12 Changes That Redefined Lift-Served Skiing in 2022
Pass shuffles, resort sales, name-changes, record skier visits, a building boom, and more.
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I’m sure that the majority of you consume The Storm Skiing Journal by printing out each issue, applying a three-hole punch, and tucking it into a binder, indexed and arranged in chronological order. You then tote this around, chuckling over its contents at luncheons and reciting its wisdom to your children at bedtime. If you’re not in this habit, The Storm is now archived at most public libraries across U.S. America.
None of that is true, but pretty much everything below is. The world of lift-served skiing that this newsletter (and associated podcast), obsesses over is changing fast. And while I report on and analyze this landscape every single day (Twitter supercharges the news cycle, and if you don’t follow me there, you should, since I often break news there before I analyze it in detail here), I appreciate that not everyone has time to read every 5,000-word newsletter. Especially when I am delivering more than 100 of them each calendar year.
So, for those of you who appreciate the abridged version, or if you’re new to Storm Nation, here’s a recap of a dozen changes that helped redefine U.S. American lift-served skiing in 2022*.
*Note to You-Forgot Bro: this is not meant to be an exhaustive or definitive list. It is just a conversation starter. Skiing is fun. You are not. Stop bothering me and go find some snow.
1) The megapass landscape continued to evolve
The U.S.-based mega-ski pass has been redefining our ski seasons for years: Epic debuted in 2008, Mountain Collective in 2012, Ikon in 2018, Indy in 2019. Each entered this year with sizeable coalitions. But 2022 is the year the lid blew off this particular supervolcano. Indy added 27 new downhill ski areas. Ikon stacked seven more onto a roster that is already the world’s best. Mountain Collective – moribund when Ikon debuted – dropped five more partners onto its lineup, giving the 10-year-old pass its largest coalition ever. Vail’s Epic Pass and Mountain Capital Partners’ Power Pass each added one new partner, and the reciprocal Freedom Pass and Powder Alliance added seven and five new ski areas, respectively. That’s 53 new ski areas total (though there is some overlap between Ikon and Mountain Collective, which both added Snowbasin and Sun Valley). Here’s a breakdown of which passes added which mountains, in chronological order:
Read full breakdowns of each of these additions below:
Ikon Pass (7)
Mountain Collective (5)
Epic Pass (1)
Bluewood, Kelly Canyon, Sawmill (4/27)
Nub’s Nob, Marquette Mountain, Treetops, Mount Kato, Big Rock (6/21)
Black Mountain of Maine, Meadowlark, Aomori Springs (7/19)
Mt. Hood Meadows (7/26)
Mountain High, Dodge Ridge (8/26)
Snowriver, Chestnut, Bluebird Backcountry (9/6)
Calabogie Peaks, Loch Lomond, Mt. Crescent, Arctic Valley (10/11)
Echo Mountain, Granby Ranch (11/15)
Tussey, Peek’N Peak (11/29)
Power Pass (1)
Willamette Pass (10/4)
Powder Alliance (5)
Freedom Pass (7)
Bogus Basin, Little Switzerland, Nordic Mountain, The Rock Snowpark (3/10)
Eaglecrest, Mt. Spokane (8/9)
Cazenovia Ski Club (12/19)
Many passes also lost members: Sun Valley and Snowbasin fled Epic for Ikon and Mountain Collective (both ski areas, which are jointly owned, were previously members of the latter pass); Indy Pass lost Marmot Basin to Mountain Collective; and Alterra pulled its last three owned ski areas – Mammoth, Palisades Tahoe, and Sugarbush – off the Mountain Collective. Telluride, notably, renewed its partnership with Vail and the Epic Pass, foiling the widely predicted Alterra pirating of Vail’s last non-owned U.S. Epic Pass partner (Arapahoe Basin also left Epic for Ikon and Mountain Collective, in 2019). Still, defections remain rare - the Epic Pass was the only coalition to lose more ski areas than it gained, and even that’s not technically true, since Seven Springs, Laurel, and Hidden Valley – which Vail purchased at the end of 2021 – officially joined the Epic Pass for the 2022-23 ski season.
These passes no doubt contributed to the record skier visits that U.S. ski areas logged for the 2021-22 ski season, and select coalitions have aggressively adjusted access to manage day-to-day volume and preserve the ski experience. No pass has evolved as continuously and aggressively as the Ikon Pass. This year, Alterra reduced Crystal Mountain access on the full Ikon Pass from unlimited to seven days, and slid its Washington monster onto its own pass – for $1,699. Alta and Deer Valley also fled the Ikon Base Pass and joined Aspen and Jackson Hole on the Ikon Base Plus Pass, which cost an additional $200.
While Vail kept Epic Pass access identical to the previous season, the company introduced a third, ultra-discount tier to its phenomenal Epic Day Pass product, which skiers could use to access Vail’s ski areas in the Midwest, Pennsylvania, and – for some reason – New Hampshire for just $52 ($26 for kids). The seven-day pass ran $310 - $44 per day. Here was Epic Day’s early-bird price grid:
Indy, meanwhile, rolled out two potentially revolutionary products that give nearly any ski area on the planet a conduit into megapass participation: its XC Pass and its discount Allied Resorts program. The XC Pass is just $69 ($29 for kids), and includes two days each at 20 cross-country ski areas (all Indy Passes also include this XC access). Here’s the year-one list:
The Allied program gives passholders unlimited discount days at participating areas: half off on non-holiday weekdays, and 25 percent off the remainder of the time. The roster is fairly limited at the moment, but it gives indie ski areas in already-dense Indy regions such as New England a way to participate – and give their passholders access to the discount Indy AddOn pass that full partner resorts can offer. Here’s the 14 inaugural Allied resorts:
These many and varied pass options have so far failed to kill the reciprocal lift-ticket deal. Ski Cooper’s season pass – which debuted in the spring at just $329 – delivers three days each at 65 ski areas. The Freedom Pass and Powder Alliance coalitions are made up of 20 and 21 ski areas, respectively, and deliver three days of access to season passholders of any partner mountain (usually for free). Both continue to grow, as noted above. Still, there are reasons to question the long-term appeal of such arrangements given the growing popularity of the pay-per-visit model that Indy and Mountain Collective have built their respective empires on. Utah giant Powder Mountain dropped all of its reciprocal partnerships after one year on Indy, and Saddleback broke up with Ski Cooper the day after announcing their partnership – the Maine ski area had not realized that Cooper’s pass essentially acted as a competitor to Saddleback’s longtime partner, Indy Pass. In October, Brundage General Manager Ken Rider told me on The Storm Skiing Podcast that he planned to eventually end most – or possibly all – of the more than a dozen reciprocal partnerships the ski area had entered over the years.
Below the paid subscriber jump: idiots try to destroy Gunstock, Vail struggles and then fixes it, a building boom, name changes, new owners, an amazing ski area comeback, and much more.
2) Morons try to ruin Gunstock
There are two reasons why someone would want to run a ski area: either they really, really love it, or someone is paying them a hell of a lot of money to do it. Neither was true last summer, when a couple of morons who knew nothing about running a ski area and earned $25 per day as appointed commissioners seized control of Gunstock, the Belknap County, New Hampshire-owned mountain that had operated without interruption since 1937.