If you're like most Winter sports enthusiasts, you're probably already thinking about which ski pass to purchase for the upcoming season. There are several options available, but the Epic Pass and Ikon Pass are two of the most popular passes on the market. But which is better?

Both have their pros and cons. But together, they cover a majority of the ski areas in the western United States—and even include some international destinations. To help you make the most informed decision, Natural Retreats has brought in our own resident ski expert, Libby Ellis, for a quick Q&A.

Before we get started, let's start by telling you what makes Ellis an expert.

As a cross-country skier, she raced on the Midwest Junior National team for six years, competed at the collegiate level for Northern Michigan University for four years, and represented the U.S. in the Scandinavian Cup Series. Retired from Nordic skiing, she has naturally moved on to alpine skiing, which she has been pursuing for over seven years in Utah.

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Ski In Ski Out Lifestyle Photoshoot at Silver Star and Ironwood 11 with Adam Barker

NR: Do you consider yourself an avid skier? How often do you go?

Libby: Yes, I do! I ski as often as I can, usually both Saturday and Sunday every weekend of ski season. Because I love skiing so much, I buy a pass every year.

NR: Which pass have you decided on this year as a Utah resident?

Libby: For the past four years, I’ve been using the Ikon Pass because I frequent Solitude, Alta, Snowbird, and Deer Valley (ski only) the most throughout the season. There are around six different resorts in the greater Park City and Salt Lake City areas.

NR: How do you decide which pass is best for you?

Libby: It really depends on where you live or where you are planning on traveling.

NR: So, in addition to that, what would you say are the main things to be concerned about when purchasing a ski pass?

Libby: Simply ask yourself, What’s my budget? How often do I plan on skiing/boarding this year? What resorts do I plan to visit? What kind of experience am I looking for? This will help you plan ahead and guide your research.

NR: Can you elaborate?

Libby: If you ski once or twice a year, a pass doesn’t always make sense unless you're hitting up world-renowned resorts, which can run upwards of $200 for a full day on the slopes. A pass is great for avid skiers/boarders if you plan on visiting multiple resorts in one season or if you plan to spend more than 3–5 days at a ski resort. This can offset the cost quickly and ensure you get the most bang for your buck.

NR: Beyond cost, what are the major differences you noticed between the Epic Pass and the Ikon Pass? We know that the Epic pass is $879, and the Ikon Pass is $1,179.

Libby: One of the biggest differences is the access and locations. They both have unlimited access to resorts, but the Epic Pass has more. With 85 resorts total, you have unlimited access to 41 resorts in North America, Switzerland, and Australia. Though the Ikon Pass has less unlimited access, its 14 unlimited access locations are concentrated in the western U.S. and Canada.


Both passes are ideal for guests staying with Natural Retreats. See below for specific resorts and locations.

Ski lift chair ascending the mountainside



Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, and Keystone

Park City

Kirkwood, Northstar, and Heavenly

New Mexico



Lakes Region, NH
Attitash Mountain Resort




Copper Mountain Resort and A-Basin

Solitude Mountain Resort, Brighton, Deer Valley, Snowbasin, and Alta Snowbird

Palisades Tahoe, Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain

New Mexico
Taos Ski Valley

Sun Valley

Big Sky Resort

Lakes Region, NH
Loon Mountain


NR: What passes do you recommend for Utah?

Libby: Skiers and riders who frequent the Park City area resorts of Park City Mountain, Deer Valley, Solitude Mountain, Brighton, Alta and Snowbasin may want to consider purchasing both the Ikon and Epic passes. These are world-class resorts all clustered together—just a few miles apart—and having both passes would allow you to ski all of them.

NR: What about California?

Libby: I would recommend Ikon for California since there are more destinations in a variety of different locations.

NR: Colorado?

Libby: This one is a little bit trickier since both passes have great options for Colorado skiing. I would lean towards the Epic Pass for Colorado because there are more unlimited Colorado locations. But again, it really depends on where you are located and what you want to ski.

NR: Do you have any additional information that could be helpful?

Libby: I would say don’t forget to factor in the perks and benefits associated with both passes because they can save you money in different ways—possibly making your choice less obvious. Remember the DISCOUNTS! You can save money on food and drinks, shopping, buddy tickets, and a friend and family discount rate for lift tickets. Those are just natural savings that I find myself using without thinking. Oh! I’d also like to remind people to take into account the summer benefits that come with these passes too. I also mountain bike, so I find that these perks are year-round!

NR: Anything else for our guests?

Libby: The most common thread between our homes is the exclusive experiences that create a lifetime of memories—I hope you find what you’re looking for. Travel on!

Planning to buy a ski pass this season? Tag us on social media @naturalretreats, and let us know which one you picked and why.