5 giant area season passes to save you money this winter

chair lift on a snowy day

You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy a season pass!

Whether it’s the first time or the twentieth, buying a season pass is always one of the most exciting days of the year for a keen skier. Traditionally season passes were specific to each resort, so only really useful for those actually doing a season or returning repeatedly to the same resort. However, there’s a new crop of giant area season passes which allow unlimited skiing in a number of resorts (or even countries and hemispheres!). They’re like a golden ticket – ski as much terrain as possible for less money!

I’m gonna ski there, there, there, there and there!

The finances obviously work out differently for each pass, but you don’t need to be a seasonnaire to take advantage of a season pass: generally if you are able to do at least 2-3 weeks and a couple of weekends skiing a year they’ll work out cheaper than buying individual passes for each trip.

These are the 5 best area season passes money can buy:

5. Mountain Collective Pass

  • 16 ski resorts (2 days free in each, then 50% discount)
  • 51,357 skiable acres
  • 456 lifts
  • Valid for one calendar year (inc. Southern Hemisphere)
  • $399 (Spring 2016, though price changes throughout the year)

The Mountain Collective Pass is unusual for a season pass, in that it isn’t really a season pass and is all but useless for anyone actually doing a season. However, for a skier who wants do several trips to different resorts (particularly in the US) and countries, it just may be the best on offer!

The Mountain Collective essentially offers two free days in a variety of resorts, then a 50% discount on every other day and 25% discount on accommodation booked through each resort. This may not seem such a great deal at first glance, but when you consider the price of a day ticket at some US resorts ($129/day at Aspen in 2016) it suddenly starts to make a lot more sense! Indeed, even if you only visit one destination from the list (in the US), the pass typically pays for itself as long as you stay at least 6 days. It covers some big names too, like Alta, Aspen, Jackson Hole, Squaw Valley and Whistler Blackcomb* in North America, in addition to Thredbo, Australia; Coronet Peak/The Remarkables, New Zealand; Chamonix, France; Hakuba, Japan and Valle Nevado, Chile.

More info: www.mountaincollective.com

*Vail Resorts has just announced it will buy Whistler Blackcomb in Autumn 2016. They will honour the Mountain Collective Pass agreements for 2016/17, but as of 17/18 Whistler will be included in the Epic Ski Pass instead.

4. Mont Blanc Unlimited (season)

  • 9 ski resorts
  • 656km pistes
  • 151 lifts
  • Valid from late November (depending on snow) until the end of May
  • €1680 (2015/16)

Unlike the other passes in this list, it’s hard to argue that the Mont Blanc Unlimited is reasonably priced… In fact at €1680 (in 2015, though earlybird discounts are normally available), it’s probably one of the most expensive season passes you can buy! However, it’s Chamonix and Mont Blanc, and Cham and superlatives go together like cheese and tartiflette.

Skíðapassinn komin í hús #only25days #chamonix #montblancunlimited

See this Instagram photo by @solveigsveinbjorns * 31 likes

What you get for your money is access to some of the finest ski terrain known to man. The needle-like Aguilles are riddled with the steeps and couloirs of alpine legend, and the treeskiing is dreamy on storm days. You also get unrestricted access to Courmayeur on the Italian side, so you can pop over for a pizza whenever you want, and also the Mont-Blanc Evasion Area (providing you start from Megève or Saint-Gervais). In the unlikely event you get bored with the terrain on offer, you also get 6 days in Verbier for half price.

