Before you buy that Season Pass, do the math. How
many days is your family really going to hit the slopes? You better be sure
little Johnny doesn’t sign up to play basketball every weekend or join the
swim team this winter? Just a few years ago, parents could buy the All East
Pass good at several major resorts for under $400 x four family members,
times have changed and those sweet deals are gone. This winter, a family
(two adults, two youths) could spend $3,900 for passes at
or $3,100 for the
Sunday River, Sugarloaf, and Loon New England-pass. Parents have
to be realistic and even regimented about their ski schedule when making
that size investment.
On the flip side, lift tickets for the family can quickly exceed two Benjamin’s a day, so if your winter calendar allows for several weekends and a few holidays, the family season pass could be just the ticket and the sooner you buy the better the deal.
Ski resorts are now starting to sell their next season's pass in the spring - often when the ski lifts are still spinning. You can even get free skiing for the remainder of the season by buying next year's ski pass in March or April at an early purchase discount.
Out west there is the Epic Pass, which offers savings on numerous Colorado ski resorts for under $600 early purchase. In New England, resorts offer family season passes at considerable savings over individual pass purchases or doling out for daily tickets. The key is that you commit to that one resort enough to justify the cash.
Crotched in New Hampshire has an Unlimited Family Pass for $1,299 with no blackouts, a good value for this 875’-vertical hill. It’s valid for two parents and three kids, $100 for each additional child thereafter. The kids will be stoked that Crotched’s pass is good day and night including 9pm to 3am on Friday and Saturday nights for “Midnight Madness” (yawn – I get tired just thinking about skiing that late – but my kids would love it).
Pats Peak, Ragged, Black and Cranmore all have reasonable season pass rates, while they don’t have a family pass, the cost of two adults and two kids tallies up to about $1,500. NH residents catch a break at State-owned Cannon, two adults and two juniors adds up to $1,550 for the season.
The Balsams in Dixville Notch has a family of four Season Pass for $999, of course it’s a haul to this beautiful northern New Hampshire resort, but it’s like your own private ski area once you get there.
Shawnee Peak in Maine, just over the border from North Conway, is the oldest continuously operating ski area in Maine – by gosh. A Family Pass at this family friendly mountain is $2,049 for two adults and all children under 23 living at home, for day and night skiing too.
Bromley in Vermont gives a discount for each additional family member pass - adult, child or teen, after the first family member purchase at full price, so a discount of up to $100 per pass is applied when you are buying for your family.
Sugarbush offers a free youth pass (for dependents 12 and under) with every $689 Adult Mt Ellen pass, so a family of four could ski or ride Mt Ellen at Sugarbush for $1,400.
Bolton Valley in Vermont has a family of four pass for $1,699, along with some interesting new pass categories. The Single Parent Pass is $849 for one adult and their child, and the Side by Side Parent Pass for $899 is designed for two adults (only one can ski at a time) and their child under two or a child with special needs.
This new “shared parent pass” category has emerged in recent years. While you have infants and toddlers not quite ready to hit the slopes, this pass makes sense, or saves cents for parents. Dad bags runs while mom gets base lodge duty with the baby (legally, versus swapping a ticket). But long term, this tag team pass doesn’t promote “family skiing” in the true sense – mom, dad and the little ones all skiing together like the ski resort brochure promotes.
Stratton also offers a Parent Pass, when you purchase a children’s season pass, you can buy one parent pass for $1,399 to share with your spouse.
In Massachusetts, Wachussett does not offer a family pass per se, but you do receive a ski shop credit of $20 for each family member Gold Pass you purchase.
Check out the frequent skier cards that provide substantial savings off lift tickets once you have bought the discount card in advance if a pass is more than you can pony up (available at Killington, Smugglers, Sunday River, Sugarloaf and Loan).
Once the big investment is made, think of your family pass as “winter glue,” as you stick to a plan to ski more, and amortize the cost down with each alpine visit. With a pass, you can ski just for the morning, but you’ll ski both days of the weekend. Conversely, when you are buying ski days a la carte, you can find any number of excuses not to shell out for full price lift tickets for the family (weather, work, chores, the drive, sleeping in).
All Photography by Greg Burke
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