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58 Northeast Ski Areas Now Offer Some Form of Season Pass Protection
71 do not yet, but the vast majority of skiers are covered
Where we are isn’t where we want to be, but here we are, so let’s take a look around
Five-and-a-half-ish months after Covid pulled the biggest train robbery of a ski season since the end of the Little Ice Age, the Northeast season pass landscape continues to evolve to acknowledge skiers’ concerns about another truncated or cancelled season. Since Vermont’s Magic Mountain unveiled the region’s first overhauled season pass suite in April, I’ve been tracking this evolution like a hunter following a bobcat’s tracks through snow. Just kidding. If it was snowing, I’d most likely be smashing glades somewhere in southern Vermont, not following some stupid bobcat around. But I have been paying attention. Here’s a by-the-numbers look at where the 132 ski areas in New England, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have landed as summer winds down:
58 - number of Northeast mountains whose passes now offer some form of refund or deferral policy: [Epic Pass] Stowe, Okemo, Mount Snow, Wildcat, Attitash, Crotched, Mount Sunapee, Hunter, Roundtop, Whitetail, Liberty, Jack Frost, Big Boulder; [Ikon Pass] Stratton, Sugarbush; [NY SKI3 Pass] Whiteface, Gore, Belleayre; [New England Pass and Maine Pass] different combinations of Loon, Sugarloaf, Sunday River; [CT] Mohawk; [ME] Saddleback, Lost Valley; [MA] Berkshire East/Catamount, Bousquet (as part of the Berkshire Summit Pass), Jiminy Peak, Wachusett, Butternut; [NH] King Pine, Pats Peak, Waterville Valley, Cannon, Cranmore, Ragged; [NJ] Campgaw; [NY] Windham, Mount Peter, Plattekill, Labrador/Song, Holiday Valley, Bristol, Oak Mountain; [PA] Elk, Blue Mountain, Spring Mountain; [RI] Yawgoo; [VT] Jay Peak, Burke, Magic, Bolton Valley, Killington/Pico, Smugglers’ Notch, Bromley, Mad River Glen
42 - number of Northeast mountains that have put passes on sale but have not articulated any sort of pass protection: [CT] Powder Ridge, Ski Sundown; [ME] Black Mountain of Maine, Camden Snow Bowl, Shawnee Peak; [MA] Otis Ridge, Ski Ward; [NH] Abenaki, Black Mountain, Bretton Woods, Campton Mountain, Granite Gorge, Gunstock, McIntyre, Tenney; [NJ] Mountain Creek; [NY] Cazenovia Ski Club, Four Seasons, Greek Peak, Kissing Bridge, Maple Ski Ridge, Snow Ridge, Swain Ski Center, Titus, Toggenburg, West Mountain, Willard, Woods Valley; [PA] Bear Creek, Boyce Park, Camelback, Hidden Valley/Laurel/Seven Springs, Montage, Mount Pleasant, Ski Big Bear, Tussey; [VT] Brattleboro Ski Hill, Cochran’s, Middlebury Snow Bowl, Northeast Slopes
29 - number of Northeast mountains that have not yet offered 2020-21 season passes for sale: [CT] Mount Southington; [ME] Big Rock, Big Squaw, New Hermon Mountain, Lonesome Pine Trails, Mt. Abram, Mt Jefferson, Titcomb; [MA] Blue Hills, Mt. Greylock Ski Club, Nashoba Valley, Ski Bradford; [NH] Arrowhead, Dartmouth Skiway, Kanc Recreation Area, Whaleback; [NY] Beartown, Brantling, Cockaigne, Holiday Mountain, McCauley, Peek’n Peak, Royal Mountain, Thunder Ridge, Victor Constant Ski Area; [PA] Elk, Sawmill; [VT] Ascutney, Quechee
4 - number of Northeast mountains that offered season passes since the season ended but have since suspended sales: [NH] Tenney, Loon; [NJ] Mountain Creek; [NY] Mount Peter
44 – percent of Northeast ski areas that are offering some sort of 2020-21 season pass protection. What really matters, however, are the number of skier visits that those 44 percent of ski areas represent. I don’t have any way to calculate this accurately, but the number is likely over 90 percent. With the exceptions of New Hampshire giant Bretton Woods and many of the larger ski areas in western New York and Pennsylvania, the vast majority of the mountains that are not offering pass protection are community operations with spare infrastructure, small (often volunteer) staffs, and extremely low-priced passes.
