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Boyne to Include Ikon Base Pass with 2020-21 Platinum New England Pass
The season pass wars continue to deliver benefits to Northeast skiers
The Platinum-tier New England Pass, which replaces the Gold Plus pass and acts as a no-blackout full season pass to Boyne Resorts’ Loon, Sunday River, and Sugarloaf resorts, will include an Ikon Base Pass for the 2020-21 season. The Gold Pass, which has long acted as the top tier season pass for all three mountains, ticks up slightly, from $1,119 for the 2019-20 season (early-bird pricing; all prices adult 19-64 unless otherwise indicated), to $1,169.
Coming just after Vail and Alterra announced their Epic and Ikon pass options for next season, this added benefit is an enormous concession by Boyne to the arrival of fierce season pass competition in the Northeast that should continue to create more value for the most frequent skiers and riders.
Here is what this pass delivers, and what this substantial increase in benefits could mean over the longer term:
A whole lot more access for not a whole lot more money
At first glance, the top-tier pass seemed to increase a substantial $120, from $1,429 for last season’s Gold Plus Pass to $1,529 for this season’s Platinum Pass. But what this essentially means for repeat New England Pass holders is that they are still getting unlimited access to their beloved trio of Loon, Sugarloaf, and Sunday River; three days at Boyne’s western mountains; “first tracks access” (it’s unclear to me exactly what this means); half off 12 “friend” tickets; plus an Ikon Base pass, which retails for $699 for early birds – for only $120 more than they paid last season.
It’s hard to overstate how huge of a value that is. This means that every New England Pass Platinum buyer will now have a season pass (with holiday blackouts), to Stratton, Sugarbush, and Tremblant. They will have five days at Killington-Pico. And they will of course have all of the western access, which includes everything from Mammoth to Squaw Valley to Winter Park to Copper Mountain.
Imagine if, five years ago, someone would have said to you that you could have tacked on a Sugarbush season pass – which retailed for $1,399 (no-blackout pricing) – and a Stratton season pass ($599 with blackouts), plus five days at Killington (let’s say roughly $100 a day), to a New England Pass, for just $120 - total. You would have been like, “Sure Bro, and we’ll all be riding octuple lifts to the top of the mountain and Vail will own Stowe. Keep your conspiracy theories to your flat-earth YouTube channel, Kook.”
But here we are.
The season pass market in the East is starting to look a whole lot more like the West
Unlike the Vail and Alterra 2020-21 announcements, which gave a lot but took away a few key perks, I don’t see a downside here for New England passholders. Perhaps there are a few diehards who haven’t skied anywhere other than Sugarloaf since like 1902 and have no interest in ever wandering elsewhere, but for almost everyone, the addition of the Ikon Base Pass benefit is enormous.
This incredible upside for passholders can only be read as a direct acknowledgement by Boyne that they have to compete against the enormous value options that the Epic and Ikon passes have delivered to the region’s skiers. After all, their $1,549 pass is still quite a bit more expensive than the $979 Epic Pass – which includes season passes to Stowe, Okemo, Mount Snow, Wildcat, and a bunch of other Northeast mountains – and the $999 Ikon Pass ($899 for renewers), which includes unlimited access to Sugarbush and Stratton, as well as days at Killington and Boyne’s own three mountains.
Five or 10 years ago, the unlimited season passes for each of these alpha mountains was north of $1,000, with few if any benefits at any other resorts. Stowe’s pass alone was around $2,000. These precipitous drops and rapid consolidation of benefits mirrors what has been happening out west for around two decades, where only relatively isolated headliner mountains – Jackson Hole, Telluride, Big Sky, Taos – or uber-luxe upscale ones – Deer Valley, Sun Valley – continue to justify season pass prices approaching or north of $2,000. Everyone else is in the $599 or below range, with what are in some cases massive lists of partner resorts – check out, for example, the supersized benefits available on Monarch Mountain, Colorado’s $529 season pass.
This is likely just the beginning. While Boyne’s three mountains – especially the massive and varied Sugarloaf and Sunday River – can continue to jointly justify a combined pass price north of $1,000, there are virtually no other mountains in the Northeast that can realistically do so as standalone entities, except perhaps Killington-Pico, which now also includes an Ikon Base Pass with its $1,344 Beast 365 Pass. Expect independent resorts to not only drop prices, but to start banding together a la Freedom Pass and offering reciprocal benefits as a carrot to entice would-be megapass buyers in their direction.
The complimentary Ikon Base pass also mirrors a western trend - Aspen and Jackson Hole have included the pass for top-tier pass buyers since last season. Both were ground zero for Ikon pushback, and so the add-on could be interpreted as a peace offering. Notably, Boyne is also including an Ikon Base Pass for top-tier Big Sky 2020-21 season passholders.
Sorry, New England Pass holders still don’t have access to Jackson Hole
While the addition of an Ikon Base Pass is a tremendous benefit to Platinum New England Pass holders, it comes with the reality that Jackson Hole and Aspen are not included on the base pass this year. Alterra scooted them up to a special “Base Pass Plus” tier that costs an extra $150 for five days at each mountain. It is unclear whether New England Pass buyers can pay extra for Base Pass Plus or a full no-blackout Ikon Pass.
Still, no one is going to look at the Platinum New England Pass and say, “Gee, there just aren’t enough options here.”
This is sort of a Super-Duper Boyne Pass
Since all New England Platinum Pass holders also get three days at Boyne’s Western mountains (most notably Brighton and Big Sky), the five days that are included at each on the Ikon Pass may seem redundant. But a clever traveler could combine them for a holiday vacation – since the five Base Pass days are blacked out and the three New England Pass days are presumably not, one could arrive at Big Sky on, say, President’s Weekend Saturday, use two of the New England Pass days for the Ikon blacked-out weekend, and then stay the rest of the week and use their five Ikon days.
And scammers beware – the Ikon Base Pass that you receive with your New England Pass does not include days at Loon, Sunday River, or Sugarloaf.
If you’re still only skiing the Boyne three, you have some great options, especially if you’re under 30
For the diehards who live close to Sugarloaf and don’t see the point in going elsewhere – and I kind of get it – there are some really great options that include only the three Boyne mountains, including a $369 pass for 6-29 year olds with the expected blackout dates, a $379 unlimited pass for students ($279 with blackouts), and an all-ages midweek pass with limited blackouts for $549.
New England Passes go on sale March 9.
Note: These pass breakdowns are standing in for the news update this week. Expect the next news update early next week.
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Previous 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 |