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Buying a Season Pass for Snowboarding or Skiing: when is it really worth it?

Updated on April 8, 2015

How to Calculate the Breakeven for a Season Pass

Let's just jump right into it. It is very simple to calculate the breakeven point for a specific resort's season pass. All you need to know is the price of a season pass and a single day ticket. Put the season pass price in the numerator, and the daily pass in the denominator, then divide. This number is the amount of days of riding where your season pass is effectively paid off, and you're boarding for free. Stoked.

This may be fairly obvious to most of you, that's why an explanation took up only the introductory paragraph. Where it starts to get complicated is when you want to know the breakeven for a bunch of different resorts and you throw in things like weekday/end pricing, two-day passes, child/adult/old pricing, half days, or other factors that make this calculation tedious. Good news is, I did the legwork for you. Just scroll down and see if your resort is listed (alphabetically), and decide if a season pass makes sense for you. If your shred spot is not listed yet, leave a message for me in the comments and I'll probably be nice enough to crunch those numbers for you real quick.

Check out the link below to see the prices used in this analysis.

Beaver Creek

Source

An adult planning to ride Beaver Creek more than 4 non-consecutive days a season should get a season pass. The Epic Pass is cheaper than the 6 and 7 day passes and allows access to a bunch of other resorts in the Rockies area. If you're planning on travelling to snowboard/ski at all, the Epic Pass is recommended. The breakeven for seniors and children vary as shown.

Ticket Type
Adult (13-64)
Senior (65+)
Child (7-12)
1 Day
4.8
5.2
3.6
2 Day
4.8
5.2
3.6
3 Day
5.2
5.5
4.1
4 Day
5.2
5.5
4.1
5 Day
5.2
5.5
Get a Pass
6 Day
Get a Pass
Get a Pass
Get a Pass
7 Day
Get a Pass
Get a Pass
Get a Pass

Big Bear Mountain

Source

For Bear Mountain, the season pass is pretty much golden if you're planning on going up for at least three weekends. If you're going during the week, it'll take under two weeks to pay itself off. This analysis assumes you are buying a Bear Anytime season pass before the rates go up. The table gets way too nutty when you add any more variables than this. Numbers are rounded up for practicality. One interesting finding is that the Half-Day price is basically the same as for a whole day, if you're buying online.

Regular Weekdays
Online
In Person
Half-Day
Night
Adult (22+)
8
7
8
11
Senior (62+)
8
7
8
11
Y Adult (13-21)
8
7
8
11
Child (7-12)
8
7
8
10
 
 
 
 
 
Peak/Weekends
Online
In Person
Half-Day
Night
Adult (22+)
7
6
6
9
Senior (62+)
6
5
6
9
Y Adult (13-21)
6
5
6
9
Child (7-12)
6
5
6
6
 
 
 
 
 
2-Day Pass
Online
In Person
 
 
Adult (22+)
8
8
 
 
Senior (62+)
8
8
 
 
Y Adult (13-21)
8
8
 
 
Child (7-12)
8
6
 
 

Breckenridge

Source

Breckenridge is part of the Epic Pass collection of parks surrounding the Rockies. These have a weird 1-7 day lift ticket schedule, and I have broken the data out accordingly for these resorts. Anyway, the season pass makes sense for adults planning on riding more than 3 non-consecutive days. The Epic Local Pass is cheaper than the 5, 6 and 7 Day lift tickets and gives you access to other resorts as well.

Ticket Type
Adult (13-64)
Senior (65+)
Child (7-12)
1 Day
3.9
3.3
3.5
2 Day
3.9
3.3
3.5
3 Day
4.3
3.7
3.8
4 Day
4.3
Get a Pass
Get a Pass
5 Day
Get a Pass
Get a Pass
Get a Pass
6 Day
Get a Pass
Get a Pass
Get a Pass
7 Day
Get a Pass
Get a Pass
Get a Pass

Heavenly

Source

At Heavenly, an Adult planning on riding more than 6 days can rationalize buying a season pass. The Teen and Child rates are a bit confusing, so I suggest double checking these numbers in case they have changed at all. A senior needs to ride at least 8 days to justify their season pass.

Ticket Type
Adult (19-64)
Senior (65+)
Teen (13-18)
Child (5-12)
1 Day
6.7
7.8
7.8
5.9
2 Day
6.7
7.8
7.8
5.9
3 Day
7.3
8.8
8.8
6.7
4 Day
7.3
8.8
8.8
6.7
5 Day
7.3
7.4
8.8
5.5
6 Day
7.3
7.6
8.8
Get a Pass
7 Day
7.3
8.8
8.8
Get a Pass

Keystone

Source

The Keystone Pass, or the Summit Value Pass, makes sense if you are planning on riding more than 3 days in the season. Seems pretty easy to do. For senors, its anything over 4 days. The Summit Value Pass also allows access to Arapahoe Basin and restricted access to Breckenridge.

Ticket Type
Adult
Senior
Teen
Child
1 Day
3.8
4.1
3.0
3.6
2 Day
3.8
4.1
3.0
3.6
3 Day
3.9
4.3
3.1
3.7
4 Day
Get a Pass
4.3
Get a Pass
Get a Pass
5 Day
Get a Pass
Get a Pass
Get a Pass
Get a Pass
6 Day
Get a Pass
Get a Pass
Get a Pass
Get a Pass
7 Day
Get a Pass
Get a Pass
Get a Pass
Get a Pass

Mammoth

Source

Mammoth has a higher breakeven than most resorts, meaning an Adult should be very confident that he/she will ride more than nine days during the season. The Senor pass is much cheaper, breaking even in just 6 days, even when accounting for the cheaper daily ticket price. Note: the Cali4nia Pass is also good for June, Bear, and Summit.

