If you’re going to be a frequent snowboarder or skier, it will likely pay to buy a season pass. But which pass is best for you? Here are some things to consider.
Price is the most obvious issue, so let’s put it upfront. Consider not only the standard pass, but also family packs, discounts for buying four passes at once, and passes for children, including at what age children need to have a lift ticket.
Location, location, location. What they say in real estate has some value in the world of lift-served skiing and snowboarding as well: Value depends on location, or if we wish to modify, it, accessibility. If getting to a particular resort is too inconvenient for you, it’s less likely you’re going to use any pass you buy.
Racing and ski school options. Running gates, whether in an organized league or in an on-your-own basis in NASTAR, is a way to work on your technique. Consider whether, and if so, when, a resort has racing opportunities. Also, look at the ski/snowboard school. Each school has a different set of emphases, and some programs may suit your schedule or interests more than others.
Freestyle terrain. Whether, and what kind of freestyle tricks you like to make can also be a factor. While every resort has some freestyle terrain, some do it better than others. With the recent makeover thanks to its new ownership, look for Afton Alps to raise the bar this season. On the other hand, if you want a halfpipe, Buck Hill is the place to go. If you’re more likely to avoid freestyle altogether, head to Welch Village, which has more of a downhill (and specifically, skier) vibe.
Terrain, overall. There isn’t much variation in the terrain available in the region, though there is some. If you love steeps, Welch Village is probably the place for you. If you like glades, try Trollhaugen.
Off-hill atmosphere. If you’re someone who likes to go to the chairlift and stay on the hill until you go home, this one may not matter to you. On the other hand, if you like to mix up your skiing/riding with some time inside, find which one is to your liking. Some bars, for example, have a party atmosphere, while others are family-friendly. Some resorts make a stronger effort than others, meanwhile, to bring in bands to perform.
Partnership deals. Most resorts in the region have partnership deals of some sort, including free or discounted tickets to resorts in the Midwest or western United States, or even trips to Switzerland.
Tubing. Snow tubing can be a fun add-on to skiing or snowboarding, but not all resorts have tubing. Buck Hill has about a dozen tubing lanes, while Afton has converted its tubing area to an enlarged freestyle area. Wild Mountain has a tubing area, though it’s down the road a bit from the ski/snowboard area.