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Best Ski Vacation Road Trips for Ikon, Epic, and Indy Pass Holders


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Multi-resort season passes like Ikon, Epic, and Indy completely changed the game for skiers and snowboarders. Now, instead of picking just one mountain to plan a winter vacation around, you can mix and match, shredding at one resort for a few days before continuing on to another.

These passes offer the perfect framework for planning a ski-focused road trip (and getting to know different parts of the country in the process) -- here are a few of our favorites.

Ikon Pass Ski Road Trip: California's Sunny Sierras 

Mammoth Mountain Ski Area is a large ski resort in the western United States, located in eastern California along the east side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the Inyo National Forest.

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A relative newcomer on the multi-mountain ski pass scene, the Ikon Pass has quickly become a popular option for adventurous skiers and snowboarders, particularly those based in the West. There are an impressive 47 resorts on the full Ikon Pass (which doesn't have any blackout dates), so it's easy to ski all season and never get bored. Case in point: California, which has four diverse Ikon mountains to visit.

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Fly into: Reno-Tahoe International Airport

Day 1: Palisades Tahoe (formerly Squaw/Alpine Meadows)

Palisades Tahoe may have changed its name this season, but this California resort, located about an hour's drive from the Reno-Tahoe airport, is still offering the same fun terrain with stunning views of Lake Tahoe. Stay in the base area at The Village at Palisades Tahoe for easy access to lifts or enjoy the rustic, cabin vibes, and views of the Truckee River at River Ranch Lodge. Be sure to take a break to wander through the free Olympic Museum, located at High Camp, to learn more about the 1960 winter games.

Day 2: June Mountain

Head south for the 162-mile trek to Mono County, home to both June Mountain and Mammoth Mountain. Spend your first day here skiing at June, which has a laid back, family-friendly vibe, short lift lines, and stress-free parking. The resort is on the smaller side, with around 1,500 skiable acres, but it's perfect for mellow runs with Instagram-worthy views. Bonus if you're traveling with kids: Children under 12 ski free and there's a friendly mascot, Bucky the deer, who makes regular appearances on the slopes.

Day 3: Mammoth Mountain

Located about 30 minutes south of June Mountain, Mammoth lives up to its name. Spread out on more than 3,500 acres of terrain and, if you're so inclined, hit up the resort's 10 terrain parks to practice your jumps and tricks (the U.S. freeski and snowboard teams train here, so you know the parks are good!). And if you've always wanted to dabble in backcountry skiing but just haven't felt comfortable doing so, sign up for one of Mammoth's guided intro to backcountry clinics, which include everything you need to know to safely and confidently ski out of bounds. Book a cozy condo at the Mammoth Mountain Inn or treat yourself to a suite at The Westin.

Optional Day 4: Big Bear

If you've got the time (and the legs) to continue your journey, drive five-and-a-half hours south to Big Bear Mountain Resort in the San Bernadino Mountains east of Los Angeles.

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Epic Pass Ski Road Trip: Colorado's Craggy Rockies

Coniferous forest covered by snow with skiing slopes in the foreground and Rocky Mountains in the background. This photograph was taken in Vail, Colorado.

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The popular Epic Pass, which Vail Resorts first launched in 2008, gives skiers and riders access to more than 70 resorts around the globe, including six great options in Colorado. To make the most of your time in the Centennial State, fly into Denver and rent a sturdy vehicle that can make the drive up I-70 safely (ideally, a four-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicle that complies with Colorado's traction law).

Fly into: Denver International Airport

Day 1: Keystone

From Denver, head west on I-70 to Summit County -- about a 90-minute drive without traffic or bad weather. Check into The Pad, a new skier-friendly boutique hotel that opened this winter in Silverthorne with private guest rooms and shared hostel-style bunks. Spend a mellow day at Keystone to loosen up your legs and get acclimated to the altitude -- the resort sits at more than 10,000 feet in elevation.

