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Winding down a weak but still satisfying ski season as Epic Pass renewal looms

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May 22, 2021, 10:40 am
Skinning and skiing between the massive pines just above the Tennessee Pass Cookhouse.

Sunday (May 23) marks the official end of the highly problematic but still enjoyable 2020-21 ski season for Epic Pass holders. Mine was discounted 20% due to the abrupt end of the previous season in mid-March 2020, and next season’s pass will again be discounted 20%, with the best prices and benefits available if you pull the trigger by Memorial Day (see press release below).

In the end – even though I had one of the lightest lift-served ski seasons of my life at just 21 days – I’m going to say my Epic Pass was worth it. I wound up paying about $35 a day for inbounds, ski-area skiing – most of them at Vail. I enjoyed another nearly 100 days clicking into either my alpine touring or Nordic skis and heading out around the valley with my dogs.

As far as ski-area skiing on the Epic Pass, which in Colorado comes to a close a little earlier than anticipated this Sunday (May 23) when Breckenridge calls it quits for the season, I actually had quite a few decent powder days. Three of them occurred in February at Park City during a three-foot storm cycle, and my last day of the season was a 10-incher at Breck after Vail closed.

Let’s face it, any amount of fresh underfoot was blessing in a season that woefully underdelivered (coincidentally at the same time Vail Resorts slashed its cloud-seeding budget despite recent scientific proof the process actually works?).

Vail (233 inches) and Beaver Creek (232) were both around 100 inches below seasonal averages. That’s a whopping 8 feet less snow than we normally get, although with climate change those averages just keep going down every season. Breck was a bit better with 292 so far this season.

It’s a testament to how good Colorado skiing is – mostly due to our overall altitude – that in fact it was not a terrible ski season despite those low snow totals. After all, I still managed to click into skis nearly 120 days this past season. That’s four months of sliding on snow.

And some of my better days (including the aforementioned April powder day lapping the T-bar at Breck) were late in the season. My wife and I Nordic skied into the Polar Bear yurt for overnighter in mid-April and the next day skinned up on AT skis from the Tennessee Pass Cookhouse through the massive old-growth pines and meadows just outside of Ski Cooper.

The Cookhouse is always good, and worth a visit once they reopen this spring/summer, but I was surprised how good the skiing was after four or five inches of new snow fell overnight. Highly recommend a Ski Cooper, Tennessee Pass yurt escape next winter if you’re looking to get away from the madness of 20,000 Epic Pass holders at Vail. The views of the highest peaks in Colorado are unparalleled at 10,400 feet, and Cooper even offers some tasty cat skiing.

Later that same week – by way of demonstrating the climate and geographical diversity of Colorado – we headed out to Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa in Gateway for some desert hiking amongst the cactus and lizards, sizzing poolside in the 70s after chilling at Cooper. Gateway offers Moab-light without the masses of ORVs and global tourists. But the Gateway property does offer an unbelievable auto museum and other amenities. It’s truly worth a visit.

Hiking near Gateway Canyons Resort.

Thing is, after that, it was back to a chilly spring in Vail, with a few more days of skiing and skinning into May. All that human-powered skiing was enough to make me briefly consider not re-upping my lift-served Epic Pass for the coming season, but a 20% discount and the possibility of an unmasked, less-weird, snowier season, including those precious midweek powder days in Royal Elk Glade or the Back Bowls, was more than enough to make me pull the trigger. And who knows, maybe this season we can get back up to see my mom in Blane, Washington, where we can day ski Whistler (please get that border back open).

Now here’s the Vail Resorts press release on reupping your Epic Pass by the Memorial Day deadline:

Next winter may be months away, but now is the best time to purchase a 2021/22 Epic Pass to get the most perks and the best deal in the industry. In addition to enjoying prices that have been cut by 20 percent, skiers and riders who purchase an eligible pass by Memorial Day will get 10 Buddy Tickets, which offer significantly discounted lift ticket rates for friends and family members. May 31 is also the last chance for guests to lock in their pass for a down payment of only $49, with the remaining pass balance processed mid-September. Skiers and riders can take advantage of these great prices and benefits on EpicPass.com.

“We are excited to offer skiers and riders game-changing prices on our 2021/22 pass products, whether they plan to ski or ride, one day or every day,” said Kirsten Lynch, chief marketing officer of Vail Resorts. “And for those who lock in their pass by May 31, we are providing the additional value of our Buddy Ticket program and $49 down payment option. Given our bold price reset and unrivaled investment in the mountain experience, we believe nothing comes close to comparing with the Epic Pass lineup.”

