Montage, Titus, Snow Valley, and Marmot Basin Join Indy Pass

Passholders Now Get Two Days Each at 72 Ski Areas for $279

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Indy Pass today announced the addition of Montage Mountain, Pennsylvania; Titus Mountain, New York; Snow Valley, California; and Marmot Basin, Alberta, increasing its total roster to 72 ski areas in North America for the 2021-22 season. Passholders will get two days at each partner for $279 ($119 kids). Montage will black out major holiday periods, while the other three ski areas will have no blackouts. Skiers can avoid blackouts with the $379 ($169 kids) Indy+ Pass. 2021-22 season passholders at any of Indy’s new or existing partners can add on an Indy Pass for $179 ($89 kids) or an Indy+ Pass for $279 ($139 kids).

Three of the four additions expand Indy’s footprint in important ways. Montage, a thousand-footer seated near the junction of four interstates, pairs with nearby Shawnee to create a compelling offering for skiers in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Titus, dangling off the top of New York near the Canadian border, creates an entrée to the huge and varied Quebec market. Snow Valley cracks open the limitless skier base in Southern California. While less crucial strategically, Marmot Basin carries its own suitcase in the form of a big, fun ski area that’s a true destination.

“The addition of these incredible mountains is a great bonus for our passholders in all regions,” said Indy Pass founder Doug Fish. “Snow Valley is an exciting pick-up for us in SoCal and Ski Marmot Basin gives us four Western Canada partners. By pairing Titus with West Mountain in New York and Montage with our Southern New England partners, we are one step closer to offering a high-quality resort within easy reach of every skier and rider in North America.”

Here’s what these additions mean for the Indy Pass and its passholders:

Montage changes the equation for Pennsylvania skiers

Stats

1,000-foot vertical drop, 140 acres, 27 runs, 5 lifts, avg. annual snowfall: whatever Alta gets on a random Tuesday*

*Actually probably about half that**
**In a good year^
^So about once every 6-8 years

What we’re working with

What I’ve written in the past

When Montage managing owner Charles Jefferson appeared on The Storm Skiing Podcast in March, I wrote this by way of introduction:

Pennsylvania skiing is an exercise in the technological and improbable. Winters deliver marginal temperatures and frequent rain, making any ski area a capital-intensive affair reliant on sophisticated and aggressive snowmaking. The mountains themselves can be crowded and intense, with what feels like a higher-than-average volume of novice skiers careening downhill in unstoppable freefall. Luckily, many of the ski areas are also quite good, with 1,000-foot-plus vertical drops, interesting terrain, and a broad trail footprint. Among these, Montage is one of the best, a small- to medium-sized ski area that feels and skis big, with twisting downhill routes, terrain perfectly and naturally divided by ability, and some of the steepest runs in the Northeast. It’s an interesting place with a checkered history. Opened in 1984, it’s one of the newest ski areas in a nation that has mostly given up on building them. Operated for its first two decades as a non-profit or government entity, it was nearly run into the abyss by subsequent owners, who renamed it “Snö Mountain” and drove it into bankruptcy. Along came an investment group led by Jefferson, a real estate developer who had never skied. It’s an odd ski story in an odd ski state, but it has a happy ending: under Jefferson and company, the resort seems to be on the upswing, with a rapidly diversifying all-seasons business, a growing season passholder base, and an understated approach to skiing that’s focused on workaday maintenance rather than flashy new projects.

Jefferson, and Montage, are popular: this has been one of my most downloaded episodes of 2021.

My current take

Density is an important piece of the story for any multipass. Skiers need to believe some minimal number of ski days is a feasible, either from their home base or on a trip. Whether they actually achieve that number is beside the point – it’s enough that the possibility exists.

With the addition of Montage, that possibility now exists for an enormous number of skiers. Philadelphia and south Jersey – with their easy access to the trio of Roundtop, Whitetail, and Liberty – are Vail country. The Northeast Epic Pass delivers unlimited access to all three, plus Jack Frost and Big Boulder in the Poconos and several ski areas in Vermont and New Hampshire, for $479. Indy Pass, with only Shawnee hanging off the eastern end of the state (Blue Knob is across the state, serving an entirely different market), has had only limited appeal for the big cities to the south.

