[Editor Note: This article first appeared in the Cottonwood Heights Journal on May 18, 2020. The situation unfolding in Utah is similar to what is happening in other regions of North America.]


Wish the rules for buying a season pass were as clear as the skies over Alta. Credit: Harriet Wallis

A Season Pass Is A Complicated Decision.

Gone are the days of one deadline, one price. This year, season passes are a jigsaw puzzle.

It’s complicated by multi-mountain season passes, narrow canyon road congestion, and the now the virus. Each resort has its own spin on passes. You almost need a PhD and a crystal ball to figure out what’s right for you.

A Roundup Of What To Look For.

Deadlines for the best price. Deadlines are all over the place. Some deadlines are as early as this month (May) while others have been extended. And some resorts haven’t specified a deadline.

Discounts because of virus-shortened season. Some resorts are offering discounts on their 2020-21 passes. But the formula for discount varies from resort to resort. Some resorts have other options, too.

Budget plans. Some resorts let you buy your pass now and pay for it in installments.

Change-your-mind assurance. Some resorts let you buy a pass now and change your mind later if you decide you don’t want to ski next season. Options include pushing your pass forward into the 2021-22 season. Those change-your-mind deadlines vary all over the place.

Blackout dates / no blackouts. Yep, that varies too.

One resort, adult season pass. The plain vanilla, “adult pass at one resort, ski any day you want” has gone into tailspin. Some resorts have replaced it with family deals, midweek only deals, and pack of ticket deals.

Highlights Of Resorts In The Region.

Powder Mountain. A season pass includes supplemental injury insurance should you crash and break a bone. A season pass for seniors 75+ is $40.

Snowbasin. If you had a pass last year, you can choose a 20% discount or partial refund on a 2020-21 pass. Or you can donate the amount to one of several charities.

Brighton. It has the clearest explanation of how the Assurance “what-if-I decide-not-to-ski” plan works. While details vary from resort to resort, Brighton’s Q ad A page gives the best point-by-point explanation so you can absorb it.

Deer Valley. It has the best side-by-side comparison chart for comparing a Deer Valley season pass with an  Ikon pass. It eliminates the mumbo-jumbo. A Deer Valley pass comes with multiple benefits.

Snowbird. Snowbird prices passes for 9 different age ranges and occupations. It also offers valet and preferred parking passes.

Solitude. If you had a pass last year, you’re eligible for discounted season pass for car parking this year. And this year you can register two cars on your parking pass — but you can use the pass for only one car at a time. Solitude also offers a mid-week only adult pass.

Park City Mountain. The Epic pass lets you ski Park City plus a gazillion other mountains around the world. But to take advantage of all that, you can’t possibly be working full time. For some, not working might be a reality this winter.

IMPORTANT: Two resorts haven’t posted prices yet.

Alta is taking a wait-and-see approach. Rather than rushing to grab skiers’ money, it’s being cautious because of the virus. Alta told skiers it will let them know about passes when it has a better look down the road.

Sundance has not posted prices.


  1. richard W derr says:

    clearly you don’t ski in California. and you ignore the biggest ski resorts in the state. shame on you.

    • Harriet Wallis says:

      Hi Richard,
      I’m not sure why you scold me and want me to stand in the corner as a bad girl!

      You say I ignored “the biggest ski resorts in the state.” Alta, Deer Valley, Park City, Snowbasin, Snowbird — and the others named — are really very major resorts all within 45 minutes of Salt Lake International Airport! Come visit us and check them out. I’ll ski with you and show you around.

      And I do ski — 78 days — until resorts shut down a month early because of the virus.

      May I come out of the corner?

  2. Thanks for the informative article. For what it’s worth, I’ve decided to wait and see what the Ikon pass offers as time goes on, after reading of their recent decision to extend the reduced rate offer into June. I am hoping as the June date approaches, they sweeten the pot even more!

  3. John Farley says:

    In New Mexico and CO, the free-skiing age is being changed from 70 to 75 for next season for Sipapu, Pajarito, and Hesperus. So now, at age 70 and after skiing free this season, I have to decide on a pass again. Deadline for best price is May, and they do not have any change-your-mind assurance. Hope this is not the start of a trend

  4. William Hahnenberger says:

    I hope you are working with people like the Ikon Pass to get a senior rate. Seniors ski many days but shorter days and produce money for the resorts while they are there.
    Get with it Senior Skiing

    • Jon Weisberg says:

      William, We’re trying to be “with it.” But getting a supertanker like Vail Resorts to change course is not within our scope. If, however, you’re seeking free or greatly discounted skiing for seniors, please access our annual listing of all the resorts in North America that see the value of attracting and rewarding older skiers. Last season, more than 150 were listed. Man, did that take a lot of effort to compile and publish! Jon

  5. Michael Maginn says:

    This comment is posted on behalf of Rob Rinde.

    My local resort, Brian Head, in Southern Utah recently joined the ski area association that commenter John Farley’s resorts are part of. I have enjoyed skiing there for the last 25 years due to their well maintained slopes, friendly and helpful staff and small mountain aura. We consider it our “Go To” ski area due its proximity to our home. Unfortunately the Association has implemented many changes to the season pass program which are not overly friendly to existing pass holders and seniors who don’t want to spend extra to ski mountains they may never visit. My wife and I only want to buy a simple, no frills, pass to allow us to ski Brian Head only but these changes make it all but impossible without higher costs and takeaways.

    1) Senior pass discount now begins at 65 not 60 as it was previously.
    2) Blackout days on the basic pass that were not there last year.
    3) No Covid19 discount for last year’s pass holders.
    4) No pass protection for Covid without buying separate insurance.
    5) Age for purposes of pass discounts based on date of purchase, not the actual ski season dates.

    While all of the above amount to less value for higher cost compared to when the resort was independently managed we can accept the first four as the cost of changes in the industry but number five is especially concerning to us and our fixed income pocketbook. I am over 65 so the date changes do not affect me as much but my wife, who turns 65 in September is left with only two choices by the “date of purchase policy”. She can either buy a non-senior adult pass at the early-bird rate of $449 or wait until after her birthday and purchase a non-early-bird senior pass for $499. Either way she is paying over 2.5 times the early-bird senior rate of $199 even though she will be 65 years old during the entirety of the 20/21 ski season. It is also interesting to note that while this loophole hurts seniors, it benefits younger pass holders who can take advantage of lower pass costs during early-bird sales even though they will be in a higher age group during the actual ski season. Lets make it fair for everyone and base pass costs on age at the start of the season.

  6. Geoff M Prescott says:

    Thanks for writing about something that is on every skier’s mind right now. Like everything else these days, we are in uncharted territory. Hoping things will be worked out for the good of both skiers and resorts.

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