Ticket Type
Adult
Senior
Youth
Child
1 Day
9.5
5.6
9.1
10.0
2 Day
9.5
5.6
9.1
10.0
3 Day
10.7
6.3
10.3
10.0
4 Day
10.7
6.3
10.3
10.0
5 Day
10.7
6.3
10.3
10.0
6 Day
10.7
6.3
10.3
10.0
7 Day
10.9
Get a Pass
10.5
10.0
8 Day
11.0
Get a Pass
10.6
10.0

Northstar

Source

Anyone, excluding Seniors, planning on riding Northstar at least 4 days out of the season can feel pretty good about purchasing a season pass, called the Tahoe Local Pass. This pass also allows partially restricted access to Heavenly, Northstar, and free lift tickets to a bunch of other resorts. Seniors should get the pass if they're going to ride at least 5 days.

Ticket Type
Adult (19-64)
Senior (65+)
Teen (13-18)
Child (5-12)
1 Day
4.0
4.9
3.8
3.3
2 Day
4.0
4.9
3.8
3.3
3 Day
4.5
5.1
3.9
3.6
4 Day
4.5
5.1
Get a Pass
Get a Pass
5 Day
Get a Pass
Get a Pass
Get a Pass
Get a Pass
6 Day
Get a Pass
Get a Pass
Get a Pass
Get a Pass
7 Day
Get a Pass
Get a Pass
Get a Pass
Get a Pass

Snowmass

Source

Adults definitely get the shaft when it comes to season passes at Snowmass. Still, if they're planning on riding more than 13 non-consecutive days they should opt for the pass. Seniors have it a little better, with the breakeven at 11 days. Youngsters should get a pass if they're planning on riding about 7 days or more.

Ticket Type
Adult (18-64)
Senior (65+)
Teen (13-17)
Child (7-12)
1 Day
13.2
10.2
7.7
6.9
2 Day
14.3
11.2
8.4
7.8
3 Day
14.3
11.2
8.4
7.8
4 Day
15.6
12.3
9.3
8.9
5 Day
15.6
10.2
9.3
7.5
6 Day
15.6
10.5
9.3
7.7
7 Day
15.6
12.3
9.3
8.9

Steamboat

Source

At Steamboat, an Adult planning on riding at least 8 days out of the year is better off getting a season pass. For Teens, 5 days is the breakeven for a pass. For Youths, it's 4 days. Senior citizens should plan on riding at least 6 days to justify a season pass.

Ticket Type
Adult
Teen
Youth
Senior
2 Day
7.5
5.0
4.0
5.7
3 Day
7.5
5.0
4.0
5.7
4 Day
7.5
5.0
Get a Pass
5.7
5 Day
7.5
5.2
Get a Pass
5.7
6 Day
7.9
Get a Pass
Get a Pass
6.5

Vail

Source

Vail makes the calculation more complicated, and it seems to me a bit sneaky. If you're going to purchase 1 Day at a time, an Adult season pass makes sense for anything over 5 days. If you're buying Two Days at a time, this would only make sense twice (4 days total), if you're planning on boarding more than 4 days, get the season pass. 3, 4 & 5 Days only make sense once. Anything above 5 Day costs more than the season pass, I don't know why that's even an option.

Ticket Type
Adult (13-64)
Senior (65+)
Child (7-12)
1 Day
4.8
5.2
3.6
2 Day
4.8
5.2
3.6
3 Day
5.2
5.5
4.1
4 Day
5.2
5.5
4.1
5 Day
5.1
5.5
Get a Pass
6 Day
Get a Pass
Get a Pass
Get a Pass
7 Day
Get a Pass
Get a Pass
Get a Pass

Is your favorite resort not listed?

Currently the list is composed of the resorts with the highest amount of annual traffic, plus Big Bear. If you want me to add your local shred spot to the list, just leave a comment below and I'll see about getting around to it. Thanks!

Comments

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    • Luke M Simmons profile image
      Author

      Luke M. Simmons 3 years ago from Encinitas, California

      @yes: this is exactly true, the Epic Pass that I touched on in this article allows access to about 15 resorts around the Rockies and goes for a price of about 8 days at one of these resorts. Seems like a steal to me.

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 3 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      I've noticed in recent years, many people taking a week's vacation at a major resort buy a season's pass, because it's cheaper than paying for a single ticket every day. Twenty five years ago, a season's pass typically cost 20 days of skiing / snowboarding. Now, pricing it that way would send it into the stratosphere.

      I understand the best time to buy a season's pass, regardless of whether you live there or are going to vacation there, is in May. When I lived in the Seattle area, I have paid almost half price purchasing it then. October is the second best month to buy one.

      Another good idea is to look for resorts that have deals between them. My Summit at Snoqualmie pass entitled me to a 15% discount at Stevens Pass, and I also skied for free at Silver Star and Schweitzer resorts.

      Thanks for this hub - voted up!

    • Luke M Simmons profile image
      Author

      Luke M. Simmons 3 years ago from Encinitas, California

      @SP: thanks boss, I know the general population is usually turned off by math, so its good to have a little reassurance that this is straightforward.

      That being said, if anyone is confused, I would be happy to add an explanatory remark in the beginning.

    • Sharp Points profile image

      Sharp Points 3 years ago from Big Bear Lake, California

      Nice article man. Well written and very simple. That's about exactly what I told people that asked me that question back at the board rental shop. Two thumbs up.

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