That just changed. Montage now gives Poconos skiers an easy four days on the Indy Pass. Passholders in the New York metro area can add Mohawk and Catamount to that, for eight days with little effort. At that point, the pass is more than paid for, but Greek Peak and Berkshire East and West Mountain are not much farther. And you haven’t even tapped the best mountains yet, the screamers waiting just over the bend in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine: Magic, Jay Peak, Bolton Valley, Cannon, Waterville Valley, and Saddleback. If you don’t squeeze value out of this thing, it’s your own damn fault.

Montage is a lot of fun to ski. It feels bigger than 27 runs. And on the rare occasions when it gets measurable snow – as it did last winter for the first time in four years – the place, with its steep pitches and well-spaced trees and border-to-border policy, can be a goddamn riot. Just get there fast if you see the snow pile up – the refreeze will be along any minute.

Titus anchors Indy on the Canadian border

Stats

1,200-foot vertical drop, 200 acres, 50 runs, 8 lifts, 150 inches average annual snowfall

What we’re working with

What I’ve written in the past

I hosted Titus owner Bruce Monette Jr. on The Storm Skiing Podcast last month, and I summarized the mountain’s story and character this way:

Titus is perched at the snowy top of New York, an hour and change past Lake Placid, which for most of the state’s skiers already feels like the edge of the Earth. That remoteness lends a patina of mystery to the place, like the secret labyrinth of a videogame you thought you knew well. Three interlaced peaks drip with tangled mops of trails fused by a fleet of Halls and one under-the-road tunnel, presenting a meandering journey through tree and trail from one distant end to the other. The place it littered with packs of children and sometimes their parents and really no one else. The kind of knucklehead speedster native to Whiteface seems entirely absent here. It’s a joy to ski. But in 2011, Titus was on the verge of being sold off for parts, its alpha lift and snowguns bound for Pennsylvania. That’s when the Monette family, local businessfolk who had never run a ski area, bought the place.

Try listening to that interview and not falling in love with this mountain.

My current take

Titus fills in Indy’s top-of-America axis, sitting roughly two-and-a-half hours (all in different directions) from the criminally underutilized and snow-bombed Snow Ridge, sparklingly renovated West Mountain, and Jay Peak, the pass’ best Northeast mountain and one of the best resorts in the Northeast, period. It’s also just three hours from Bolton Valley.

Perhaps most important, however, is that Titus sits just 20 miles south of the Canadian border, and under two hours from Quebec. This could serve as an important outpost as Indy aims toward one of its final North American frontiers: eastern Canada. The possibilities are too numerous to speculate on here, but there are lots of ski areas, and lots of good ones, that could make potential Indy partners. With Titus, Jay, and Bolton serving as southern anchors to this far-north world, Indy has the potential to establish itself as the go-to megapass in a region that has been minimally penetrated by the Epic and Ikon Passes (what the passes do offer there is outstanding: Ikon Pass skiers can access Tremblant, and full Epic Pass skiers have limited available days at Stoneham and Mont-Sainte Anne).

Setting all that aside, Titus is a worthy addition to Indy Pass. For skiers who haven’t been there, the mountain will be a delightful discovery. It’s big, sprawling, and quirky. It has lifts spinning off in all directions and it has glades and it has tunnels and it has little pockets of ambling discovery. It is a hard place to master, not because the terrain is difficult, but because it has the unfinished and improvised feel of a roadside theme park, where antique boxcars are parked beside a diner which is in front of a gift shop which gives way to a mini-golf course and a go-cart track. Threaded throughout Titus you’ll find an 11,000-tap maple syrup operation and mailboxes at the bottom of every lift and auto roads traversed by bridge and tunnel and the delightful skibanas, dotted along a snowy rim overlooking the beginner area. It’s the kind of place where imagination morphs into improbable reality on a regular basis.

With the additions of Montage and Titus, Indy Pass now offers 20 partners in the Northeast: 12 in New England, five in New York, and three in Pennsylvania. With time, energy, and planning, the adventurous could ski 40 days on this pass: $6.97 a day. That’s unlikely. But the potential exists, and that’s enough to sell a hell of a lot of Indy Passes.