Here’s what else has been happening around the Northeast since my last pass update on July 14. You can view current prices for unrestricted adult passes at all ski areas in nine Northeast states in this chart. I’ve also noted on the chart whether the mountain offers a payment plan, any form of pass protection, or reciprocal days at partner mountains.
Recently introduced or modified season pass protection plans
Mad River Glen is giving skiers until Dec. 20 to turn in their pass for a full refund or an equal-value credit for next season’s pass. They will also issue “partial credit on a sliding scale” in the event of a government-mandated mountain closure or – and this is something no one other than Jay Peak has really addressed yet – if they live in a county or country “that is prohibited from traveling to Vermont.” MRG is far enough north that Canada matters, and the border doesn’t look to be cracking open anytime soon. From the way this is worded, it doesn’t look as though it applies to residents of states that Vermont has applied a quarantine-upon-arrival order to.
Suicide Six will roll all passes to the 2021-22 season automatically if the mountain is restricted to 30 or fewer operating days.
While Labrador and Song still maintain that “NO REFUNDS for season passes will be issued for ANY REASON,” they’ve added, in passive voice and .5-size font at the bottom of their pass page, that “We fully expect to resume near routine operations for 2020-21. If we cannot, due to COIVD-19, suitable arrangements will be made.” Wow thanks I feel so much better about this investment now.
Western New York hotshot Holiday Valley finally added a no-questions-asked deferral policy to their very expensive ($979!) pass. Skiers have until Nov. 15 to defer to the value of the pass to the 2021-22 season.
ORDA updated its previously announced season pass protection plan for Whiteface, Gore, and Belleayre to include proportional credits for any Covid-19-related shutdowns between Dec. 1 and March 15 at a skier’s home mountain, which is defined by which website they purchased the pass from. So if you buy a SKI3 Pass through Whiteface and Whiteface closes for a week, you would receive the credit, even as you would still be allowed to ski at Gore and Belleayre while Whiteface was closed. All SKI3 passholders can request a 100 percent purchase credit up to Dec. 1, even if they ski on the pass prior to that. All three mountains will also consider granting credits for “individual situations,” such as injuries or travel restrictions, on a case-by-case basis.
Mohawk Mountain introduced the option to “rollover” its season pass to the 2021-22 season by Jan. 1, 2021.
Campgaw, New Jersey will issue pro-rated refunds based upon an expected season of Dec. 19 to March 31 in the event they are “forced to close by an official government order.” This is a pretty cheap pass, but it’s also a pretty tiny ski area, so this seems fair enough.
Blue Mountain, Pennsylvania (this is not the Blue Mountain on the Ikon Pass, which is in Ontario), already had an in-case-of-Covid plan outlined, but the wording was confusing. They’ve since clarified it, allowing refunds up to Oct. 1. Oddly, only skiers who pay via a payment plan are eligible for these refunds. Should the mountain not open at all for the season (unlikely), passholders will have the choice of a full refund or a rollover to the 2021-22 season. No word on what a mid-season shutdown would mean for passholders.
New Pass releases
Sunday River will join Sugarloaf on Boyne’s new Maine Pass.
Boyne released the Maine Pass, good for unlimited access to Sunday River and Sugarloaf, for $1,399. The pass, which will be available on Sept. 1, includes three days each at Boyne’s “western” mountains: Big Sky, Brighton, Cypress, Summit at Snoqualmie, and Michigan’s Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands. Notably, the pass does not include any days at New Hampshire’s Loon, and Boyne will not offer New England Passes – which include access to Sugarloaf, Sunday River, and Loon – for sale again for the 2020-21 season (if you already bought one, it is of course valid at all three mountains). The company is concerned about capacity issues at their New Hampshire mountain, which is smaller than the Maine resorts and, with its proximity to Boston, can get extremely congested. Loon’s season passes will go on sale after Labor Day. Boyne’s previously announced pass protections, including the 150-day guarantee and the option to roll an unused pass over to the 2021-22 season by Dec. 10, apply to Maine Passes. There is no payment plan option, however, which, for such an expensive pass, there really should be.
