Quick Guide to Tahoe Ski Passes

Views of Lake Tahoe from Heavenly Ski Resort are unrivaled across the region.
Views of Lake Tahoe from Heavenly Ski Resort are unrivaled across the region. Travis Wise
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Winter is coming! Recent dustings of snow on Tahoe’s peaks this fall have had skiers and snowboarders alike salivating over the thought of hitting the slopes. An obsessed few (you know who you are) have probably already strapped into their snowboards or clicked into their skis on the living room carpet, doing mini hops around the room while coming dangerously close to destroying the coffee table.

This is also the time of year that season-long alliances are formed, friendships strengthened or weakened, and lines drawn over the oft-repeated question: "Where are you getting your pass?" You can feel the tension in the room when two great friends find out they are getting passes to different mountains, each questioning the sanity and judgment of the other. Passionate arguments are made for and against different passes, different mountains, and the obvious shortcomings of any pass other than your own.

Season passes are no easy investment, often costing up to an entire paycheck for some. Their value, however, pays off in the long run as daily ticket prices creep into the triple digits at resorts across the country. Here, a quick guide to some of the popular pass deals in Tahoe. Prices reflect the 2016-2017 season.

Kari Bluff

Sierra-at-Tahoe

The Gist: $409 unlimited, no blackouts, Olympic-caliber terrain, tons of free days at partner resorts

Sierra-at-Tahoe is long known for some of the best tree skiing in Lake Tahoe, a laid-back community atmosphere, and for churning out three Olympic gold medalists among their high caliber team of skiers and riders. Sierra offers slopes and snow for all ability levels, from their easy cruising Sugar n’ Spice run to powder days spent dropping pillow lines in Huckleberry Canyon. For an astonishingly low $409, adults can ski or ride Sierra every single day of the season with no restrictions or blackout dates. To top it all off, Sierra unlimited passholders receive four free days at Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows (day passes here top $130)! As an added bonus, road trippers can rejoice in Sierra’s participation in the Powder Alliance. This means unlimited passholders receive three free days at 14 resorts with 24,000 acres across the west.

Extreme steeps and chutes abound at Kirkwood south of Lake Tahoe.
Extreme steeps and chutes abound at Kirkwood south of Lake Tahoe. Roman Fuchs

Vail Tahoe Local Pass

*The Gist: $549, holiday blackouts, huge terrain selection at three mountains, free days in Colorado *

From the apres-ski atmosphere at Heavenly to the extreme steeps at Kirkwood and the family vibes at Northstar, the Tahoe Local pass has something for everyone around the Tahoe basin. The Tahoe Local Pass lets skiers and riders experience the immense diversity of terrain around the Tahoe basin with season-long access to three different resorts. Heavenly boasts early season advantages with the largest snowmaking system on the west coast, while Kirkwood delivers the goods from Mother Nature with upwards of 500 inches of annual snowfall. Northstar balances out the trio with incredible terrain parks and a great learning environment for new skiers. To sweeten the deal, Tahoe Local Pass holders also get five free days at Vail’s Colorado and Utah resorts.

_Upgrade: _ *For unlimited skiing and riding at all Vail Resorts, choose the Vail Epic Pass for $829 with no blackouts or restrictions. *

Squaw-Alpine Tahoe Super Pass Gold

The Gist: $849, no blackouts, pro-level extreme terrain, and discounted access to Mountain Collective resorts

Long known for pro-level cliffs, chutes, and bowls at Squaw Valley and under-the-radar shredding at Alpine Meadows, the merger of these two resorts has opened up a mind-blowing selection of terrain. Situated right on top of the Pacific Crest on an imaginary storm-track bullseye, these two resorts offer up 450 inches of annual snowfall across 6,000 skiable acres. By purchasing a Tahoe Super Pass at the Gold level, skiers and riders can enjoy unlimited access to Squaw and Alpine, four days each at Sierra-at-Tahoe and Sugar Bowl, and unlimited 50% off tickets at 14 Mountain Collective resorts across the country.

More Passes:

Sugar Bowl - $699, no blackouts, 4 free days at Squaw/Alpine, legendary powder days with 500 inches of annual snowfall

Mt. Rose - $479, no blackouts, first tracks early load for passholders, close proximity to Reno and uncrowded slopes.

Homewood - $459 for locals, no blackouts, amazing storm protection, and free days at Diamond Peak, Whitefish (MT), and Alta (UT).

Diamond Peak - $419, no blackouts, uncrowded slopes, and 44 free days at partner resorts around the country.

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