Indy is probably done in the Northeast, at least in the U.S. Passes need density to sell, but too much density will strangle them. Many Indy Pass skiers will clock 20 days. A very few might eventually grab 100 (the most in a season so far is 31 days). Indy plans for that. But most will only ski a low single-digit number of days. If everyone skied 20 days, the redemption amount that Indy pays resorts for each skier visit would drop too low, and ski areas might flee.

So Indy can only afford another Northeast partner if it would sell enough passes to justify the inevitable jump in redemptions. It needs to be a special place. Indy would be foolish to turn down Smugglers’ Notch, Mad River Glen, Bretton Woods, or ORDA (which manages Whiteface, Belleayre, and Gore for New York State). Others would be worth considering as volume plays: Jiminy Peak, Wachusett, Holiday Valley, or Mountain Creek. I’d still like to see Ragged or Gunstock or Shawnee (Maine) or Black Mountain of Maine. And there is room in western Pennsylvania to court Seven Springs’ trio of mountains as a complement to the West Virginia partners. But Indy doesn’t have to try in the Northeast anymore – its footprint is deep, solid, and well-formed.

Indy breaks into the crucial Los Angeles market with Snow Valley

Stats

1,041-foot vertical drop, 240 acres, 28 runs, 12 lifts, 188 inches average annual snowfall

What we’re working with

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

“Nice mountain, ski area on the smaller end of the ‘mid-sized’ scale. Close to L.A. but surprisingly seldom crowded. But like, a LOT of snowboarders, dude. Nothing wrong with that, just be aware that some of those on the hill will take some rather unusual lines. Despite a lack of detachable sixpacks and whatnot, Snow Valley moves people up the mountain nicely — lines are rarely long. Positively caters to beginners and has a nice mix of terrain for developing skiers. The hotshot will prefer more challenging terrain. Wanderers may first be put off by the somewhat smaller size, but the interesting layout of various canyons and ridges makes this a very stimulating place to ski.”

My take

The notion of skiing in Southern California is incongruous, like finding a BDSM dungeon in the back room of a Chuck E Cheese. But there, towering off the eternal springtime of the Pacific Coast, is a clutch of big, snowy ski areas. For their proximity to gleaming Los Angeles, they are surprisingly relaxed and rusty as a whole, but they deliver a decent season: Snow Valley operated for 154 days during the 2020-21 campaign; Mt. Baldy GM Robby Ellingson told me on The Storm Skiing Podcast last year that the mountain often stayed open into May.

Whatever you think of SoCal skiing, it is an important market. There’s a reason Alterra owns Big Bear, a pair of ski areas just half an hour down the road from Snow Valley: there are a lot of skiers there. This is Ikon Pass country, funneling LA skiers up to Mammoth and Squaw and out to Salt Lake and Colorado. Indy signing Snow Valley won’t change that, but it’s an important addition nonetheless: few skiers in the nation’s second-largest city had much practical reason to consider an Indy Pass before. Now they may at least look at it, their two days at Snow Valley being a warmup for a roadtrip up into the Indy resorts in Utah and the Upper Rockies.

Indy still needs another partner in Southern California to make this thing go, though. Baldy or Mountain High would be perfect. Both have reciprocal partnerships – Mountain High is a member of the Powder Alliance; Baldy is part of Ski Cooper’s expansive pass program. Several Indy partners are members of one or the other of those coalitions – Snow Valley, in fact, is one of them, a de facto part of Ski Cooper’s empire by dint of their shared position on the Freedom Pass.

I can only guess at what skiing Snow Valley is like. This is one of the oddest ski areas I’ve ever seen – it looks like a Midwest ski area turned on its side, with successive peaks stacked one atop the other in a wobbly ice cream cone pattern. It’s quirky and weird, with lifts – including, improbably, a high-speed six-pack – flying all over the place and few, if any ways, to ski the full vertical in one go. Fortunately, quirky, and weird is exactly my preference.

