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Raising a ski family is not for the faint of heart. It’s expensive, exhausting … and one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do. Both Epic and Ikon passes have plenty of family skiing, but they’re not equal when it comes to pass discounts and the learning terrain on tap. Here’s how it breaks down on the Epic Pass and the Ikon Pass, and what else to consider when trying to hook your crew on the best family pastime in the world.
Which Pass Offers the Best Value for Families?
Pass prices for kids 5 through 12 years old are $428 (Epic) and $339 (Ikon), but Ikon offers $100 off with purchase of an adult pass. Epic doesn’t offer a child discount with adult purchase, but it does have its Epic SchoolKids program, offering free skiing at certain resorts. This can be useful depending on where you live and how often you plan to ski.
On both passes, kids under 5 ski free, although you do have to get a pass printed for them. As for teens and young adults, Ikon offers a discount for ages 13 to 23 on the Full, Base, and Session passes while Epic discounts its Epic Local pass and some of its regional passes for teens 13 to 18. The full Epic Pass, however, doesn’t offer any discounts for those 13 and older.
Ikon Child Pass Discount
This is a good deal that gets families up to $200 off their total pass purchase. You can get $100 off your child’s pass with the purchase of an adult Ikon Pass or Ikon Base Pass. There’s a maximum of two adult/child pass discounts, so if you have more than two kids, you have to pay full price for the rest. Be sure to purchase by April 21, or the discount goes away.
Vail Resorts rolled out the Epic SchoolKids program in 2015 initially with the Colorado and Utah packs, but it’s since expanded to include B.C. With the SchoolKids programs, kindergarten through fifth graders in Colorado get four days of skiing each at Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone, Breckenridge, and Crested Butte, while Utah and B.C./Washington kids get five days respectively at Park City and Whistler Blackcomb. You have to provide proof of residency and grade, rendering Epic SchoolKids useful only to families who live near these resorts, but free skiing is a great deal if it applies to your family.
Best Value for Families
Ikon Pass, as the discounted child pass with adult purchase applies to more skiers.
Which Pass Offers More Family-Friendly Resorts?
All ski resorts have enough beginner terrain for new skiers, but where Epic has pulled away from Ikon is in the amount of “feeder” resorts on its passes. These small regional ski areas are located throughout the Midwest and the East, and provide a less intimidating learning experience than, say, a Whistler or an Aspen. Places like Pennsylvania’s Liberty, Whitetail, and Jack Frost, and Ohio’s Alpine Valley, Brandywine, and Boston Mills. There are even dedicated passes to just the Ohio ski areas (only $299), and other regional resorts to keep skiing affordable for families at their nearest slopes.
Elsewhere on Epic, when families are ready for bigger resorts, Okemo, Vt., Keystone, Colo., and Northstar, Calif. are all known for their ski schools, beginner terrain, and family programming.
Ikon’s resort all have plenty of beginner and intermediate terrain. Copper Mountain, for one, is known for its naturally separated slopes that keep newer skiers insulated from everyone else. Winter Park’s Galloping Goose lift serves the green runs at the bottom of Mary Jane and tickets are just $10. Sun Valley, which is joining Ikon for the 2022-23 season, has its own separate beginner mountain, Dollar Mountain, designed for new skiers.
Best Terrain for Families
Epic Pass, with a higher number of smaller ski areas and more pass options aimed toward hooking people onto the sport.
The Indy Pass is an affordable option for families, especially those living in the Midwest, where there are 20 Indy Pass ski areas to choose from. Kids passes start from $119.