More info: www.compagniedumontblanc.co.uk

3. The Salzburg Super Ski Card

  • 25 ski resorts
  • 2750km of pistes (2100km with snowmaking)
  • 916 lifts
  • Valid from 15.10.16 – 01.05.17
  • €680 (if bought before 06/12/16)

The Salzburg Super Ski Card might just be the best value season pass on the planet. For winter 16/17 it has been merged with the old Kitzbüheler Alpen Allstar Card, which brings a huge amount of new terrain. From mid October until the start of May you can ski the best resorts in Salzburg (and several in Tirol) like Ski Amade, Schladming, Saalbach-Hinterglemm, Fieberbrunn, Kitzbühel, Zillertal Arena, the SkiWelt and Obertauern, as well as the glacier at Kitzsteinhorn and a number of small gems like Werfenweng (the best treeskiing in Austria?). The pass costs €680 if bought before 6th December or €755 if bought later, but you can buy it online from 1st October. It’s valid from 15th October until 1st May, so you have a whopping 199 potential ski days available.

When you factor in early and late season weekend trips skiing on the Kitzsteinhorn glacier in addition to the main holiday periods, it’s easy to get to get enough skiing in to save money compare to buying week passes even if you’re not out for the whole season.

More info: www.salzburgsuperskicard.com/en

2. Epic Ski Pass

  • 13 ski resorts
  • 35160 skiable acres
  • 302 lifts
  • Valid for one year (inc. Australia)
  • $809

The delights that await you beyond the ticket barriers in Vail. Don’t forget your Epic Pass!

The Epic pass is by far the best unrestricted season pass in the US, and given the price of lift tickets over the pond is staggeringly good value – it pays for itself in just over 5 days, and includes some of the best resorts in America. Vail is synonymous with glitz, glamour and immaculately groomed pistes, while Kirkwood is legendary for its gnarly terrain and dry snow. Australia’s Perisher is also included as bonus, so you can score some turns in the southern hemisphere during the summer. On top of that, you get 6 discounted ‘ski with a friend’ tickets for any visiting mates.

More info: www.snow.com

1. Snow Card Tirol

  • 91 ski resorts
  • 4000km of pistes
  • 1100 lifts
  • Valid from 01.10.16 – 15.05.17
  • €756

The Tirol Snow Card is the undisputed king of season passes, encompassing pretty much every ski resort in Tirol (other than the Arlberg) that you’d ever want to ski. You can ski on the 5 Tirolean glaciers (Stubai, Hintertux, Pitztal, Sölden and Kaunertal) from the beginning of October right the way through to mid May, plus the high altitude and snow sure resorts of Ischgl and Obergurgl. Add to that a HUGE number of other big name resorts like Mayrhofen (and the whole Zillertal valley), Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis, the SkiWelt, Kitzbühel and Fieberbrunn, plus an array of small lesser-known gems like Nordkette, Axamer Lizum and Glungezer, and you begin to see the scale of the skiing on offer. However, by far the best aspect of the Tirol Snow Card is that also includes resorts in Ost Tirol, on the south side of the main alpine ridge. Being on the other side of that ridge the weather systems are totally different, so when the föhn winds strike main Tirol, often all you need to do is hop over the Brenner Pass to Steinbach or Obertilliach to be skiing waist deep powder in the trees.

Day 1/70 A dream come true. I have taken a sabbatical leave and spending 70 days in Tirol/Austria. I’m primary here for snowboarding and I will jump from ski resort to ski resort. But I also want to use the time for songwriting, yoga, reading… I bought the snow card Tirol which allows me to go boarding in nearly every ski resort in Tirol. So it’s my key to magic wonderland. #snowboarding #snow #fiss #serfaus #ladis #visittirol #austria #burton #burtonsnowboards #snowcardtirol #glove #durablegoods #snowboard #winter #wintersport #sport #sports #inntal #ried #yoga #songwriter #songwriting #songwriters #music #book #reading

See this Instagram photo by @herrlutz71 * 27 likes

The best way to take advantage of the Tirol Snow Card is to base yourself somewhere in central Tirol where you can easily access the majority of resorts either by car or public transport, however if you can squeeze in at least two weeks and a couple of weekends it can still work out cheaper than buying week passes if you’re holidaying in the more well known resorts.

More info: www.snowcard.tirol.at