When Arapahoe Basin announced its decision to leave the Epic Pass program last February, the move sent ripples through the ski industry. A-Basin was the first sizable resort to decamp from the industry’s most popular pass. To fill the void, Vail Resorts extended its season at stalwart properties Keystone—which significantly upgraded its snowmaking system and challenged A-Basin to be the first resort to open in North America this fall, missing out by hours—and Breckenridge, which now stays open through at least Memorial Day.
A-Basin began selling its own unlimited season pass for $399 last spring (which includes three days at Taos and Monarch), then, in a surprise move, announced in August that it was joining the Ikon Pass—but only offering those passholders a max of seven days. The novel approach is intended to cut down on parking and crowding woes at A-Basin while not completely abandoning the collective pass model that has made it harder for independent resorts to compete in recent years. The Basin’s decision gives the Ikon Pass significant added value in Summit County—as does the debut of a new high-alpine chairlift this winter at Copper Mountain, one of Ikon’s premier resorts. The new lift, called Three Bears, turns the scarcely skied steeps on 12,421-foot Tucker Mountain into one of the best lift-served zones in Summit County overnight. It also keeps the local terrain train rolling, following A-Basin’s addition of the Beavers and Steep Gullies two years ago and Breckenridge’s expansion onto 12,573-foot Peak 6 in 2013.
For more than two decades, Tucker had been a radical but remote nook on the resort’s southeast boundary. Reaching it either required a lengthy hike or scoring a ride on the free snowcat, which didn’t run all the time. Now, you’ll be able to lap it. The lift rises 1,162 vertical feet in six and a half minutes, has a carrying capacity of 1,200 people per hour, and tops out at 12,421 feet. The runs are the real deal: all rated double-black diamond or extreme terrain (Ram’s Run and Denverite probably offer the best fall-line vertical in the 273-acre zone).
In addition to its new lift, Copper also welcomes the Dew Tour for the first time in February, a two-year deal that adds the elite freeskiing and snowboarding competition-cum-action sports festival (which spent the past 11 years at Breckenridge, doubling as an Olympic qualifier) to the resort’s action sports event roster, which already includes the US Grand Prix in December.
And not to be outdone, Breckenridge redesigned its Peak 8 base area this winter, complete with an escalator and an ice rink, amenities that might be familiar to Epic passholders who visit Beaver Creek. Like the rest of the moves made by Summit resorts since last season, the upgrade ostensibly was designed to improve the guest experience, adding another card to be played in the high-stakes gamesmanship of the industry ski pass.