Day 2: Breckenridge

After coffee and a couple of breakfast sandwiches from Blue Moon Bakery in Silverthorne, make the 30-minute drive over to Breck. (Take the scenic route on Dillon Dam Road for stunning views of the reservoir flanked by towering peaks -- you won't regret the extra few minutes). Breckenridge, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, has more than 2,900 acres of skiable terrain to explore, so prepare yourself for a full day of shredding. Spend the night at Gravity Haus Breckenridge.

Day 3: Vail

Hit the road early and drive 45 minutes west to Vail, home to one of the largest ski resorts in the country. Vail attracts skiers and riders from all over the world for good reason: There are more than 5,000 acres to explore, including more than 3,000 acres in Vail's legendary back bowls. Treat yourself and book a room at Grand Hyatt Vail, right at the base of the slopes. And be sure to sip a flight of Colorado craft beer at Vail Brewing Co.'s tasting room.

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Day 4: Beaver Creek

Vail's slightly ritzier next-door neighbor, Beaver Creek, is somewhere everyone should ski at least once. It's smaller, at more than 2,000 skiable acres, but tends to be a bit more relaxed. Stick around for Beaver Creek's famous Cookie Time, when staff in white chef's coats and hats bring platters of warm, fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookies to the lift lines at 3 p.m.

Optional Days 5 & 6: Crested Butte or Telluride

If you're feeling adventurous, extend your Colorado road trip with extra days at Crested Butte or Telluride in the southwestern part of the state.

RELATED: The Perfect 10-Day Colorado Road Trip

Indy Pass Ski Road Trip: Wisconsin's Friendly Slopes

Skiers skiing down a hill in Wisconsin

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As the name suggests, the Indy Pass offers access to independent ski resorts across North America and Japan -- two days each at 81 resorts, to be exact. This affordable option is perfect if you're still learning to ski or snowboard or you just prefer to get off the beaten path a bit. Expect friendly people, small crowds, and on-mountain amenities and services that won't break the bank.

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Fly into: Minneapolis International Airport

Day 1: Trollhaugen

Start your trip by crossing over the state line and heading straight for Dresser, Wisconsin, home to Trollhaugen Outdoor Recreation Area. This easy-going ski area has three convenient chairlifts and several rope tows for accessing its 23 runs, four terrain parks and tubing area. You'll feel right at home here, thanks to the resort's Midwestern hospitality and friendly, mom-and-pop vibe.

Day 2: Granite Peak

Travel southeast to the center of Wisconsin for a day spent skiing among the trees at Granite Peak, located in Wausau. This 200-plus-acre resort, which used to be called Rib Mountain Ski Area, opened in 1937 and is one of the oldest ski areas in North America. Though Granite Peak celebrates its long and storied history, it's also looking squarely ahead to the future: It's home to Wisconsin's only high-speed six-seat chairlift and is spending $2.5 million to upgrade its snowmaking infrastructure. Check into the Jefferson Street Inn, a charming boutique hotel located downtown.

Day 3: Nordic Mountain

Drive 80 miles south until you reach Nordic Mountain, a friendly 60-acre ski area that's perfect for beginners and families. After a day on the slopes, replenish your strength with an order of Wisconsin's famous cheese curds and other hearty comfort foods at the on-mountain Nordy's Pub. Nordic Mountain is in a rural part of the state, so plan to spend the night in nearby Green Lake or continue on to your next destination.

Day 4: Little Switzerland or Tyrol Basin

From Nordic Mountain, choose your own adventure: Head east to Little Switzerland, located just north of Milwaukee, or south to Tyrol Basin outside of Madison. Both resorts are great for beginners, but Little Switzerland is smaller and may be more appealing to little ones (it's also home to some super unique "up an over" lifts!).

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Optional Days 5 and 6: Buck Hill or Powder Ridge

At the beginning or end of your Midwest road trip, tack on visits to Buck Hill and Powder Ridge in Minnesota. Both Indy Pass ski areas are a quick drive from the Twin Cities.

Have you ever used a multi-resort ski pass and gone on the ultimate ski road trip? Share your experience with us on our Wide Open Roads Facebook!

READ MORE: Powder Mountain, Utah: Shred North America's Largest Ski Resort

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