By Lori Knowles

Why buy a season pass?

It’s a question Canadian skiers consider in the heat of mid-summer or early fall, just as ski resorts are trumpeting “early bird” savings and “multi-resort” deals.

Canadian Lift Passes. Big3s. 5x7s. Mountain Collective. M.A.X. No matter its name, the message is the same: Pay now and save. Lock-in to score the best deal.

It’s a tactic used by ski resorts to secure revenue, to be sure. Yet for consumers, is there benefit to buying a season pass?

Advantage #1: Save
From Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, and beyond, all ski resort experts interviewed agree: season passes – particularly those sold early in the year — help skiers save money.

Early bird specials can shave 45% to 50% off regular-priced ski days, depending on how often you ski. The math is easy, says the Canadian Ski Council’s president and CEO Paul Pinchbeck: “The more you ski, the more you save.”

Brian Rode, VP at Marmot Basin, agrees. “It takes fewer than 10 days of skiing to pay off the cost of a ski pass. A Marmot Basin adult season pass, for example, when purchased at the early bird rate, takes only 9.6 days to pay off.”

What’s more, with a purchase of a season pass there are all those extra benefits: 10% savings on high-performance rental skis. 15% off ski school lessons. A discount on restaurants and lodging… the list goes on. Perhaps none quite so attractive as first up the chair on a powder day… !

Advantage #2: Ski More Often
Research shows people who buy season passes actually ski more. Here’s why:

Let’s say it’s a bad weather day. Cloud, fog, wind, whatever the reason, if you were planning to purchase a single-day lift ticket from a kiosk, once you spotted those conditions you’d likely change your mind. But with a season pass around your neck, chances are you’ll go skiing anyway, whatever the weather. Who knows? You may discover it’s fun feeling your way through the fog, or that snow is easy to carve when it rains (which, by the way, is true). If you had no season pass, would you still go?

Or, let’s say your time to ski is tight. “Once you own a season pass there is no reluctance to go,” says Brian Rode. “If you find yourself with only a few hours to get away, the pass is already paid for, so if your window is only two hours to ski it is still well worth your while.”

Finally, there’s that age-old family factor. For families with young children, it’s often not possible to spend an entire day skiing. With a season pass, you can ski a little at a time. Says Tara Lovelle of Ontario’s Blue Mountain: “You’ll feel less pressure to power through eight hours on the hill.”

Advantage #3: Explore
Whistler. Revelstoke. Sunshine and Lake Louise. Sun Valley, Taos, Jackson Hole, and more. The multi-resort Mountain Collective Pass gives access to them all. The Epic Pass by Vail Resorts does something similar. The M.A.X. Pass — featuring Blue Mountain, Cypress, Tremblant and 29 more — also proffers a multi-resort deal. Or for a Canadian-only spin, the Canadian Lift Pass lets you choose between 140 ski areas across the country.

“These products offer a collection of must-see, must-visit, iconic ski resorts for a single discount price,” says Paul Pinchbeck of the Canadian Ski Council: “They give skiers the opportunity to spread out geographically and get in those extra ski days… it’s an opportunity for skiers to explore.”

The Great Outside
Money savings. Opportunities to ski more often. Exploration. Purchasing a ski pass surely has its advantages.

“It’s a no-brainer,” says ‘Powder’ Matt Mosteller, a self-described “ski bum” who also happens to be a Resorts of the Canadian Rockies senior VP. “Buying a ski pass is like having the benefit of your gym membership but in the great outside… and with friends.”

That says it all.

This post is also available in: French