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Travel 5 reasons why you should buy an Epic Pass right now

15:30  27 october  2020
15:30  27 october  2020 Source:   thepointsguy.com

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a man riding skis down a snow covered slope © Provided by The Points Guy
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This season, time spent skiing or boarding on the mountain is about staying safe while getting back to the basics of what makes these winter sports so special.

If you want to ski or ride during the winter, this is the year to strongly consider buying an Epic Pass. In fact, if any of the resorts owned and operated by Vail Resorts — which has a footprint in Colorado, Utah, California and beyond — are on your winter wish list, then right now is the time to purchase your Epic Pass. Here’s why.

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You’ll get priority access to ski reservations

All 34 North American resorts owned and operated by Vail Resorts will require reservations this season in an effort to control crowding and facilitate safe social distancing — and Epic Pass holders get first dibs on reservations. This includes big-name resorts such as Vail, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek, Keystone, Crested Butte, Park City, Heavenly, Stowe and many others.

If you buy an Epic Pass, on Nov. 6 you will be able to make reservations for the core season (Dec. 8 – Apr. 4) across all of their resorts. Pass holders can book up to seven “Priority Reservation Days” for the core season in advance. Throughout the season you’ll be able to add more days as you use them.

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As their resorts start to open for the season, you can continue to take advantage of exclusive early season access by making as many week-of reservations as your pass type and availability allow. No lift tickets will be sold prior to Dec. 8. Booking a week-of reservation does not count against your Priority Reservation Days Those with a more limited number of ski days on their Epic Pass (such as with an Epic Day Pass) can book up to the total number of days on their pass.

Currently, Keystone plans to open on Nov. 6 (conditions permitting), so without an Epic Pass, you can’t take advantage of any early-season skiing or riding at all. And for those looking to ski or ride Keystone on opening day, the pass holder reservation system will open on Nov. 4.

While Vail Resorts expects to be able to accommodate demand on the vast majority of days without a problem, those peak holiday and weekend dates may hit capacity. If you don’t have a pass, it’s possible that you won’t be able to ski or ride on those especially coveted dates.

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You can enjoy a safe mountain experience

At all Vail Resorts destinations, you’re going to know what to expect when it comes to safety and procedures because there will be a consistent experience across their resorts. Thankfully, mountains naturally lend themselves to outdoor fun in wide-open spaces, but there are some points during a ski day that have to be adjusted for COVID-19 safety.

In addition to the reservation system, all of Vail Resorts’ 34 North American destinations will require visitors to wear face coverings to access the mountain in all parts of the resort operations, and while in lift lines, while loading, unloading and riding in lifts and gondolas.

  5 reasons why you should buy an Epic Pass right now © The Points Guy

On-mountain dining and ski school will return this year, but it will also be reimagined with safety at the forefront. For example, group ski school for the youngest 3- and 4-year-old learners, which is often indoors for a large portion of the day, will not happen this season beyond private lessons, while four people will be the maximum class size for 5- and 6-year-olds.

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An Epic Pass will save you money

You may have never considered getting an Epic Pass if you only ski or ride a day or two each season, but things have changed in recent years. For the second year in a row, the Epic Day Pass is available and probably costs less than you think.

An Epic Day Pass is a customizable pass for skiers and riders who may not need the access offered by a traditional season pass. Guests can create their own pass by selecting the number of days they plan to ski or ride – from one day to seven days – and whether or not to add holiday access.

The Epic Day Pass, which can be used at any of Vail Resorts’ 34 North American destinations, actually costs up to 50% less than lift tickets at the priciest resorts. One-day passes start at $112 for adults and $59 for kids, which is much better than spending upwards of $200+ on one-day lift tickets bought directly from Vail and Beaver Creek during the season. Your cost-per-day decreases if you’re skiing for multiple days.

With the Epic Day Pass, you get to decide whether or not you want those days to be valid for peak holiday stretches (Nov. 27 and 28; Dec. 26 to 31; Jan. 17; and Feb. 13 and 14). A three-day adult pass would set you back $321 for adults or $166 for kids on other dates; that increases to $381 and $195, respectively, if you’d like to ski on those peak dates.

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The Epic Day Pass can be used at:

map: Locations of Vail owned and operated resorts (Image courtesy of Vail) © The Points Guy Locations of Vail owned and operated resorts (Image courtesy of Vail)
Colorado

Vail

Beaver Creek

Breckenridge

Keystone

Crested Butte

Pennsylvania

Liberty Mountain Resort

Roundtop Mountain

Whitetail Resort

Jack Frost

Big Boulder

New Hampshire

Mount Sunapee

Attitash Mountain Resort

Wildcat Mountain

Crotched Mountain

Ohio

Boston Mills

Brandywine

Mad River Mountain

Vermont

Stowe

Okemo

Mount Snow

Utah

Park City

California

Northstar

Kirkwood

Heavenly

Michigan

Mount Brighton

Missouri

Hidden Valley

Snow Creek

Indiana

Paoli Peaks

Minnesota

Afton Alps

New York

Hunter Mountain

Washington

Stevens Pass

Wisconsin

Alpine Valley

Wilmot Mountain

Canada

Whistler Blackcomb

When you purchase an Epic Day Pass of four or more days, you also get additional partner access to Telluride, Snowbasin, Sun Valley and the six Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (Fernie, Kicking Horse, Kimberley, Nakisha, Mont Sainte Annie, Stoneham).

a group of people riding skis down a snow covered slope: (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

You can take advantage of exclusive discounts

On top of all that, travelers with the Epic Pass, Epic Local Pass, Epic Day Pass and more can enjoy discounts through the new Epic Mountain Rewards program. This simple but rewarding program provides:

  • 20% off food and nonalcoholic beverages (up to $150 per day)
  • 20% off group ski and ride lessons
  • 20% off the Epic Mountain Express private or shared shuttles from Denver International Airport (DEN) and Eagle County-Vail Regional Airport (EGE) Regional Airport
  • 20% off gear rentals
  • 20% select on-mountain activities

Purchasing even a one day Epic Day Pass will unlock discounts on food and lodging for your entire family; purchase a pass for each family member to receive individual discounts on lessons and gear rentals.

