Though, for the moment, the hills in and around Park City are green and the trails dry, the ski resorts here and across the country are selling season passes for winter 2016/17 now, making the time to think about where you'll be sliding around this winter upon us.
Park City is lucky enough to be the home of not one, but two world-class ski areas, Deer Valley and Park City Mountain Resort (Though owner Vail Resorts would prefer their Utah property called simply Park City, to avoid confusion, we'll refer to it here by its longer moniker.) Securing a season pass at either place is pretty much a must for most locals, and even many regular visitors. If you're a snowboarder, you probably don't think twice about which pass you'll buy since snowboarding is not allowed at Deer Valley. But for skiers, it's worth taking a moment to compare the perks of each pass.
Deer Valley Season Pass
Deer Valley is upping their game by announcing some new, very attractive value-added benefits to the 2016-2017 season pass. While the Epic Pass, of course, offers access to the many other resorts within the Vail Resorts' portfolio, Deer Valley season pass holders can shred the pow much closer to home with complimentary days offered at a handful of other Utah resorts. Additional incentives for buying a Deer Valley season pass include:
- 2016/2017 Summer Lift Access - Eligible Season Pass holders have access to lift-served mountain biking, hiking, and scenic chairlift rides. Eligible Midweek Season Passes can be used every day of the week during summer.
- Six Buddy Tickets - All eligible Adult, Midweek, and Senior pass holders can purchase up to 6 discounted buddy passes while Teen and Child passes are eligible for four.
- Four Complimentary Days at Solitude - With exception of blackout dates (12/24/16-1/17; 2/18-20/2017), Season Pass holders get 4 free days at Solitude Mountain Resort while Midweek Season Pass holders get two.
- Two Complimentary Days at Brighton - Season pass holders can get two days at Brighton Resort except blackout dates of 12/24/2016 – 1/1/2017; 1/13-16/2017; 2/18-20/2017.
- Three Complimentary Days at Steamboat - Eligible pass holders can receive one lift ticket per day for three days at Steamboat Ski Resort in Colorado (except on blackout dates 12/26/16-1/1/17; 2/18-20/2017).
Wasatch Benefit Program - Eligible Deer Valley Season pass holders also get shared lift privileges at Alta Ski Area and Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort. It's good for three complimentary tickets between the two areas except on the blackout dates (12/24/2016 – 1/1/2017; 1/13-16/2017; 2/17-20/2017)
- 15% Dining Discount - Both the pass holder and a guest can take 15 percent off at Seafood Buffet, Royal Street Café, The Brass Tag, or Mariposa during the 2016-17 ski season. The offer is not valid: 12/20-31/2016 or 2/18-20/2017.
- Snow Park Lunch Card - Take 20 percent off purchases at the Snow Park Restaurant between 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. These Lunch Cards can also be reloaded during the ski season.
- One year SKI Magazine subscription - Each pass purchase comes with 6 issues of this complete guide to the world's best in skiing, from resorts to equipment and everything in between.
Epic Season Pass
Significantly more economical than the Deer Valley's Season Pass (over $1,000 less), the Epic Pass draws its power primarily from the ubiquity of Vail Resorts in the ski/snowboard industry. If you have the time/money to visit several resorts over the course of the winter season, it can be a fantastic deal. Epic pass holders can take advantage of the following benefits:
- Unlimited Access to ski areas owned by Vail Resorts - In addition to Park City, this includes Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone, Breckenridge, Heavenly, Northstar, Wilmot, Kirkwood, Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton, Arapahoe Basin, and the Australian resort Perisher (2017 access). There is also summer lift access, but the pass does not work for zip lines, the alpine slide, or coaster.
- 6 Ski-With-A-Friend (SWAF) Tickets - These discounted SWAF tickets are automatically loaded onto y0ur pass and can be purchased by taking your guest to the ticket window.
- Epic Pass Club - Season pass holders receive emails offering exclusive discounts, events, and news. This ranges from lodging deals to ski and bike giveaways.
- PEAKS Rewards Program - Earn points from purchases (lift tickets, ski school, lodging, and dining) made at the Vail's resorts and redeem them on rewards like lift tickets and lessons.
- Pass Insurance - Not so much a perk as a precaution, you can add pass insurance for $25 ($15 for kids ages 5-12). You are ineligible for any type of refund without it.
- Auto Renewal Program - If you're sticking to Vail owned properties, this program allows you to make a deposit that guarantees the lowest season pass price. The deposit of $49 is taken in the spring (approx. March 15th) and the remaining balance charged in the fall (approx. Sept. 15th).
- Resort Partnership Program - In 2015/2016 Epic Pass holders had the chance to receive 5 free consecutive ski days at Switzerland's Verbier if they booked their lodging directly with the agency or hotel. Any partnership for the upcoming season has yet to be announced.
If you're a local, check the fine print on the Epic Local Season Pass because, although similar, it does not grant you the same rights as those who purchase the regular Epic Season Pass. Local passes do not have unlimited access to all Vail owned properties and are subject to restrictions.
It may seem early to be thinking about which ski pass to buy in July, given we are still soaking up the sun on 80 degree summer days, but is it really ever too soon to pray for snow?