Jones: Shopping for ski passes while waiting for snow

  • It won’t be long before opening day at ski mountains, like the one seen here on Nov. 23, 2016, on top of Loon Mountain in Lincoln. Planning ahead and shopping for passes and deals that will fit your schedule and save your money is a great way to pass the time before the snow flies. AP file

For the Monitor
Published: 10/27/2019 6:46:50 PM

In case you missed it, the top of Mount Washington got about four inches of snow last week. October snows are not unusual for a mountain that is the highest point in the northeast and boasts interesting weather all year long. In fact, it would be unusual if it didn’t snow on “The Rockpile” most months of the year.

But that October snow, set against the last hurrah of foliage season, is a wonderful reminder that winter is well and truly on its way. It won’t be long before Sunday River and Killington turn on their snowguns an start covering their slopes. If recent history holds true, we should have lift-serviced skiing by Halloween or shortly after.

Looking ahead to what’s coming is an important part of enjoying life outdoors, and it’s definitely time to start looking forward to snow season.

That’s one of the reasons the Boston SkiSnow Expo (November 14-17 at the Seaport World Trade Center) is always scheduled for this time of year.

You can also visit your favorite shop to see the latest gear and to get your edges sharpened. Another time-honored tradition is going to a screening of the latest films from Warren Miller or Teton Gravity Research, but bring earplugs, these events are loud.

You can also build your anticipation by searching for the best online ticket deals; maybe making a list of some new places you want to ski this year; or mapping out that “big” ski getaway you’ve always dreamed of.

The best way I know to inspire yourself to ski more often is to get a season pass. It fixes your costs and the more often you go, the less expensive each day on the slopes becomes. And the recent development of multi-mountain season passes makes it all the more inspiring.

For about what it costs to get a season pass to a single area, you can now get a pass that will let you ski your favorite area as much as you want to and also sample a whole bunch of different ski slopes. Mixing it up is part of the fun of skiing.

For example, I live exactly one hour from both Sunday River and Loon Mountain, and for the past several years I’ve been getting (and getting a lot of use out of) a New England Pass. The combination of Sugarloaf, Sunday River and Loon Mountain can pretty much keep anyone happy through a long season. If you can ski mid-week, the Bronze Pass is a bargain. If you want to or have to ski on weekends and holiday weeks, you can upgrade to the Silver or Gold pass.

The big ski news of the summer was the sale of the 17 Peak Resorts ski areas – which included Wildcat and Attitash and Crotched Mountain in New Hampshire and Mount Snow in Vermont – to Vail Resorts, which already owned Stowe and Okemo in Vermont and held the lease on Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire.

The ski community was abuzz about the sale, but if you simply show up for a day of skiing at any of the new Vail Resort in the East, you aren’t likely to notice much difference.

As they’ve already proved at Stowe, Okemo and Sunapee, Vail knows what they are doing when it comes to running ski areas. You can bet that the lifts will be running smoothly, the snowmakers will have worked their magic, the slopes will be groomed to a high standard and the base lodges will be clean and serving food that’s actually edible (one of the better changes in the ski scene in recent years). And you can bet that future years will show some improvements in lifts, snowmaking and amenities.

The real bonus of the sale for New Englanders is that it makes it possible to try more mountains on a single pass. The Epic Pass allows you to ski your favorite area as much as you want, but also lets you sample a whole host of areas across the country. The Epic Local pass, for example, currently costs $739, which is about average for an adult unlimited pass at a single area, yet it offers you unlimited skiing at Okemo and Mount Snow in Vermont, Hunter Mountain in N.Y., plus Attitash and Wildcat, Mount Sunapee and Crotched Mountain.

And, the Epic Local Pass will also give you up to 10 days of skiing at Vail resorts out west, including Vail and Beaver Creek in Colorado and Whistler/Blackcomb in British Columbia and a set number of days at a whole host of other ski resorts around the globe.

The other big player in the multi-pass arena is the Icon Pass, although it’s generally more focused on skiing the West. The Icon Base Pass ($799) gets you up to five days each at a number of eastern ski resorts, including Killington, Sugarbush and Stratton in Vermont, Sunday River and Sugarloaf in Maine, and Loon Mountain. Five days of skiing or riding at each of those resorts would make for a pretty exciting season and that doesn’t even factor in the savings if you want to travel.

There are other combo pass options around if you look for them. Just go online, start at your favorite area and expand your search from there. It can you money and help pass the time until you can actually get out on the slopes.

If you skip the passes and go with day tickets, you can usually save significant money by buying online.

(Tim Jones writes about outdoor sports and travel and can be reached at timjones603@gmail.com)




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