Marmot Basin: Middle Earth’s finest ski resort

Stats

3,000-foot vertical drop, 1,720 acres, 91 runs, 7 lifts, 177 inches average annual snowfall

What we’re working with

I’ve never been to Marmot Basin and neither have you because it isn’t real

I like how when I find a Northeast ski area I’ve never heard of, it has one ropetow and five trails on 300 vertical feet, but whenever Indy Pass announces a new Western Canada partner I’ve never heard of, it has a vertical drop equal to the Mariana Trench and a skiable footprint the size of Sub-Saharan Africa. And this fairytale mountain supposedly averages “over 450 CMs of dry, light Alberta powder snow annually.” What the hell is a “CM?” I don’t know if that’s 90 feet or five inches. Or if it’s even a unit of measurement. Nice try Indy Pass founder Doug Fish, but this place is faker than the moon landing.

My take

But I’ll play along. Marmot Basin joins the other fake news Canadian Indy Pass partners Castle Mountain (2,833 vertical feet, 3,592 acres, 354 inches); Apex Mountain (2,001 vertical feet, 1,112 acres, 236 inches annual snowfall); and Sasquatch Mountain (1,200 vertical feet, 415 inches, 300 acres). Sasquatch eh? That’s cute. And not suspicious at all for a pass selling access to make-believe ski areas.

Anyway, Indy now has a nice collection of ski areas in Western Canada. Unfortunately, Marmot Basin isn’t anywhere near any of the others – Castle Mountain, seven hours south, is the closest. In fact, it isn’t really near anything at all. It’s more than four hours to either Calgary or Edmonton, and the closest neighboring ski area appears to be a little outfit called Silver Summit. The northern tip of the powder highway is four hours south, at Kicking Horse.

But that context is important in another respect: once you arrive, you’ll probably have the joint to yourself. And the ski area expands another key narrative for Indy: in certain regions, the bargain pass has become a true destination product, with partners that can eat up a weekend without boring you to death. Marmot Basin, just 12 miles from folksy Jasper, qualifies. The more mountains of this caliber that Indy adds, the more it becomes a true alternative to the Epic and Ikon Passes (at least for folks without a home mountain).

This is where I write about how Indy Pass still needs mountains in Colorado and Lake Tahoe

It isn’t necessarily the case that Indy must eventually anchor itself in Colorado and Tahoe. Boyne, the nation’s third-largest ski conglomerate, has no presence in either (or, for that matter, Vermont). But these two frenetic ski centers are the last logical big U.S. markets and would likely act as an accelerant to the pass’ growth. Passholders may actually be better off without them though – as Fish has explained to me many times, day ticket prices are so high in those two markets that adding material numbers of resorts in either could drive overall pass prices up substantially, since Indy pays partners a percentage of their walk-up day ticket price.

The more logical next frontier is Ontario and Quebec, which combined have more than 100 ski areas, some of them densely packed, nearly all of them affordable. Indy could probably add 15 partners throughout the two provinces without increasing pass prices. More than 60 percent of Canada’s population lives in those two places, and I’m not aware of any regional multi-mountain passes, meaning the opportunity for Indy is enormous. As attractive as Colorado and Tahoe may be, Indy would be a small pass fighting for small mountains in big markets where nearly every frequent skier already has an Epic or Ikon Pass in their jacket pocket.

Skiers interested in a Colorado-based discount megapass should check out Ski Cooper’s $299 season pass, which includes three days each at 49 partner ski areas (including 16 Indy partners). Passholders also get four days at Diamond Peak, which is perched on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe.

Indy still has room to grow in some direction – Fish told me on The Storm Skiing Podcast in April that he envisions the roster growing to as many as 90 ski areas. The pass is pretty much maxed out in the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, and Pacific Northwest (although another mountain or two in Oregon would be nice). New Mexico remains attractive, as do select other zones, but the logical growth options are diminishing as this thing creeps across the continent in all directions.

2021-22 Indy Pass prices increase to $299 for adults and $129 for kids on Sept. 1. The Indy+ Pass will increase to $399 for adults and $179 for kids. Add-on Indy Passes for partner mountain season passholders will increase to $209 ($109 for kids) that day, and Indy+ add-ons will increase to $309 ($159 for kids).

Additional Indy Pass coverage

Here’s some of my past coverage of Indy Pass and its partners – I’ll be interviewing Caberfae Peaks, Michigan co-owner Tim Meyer on the podcast later this week:

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