By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
Since pioneering its loyalty-based Epic Pass, Vail Resorts has loaded up exclusive benefits and privileges for passholders, almost imbuing the dozens of world-renowned mountain resorts with the atmosphere of a private club.
There are now variations of the Epic Pass including Local, Regional and Epic Day Pass, that together, accommodate every kind of skier, from the fanatic, the adventurer, the resort-centric fan, to the casual or first-timer.
Epic Passes are still on sale for the 2023/24 season– important to know because lift tickets sales will be limited again this year “to preserve the guest experience at each resort.” (Guests are encouraged to purchase their lift access in advance – whether that is a lift ticket, season pass or Epic Day Pass. If tickets are sold out online, guests will not be able to purchase them at ticket windows. Lift ticket availability will be visible on resort websites.)
The Epic Local Pass allows for East region guests to ski or ride all season long at Hunter and nearly all the company’s resorts across the East, and take a trip out West with unlimited access at Breckenridge, Keystone, and Crested Butte, plus 10 days at Vail, Beaver Creek, or Whistler Blackcomb.
The Northeast Value Pass is great for those who only plan to ski or ride the East with access to many of the same destinations, including 21 resorts across the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest – such as Hunter, Stowe, Mount Snow and Okemo.
Vail also offers the Epic Day Pass, which allows guests access to world-class resorts for up to 65 percent off when compared to a lift ticket. At Hunter a single day Epic Day Pass is $82, but the price decreases further as you add up to 7 days. You don’t have to designate which days you want to use the pass.
Another pass, is the Military Pass, providing one of – if not – the largest discount to military personnel of any company in the US.
New in 2023/24, skip the ticket line with Mobile Pass & Mobile Lift Ticket on the new My Epic app. The new technology allows guests to buy their pass or lift ticket online, activate and store in on their phone in the new My Epic app, put their phone in their pocket, and get scanned, hands free, via Bluetooth technology designed for low energy usage. Plastic cards will continue to be available to any guests who cannot or do not want to use their phone as their pass or lift ticket. More information about Mobile Pass and Mobile Lift Ticket and the My Epic app can be found on the Epic Pass website.
With Vail Resorts’ acquisition of some of the Northeast’s most iconic ski resorts, Northeast skiers can use Local and Regional Epic passes to take advantage of substantial investments and improvements in facilities, programming and service the company has made to Stowe, Mount Snow, Okemo in Vermont; Hunter Mountain in New York; Mount Sunapee, Attitash, Wildcat and Crotched in New Hampshire, lifting these beloved places into world-class destinations:
Okemo Mountain Resort, VT
Expect another great season of skiing and riding at Okemo with favorite events and activities returning like, Après Afternoons every Saturday starting December 30, Vermont Family Adventure Run by Toyota, Kids Let It Glow Torchlight in March, ice skating, mountain coaster, and New Years Fireworks.
Okemo’s popular Ski & Ride School Programming is available now to book (It is recommended to lock in your spot early). Passholders save 20% on group ski and snowboard lessons with Epic Mountain Rewards.
Skiers this year benefit from Vail’s recent investments:
Okemo underwent a transformational upgrade after being acquired by Vail Resorts as part of Vail Resorts’ capital improvements plan including a new high-speed, six-passenger chairlift as well as terrain and snowmaking expansion, an improved arrival process and other changes. The Quantum lift at Jackson Gore was upgraded from a four-person to a six-person, high-speed chairlift, now named the Quantum Six. The existing four-person, high-speed Quantum lift was relocated to replace the Green Ridge three-person chairlift, and renamed Evergreen Summit Express, which increased uphill capacity and improved guest circulation across the resort. A new connector trail to the base of the new Evergreen Summit Express made the summit and its variety of terrain more accessible. Skiers and riders approaching from the Jackson Gore area have faster and easier summit access, relieving congestion at the resort’s primary summit lift, The Sunburst Six, and improving the overall mountain experience.
Also, snowmaking was upgraded on the Green Link trail and on Upper World Cup and Sapphire. With these upgrades, Okemo maintains its status of greatest snowmaking coverage in Vermont, having the capability to cover 98 percent of its trails.
Mount Snow, VT
Skiers/riders love Mount Snow for its proximity (closest major Vermont destination resort to Boston and New York City), varied terrain, efficient modern lifts and incredible conditions thanks to the most powerful snowmaking system in the East, and its massive one-of-a-kind terrain park.
Carinthia, the largest terrain park in the East offers 100 acres of features that provide a playground of progression and adventure. This year’s beloved Carinthia Classic powered by Rockstar Energy is March 2, 2024.
