Season Passes for the Backcountry Skier

You read the title right, as counterintuitive as it may seem I want to talk about a couple season pass options that may make sense even if you’re going to dedicate yourself to the backcountry this season.

First, a few arguments against ditching the season pass completely:

  • Resorts offer good skiing before the backcountry does, usually by a month or two
  • Our snowpack is notoriously sketchy and when it’s at its worst, the resorts are at their best
  • Some resorts offer solid “sidecountry” or backcountry access, meaning your resort days aren’t “resort” days

There are two passes that I am going to recommend, which one would make sense for you depends on your dedication to the pursuit of the backcountry goods.

  1. Silverton Unguided Season Pass — Now before you say “Why would I buy a pass for a mountain that’s 6 hours away that is only valid for 13 days a year” let me remind you that you get 5 days at A-Basin, 5 days at Loveland, 5 days at Monarch, and half price heli drops at Silverton. Not to mention $2 draft beers at Silverton and a healthy discount on guided skiing during the regular season…

    Now on top of that this pass is only $199.

    If you never make it to Silverton this pass could be a steal, if you make it out to Silverton for a weekend or two of unguided skiing this pass is the deal of the decade. A-Basin and Loveland both offer very reliable early season skiing and both have great hike to, sidecountry, and backcountry access. Monarch, is one of my favorite Colorado resorts, reliably uncrowded, reliably deep, and a really nice laid back vibe. If you get out to Silverton for two weekends, use your days at A-Basin and Loveland early in the season before the backcountry is worthwhile, and go to Monarch when the backcountry is sketchy midwinter, you’re looking at skiing for under $11 per day. Let that soak in for a little bit, then head over to the Silverton website to buy one.

  2. Keystone / A-Basin Pass — This pass is probably better for people who aren’t 100% sold on getting after it in the backcountry or have more reliable resort skiing friends than BC partners. The A-Basin pass guarantees you almost 8 full months of skiing, the Keystone pass is effectively a $10 add on to the price of the stand alone A-Basin pass and is nice for people who haven’t convinced their friends to ditch the Epic Pass yet. At $279 this is still a really solid deal and with the length of A-Basins season you could ski for under $10 a day and still spend most of your time in the backcountry. By the time the backcountry is skiing well, you can have put in enough resort days to feel like you’ve gotten your money’s worth from the pass and not feel like you’re throwing money away by not skiing resorts.

You really can’t go wrong with either of these options, but to me the Silverton pass is the most interesting and enticing offer I’ve seen in a long time.

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