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As Labor Day approaches, focus tends to shift towards the cold snowy peaks coming our way this winter. For those looking to come enjoy the winter activities in Lake Tahoe, the most likely scenario is that you’ll be purchasing either an Epic Pass or an Ikon Pass depending on the resorts you like to ski. For those that don’t know the difference between the two passes and need some help deciding, here’s a breakdown of what each pass offers, mainly with regards to the Tahoe resorts.

Epic Pass 

The Epic Pass, the mega-pass that gives access to all Vail owned ski resorts and a few affiliated partners, offers a range of different passes depending on your needs. Want unlimited access to all of their premier resorts without any restrictions or blackout dates? You’re looking for the full Epic Pass. If you’re just looking to ski in the Lake Tahoe area, you’re more likely interested in one of two passes – either the Tahoe Local Pass or the Tahoe Value Pass.

Tahoe Value Pass: If you don’t like fighting crowds on Saturdays or weekends and don’t plan on skiing outside of Lake Tahoe, this is probably the best pass option. It gives you access to all three of Vail’s Tahoe resorts – Northstar, Kirkwood, and Heavenly – with some access restrictions over Thanksgiving, Christmas, MLK, and President’s Day along with Saturday restrictions throughout the season at both Kirkwood and Northstar. Though any day that is blacked out, the pass still offers great discounts if you decide you want to ski. For adults, this pass is currently $465 meaning you only need to ski three times for the walk-up.

Tahoe Local Pass: At $545 currently, the Tahoe Local Pass offers a bump in features over the value pass. It still has the same holiday restrictions, but Saturdays are valid at Northstar and Kirkwood giving you mostly 7-day-a-week access to all the Tahoe resorts. The big difference is that the Tahoe Local Pass offers 5 days of skiing at any of the 5 Vail-owned Colorado resorts (Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, and Crested Butte) or Park City, Utah. If you plan on taking a destination trip but are ok with the holiday restrictions, this might be the pass for you.

There are also now plenty of options for pre-buying a specific number of days. If you’re only planning to come up for a few ski days, these are a great way of saving a ton of money.

The Ikon Pass 

The Ikon Pass was created to be able to compete with the Epic Pass with one big difference: rather than giving access to resorts all owned by one entity (though Alterra and Boyne are the main owners/operators), you’re granted access to a lot of smaller and independently owned resorts as well. For many skiers they find it an equal or superior product, but it is a pass that is definitely geared more towards the travelling skier or boarder. In regards to the Tahoe region, this pass is all about Palisades Tahoe and Alpine Meadows, meaning most skiers are looking for the Ikon Base Pass, which is running $869 as of this writing. There are similar blackout dates to the Epic Pass, but otherwise unlimited skiing at Palisades Tahoe and a host of other resorts in and out of California.

If you’re planning to travel extensively this ski season, or don’t want the holiday restrictions on your pass for Palisades Tahoe & Alpine Meadows, the full Ikon Pass allows for this at $1,179 currently.

Though there’s not a specific date the Ikon is set to go up in price, it’s likely that it will sometime this fall. Both passes end their sales sometime near their opening dates.