Epic Pass offers unmatched value

Vail Resorts recently announced a significant reduction in all pass prices to continue to deliver on its Epic for Everyone commitmentto broaden engagement in the sport, and to honor the loyalty of its pass holders. This bold price reset takes Epic Pass products back to prices last seen during the 2015/16 season when the Epic Pass offered access to only 11 U.S. resorts compared to today’s more than 80 resorts worldwide, including Vail, Breckenridge, Park City and Whistler Blackcomb. With the price reduction, the Epic Day Pass, which provides the same value as season pass products to guests who want to ski or ride just 1-7 days, gives guests the chance to visit world-class resorts like Vail for $87 with a 1-day pass and Keystone for $67 with a 1-day pass.

The price reduction applies to the entire North American pass lineup, including Epic Pass, Epic Local Pass and Epic Day Pass; Whistler Blackcomb Unlimited Pass, Whistler Blackcomb Day Pass and EDGE Cards; Summit Value Pass, Tahoe Local Pass, Tahoe Value Pass, Northeast Value Pass and Northeast Midweek Value Pass; Military Epic Pass and Adaptive Pass; and many more. See all pass prices here.

In addition to reducing the cost of accessing the mountains, Epic Pass products provide pass holders with significant savings on the rest of their mountain experience. Introduced last season, Epic Mountain Rewards offers pass holders 20 percent off on-mountain dining, lodging, group ski and ride school lessons, equipment rentals and more at Vail Resorts’ 34 North American owned and operated resorts. 

Investing in the ski experience

Since launching the Epic Pass in 2008, Vail Resorts has invested more than $1.5 billion into the guest experience with industry-leading technological innovations and numerous on-mountain capital improvements. This year, despite the financial impact of the pandemic on the travel industry, the Company has committed to invest an additional $120 million in its resorts and the ski experience. Planned 2021 investments include:

·       Completing a 250-acre lift-served terrain expansion in the signature McCoy Park area of Beaver Creek, further differentiating the resort’s high-end, family-focused experience

·       Adding a new four-person high-speed lift at Breckenridge to serve the popular Peak 7

·       Replacing the Peru lift at Keystone with a six-person high-speed chairlift

·       Replacing the Peachtree lift at Crested Butte with a new three-person fixed-grip lift

·       Upgrading the Quantum lift at Okemo from a four-person to a six-person high-speed chairlift

·       Relocating the existing four-person Quantum lift at Okemo to replace the Green Ridge three-person fixed-grip chairlift

In addition to transformational investments that will greatly improve uplift capacity, Vail Resorts remains highly focused on company-wide technology enhancements and innovations, including strategies that will materially reduce lift line wait times and a number of system upgrades to bring a best-in-class approach to guest service.

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David O. Williams

Managing Editor at RealVail
David O. Williams is the editor and co-founder of RealVail.com and has had his awarding-winning work (see About Us) published in more than 75 newspapers and magazines around the world, including 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), the Anchorage Daily Press (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, Aspen Journalism, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Boulder Daily Camera, the Casper Star Tribune (Wyoming), the Chicago Tribune, Colorado Central Magazine, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), Colorado Politics (formerly the Colorado Statesman), Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Colorado Times Recorder, the Cortez Journal, the Craig Daily Press, the Curry Coastal Pilot (Oregon), the Daily Trail (Vail), the Del Norte Triplicate (California), the Denver Daily News, the Denver Gazette, the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington), ESPN.com, Explore Big Sky (Mont.), the Fort Morgan Times (Colorado), the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the Greeley Tribune, the Huffington Post, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), the Kingman Daily Miner (Arizona), KUNC.org (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the Las Vegas Sun, the Leadville Herald-Democrat, the London Daily Mirror, the Moab Times Independent (Utah), the Montgomery Journal (Maryland), the Montrose Daily Press, The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, PT Magazine, the Rio Blanco Herald Times (Colorado), Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, RouteFifty.com (formerly Government Executive State and Local), the Salt Lake Tribune, SKI Magazine, Ski Area Management, SKIING Magazine, the Sky-Hi News, the Steamboat Pilot & Today, the Sterling Journal Advocate (Colorado), the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Health Magazine, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail, Westword (Denver), Writers on the Range and the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of RealVail.com and RockyMountainPost.com.

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