Mountain Collective Returns for 10th Season, Ditches Liftopia for Inntopia

2021-22 pass includes no-questions-asked refunds and new teen price tier

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The 2021-22 Mountain Collective Pass goes on sale to the general public today for $499 for adults 18 or older. Passes for children 12 and under are $129, and a new teen pass will be $399 for the 13 to 18 age bracket.

The pass includes two days each at the same 23 destinations included on last year’s Mountain Collective, plus a third bonus day at the passholder’s resort of choice and 50 percent off full rack rate for unlimited additional days. There are no blackout dates. The pass will offer no-questions-asked refunds prior to Aug. 31, 2021.  

Significantly, the Mountain Collective has partnered with Inntopia as its transactional partner, after the pass’ former partner, Liftopia, failed to pay more than $2.3 million in last year’s sales to Aspen, the Mountain Collective’s managing partner. Last June, Aspen, Boyne-owned Cypress, Arapahoe Basin, and Alterra collectively tried to force Liftopia into bankruptcy over more than $3 million in combined debts. A judge ultimately dismissed the petition. The debt is still outstanding, but Mountain Collective’s reconstitution under a new partner signals the pass’ resiliency even in the wake of a significant financial hit.

Here’s a bit more about this year’s Mountain Collective and what it means for passholders:

This thing is here to stay

When the Ikon Pass debuted in 2018, the MAX Pass instantly disintegrated. Some predicted the Mountain Collective, with its heavy Ikon Pass-resort crossover, would follow. Four seasons later, it remains, its lineup somewhat modified but intact. Telluride, Sun Valley, and Snowbasin all fled for the Epic Pass, while other, less renowned but still outstanding resorts – Sun Peaks, Panorama, Grand Targhee, Sugarloaf – joined. Clearly there is demand in the market for a limited-day destination product.  

I’ll admit this somewhat surprised me. The resorts are, for the most part, widely dispersed. Of the 23 destinations, 19 are available on the Ikon Pass, which offers far more days for not that much more money. The international destinations, while compelling, are no bargain to reach, and cheap lift tickets aren’t likely a huge incentive for skiers well-off enough to visit them. Last year, confused about its utility and value, I called this product a watered-down Ikon Pass.

I changed my mind. The Mountain Collective is what the Ikon Session Pass should be. Introduced last year, Alterra’s bargain product is $399 and includes just four days total. It has 12 blackout dates and omits several of Ikon’s best destinations, including Jackson Hole, Aspen, and Alta-Snowbird. All of these are included on Mountain Collective for just $100 more. There are no blackouts. While skiers are unlikely to use all 46 of the pass’ days, they could easily rack up a dozen or more.

If Alterra wanted to shut down the Mountain Collective, it could have done so a long time ago. It owns three of the pass’ destinations outright: Mammoth, Squaw Valley, and Sugarbush. Simply forbidding partner resorts from cross-pollinating passes, as Vail seems to have done with Epic partners, would wipe out most of the rest. But Alterra has so far shown no inclination to do so, and unless and until it reconstitutes the Ikon Session Pass as a more attractive lower-priced product, many skiers are likely to continue viewing this as a viable alternative. Epic’s Epic For Everyone day-ticket plan is similarly limited, and Mountain Collective’s resorts are as good as anything Vail offers.

This is the big mountain version of Indy Pass, and they pair perfectly together

I’ve often peddled the Indy Pass as a complement to the Epic or Ikon passes, an affordable add-on enabling breakaways to less-crowded mountains when weekend and holiday hordes descend upon the megaresorts. It may fit even better with Mountain Collective, given its lower pricetag and the fact that it includes many of Ikon’s alpha resorts. While Indy and Epic have yet to announce 2021-22 pricing, the cost of a Mountain Collective plus an Indy Pass is right around the cost of an Ikon Base ($729 next season) or Epic Local ($729 last season) pass, but with none of those products’ blackouts.