Skiers this year benefit from the replacement of two fixed-grip triples, with one high-speed 6-person lift, Sundance Express, last season, improved access to underutilized terrain and alleviated pressure on other lifts in the main base area, increasing uphill capacity by nearly 70%. Also, a new high-speed 4-person Sunbrook chair replaced a fixed-grip quad, significantly decreasing the 14-minute ride time by 30% and allowing for better utilization of the Sunbrook terrain.
Stowe Mountain Resort, VT
This year, Stowe Mountain Resort will offer a range of exciting new signature events for local and visiting guests:
Skål, a series of on-mountain champagne/sparkling cider toasts at the Octagon Café deck at 3:30 PM on 12/30, 1/20, 2/17, and 3/30 which will be open to all Epic Passholders.
On select Saturdays, Stowe will also be offering Cookies & Cocoa open to all guests to enjoy complimentary freshly baked cookies & warm hot cocoa served on the Mount Mansfield side of the Over Easy Transfer Gondola from 2- 3 PM.
Stowe Mountain Resort will host the first ever Solar Soiree, celebrating the Total Solar Eclipse slated to cross over Mount Mansfield on Monday, April 8th, 2024. The day will feature multiple viewing parties both on and off-mountain.
Stowe Mountain Resort is celebrating Mount Mansfield Ski Patrol’s (MMSP) 90 Years of Service all season long with educational events on health and safety, a documentary series highlighting MMSP’s storied history.
Gondola Gallery by Epic: Stowe is collaborating with artists to transform Stowe gondola cabin #76 into a one-of-a-kind work of art that celebrate the different ways we all enjoy the snow. This art installation is an invitation and a message of inclusion to all.
CREATING YOUR LINE is a new piece by printmaker Jim Harris, which will turn the sit ski and wheelchair-accessible cabin of Stowe’s Mansfield Gondola into an invitation for people of all abilities to create their own lines on the mountain. “For people with disabilities,” he says, “there’s a lot less opportunity to get out and have a choose-your-own-adventure connection to a place.” Since being paralyzed, Jim has pushed toward a remarkable recovery as a walking paraplegic able to ski again while finding new opportunities to be involved in adventure storytelling. With CREATING YOUR LINE giving new visibility to Stowe’s accessible gondola cabin, his story continues: “Any way that we can invite some more people in, I think is a positive change.” Adaptive Passes available here.
Skiers this year benefit from Stowe’s 2022-23 Epic Lift Upgrade, which saw the Mountain Triple replaced with the Sunrise, a high-speed, detachable six-passenger lift that originates in the Mansfield Base Lodge parking lot – allowing direct access to the mountain. The Sunrise is the first-ever six-passenger chairlift for Stowe, which has been home to many lift innovations and firsts throughout its rich, 86-year history.
This upgrade vastly improves Stowe guest experience by significantly increasing access to some of Stowe’s best intermediate terrain that has been underutilized; now, all those great blue square trails south of the Front Four are more accessible. This helps to spread skiers and riders out across the entire footprint of the mountain – relieving some pressure from the Quad and Gondola – and also creates great flow from the main base over to the Toll House area. This new lift also directly services Stowe’s expanded Adventure Zones, which are becoming more and more popular as an introduction to tree skiing for families and first-timers. Also, this lift line has good protection from the wind, which should keep service flowing on those blustery New England days.
Hunter Mountain, NY
Hunter Mountain, only a 2 ½-hour drive from New York City through the breathtaking northern Catskill Mountains, boasts some of the most thrilling terrain in the East, but with a state-of-the-art learning center and dedicated children’s area, Hunter has been a gateway to winter sports for generations of skiers and snowboarders. Slope-side accommodation is available at The Kaatskill Mountain Club, where guests are hosted with a unique blend of luxury, comfort and charm.
And now, Hunter is poised to benefit from Vail Resorts’ Epic Lift Upgrades initiative: Hunter Mountain plans to replace the 4-person fixed-grip Broadway lift with a state-of-the-art 6-person, high-speed lift and relocate the existing Broadway lift to replace the 2-person fixed-grip E lift, to substantially improve uphill capacity and access to key terrain. Both projects, targeted for the 2024/25 season, are subject to approvals.
“We are excited to bring these significant improvements to Hunter Mountain. These upgrades not only enhance the guest experience but also reflect our commitment to the East region and to the learning experience at Hunter Mountain, which has long been our legacy. We look forward to seeing the positive impact these changes will have on our guests,” said Russ Coloton, Hunter Mountain’s general manager.
In just the past two years nine Vail Resorts in the East region have received or will receive Epic Lift Upgrades: Attitash, New Hampshire, (which is seeing a high-speed four-passenger Mountaineer lift replace the Summit Triple), Hunter, Stowe, Okemo, Mount Snow, Jack Frost, Big Boulder, Boston Mills and Brandywine.