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You’ll be able to ski and ride at world-class resorts

a man riding a snowboard down a snow covered slope: (Photo by miralex/Getty Images) © The Points Guy (Photo by miralex/Getty Images)

I don’t know exactly how my family will spend our free time this winter, but I know most of our fun will happen outdoors.

In fact, since winter sports are made for the outdoors, we’re considering packing up and heading from Texas to Colorado for several weeks this winter to lean into distance learning and remote work. While in Colorado, a big part of the plan is to spend at least part of several days per week on the mountain.

If your winter plans also include bundling up to enjoy the great outdoors, then the amount of skiing and riding you’ll enjoy with the Epic Pass, or even the Epic Local Pass, makes sense. While the Epic Pass is the juggernaut, the less expensive Epic Local Pass is the best value for travelers who don’t plan to ski over holidays or during peak periods.

Epic Pass

If you’re craving access to all of Vail’s resorts, with additional access to partner resorts, you’ll be best served by the full Epic Pass.

Prices for the 2020 to 2021 season are currently priced at $999 for adults (ages 13 and up) and $509 for children (ages 5 to 12). Kids ages 4 and under can ski for free. There’s no discounted teen Epic Pass like you’d find with the Epic Local Pass. Instead, when you turn 13, you leap from child to adult.

This Epic Pass gets you access to (if you make reservations in advance) Vail, Beaver Creek, Whistler Blackcomb, Breckenridge, Park City, Keystone, Crested Butte, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Stevens Pass, Stowe, Okemo, Mount Sunapee, Wilmot, Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton, Perisher Australia (2021 access), Falls Creek Australia (2021 access), Hotham Australia (2020 access), Mount Snow, Hunter, Attitash, Wildcat, Crotched, Liberty, Roundtop, Whitetail, Jack Frost, Big Boulder Alpine Valley, Boston Mills, Brandywine, Mad River Mountain, Hidden Valley, Snow Creek and Paoli Peaks. At partner resorts, the full Epic Pass gets you seven days of skiing each at Telluride, Sun Valley, Snowbasin and the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies.

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Because skiing alone isn’t nearly as fun, the Epic Pass also includes discounted Buddy Tickets and Ski with a Friend passes that will become available in December.

Related: Vail Resorts Group acquires 2 new Australian ski resorts

Epic Local Pass

For the 2020 to 2021 season, the Epic Local Pass provides access to Breckenridge, Keystone, Crested Butte, Stevens Pass, Okemo, Mount Sunapee, Wilmot, Afton Alps, Mt Brighton, Mount Snow, Hunter, Attitash, Wildcat, Crotched, Liberty, Roundtop, Whitetail, Jack Frost, Big Boulder Alpine Valley, Boston Mills, Brandywine, Mad River Mountain, Hidden Valley, Snow Creek and Paoli Peaks. (Again, you’ll need to make advance reservations.)

You’ll also get access (with holiday restrictions) at Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood and Stowe.

The $749 Epic Local Pass also includes 10 total combined days (with holiday restrictions) at Vail, Beaver Creek and Whistler Blackcomb. There are additional days at some partner resorts such as Sun Valley, Snowbasin, Hakuba Valley and Rusutu Resort in Japan.

In short, if you can work around a few restrictions, the Epic Local Pass is actually a heck of a deal. A seven-day, unrestricted Epic Day Pass is currently $667 for adults. For less than $100 more than that, you’ve unlocked tons of additional ski days with the Epic Local Pass. If you’re going to spend at least seven days at Epic destinations this season, either the Epic Local or Epic Day Pass is going to be your best bet.

Related: 7 mistakes to avoid when planning a ski trip

Bottom line

The most cost-effective way to ski at major mountains has, for years, been with a pass.

Now, it’s even more essential than ever to have some type of Epic Pass if you plan to ski at a Vail Resorts mountain since reservations will be required this season. Travelers with any type of Epic Pass (including the day passes) get more than a month’s head start on making those priority ski reservations for the 2020 to 2021 season and, if nothing else, you’ll spend less than you would if you bought day-of tickets at the resort.

Generally speaking, pass prices increase as the season nears — and eventually, they go off-sale.

Also, ski and ride with peace of mind this season with Epic Coverage – new for the 2020/21 season and free with every pass. Epic Coverage provides refunds if you’re unable to reserve your priority ski reservations by 12/7 as well as many qualifying events such as illness, job loss, injury, and certain resort closures.

My winter plans are strongly pulling me toward the Epic Pass. If yours are too, remember that Nov. 6 is the magic date that the exclusive month-long booking window opens for pass holders to begin to make those priority reservations for the rapidly approaching ski season.

Featured image by gladassfanny/Getty Images

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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