Eagle Point, Utah and Sundown, Iowa Join Indy Pass

Indy Pass now has 68 partner ski areas, with more to come this summer

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Indy Pass today announced the addition of Utah’s Eagle Point Resort and Iowa’s Sundown Mountain Resort, increasing the pass’ total 2021-22 roster to 68 ski areas across the United States and Canada.

Sundown creates a new southwestern frontier to Indy’s substantial Midwest empire, while Eagle Point hangs isolated in the southern Utah wilderness, an Interstate 15 pit stop on the way to points north. Both are quintessential Indy: big and interesting enough to give you a good day or two of skiing, but not so big that you’re weighing them against Breckenridge for your Christmas vacation.

Indy Pass holders will get two days at each ski area, plus the other 66 Indy Pass partners, for $279 ($119 kids). There are no blackouts at Eagle Point, but Sundown will black out Christmas week, plus the MLK and Presidents’ holiday weekends (exact dates here). Skiers can avoid blackouts at Sundown and all other partners with the $379 Indy+ Pass ($169 kids). Unrestricted season passholders at any Indy Pass mountain can add the pass on for $189 ($89 kids; $289 Indy+; $139 Indy+ kids).

Here’s a bit more about what these new partnerships mean for the Indy Pass and its passholders:

Sundown builds on Indy’s Midwest dominance

Stats:

475-foot vertical drop, 55 acres, 21 runs, 4 lifts, probably negligible annual snowfall

What we’re working with:

I’ve never been to Sundown, but here’s what Skibum.net has to say:

“This is an upside-down (lodge at the top) ski area that — surprisingly — almost looks like a regular ski area such as you might find further east. Trails are cut through a wooded hill that was once an undeveloped buffer between farmland. Fights with Illinois’ Chestnut for the Quad Cities ski dollar; it’s a toss-up. Probably the top ski area in the state. Let’s face it, this sort of vertical is tough to come by in the midwest. If you can catch Sundown on a weekday morning, you’ve got a great day of skiing ahead.”

Distance to closest Indy Pass ski areas:

  • Tyrol Basin, Wisconsin: 1 hour, 23 minutes

  • Little Switzerland, Wisconsin: 3 hours, 4 minutes

  • Nordic Mountain, Wisconsin: 3 hours, 18 minutes

  • Granite Peak, Wisconsin: 3 hours, 47 minutes

My take:

A weird thing happens the first time you drive across Iowa. Everyone who doesn’t live in Iowa thinks it’s flat but it is no such thing. Iowa across Interstate 80 is 300 miles of gorgeous rolling hills, bucolic farm country, cows and pastures and barns and endless green. It is an exceptionally beautiful place.

And it has skiing. Not a lot of skiing, but some. Like I’m not going there on purpose to ski but if for some reason I have to live there because the East Coast is obliterated by an asteroid then skiing is available. Which is not something you can say about, I don’t know, Arkansas. Observe:

What Sundown does is further cement Indy as the pass of choice for Midwest skiers. Vail and Alterra have failed to see the value of this ski-mad region in a meaningful way. Sundown, just an hour and a half north of the half million people in the Quad Cities region that straddles the Iowa-Illinois border, will act as an important entry point for regional skiers eyeballing weekend trips to Indy partners farther north.

With the addition of Sundown, Indy now has 17 Midwest partners (18 if you count Terry Peak, South Dakota, more than 11 hours west of Sundown, which Indy does but I bucket with the West). Among those are many weekend-worthy destinations, including Granite Peak, Wisconsin; Lutsen and Spirit Mountain, Minnesota; and Big Powderhorn, Caberfae, and Crystal Mountain, Michigan.

The Epic Pass delivers access to just three ski areas across Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan – none of them terribly interesting from a skiing point of view (though Afton Alps, with its chutes-and-ladders lift network stacked up its 300-foot rise, is perhaps the quintessential Midwest ski circus). The Ikon Pass gives you the excellent Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands, but nothing else for hundreds of miles east or west. This distance to large destinations matters less to driving-mad Midwesterners than it would to populations in other regions, but Indy’s stacked Upper Midwest roster should make it the go-to pass for the region’s frequent skiers.

[Sundown is not to be confused with Ski Sundown, Connecticut, which is that state’s best ski area and would frankly also make a knockout Indy Pass partner. With nearby Mohawk already signed on, however, I think a second partnership in the state – which has only four ski areas – is unlikely.]