Epic Lift Upgrades Coast-to-Coast
Over the past two seasons, 25 new or upgraded gondolas and chairlifts have been introduced across Vail Resorts, and some $185 million in investments is in store for the 2023/24 season. This season, five resorts will see new chairlifts (four of them high-speed), plus exciting new lift-served terrain at Keystone. The projects will increase uphill capacity, giving guests more time to learn new skills, explore new terrain, and discover new peaks. Among the improvements:
Keystone Resort, Colorado, guests will have lift access to Keystone’s high alpine, thanks to the installation of a brand-new, high-speed, 6-passenger chairlift in Bergman Bowl and 550 acres of intermediate-and-above-level high alpine terrain, including 16 new trails in Bergman and Erickson Bowls. Bergman Express will also improve skier and rider circulation across Keystone’s three mountain peaks.
Breckenridge, Colorado, continues the transformation of the Peak 8 Base Area with the upgrade of 5-Chair to a new, high-speed quad – the FIVE SuperChair. With this lift upgrade, all four chairlifts that service Peak 8 will now be high-speed to assist improved flow and circulation out of the resort’s most popular base area, enhancing the beginner and children’s experience. The new investments will provide a clear path to progression on Peak 8, with Rip’s Ride servicing learning and beginner terrain, FIVE SuperChair servicing beginner and intermediate terrain, and the Colorado and Rocky Mountain SuperChairs servicing intermediate and advanced terrain.
Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia’s four-person high-speed Fitzsimmons Express will be replaced with a high-speed, 8-person chairlift – the first of its kind across Vail Resorts’ North American resorts. The upgrade will help reduce lift line wait times out of the base at Skier’s Plaza in Whistler Village, increasing uphill capacity and improving circulation in the mid-mountain area.
At Stevens Pass, the two-person fixed-grip Kehr’s Chair lift is being replaced with a new quad. The new chair brings modern upgrades and comfort while also increasing uphill capacity. Kehr’s Chair has historically provided access to advanced terrain off Big Chief Mountain, where guests can choose to take intermediate or advanced trails back to the base area or can continue to Double Diamond to access a diverse network of trails on the backside.
“We remain dedicated to delivering an exceptional guest experience and will continue to prioritize reinvesting in the experience at our resorts, including consistently increasing capacity through lift, terrain and food and beverage expansion projects,” said Kirsten Lynch, CEO of Vail Resorts.
Always the visionary in the ski industry, Vail Resorts is piloting My Epic Gear at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, and Keystone for a limited number of pass holders during the 2023/2024 ski season, which will introduce a new membership program that provides the best benefits of gear ownership but with more choice, lower cost, and no hassle. My Epic Gear provides its members with the ability to choose the gear they want, for the full season or for the day, from a selection of the most popular and latest ski and snowboard models, and have it delivered to them when and where they want it, guaranteed, with free slopeside pick up and drop off every day. In addition to offering the best skis and snowboards, My Epic Gear will also offer name brand, high-quality ski and snowboard boots with customized insoles and boot fit scanning technology. The entire My Epic Gear membership, from gear selection to boot fit to personalized recommendations to delivery, will be at the members’ fingertips through the new My Epic app. My Epic Gear will officially launch for the 2024/2025 winter season at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Whistler Blackcomb, Park City Mountain, Crested Butte, Heavenly, Northstar, Stowe, Okemo, and Mount Snow, and further expansions are expected in future years.
Vail Resorts, Inc., through its subsidiaries, is a leading global mountain resort operator. Vail Resorts’ subsidiaries currently operate 40 destination mountain resorts and regional ski areas, including Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Crested Butte in Colorado; Park City in Utah; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in the Lake Tahoe area of California and Nevada; Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, Canada; Perisher, Falls Creek and Hotham in Australia; Stowe, Mount Snow, Okemo in Vermont; Hunter Mountain in New York; Mount Sunapee, Attitash, Wildcat and Crotched in New Hampshire; Stevens Pass in Washington; Seven Springs, Hidden Valley, Laurel Mountain, Liberty, Roundtop, Whitetail, Jack Frost and Big Boulder in Pennsylvania; Alpine Valley, Boston Mills, Brandywine and Mad River in Ohio; Hidden Valley and Snow Creek in Missouri; Wilmot in Wisconsin; Afton Alps in Minnesota; Mt. Brighton in Michigan; and Paoli Peaks in Indiana. Vail Resorts owns and/or manages a collection of casually elegant hotels under the Rock Resorts brand, as well as the Grand Teton Lodge Company in Jackson Hole, Wyo.
More information at www.snow.com.
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