Vail Resorts announced Monday morning that, beginning next season, Telluride Ski Resort will join the Epic Pass—one of Colorado’s most popular multi-mountain passes, encompassing 46 resorts worldwide. With the addition of Telluride, six Colorado mountains are now part of the pass, including Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, and Vail Ski Resort. The announcement marks another triumph for Vail Resorts (Vail owns the Epic Pass), as other ownership groups are ramping up their competition with the ski industry giant.

Skiers and snowboarders with the Epic Pass will receive up to seven days at Telluride, after which they will be able to purchase daily lift tickets at a 50 percent discount. Telluride season pass holders will also receive 50 percent off lift tickets at the 13 resorts owned by Vail Resorts, including Whistler Blackcomb, Park City, Breckenridge, Keystone, and Beaver Creek. A Vail Resorts spokesperson said the company is not disclosing the terms of the agreement, making it unclear how long the alliance between Telluride and the Epic Pass will last.

In an email to company employees Monday morning, Telluride Ski & Golf CEO Bill Jensen wrote: “This new season pass alliance will attract destination skiers to Telluride that are closely aligned with our target demographic and will have a positive benefit to the local economy.” Jensen also noted that “Telluride Ski Resort remains 100 percent independently owned. Vail Resorts has no ownership in [Telluride]. This is strictly a season pass alliance with the Epic Pass.”

Jensen’s assurance that—despite joining the Epic Pass— Telluride remains independently owned speaks to how aggressively Vail Resorts has courted other ski resorts in recent years. In 2014, Vail bought Park City Resort in Utah and quickly merged it with Canyons Ski Area to create the largest resort in the United States with 7,300 skiable acres. And then, in August 2016, Vail purchased the largest ski resort in North America, Whistler Blackcomb, for $1.06 million. Vail Resorts now owns 13 resorts across North America and Australia.

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Other ski industry ownership groups have recently joined forces to counter Vail’s acquisitions. Just last week, Alterra Mountain Company, Aspen Skiing Company, and five other ownership groups announced the Ikon Pass for the 2018–19 season, which gives access to 23 destinations, including Jackson Hole, Big Sky, Deer Valley, Winter Park, Steamboat, and Copper, as well as other mountains across New England, Canada, and the western United States. Upon its release, the Ikon Pass was hailed as the most stout rival to Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass.

The Ikon Pass is replacing two popular multi-mountain passes—the Rocky Mountain Super Pass Plus (which included Copper, Winter Park, Eldora, Crested Butte, and Steamboat, among others) and the M.A.X. Pass—a joint venture between Intrawest, Powdr, and Boyne Resorts that offered access to 44 North American mountains. Both the Rocky Mountain Super Pass and the M.A.X. Pass will be discontinued for the 2018–19 season and some of those destination mountains will be folded into the Ikon pass, according to the Aspen Times. 

Crested Butte, which was part of the Rocky Mountain Super Pass and the M.A.X. Pass, is not included on the Ikon pass and is currently without a multi-mountain partnership for the 2018-19 season. Asked what the resorts’ plans are for next season, a spokesman wrote in an email to 5280: “We are currently considering our options for future pass partnerships that will continue to add value for our passholders and drive visitors to come ski and ride Crested Butte Mountain Resort.”

Telluride’s new alliance with Vail Resorts also marks a blow to the popular Mountain Collective pass, which offers two days of skiing at 16 resorts primarily across the western United States and Canada. Telluride joined the Mountain Collective beginning in the 2016–17 season, but will end that partnership after this season. Pricing for the Epic, Ikon, and Mountain Collective passes in 2018–19 has not yet been released, but a Vail Resorts spokesperson said they expect to announce more details in early March.

Jay Bouchard
Jay Bouchard
Jay Bouchard is a Denver-based writer and a former editor on 5280's digital team.