Eagle Point: far from everything but on the way to some things

Stats:

1,500-foot vertical drop, 650 lift-served acres, 40 runs, 5 lifts, 350 inches of annual snowfall

What we’re working with:

I’ve never been to Eagle Point, but here’s what Skibum.net has to say:

“Originally Elk Meadows, which closed for a time due to some sort of water or water treatment wranglings, or funding, or something like that. I was at Elk Meadows once, and I can tell you it’s so far off the beaten path it makes Brian Head look downright metropolitan. A great mid-sized ski area with no liftlines, no commercialized anything. Highly recommended. New ownership has really turned things around…reconstructed lodges, restored lifts, it’s a marvelous Cinderella story and a great ski area. For the true pedal-to-the-metal experts, Eagle Point has access to the Fishlake National Forest backcountry.”

Distance to closest Indy Pass ski areas:

  • Powder Mountain, Utah: 4 hours, 28 minutes

  • Beaver Mountain, Utah: 5 hours, 9 minutes

  • Pomerelle, Idaho: 5 hours, 53 minutes

My take:

This is another one of those never-heard-of-it Western ski areas that would be a major resort if it fell through a wormhole and landed in Vermont. If that happens, the mountain can feel free to bring its 350-inch annual snowcloud with it.

By Utah standards, however, Eagle Point is fairly small and its snowfall fairly average. It’s far from everything but it’s on the way to other things; this may be a nice fit for an L.A.- or Vegas-based Indy Pass holder working their way north to Pow Mow and Beaver Mountain, and then on to Idaho or Wyoming. The mountain, sitting just off Interstate 15, is easy to get to. There probably isn’t a huge local market: the town of Beaver, where the resort is located, has a population of just over 3,000 people.

I imagine you’ll have a good day if you do venture here. I mean it would be pretty sweet to be this person:

The bandolier of steeps raking across the lower mountain look like typical wide-open western glade-and-fall-line terrain. Liftlines are probably rare and the powder probably doesn’t get chewed up like it does by the Cottonwoods locusts farther north. Whether this is a destination is probably more a matter of individual attitude than raw stats or travel distance.

This thing is far from done

Since debuting with a few dozen partners prior to the 2019-20 ski season, Indy has steadily added larger and higher-profile partners, building particular strength in the Pacific Northwest/Upper Rockies, Upper Midwest, and the Northeast. The addition of true resorts like Tamarack, Lutsen, and Jay Peak have transformed the pass from a drive-up novelty to a true destination product.

More partners are coming, and soon – Indy Pass founder Doug Fish told me to expect more announcements before the lifts start spinning for the 2021-22 ski season. Where will those be? Probably not in New England – Fish told me on The Storm Skiing Podcast in April that he was most likely done adding partners in the region for now after several high-profile resorts joined over the past year, including Waterville Valley, Cannon, Jay, and Saddleback. The Midwest is looking pretty full as well, though Nubs Nob has an open invitation to join when ready, Fish said on the podcast.

The two big opportunity areas are the West and eastern Canada. Quebec and Ontario are absolutely loaded with ski areas, most of them good independents in the Indy mold. Some potential Quebec mountains have substantial vertical rises (Tremblant is owned by Alterra, and Sainte-Anne and Stoneham are skiable on the Epic Pass via Vail’s partnership with Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, which owns both resorts). Ontario, while mostly classic flatland mirroring America’s Midwest, has plenty of good, if smaller, options as well: the ski areas around Thunder Bay, highest-vertical-in-the-province Calabogie, Searchmont (which is owned by Wisconsin Resorts), and several ski areas near the important Toronto market.

In Western Canada, I’d say Indy’s top target should be former M.A.X. Pass partner Whitewater, which is one of the best mountains on the continent not currently associated with a megapass. In the U.S., the priorities remain the same: Colorado and Lake Tahoe. Some combination of Mt. Rose, Diamond Peak, Homewood, Sierra-at-Tahoe, Loveland, Wolf Creek, Powderhorn, Ski Cooper, Sunlight, or Monarch. There could be others. The point is that Indy needs to anchor itself in each of these two key ski markets – which are, along with the Wasatch, perhaps the center of the U.S. ski universe – to realize its full potential as a national pass.

I see additional opportunities in New Mexico and Southern California (especially around Los Angeles). Fish has said he could envision as many as 90 Indy Pass partners in his megapass end state, and there are still lots of potential paths to get there.