Suicide Six’s $599 season pass will include an Indy Pass. A no-Indy version is $449. An Indy Pass add-on to any mountain’s season pass is $129, but perhaps the $449 pass is not eligible for this buy-up in the same way that, say, a midweek pass would be? The mountain is also introducing a “Heroes Pass” for military and first responders for $399 ($249 without Indy Pass). All passes go on sale Sept. 1.
Mohawk Mountain’s adult anytime season pass went on sale for $500. Prices jump to $659 on Nov. 1. A reminder that Mohawk is an Indy Pass mountain, so the $129 Indy Pass buy-up will be available on this pass on Sept. 1.
Ski Ward, in Massachusetts, introduced its 2020-21 season pass for $475. It appears that the ski area spent all spring and summer closely watching industry trends and is very thoughtfully sticking to its “strict no refund policy.” Vail’s Northeast Midweek Pass is cheaper than this and policy decisions like this are how you’re going to let them beat you. The pass jumps to $580 on Sept. 1.
Swain Ski Center in New York released its pass for $399. The early-bird deadline is Aug. 31. The pass includes one free lift ticket each at Holiday Valley, Ski Sawmill, Buffalo Ski Club, and Snow Ridge.
Black Mountain of Maine’s pass price increased from $360 to $405. It will increase to $450 on Nov. 1.
Labrador and Song’s combined pass crept from $469 up to $499. The next pass deadline is Oct. 7. Their payment plan is no longer available.
Kissing Bridge nudged its pass from $555 to $595. The pass goes up to $626 after Oct. 1.
Oak Mountain’s pass creaked up $10 to $359. The next deadline is Oct. 31, after which the pass will be… $369.
Jiminy Peak’s pass jumped from $869 to $989. The next deadline is Oct. 15, when it will jump to an eye-popping $1,119.
Bromley, which is managed by the same company that owns Jiminy Peak (Fairbank Group), pushed its pass price up modestly, from $925 to $975. The next deadline is Oct. 15. Oddly, the mountain appears to have jettisoned its payment plan option when it increased the price, which seems exactly backward.
Cranmore, also managed (and owned) by Fairbank Group, nudged its pass price up to $769. The next deadline is Oct. 15.
McIntyre’s pass price increased from $309 to $339. That appears to be the final price for the 2020-21 season.
Killington’s Beast 365 Pass, which includes an Ikon Base Pass and access to everything Killington all year long, jumped from $1,344 to $1,494. The ski-only Killington Unlimited Pass, which is good for unlimited access to Killington and Pico, rose from $999 to $1,139. The pass prices will increase on Oct. 16. I can no longer find payment plan options on Killington’s site, which is odd for such expensive passes.
Pico’s season pass increased from $439 to $489. The price will jump to $529 on Oct. 16. The payment plan is no longer available.
The Highlands Pass, which grants unlimited access at the southwest Pennsylvania trio of Seven Springs, Hidden Valley, and Laurel Mountain, jumped from $630 to $730 on Aug. 15. That appears to be the final price. Single-mountain passes increased to $587 at Hidden Valley and Laurel and $709 at Seven Springs. The mountains have yet to introduce any kind of deferral or refund option, and as far as I can tell their two main purchase incentives – a gift card and a pay-by-check discount – have expired.
Blue Knob’s pass increased from $299 to a still-modest $369.
After a long hiatus, Montage put passes back on sale. They are currently $499 until Nov. 30.
Spring Mountain’s pass went from $360 to $375. The next deadline is Oct. 31.
Campgaw, New Jersey, bumped their pass price slightly from $259 to $279. The next deadline is Aug. 31.
Shawnee Peak, Maine, extended their early-bird deadline from Sept. 9 to Sept. 16. At $725, this is one of the most expensive passes in the Northeast that has declined to offer any kind of deferral or refund concessions on 2020-21 season passes.
Additional season pass notes
The Freedom Pass is still a mess. Magic Mountain confirmed to me that they are no longer a Freedom Pass member and will not issue reciprocal tickets for passholders of participating mountains. Nonetheless, Freedom Pass still lists Magic as a member of the alliance. Bolton Valley and Plattekill have also ceased promoting the alliance on their websites, but are still listed on the pass. Freedom Pass has not returned multiple requests for comment, but I would urge any potential passholders to be cautious in their expectations with this benefit.