For someone looking to settle in for a weeklong Western vacation, Ikon may be better. But Mountain Collective was built for the mountain-hopper, and two days per ski area are plenty for a one- or two-week hopscotch across the Rockies. Laying the Mountain Collective destination map over the Indy Pass map presents an almost-unbroken coast-to-coast ski kingdom, each pass complementing the other’s gaps:

Colorado and Utah: Indy offers nothing in Colorado and only Beaver Mountain in Utah – a nice but little-known ski area. Mountain Collective crushes it here. In Utah, the pass splits Alta and Snowbird – the twin snow traps that deliver probably the finest overall ski experience (for very good skiers) in the United States – into two destinations (Ikon combines them into one). In Colorado, passholders get two days to split between Aspen’s four mountains and two days at Arapahoe Basin.

California: Indy has two California mountains: Mt. Shasta and China Peak. Nice ski areas, but raise your hand if you’re booking a flight across the country to ski them. Mountain Collective’s two California entries – Mammoth and Squaw Valley – are not just two of the best mountains in the state. They’re two of the best on the continent, with snowstorms that would bury the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and wild, teeming, expansive terrain.

The Pacific Northwest and Upper Rockies: Here the passes meld perfectly. Indy features four ski areas in Washington and five in Idaho, including standouts Tamarack, Brundage, Silver, White Pass, and Mission Ridge. Just across the Idaho border sits one of Mountain Collective’s greatest concentrations of awesomeness: Big Sky in Montana and Grand Targhee and Jackson Hole in Wyoming. Snow King, Red Lodge, and Lost Trail Powder Mountain are among the five Indy Partners available in those two states.

British Columbia and Alberta: Mountain Collective partner Revelstoke is the headliner of any BC trek, which can easily include the pass’ huge and unsung Sun Peaks and Panorama and Indy’s Sasquatch and Apex. Right over the border in Alberta sits Lake Louise and Banff Sunshine, which Ikon counts as one “SKIBIG3” destination but Mountain Collective helpfully splits in two. Sitting between these two is Indy Partner Castle Mountain. Never heard of Castle? It has nearly 3,000 feet of vert and sprawls over 3,500 acres. So yeah worth a day or two stopover at a minimum.

Northeast: Indy has put its foot through the front door in the Northeast, signing Jay Peak, Saddleback, Cannon, Waterville Valley, and a dozen smaller ski areas, most of them quite good. Mountain Collective complements these with two days each at two of the Northeast’s indisputable top-five mountains: Sugarloaf and Sugarbush.

Midwest: Mountain Collective is barren here, but Indy has signed some of the region’s best ski areas, including Lutsen in Minnesota, Granite Peak in Wisconsin, and Big Powderhorn in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Skiers on their way west can stop at Terry Peaks, South Dakota, whose 1,100 feet of vert is the most between Bristol, New York and the Rockies.

Outside North America: I’m not sure any of the megapasses offers a compelling enough menu of options outside North America to inspire a purchase solely for the purpose of international travel. But the Mountain Collective’s offerings here are about as good as those on any other pass, with options in Chile, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and France. They seem like decent add-ons for skiers certain they can use the pass enough during the North American ski season and tack on a summer trip to the Southern Hemisphere or a run over to Europe. Globetrotters will have to rely on Mountain Collective here, as Indy does not offer any access outside of North America at this time. Hopefully travel restrictions will be lifted by the time the 2021-22 season ramps up.

Mountain Collective moves on with Inntopia

Liftopia is in the midst of a transition under new ownership. Meanwhile, its shelves are as barren as a 2020 toilet paper aisle. The site’s formerly loaded New England section, for example, now offers tickets to just two small ski areas in Vermont. That Liftopia failed to pay and therefore alienated its partners just as the industry underwent an enormous forced conversion to e-commerce is probably one of the greatest missed opportunities in the history of the ski business.

That Mountain Collective didn’t collapse without Liftopia’s missing $2.3 million likely speaks to the collective financial might and stability of its partners. Regardless, the pass has selected a more low-key partner for next season. Inntopia is not a consumer-facing platform. But it has deep roots managing e-commerce platforms within the ski industry, including for Vail. Anyone still standing after the past year has weathered the worst of the pandemic, and Inntopia should prove to be a stable partner.

Additional Pass Coverage

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