will end up as one of our highest rated mountains. Those hoping to visit Telluride will have to splurge for the full Epic Pass, while those looking to visit Jackson Hole or Aspen can purchase an $150 Ikon Base Pass Plus add-on.
A major Epic advantage is unlimited access to a significantly higher number of resorts. Epic offers unlimited access to all mountains owned by Vail Resorts, with a grand total of 36 (33 in North America). Ikon’s unlimited access resorts, mostly owned by Alterra, only come out to 15 (13 for the base pass).
Unlike Ikon, the Epic Pass covers several local, regional mountains in addition to destination resorts. Ikon Passes offer five-to-seven days at Windham and unlimited access to Snowshoe, which those in the NYC and DC areas may find valuable; however, those looking for unlimited access resorts in most major metropolitan areas will find Epic a better value. Those looking to visit only local mountains next season may benefit from looking at Vail’s cheaper regional pass options before committing to a true Epic product.
Ikon does hold an advantage over Epic in a few regions. Places such as Oregon, the Northern Rockies, and Southern California contain Ikon-affiliated resorts but few or no Epic ones.
With the exception of Sun Valley and Snowbasin on the Epic Local Pass, both passes offer at least 5 days of non-holiday access at each resort. Those only interested in two or fewer days at any given resort next season may want to check out the cheaper Mountain Collective, which offers two-day access to a heavily-Ikon-overlapping suite of destination resorts, or the Indy Pass, which offers two-day access to a variety of local hills.
Thanks to a 20% price cut across the board compared to last season, Epic holds a price advantage at first glance. However, this picture isn’t quite as straightforward for certain age groups.
Both Ikon and Epic offer two season pass tiers, with the higher-tier for each featuring no blackout dates and access to a few extra resorts. For those over the age of 23, prices for Epic are substantially cheaper. A full adult Epic Pass is currently $783, while a full adult Ikon Pass is $999. The lower-tier Epic Local Pass is $583, while the Ikon Base Pass is currently $729.
However, teens and young adults may actually find better value in the Ikon Pass. Both Ikon tiers offer young adult discounts ($739 for the full pass, $559 for the base) for 13-to-22-year-olds. Only Epic’s Local Pass offers a discounted $471 teen rate—the full pass doesn’t offer one—and it only covers ages 13 to 18. Consequently, 19-to-22-year-olds will save $24 to $44 on an Ikon purchase over Epic. Those aged 13-18 will save $44 on a full pass purchase with Ikon, but save $88 on a base pass purchase with Epic.
Ikon’s 5-to-12-year-old child discounts ($319 for the full pass, $279 for the base are very similar to Epic’s ($399 full, $303 Local). However, an adult Ikon Pass can be paired with a child pass to save up to $200 total ($100 each) on both passes.
For those age 4 and under, Epic has the upper hand thanks to free passes for these youngsters. For ages 0-4, Ikon charges $149 for the full pass and $99 for the base. For families with children of different ages, the value-adds from these differing price policies could effectively cancel each other out.
Both Epic and Ikon offer discounts for college students, though once again, Epic’s special college deal only applies to the Local Pass. At $527, Epic’s Local College Pass slightly undercuts the Ikon Base Pass’s $549 college rate. However, the full Ikon Pass’s $719 college rate comes out below the full Epic Pass, which has no college equivalent, by $64.
Epic offers substantially better military deals than Ikon. Ikon’s military discounts are the same as the college discount, but Epic offers special Military Pass products that range from just $135 for active and retired military personnel and dependents to $447 for veterans and their dependents. These passes offer unlimited access to Vail-owned resorts but do not include partner mountains. As a result, military members or veterans can save several hundreds of dollars with an Epic product over Ikon. However, Ikon offers their same discounted rate for nurses, whereas Epic does not.
For those who can’t afford to pay in full now, both passes offer a payment plan. However, Ikon’s payment plan now runs through Affirm, and going this route requires a soft credit check. In addition, a 0% APR on the payment plan is not guaranteed. Epic’s payment plan is much more straightforward, at $49 down, and is not credit-dependent.
Ikon has announced renewal discounts for last season’s passholders. Epic has foregone any renewal discount in favor of their 20% price cut.
Renewing 23+ adults are eligible for $100 (~10%) off the full Ikon Pass product and $80 (~11%) off the Ikon Base Pass product. While these prices still don’t match Epic’s, they go a long way to closing the gap.
COVID-19 Insurance Policy
While it’s unlikely that resorts will close due to COVID-19 next season, both Epic and Ikon have retained their COVID insurance policies for the 2021-22 season. In the event of eligible closures, Epic will refund your money while Ikon will credit the value to the purchase of a pass for the 2021-22 season. Both passes provide two different compensation options for COVID-19 resort closures, one of which covers all resorts and the other covers a specific resort of your choosing.
For both passes, the “specific resorts” option provides a refund based on the number of days the chosen resort is forced to close due to COVID-19 during the season. For Epic, the resort you choose must be closed for 7 or more consecutive days for the pass coverage to kick in. Ikon’s coverage kicks in after one day. Epic also allows passholders to choose insurance that covers a “specific week” rather than the entire season, but the coverage still doesn’t take effect unless your resort closes for 3 or more days during the specified time period.
Epic’s “all resorts” option requires all of Vail’s Colorado, Utah, Lake Tahoe, and British Columbia resorts to be closed for 7 or more consecutive days for passholders to be eligible for a refund. On the other hand, Ikon just provides a proportional credit based on the average percentage of days closed among all North American non-heli destinations during the peak season.
If you buy an Ikon Pass product this season and decide you don’t want to use it for any reason, you can push the value to a 2022-23 pass product. The deadline to request a deferral is December 9, 2021. Epic has no proactive deferment or refund policies.
For the 2021-22 season, Epic offers a better upfront value for 23+ adults and military members, a wider local-mountain selection, and a more accessible payment plan than Ikon. However, Ikon still offers a very compelling roster of resorts, decent renewal discounts, and a strong deferral policy.
For those set on Ikon, we recommend making the purchase now if you can afford to. While these pass products can cost a hefty sum, there’s no harm in utilizing one of Ikon’s 0% APR payment plan options if you can (a soft credit check doesn’t affect your score). Additionally, you can always defer to 2022-23 if you change your mind.