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Ski Pass Throwdown

A short guide to Tahoe’s ski pass and lift ticket deals
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With the two largest passes going offline by mid-December, the name of the game is buy early. Winters can be unpredictable, and the ski resorts have wised up to the fact that early cash on hand beats waiting to see what the snow gods dish out. On the bright side, they offer big discounts to drive this trend.


Use that tax return to buy next year’s season pass in the spring and your lift tickets at least a month in advance — just be ready to break out those rock skis.


Wait it out and plan around the forecast.

Ski resorts are being bought and sold left and right these days, and it can make it tough for locals and tourists alike to keep track of which pass to buy and when. The Squaw Alpine pass is now the Ikon pass, the Epic pass is still epic, Sugar Bowl has teamed up with the Powder Alliance, Mt. Rose continues doing its own thing on top of the world, and the Tahoe backcountry is free, as always — if you can find a place to park. Read on, and we’ll try to make some sense of it all in our ski pass throwdown.

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

Day Tickets: $169 at the window

Season Passes: You missed it. Alterra’s Ikon Pass, which is now the 38-mountain collective pass including Squaw Alpine was scheduled to go offline on Dec. 13. Consider the Mountain Collective Pass if you’re the traveling type.

Best Deal — The Red-Eye: Get a complimentary lift ticket valid for the same day you fly into Reno-Tahoe International Airport.


Day Tickets: The resort hasn’t released its peak season lift ticket prices yet, but last year’s ticket prices came out to $152, according to

Season Passes: You missed it. The Epic pass, covering all of Vail Resort’s 65 locations, as well as the Tahoe Local Pass, both went offline on Dec. 2.

Best Deal — The Early Bird Gets the Worm: Pass prices are lowest if you buy online at least seven days ahead of time.

Sugar Bowl

Day Tickets: $125 at the window

Season Passes: $829 for an unrestricted Sugar Bowl pass, plus an additional $150 if you want to tack on a full Royal Gorge cross country pass.

Best Deal — The Third Time’s a Charm: Three lift tickets for $259


Day Tickets: $129 at the window

Season Passes: $669/$619 for returning passholders and Tahoe locals

Best Deal — The Coupon Hoarder: Keep an eye on the website and you can sometimes pick up a day ticket for as cheap as $49.

Tahoe Donner

Day Tickets: $89/$35 for homeowner’s association members

Season Passes: $359/$219 for members

Best Deal — The Homeowner: Buy a house in Tahoe Donner and get access to all the homeowners association member perks. Or ... every Tuesday and Wednesday parents pay only $15 for an all-day lift ticket when they bring their kids to ski.

Mt. Rose

Day Tickets: Currently $109; they maxed out at $125 last year, according to

Season Passes: $649 for a premier pass

Best Deal — The Weekday Warrior: Choose a weekday — Monday through Friday — to ski all year for $199, and it averages out to 27 possible days a season. Pick wisely.

Diamond Peak

Day Tickets: $109 at the window

Season Passes: $479/$339 for a midweek pass

Best Deal — The home-wrecker: Show up with your 2018-19 season pass from any other ski resort and ski for only $69.

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March 14, 2019