Tenney had been listing a season pass for $289, but the link to purchase it now appears to be broken and I can’t find the passes listed anywhere on their site. I hope this is not a sign of things gone terribly wrong, because this was a great emerging story of a lost-then-found ski area sprouting in New Hampshire.
After several months listing a $259 pass price, Mountain Creek has removed pricing information and purchase links from its site. I checked in with them and they said fall sales would begin next week.
Bretton Woods remains the largest mountain in the Northeast to not articulate a pass refund or deferral policy. In one small concession to reality, the mountain’s season pass page does now indicate that unused 2019-20 lift tickets or vouchers will be honored through Christmas Day.
After failing to open last season, Mt. Jefferson, Maine, appears to have shuttered its website. I’m keeping them active in the pass tracking doc for now.
Jay Peak will randomly select one season pass buyer to win a 10-year season pass. Skiers must purchase their pass by Oct. 12 to be eligible. The mountain, like Mad River Glen, introduced pass protections based upon potential border closings. While the pass page does not mention Canada specifically, the mountain sits just 10 miles from the international border and relies heavily on Canadian visitors, and has promised that, “we’ll work with you to either refund your season pass or defer the value to the 2021-22 season” should the border closure persist. The mountain has also promised “pro-rated compensation or deferments” if “border or travel restrictions pop up after the season has started.”
The next deadline for Bolton Valley’s current pass prices will be Sept. 8. The site did not previously list a deadline.
Bousquet is now officially listed as a member of the Summit Pass, which also provides unlimited access to Berkshire East and Catamount. The mountain’s new owners announced that it would join the regional pass in June, and that the Schaefer family – owners of both of the other mountains – would advise on operations.
Is anyone home at Camelback? This is generally a well-run mountain, but their promise that skiers can “BUY 2020/21 SEASON PASS NOW AND SKI THE REST OF THIS SEASON FREE!” suggests that no one’s minding the guard house.
Upcoming Northeast season pass deadlines:
Aug. 31: Berkshire Summit Pass (Berkshire East, Catamount, Bousquet), Butternut, Otis Ridge, Ski Ward, Swain, Windham
Sept. 2: NY SKI3 Pass (Belleayre, Gore, Whiteface)
Sept. 7: Epic Pass (Stowe, Okemo, Mount Snow, Wildcat, Attitash, Mount Sunapee, Crotched, Hunter, Jack Frost, Big Boulder, Liberty, Roundtop, Whitetail), Gunstock, Ragged
Sept. 8: Pats Peak, Bolton Valley
Sept. 15: Bristol, Holiday Valley
Sept. 16: Shawnee Peak, Maine
The next season pass update will be in September, some time after Vail posts new Epic Pass prices, and I will continue these updates monthly through November.
COVID-19 & Skiing Podcasts: Author and Industry Veteran Chris Diamond | Boyne Resorts CEO Stephen Kircher | Magic Mountain President Geoff Hatheway | NSAA CEO Kelly Pawlak | Berkshire East/Catamount Owner & Goggles for Docs founder Jon Schaefer | Shaggy’s Copper Country Skis Cofounder Jeff Thompson | Doppelmayr USA President Katharina Schmitz | Mt. Baldy GM Robby Ellingson | Alterra CEO Rusty Gregory | NSAA Director of Risk & Regulatory Affairs Dave Byrd
The Storm Skiing Podcasts: Killington & Pico GM Mike Solimano | Plattekill owners Danielle and Laszlo Vajtay | New England Lost Ski Areas Project Founder Jeremy Davis | Magic Mountain President Geoff Hatheway | Lift Blog Founder Peter Landsman | Boyne Resorts CEO Stephen Kircher | Burke Mountain GM Kevin Mack | Liftopia CEO Evan Reece | Berkshire East & Catamount Owner & GM Jon Schaefer | Vermont Ski + Ride and Vermont Sports Co-Publisher & Editor Lisa Lynn | Sugarbush President & COO Win Smith | Loon President & GM Jay Scambio | Sunday River President & GM Dana Bullen | Big Snow & Mountain Creek VP of Sales & Marketing Hugh Reynolds | Mad River Glen GM Matt Lillard | Indy Pass Founder Doug Fish | National Brotherhood of Skiers President Henri Rivers | Winter 4 Kids & National Winter Activity Center President & CEO Schone Malliet | Vail Veterans Program Founder & President Cheryl Jensen | Mountain Gazette Owner and Editor Mike Rogge